Western Maryland Pasture-Based Meat Goat Performance Test
Identifying genetically superior bucks

 

A pasture-based meat goat performance test was initiated at the University of Maryland's Western Maryland Research & Education Center (WMREC) in Keedysville, Maryland in 2006. The test is sponsored by University of Maryland Extension (UME).  It is strongly supported by Kiko breeders throughout the United States.

The purpose of the Western Maryland Pasture-Based Meat Goat Performance Test is to evaluate the post-weaning performance of male goats consuming a pasture-based diet with natural exposure to gastro-internal parasites, primarily Haemoncus contortus (the barber pole worm). The test provides an opportunity to evaluate the performance of meat goats under typical Mid-Atlantic production conditions.

 

Each year, male goats, of any breed or breed cross, are tested at the Western Maryland facility. While on test, the goats are evaluated for growth performance, parasite resistance (FEC) and parasite resilience (FAM), and carcass merit.
 

The test bucks are managed as a single group on pasture from late-June until early October.  2014 was the first year in which the bucks received any supplemental feed. In the second half of the test, they were supplemented with pelleted soybean hulls. Soybean hulls are a by-product of soybean processing. They are a roughage feed. In 2015, the bucks were supplemented with 1 pound of soy hull pellets per head per day.  In the 2016 test, they will be supplemented with whole barley.
 

The pasture system consists of six, two-acre paddocks containing various warm and cool season grasses and forbs. Half of the pasture is planted in cool season perennial grasses, primarily MaxQ™ tall fescue and orhcardgrass. The other half of the pasture is planted in annual warm season grasses and legumes, such as dwarf pearl millet, forage sorghum, Sunn Hemp, and cowpeas. There is an additional two and a half acres of silvopasture (walnut trees and mixed hardwoods). It contains a mixture of cool and warm season grasses and forbs.


The goats always have access to a central laneway containing port-a-hut shelters, mineral feeders, water, a treatment pen, and a handling system. In 2014, a hoop structure was installed over the handling system. It also provides shelter for the goats.
 

The goats are handled every 14 days to determine body weights, FAMACHA©, body condition, coat condition, dag and fecal consistency scores. Low stress livestock handling techniques are emphasized (generally, no handling by the horns). Goats with FAMACHA© scores of 1 or 2 are not dewormed, whereas goats with FAMACHA© scores of 4 or 5 are dewormed with either levamisole or moxidectin. Goats with FAMACHA© scores of 3 may or not be dewormed depending upon the criteria of the Five Point Check© and other factors, include weight loss, fecal consistency, direction of scores, fecal egg counts, and scores of other goats.

Individual fecal samples are collected every 14 days. Pooled samples are collected periodically for larvae ID and to detrmin equality of diet. Fecal analysis is done by Dr. Dahlia O'Brien's lab at Virginia State University. NIRS analysis is done by the Texas A&M's
Grazingland Animal Nutrition (GAN) Lab.

 

Toward the end of the test period, the goats are scanned to determine rib eye area, loin depth, and rib fat. The ultrasound scanning is done by Jim Pritchard from West Virginia University. They are evaluated for structural correctness and reproductive soundness and given a frame score and USDA grade.


For two years, some of the bucks were harvested to collect carcass data and characterize the carcasses from pasture-fed meat goats. Starting in 2011, the research center began comparing the performance and carcass characteristics of pen vs. pasture-fed goats. 2014 was the last year of the pen vs. pasture studies. In 2016, a carcass contest will be added to the program.
 

For more information about the test, visit the blog at http://mdgoattest.blogspot.com. All pertinent documents can be downloaded from the blog.


The period to nominate goats for the test is April 15-June 1. The test is open to goat breeders from any state, who may consign up to five goats to the test. If nominations exceed the carrying capacity of the pasture, preference will be given to previous consigners and Maryland residents.

Top performing buck in 2016

Summary of Western Maryland Pasture-Based Meat Goat Performance Test

© 2019 Maryland Small Ruminant Page. Created with Wix.com by Susan Schoenian.

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