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Originally published in Proceedings of the IV International Conference on Goats 1987, Volume II, Brasilia, Brazil*

A New Meat Goat Breed

[Origin of Kiko Goats]

By G. J. Batten, Caprinex Ltd, Nelson, New Zealand

ABSTRACT:   A programme has been carried out in New Zealand to develop a new meat goat breed by capitalizing on the dynamics of a large base population. Feral goats are relatively small with typical liveweights at weaning and maturity of 12/25kg and 16/40kg for does and bucks respectively. For example, one feral population studied in a farmed environment for over one year, at weaning time had mean liveweights for 61 mixed age adult does of 27.48kg (SD 4.01kg), 26 doe kids 13.0kg (SD 2.2kg), 14 mixed age adult bucks 28.2kg (SD 5.43kg), 19 buck kids 14.18kg (SD 1.99kg). The new Kiko breed is based on does screened from the large feral population mated to bucks from Anglo Nubian, British Toggenberg and Saanen breeds. With further crossbreeding, and interbreeding at F2 and F3 generations, stock have been selected solely for survivability and growth rate in a hill country pastoral environment.

In the 1985/86 season, at weaning time, mean liveweights for 102 adult does was 48.6kg (SD 10.45kg), 60 doe kids 22.28kg (SD 6.5kg), 92 buck kids 29.6kg (SD 5.33kg), and adult bucks exceeded 100kg. Mean liveweights at eight months of all 1985 born kids in the central flock were 37 does 29.36kg (SD 5.8kg) and 42 bucks 35.26kgs. Farmed under typical New Zealand hill country pastoral conditions, Kiko kid growth rate from birth to weaning averaged 166gms/day compared to Romney lambs 160gms/day. Kiko goats have been exported to Pacific Island countries. In Western Samoa, 15 maiden does produced 33 kids with average birth weights of does 2.53kg and of bucks 2.44kg. Subsequent growth rate to weaning averaged 180gms/day (140-245gms/day).

INTRODUCTION:   Goats suit a wide range of agricultural systems throughout the world, being versatile and adaptable; their role in improved nutrition and income is being increasingly recognized (Devendra1982, Raun 1982). They are already an important source of meat being eaten by a wide range of people in many countries where the 400 million goats are farmed primarily for meat production.

Kiko origins
One of original bucks used in the Kiko development programme

However, meat production per animal is not high, although it could be increased dramatically through breeding, feeding and animal health (FAO 1985). The situation was summarized by G. C. Taneja at the Third International Conference on Goat Production and Disease: "... considerable work appears to have been done in the world to increase milk production in goats through selection within breeds or crossing between breeds, but no attempt has been made in the area of systematic breeding of goats for meat..." This in part reflects farm structure with small goat flocks, and the logistical problems that inhibits improvement of indigenous breeds.

The object of the project described in this paper was to accept the implicit challenge to develop a new breed capable of high performance to increase meat production under difficult conditions. The method chosen was to use the power of population dynamics on the large New Zealand feral goat population to select superior animals, to introduce genes for improved production, to crossbreed the best animals, to keep an open nucleus flock and to assess animals' performance under a range of testing conditions.

After four generations of breeding, a dramatic improvement in liveweight and animal performance has been achieved and the new Kiko breed has been established.

Base Goats. New Zealand feral goats are hardy but they are small and do not produce much milk. They derive from domestic goats liberated or escaped over the last 100 years of European settlement and represent an intermingling of European dairy goat breeds, Angoras, and – to a minor extent – native goats of other countries. They live in light bush margins and open grass and tussocklands and have developed inherent hardiness under poor feeding conditions. They are relatively small (see Table I).

Although individual sub-flocks can contain superior animals, in general the weight range is not large. Table II shows liveweights of one feral flock studied in a farmed environment for over one year in 1978/79.

New Zealand feral goats do not produce large quantities of milk. Experience with over 500 feral does under commercial conditions in Nelson in 1980/81 showed individual peak yields of no more than 2.5 litres per day and average five-month lactation yield of 1.5 litres per day.

The project to capitalize on feral goat hardiness and to improve growth rate commenced in 1978 when 20 does were selected from New Zealand-wide feral herds numbering over 1,000. Selection was based on high liveweight, freedom from constitution faults such as misshapen feet and jaws, apparent milk production potential as indicated by udder size, and a block body shape indicating superior fleshing.

Kiko origins
18 month old Kiko bucks in the late 1980s

Dairy Goats. Early kid growth rate is directly related to milk intake (Morand-Fehr et al. 1982), so it was important to develop a breed with adequate milk production. Introducing genes from milking breeds was an obvious choice.

Bucks used in the first three generations of Kiko development came from commercially managed dairy goat herds. They were progeny of large, high producing does of sound conformation especially in the milk production area, and met the size and meat production criteria.

Dairy goat breeds in New Zealand are Saanen, British Toggenberg, British Alpine and Anglo Nubian in that order of decreasing numbers, with the last three having narrow genetic bases. No buck has been chosen primarily for breed so blood from all breeds has been introduced in varying proportions.

Interbreeding. Mating plans and decisions have been assisted by advice and guidance from geneticists in Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. The general policy has been to mate best bucks to best does.

Since 1984, some bucks of the new Kiko breed have been used, but 1986 was the first year that no outside bucks were used. Assessment of all stock has been based solely on survivability and growth rate in a policy of simplifying selection criteria and maximizing progress. The herd has slowly been increased by adding outside does if they met the selection criteria, and from progeny if they were in the top half of their progeny group measured for growth and fertility, and if they were superior to does already in the flock.

Does have been constantly assessed, especially on their progeny quality and an elite flock of 50 does developed within the current flock of 150 does.

Flock Management. The breeding flock has been farmed on steep hill country under nutritional conditions classed as demanding – grazing unfertilized pastures of Browntop (Agrostis spp), Danthonia spp, Vulpia spp, Rattail (Sporobolus capensis) and native legume species with interspersed rushes (Juncus spp) and gorse (Ulex europus) shrubs. There has been no supplementary feeding, even in conditions of feed shortage.

Kiko origins
Ringo and Sinbad in the mid-1980s

Husbandry inputs have been minimal. No hooves are trimmed and goats developing foot problems are culled. Internal parasite control is restricted to 2-3 drenches per annum for adults and 5-6 drenches for young animals in their first year.

Stocking rate is considered to be high at 7.5 does plus progeny per hectare (2.47 acres) plus 11 sheep per hectare run in conjunction so that goats are under some group pressure throughout their lives.

Normal goat management is practiced. Does are single sire mated to selected bucks in autumn to kid in spring, weaning kids at four months of age. Synchronized mating produces concentrated kidding, which facilitates management and record keeping.

Animals have been weighed at regular intervals to accumulate growth-rate data, have been recorded for production characteristics of self and progeny and analyzed for contribution to breed development.

External Testing. Both bucks and does have been sold to other environments for testing. Western Samoa has farmed 15 does and 20 bucks for three years, and 18 does and 2 bucks went to Niue in 1985. In New Zealand, Kiko bucks have been used in a range of environments ranging from high-fertility plains to steep hill country.

New Genetic Material. The open nucleus system allows does of demonstrable superiority to join the elite flock from outside the on-farm program. In 1986, Kiko bucks were mated to 600 does selected for large size on three other farms. Female progeny will be screened and brought to the central flock site for comparison and assessment on suitability for inclusion in the elite flock, which is reassessed each year. This programme will be extended to 1000 does for 1987 mating.

Kiko origins
Kiko buck kids aged five months in 1986

RESULTS:   The Kiko breed has evolved to meet demanding testing conditions in New Zealand and Pacific Island countries. It is an amalgam of various genetic resources and now has no definable proportions of known breeds. It has been selected solely for survivability and growth rate under commercially farmed conditions, although these conditions also result in exclusion of goats with poor conformation, fertility, milk production and temperament. Consequently there is no common coat colour or pattern, nor breed type.

As survivability and high growth rate are major characteristics of the breed, performance under testing conditions is important.

Five Month liveweights have been used as the major initial selection point. In 1985/86, all stock were weighed at weaning when kids were approximately 17 weeks of age, with results in Table III.

Eight Month liveweights have been chosen as another selection point reflecting the end of the difficult autumn rearing period when growth rates are relatively static. Mean liveweights of kids in the elite flock are shown in Table IV.

Fifteen Month liveweights have been used as the final selection point for bucks to be sold. Results for the last two years are shown in Table V, although environment differences are not excluded.

As survivability and high growth rate are major characteristics of the breed, performance under testing conditions is important.

In New Zealand, meat goats are often compared with sheep that are grazed on similar land for meat and wool production. The predominant sheep breed is Romney that has lamb growth rates of 160gms/day from birth to weaning on hard hill country. Kiko kids run in conjunction with sheep on the same land grew at 166gms/day from birth to weaning.

In Western Samoa, 16 maiden does produced 33 kids with average birth weights of 2.53kg (does) and 2.44kg (bucks). Subsequent growth rate of all kids to weaning averaged 180gms/day in the range 140-245gms/day.

Prolificacy has not been sacrificed for size. To be eligible for the elite flock, does must produce twins at first kidding. In 1986, the 100 commercial flock weaned 120 kids and the 50 elite flock weaned 81 kids.

Introducing new breeds to increase production from indigenous goats is a recognized and practiced strategy (Gall 1981, Taneja 1983). Specialized breeds often have difficulty producing to their potential in the new environment, and crossbreeding after the first generation may not demonstrate any superiority (Sanfiorenzo 1957, 1962). The Kiko, with its selected crossbred base, has stabilized the aspects of increased production and demonstrated superiority over other breeds. For example, Kiko does in Western Samoa outperformed imported Fijian Nubian-based meat does (J. Kilduff, personal communication). Despite continued acquisition and evaluation since 1981 of 27 Saanen crossbred does and 31 Anglo Nubian crossbred does, they have not been of sufficient merit to enter the New Zealand flock.

Continued improvement in production is still being sought under the same management regime. The use of three satellite flocks provide the opportunity to introduce new genetic material, and simplification with two major selection parameters and be expected to provide for maximum progress.

CONCLUSIONS:   Four generations of controlled breeding and crossbreeding have improved the productivity of a selected group of New Zealand feral goats so that Kiko goats are now twice the size of the average New Zealand feral goat.

Use of an open nucleus flock and population dynamics has created a breeding structure that has produced this result and this is capable of further amendment and improvement.

Selection for two major factors only has maximized progress in those factors (survivability and growth rate) and facilitated best to best mating.

Introduction of milk production genes from selected sources has increased kid growth rate, but emphasis on survivability has mitigated against incorporation of the poor features of dairy goats. The testing environment and low input husbandry system has identified weak and less productive animals facilitating culling and breeding decisions.

Kiko goats are genetically capable of high levels of meat production and can produce well under the wide range of conditions in which they have been tested in New Zealand and overseas countries. They are a suitable breed to introduce to countries seeking a better breed of meat goat. They are also an "improver" breed that can add size, growth rate and milk production to local stock without reducing hardiness.

This project has shown that systematic breeding can significantly increase goat meat production, and the Kiko is living proof of the results.

TABLES:   In the following Tables, weights are given in kilograms, N is the number weighed, and the Standard Deviation is given in parentheses.

Table I

 New Zealand Feral Goat Liveweights 
Weaning 12 16
Maturity 25 40

Table II

 Delaware Bay Feral Flock Liveweights 
 Mixed Adults   N=61 27.48 (4.01)   N=14 28.20 (5.43) 
Kids  N=26 13.01 (2.20)   N=19 14.18 (1.99) 

Table III

 Kiko Goats 1985/86 Liveweights 
 Mixed Adults   N=102 48.60 (10.45) 
 Kids   N=60  22.28  (6.51)   N=92 29.60 (5.33) 

Table IV

 Kiko Goats 1986 Elite Flock Liveweights 
 Young Goats   N=37 29.36 (5.80)   N=42 35.26 (4.80) 

Table V

 Kiko Buck Liveweights 
 1985 Born   N=20 48.80 (6.64) 
 1984 Born   N=27 44.30 (5.00) 


Devendra, C., 1982. The socio-economic significance of goat production in the Asian Region. Proceedings of the Third International Conference of Goat Production and Disease, pp 201-208.

FAO, 1979. Agriculture: Toward 2000. Report for FAO Conference, 20th session, November 1979. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome.

Gall, C, 1981 (editor). Goat Production. Academic Press, London.

Morand-Fehr, P., Hervieu, J., Bas, P., and Sauvant, D., 1982. Feeding of young goats. Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Goat Production and Disease, pp 90-104.

Raun, N., 1982. The emerging role of goats in world food production. Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Goat Production and Disease, pp 133-141.

Sanfiorenzo, J. H., 1957. A study of milk production by native, Barbados and crossbred goats in Puerto Rico. Bulletin of the University of Puerto Rico, Agricultural Statistics, 139: 37.

Sanfiorenzo, J. H., 1962. Evaluation of six breeding lines of milkgoats. Journal of Agriculture, Univiversity of Puerto Rico, 46: 205-212.

Taneja, G. C., 1982. Breeding goats for meat production. Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Goat Production and Disease, pp 27-30.

* This version of the article has been reformatted especially for the New Zealand Rare Breeds Website. The photographs were supplied by Garrick Batten in 2006.

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