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Milk and Meat Products

Marketing Slaughter Goats
Oct 28, 2002, 10:00pm

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Marketing Slaughter Goats
  General information - marketing fact sheets, buyer directories, etc.
  Current market prices

  Producer directory  
  Ethnic calendar
  How to plan breedings to target demand
Factors affecting dressing percentage
  Grading Meat Goats - evaluating Easter kids, proposed USDA standards, assessing body condition 


General information 

Geographically, markets for goat meat exist near large metropolitan centers, such as New York City, Montreal, Philadelphia and Toronto. In New York we have ready access to some of the best markets for goat meat in the country. Our proximity allows us to supply a fresh product and our bountiful rainfall insure lush pasturing for three seasons of the year. There is a niche market for virtually any type of goat, from prime kids to old bucks. An important aspect of meat goat production is understanding the variety of markets channels available for marketing goats in the Northeast US.  We have a series of marketing fact sheets available to help producers familiarize themselves with these different channels.
  1. Starting a meat goat operation
  2. On-farm marketing of slaughter goats
  3. Marketing slaughter goats through livestock auction markets
  4. Marketing slaughter goats to dealers, packers, wholesalers and retailers

More information on marketing goats in New York can be obtained from the following web sites

Another excellent source of marketing information for Northeast US goat producers is Bob Melchior,  the marketing coordinator for the CU Small Ruminant Marketing Grant.  He can be reached by phone at (607)255-2850 or by email at rjm55@cornell.edu .

Current Auction Prices

Ethnic Calendar
for holidays where goat meat is part of the traditional holiday feast

    Western or Roman Easter 

  • March 31, 2002 
  • April 20, 2003 
  • April 11, 2004

Type of goat wanted - Fleshy, milk fed kids with relatively light colored meat, 3 months old or younger. Kids weighing less than 20 lbs are generally disappointing to buyers due to low meat to bone ratios and high carcass drying losses. Kids gaining less than 10 lbs per month or 1/3rd pound per day after accounting for birth weight are generally not fleshy enough to be considered prime. There generally is a slight price (per lb of live weight) penalty for kids weighing over 40 lbs. Acceptable weights generally range from 20 to 50 lbs with 30 lbs considered optimum by most buyers. 

    Eastern or Greek Easter

  • May 5, 2002 
  • April 27, 2003
  • April 11,2004

Type of goat wanted - Similar to Western Easter kids. A slightly larger milk fed kid (i.e. around 35 lbs) is considered optimum. 

    Navadurgara or Navratra Dashara or Dassai 

  • October 17 - 26, 2001 
  • October 7 - 15, 2002

This is a Hindu holiday honoring the goddess Durga. Goats are generally slaughtered from the 7th to the 10th day of the holiday after which families meet together and celebrate with curried goat while receiving family blessings.  Female goats are not acceptable for this holiday.  Relatively tender male goats are generally used.  Size of carcass depends on number of people expected to be fed.

    Start of Ramadan - can vary by a day depending on the actual sighting of the moon over the United States that year

  • November 16, 2001 
  • November 6, 2002 
  • October 26, 2003 
  • October 15, 2004

Type of goat wanted - male and female kids with all their milk teeth (i.e. not older than @ 12 months). Males can be whole or castrated. Overly fat kids are discriminated against. Optimum live weight is about 60 lbs but weaned kids from 45 - 120 lbs. are accepted by different buyers.

    Id al Fitr - The Festival of the Breaking of the Ramadan Fast

  • December 17, 2001 
  • December 5, 2002 
  • November 26, 2003 
  • November 15, 2004 

Type of goat wanted - same as for Ramadan. 

    Id al Adha - The Festival of Sacrifice 

  • March 6, 2001 
  • February 23, 2002 
  • February 12, 2003 
  • February 1, 2004

Type of goat wanted - Prefer yearlings (i.e. animals with one set of adult teeth) that are blemish free. Animals with broken horns, open wounds, torn ears or physical unsoundnesses  generally do not meet the criteria. In some cases, castrated animals or lambs with docked tails are frowned upon.    

Other holidays when goat meat is commonly consumed include Christmas, the July 4th weekend, and the numerous Caribbean holidays in August - Carnival, Carifest, Jamaican Independence Day, etc.

The Christmas market is for milk fed kids. These type of kids are rare, because these kids must be produced by out-of-season breeding in May for October kiddings. Kids as light as 18 lbs are readily accepted and quality control is generally not as exacting as on Easter kids. 

Goats for July 4th weekend are animals suitable for barbecue, generally cabrito kids or young bucks, does, and wethers with 1 or no sets of adult teeth. 

Optimal goats for the Caribbean holidays are young, smelly 60 lb bucks. However, older animals of all sexes are often in demand and customers may prefer to buy them rather than pay the extra price for prime young bucks.

The Chinese market for goat according to Frank Pinkerton, PhD, is "limited to the six colder months. The preferred weight range is 60 to 80 pounds live, and goats in good health are required." 

The Hispanic market for goat is for 20 to 35 lb live weight milk-fed kids for cabrito, and larger animals for seco de chivo. 

More information on popular holidays is available on the web at http://www.interfaithcalendar.org/2001.htm

Cull does and bucks are also in demand for the curried goat market and for prison contracts. 

return to main page][general info][current auction prices][ calendar][planning breeding dates][ dressing percentages][grading slaughter goats]

How to plan your breedings to target specific holidays

Some facts to consider:

  • The gestation period (time from mating to kidding) for US goats is about 150 days. 

  • Birth weights range from around 4 to 8 lbs for Spanish kids and 5 to 11 lbs for dairy and Boer kids. However, wide ranges can be experienced across the US population. Birth weights depend on the breed and genetic potential for size in the parents, age of the mother doe (yearling does and very old does tend to have smaller kids even though they often have singles), sex of the kid (male kids tend to be bigger than females), size of the litter (kids from multiple births generally average smaller birth weights than kids from single births in the same herd), and nutritional and health status of the doe during pregnancy (does that are severely overweight or underweight during pregnancy tend to have smaller kids). 

  • Daily growth rates for baby goats from kidding to weaning at about 3 months of age range from 1/3 and 1/2 lbs in most New York herds. However, herds with severe environmental restrictions (health problems, low feed inputs) or raising breeds with smaller mature weights may have growth rates as low as 1/4 lb per day. Some exceptional kids under optimal environmental management (but not necessarily optimal economic management) may grow 2/3 lbs per day. Single kids and male kids tend to grow faster than kids raised as multiples on a doe and female kids. Milking ability of the mother and general health and internal parasite condition of the breeding herd affect kid growth rate substantially. Sick and/or starved kids do not grow well. However, in most New York herds count on kids growing from 10 to 15 lbs per month for the first three months of age. Kids that are growing 1/2 lb daily at this age will generally grade PRIME while kids growing 1/3 lb daily will generally grade lower.

  • Goats are generally purchased and shipped about 7 to 10 days prior to the targeted holiday. 

Calculations -

Let's say you want to market 30 to 40 lb kids at Easter in 2002.  Western or Roman Easter will be early  in 2002.  It will be on March 31st. This means kids will probably be picked up about 10 days earlier or on March 21st. If your herd is well managed and you are working with Boer/dairy crosses, your twin kids from does that are 2 years of age or older will probably grow about 1/2 lb daily.  Your singles from yearling does will also average  about 1/2 lb daily.  However, some of your triplets from older does and your twins from yearling does may grow only 1/3 lb daily.  Let's assume your kids average about 7 lbs at birth. When should you breed your does to target the Easter market?

     Growthy kids - 
              40 lb - 7 lb = 33 lb. At 1/2 lb of gain per day, you need about 66 days to get a 7 lb. baby kid to 40 lbs by March 21st. You have 21 days in March,  28 days in February, and still need 17 days in January -->  So you want their dams kidding by January 14th, i.e., bred about August 14th .

    Slower growing kids-
      30 lb - 7 lb = 23 lb. At 1/3 lb of gain per day, you need 69 days to get a 7 lb. baby kid to 30 lbs by April 21st  --> So you want their dams kidding by January 11th, i.e.,bred about August 11th.

     This means you definitely want your bucks in the herd by August 1st.  Most does are stimulated by the smell of a buck to come into heat within a week of a buck's sudden introduction into the herd.  However, the heat cycle of a doe is 18 to 21 days so if you want to make sure all your does have a chance to be exposed before January 11th you need to have the buck in there by July 20th.  Your leeway here depends on how many does you are challenging your bucks with, how young and inexperienced your bucks are and whether your buyer will actually accept larger kids or you also have a market for kids for Greek Easter which occurs about 5 weeks later on May 5th, 2002.   

[general info][current auction prices][ calendar][planning breeding dates][ dressing percentages][grading slaughter goats] 

Factors affecting dressing percentage

Dressing percentages (calculated as (hot carcass weight / liveweight) * 100) can vary widely for goat kids from about 35% to 55% with 45% being average. Kids with higher fat scores generally have higher dressing percentages than kids of the same liveweight with lower fat scores. 

Dressing percentage is affected by

    • liveweight, 

    • fatness -an increase in one fat score will increase dressing percentage by about 2.5%, fatter kids also suffer less live weight and carcass weight loss from fasting prior to slaughter than do leaner kids,

    • time off feed and water - this affects gut fill and therefore live weight. Live weight percentage losses average 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 7, 10, and 12% for goats off feed 2, 4, 6, 8, 12, 24, 48, and 72 hours respectively. Goats coming off lush pastures will generally have a higher dressing percentage than goats on drier feeds if live weight is calculated only a short time after animals are off feed because lush feed passes through the gut faster),

    • pre-slaughter fasting and stress - affects dressing percentage because of its influence on gut fill and carcass weight loss.  If animals are deprived of feed for 6 or more hours, carcass weight will start to decrease and dressing percentage will actually drop even though the goat's live weight is also decreasing. Carcass weight loss is 2-2.5%, 3-4%, and 6-7% after a 12, 24, 48 hour fast, respectively.  Deprivation of water results in another 2% loss in carcass weight , 

    • skin weight - determined by type of goat and shearing. Skin weight generally averages about 9% of the live weight for a short-haired or shorn goat kid, but can be as high as 15% for an unshorn angora kid,

    • sex - doe kids tend to be slightly fatter than buck kids of the same weight in the same herd. However, this difference is so slight it rarely affects dressing percentage noticeably,

    • breed 

    • weaning - weaned kids tend to have a lower dressing percentage than suckling kids of similar fatness and liveweight. 

Grading Meat Goats

Click here for photo show on evaluating "hot house" or Easter kids 

Any meat industry benefits from a clear cut understanding between buyer and producer of the quality of the animal being sold. It is not only important that your goats meet the market requirements for weight and age but also that their carcass quality be on target with buyer expectations. One way to do this is to have live animal standards that correlate well with carcass merit. 

The following USDA grade standards have been proposed for slaughter goats in the United States:


Slaughter kids having minimum reguirements for the Prime grade will exhibit superior meat type conformation and possess a high degree of finish. Prime slaughter kids are smooth over the top and the backbone is well covered and smooth when the hand is press down on the back. Prime grade kids will have the appearance of being thickly muscled throughout the body and particularly well muscled in the rear legs and loin. Prime kids shall be at least moderately wide over the back, loin and rump. Shoulders and hips should be smooth in appearance. The overall appearance of Prime slaughter kids shall be one of very good overall health and give indication of a very high level of nutrition. 


Slaughter kids meeting the minimum requirements for the choice grade will exhibit at least average meat type conformation. Choice kids will possess a moderate amount of finish over the ribs, back and loin. Choice kids when handled will express at least average muscling in the leg and loin. They should also express at least some development of the brisket. When handled the backbone of choice kids will be only moderately prominent to the touch. the overall appearance of Choice slaughter kids shall be one of good overall health and give indication of an adequate level of nutrition. 
Choice slaughter kids will have a muscling score of at least slightly thick throughout their body. They will express average or better width throughout the loin, back and rump. The shoulder and hip will be moderately smooth.


Slaughter kids meeting the standards for the Good grade will have meat type conformation that will be less than average. The muscling present in Good grade kids will be typical of slightly thin muscling patterns. Good grade kids are relatively narrow in relation to body length and height and somewhat narrow over the back, loin and rump. 
Good grade kids will be healthy in appearance and have the potential to reach the choice grade before breaking yearling teeth.Good grade kids will be healthy in appearance and have the potential to reach the choice grade before breaking yearling teeth.


Slaughter kids failing to meet the minimum requirements for the Good grade will be graded Utility. Utility kids will exhibit symptoms of poor management including lack of adequate nutrition, lack of parasite control or poor genetics. Utility kids are very thin fleshed with a hair coat that is rough and dull in appearance. 
In summary, these slaughter grades are commendable. They may be somewhat difficult to implement in that differenent opinions on what "meat type conformation" is may result in grading scores that are subject to personal bias and may not be as uniform across different graders as we would hope. A Virginia study using these standards to grade "brush"goats of various ages found that the overall edible product to bone ratio for each grade was significantly different and ranged from 3.6 for Prime goats down to 2.3 for Utility goats. However, Utility goats were on average 3 years older than Prime goats. I haven't seen any work on how well these standards correlate with dressing percentage and meat to bone ratio for kids of similar live weights or ages. 


Both New South Wales, Australia and Alberta, Canada have published fat scoring techniques for meat goats. The live animal scores for Australia correlate very well with fat scores measured on a specific site on the animal's carcass after slaughter. This carcass fat score in turn corelates very well with dressing percent and yield of saleable meat. The site they use for both live animals and carcasses is the fat and tissue covering over the second to the last long rib (the 12th rib) as measured 110 mm or 4 inches down from the topline (spine) of the animal. 

    The live condition scores assigned in Australia are as follows:

  • Score 1 - Individual ribs felt very easily. Cannot feel any tissue over ribs. Corresponds to a covering over carcass site of <4mm (.16 inch).

  • Score 2 - Individual ribs felt very easily but a slight amount of tissue present (covering over carcass site <.24mm or 1/4 inch).

  • Score 3 - Individual ribs felt easily but some tissue present (covering is <10mm or .4 inches thick).

  • Score 4 - Individual ribs can still be felt but tissue prominent (covering over carcass site is about a half inch or slightly less thick).

  • Score 5 - Individual ribs felt or just felt. Tissue is very prominent and may be fluid (covering is more than 1/2 inch thick).

    The fat scores for Alberta, Canada rely more on feeling the spine and short ribs of the goat. They are as follows:

  • Very Lean - Body angular. Backbone raised and sharp. Ends of short ribs sharp and easily felt. 

  • Lean - Backbone raised and barely covered. Pin and hip bones obvious and barely covered. Ends of short ribs smooth but easily felt.

  • Medium - Backbone slightly raised, smooth and rounded over top. Pin and hip bones lightly covered. Ends of short ribs smooth but can still be felt. Moderately rounded appearance. 

  • Fat - Smooth, rounded appearance. Backbone can only just be felt. Pin and hip bones smooth and rounded. Ends of short ribs cannot be felt. 

***Information - Service of GoatConnection.com - Khimaira***

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