Carcass Composition

Numerous breeds of goats are utilized throughout the world for various purposes. Breeds are generally classified as dairy or fiber-producing breeds. Those breeds that do not fit either of these categories are considered to be meat producers. However, dairy and fiber breeds also are used for meat production. In the United States, meat-producing goats are distinguished from milk or fiber goats and are generally referred to as Spanish goats. Recent importation of the South African Boer goat has dramatically altered the breeding systems used in meat goat production. Boer x Spanish goats have heavier live and carcass weights, higher carcass and leg conformation scores, and greater adjusted fat thicknesses than Spanish goats when fed a concentrate-based diet to a constant age.[1] However, on a constant carcass weight basis, differences in fat thickness are not observed.[1] Additionally, no differences have been noted in the percentage of fat, lean, or bone between the two breed types. Differences between these breed types appear to be due to the increased frame size of the Boer x Spanish goats compared to Spanish goats. In support of this conclusion, Boer x Spanish and Spanish goat carcasses do not differ in the percentage of knife-separable lean or fat, despite the greater carcass weights and higher leg conformation scores in the Boer x Spanish carcasses.[2]

Angora goats are bred primarily for fiber production, but are often marketed as meat animals as well. Comparisons between Angora and Spanish goats found that Spanish goats had heavier carcass weights, larger longissimus muscle areas, higher leg conformation scores, and greater internal fat.[3] Additionally, carcasses of both breeds are lighter and less muscular than lamb carcasses. At a constant age, Angora carcasses are lighter and have smaller longissimus muscle areas compared to Boer x Spanish carcasses.[2] Furthermore, Angora carcasses have a lower percentage of knife-separable lean and a higher percentage of fat than Boer x Spanish and Spanish carcasses.

Genetics determine the animal's potential for lean meat production. However, limited nutrition will determine the extent to which this potential is expressed. Goat production is generally less intensive than the production of other species; the majority of goats are raised under pasture conditions or are fed forage-based diets. Under these conditions, growth will likely be restricted and less fat deposition will occur. Concentrate feeding increases the percentage of the carcass comprising lean tissue and fat, while decreasing the percentage of bone.[1] Concentrate-fed goats also have heavier live and carcass weights, much larger longissimus muscle areas, higher conformation scores, and greater subcutaneous fat and body wall thicknesses.

Different breed types respond differently to production systems.[1] Boer x Spanish goats fed concentrates are generally larger, more muscular, and fatter than their Spanish counterparts. However, no differences due to breed type are detected when the goats are raised under pasture conditions. It is evident that while some breeds may have superior genetic potential, limited nutritional resources can prevent these advantages from being expressed.

As animals age, the proportions of fat, lean, and bone found in the carcass will change. Goats are traditionally marketed at different end-points, ranging from very young animals used for cabrito to aged animals at the end of their reproductive life. Young, intact males have higher conformation scores and greater fat thickness compared to aged females.[3] Additionally, young intact Spanish males have higher percentages of dissectible lean from the rack than aged animals. Young intact Angora males have more fat in that subprimal area compared to their aged counterparts. In contrast, other research reported no differences in knife-separable lean, fat, or bone in goats harvested at live weights between 14 and 22 kg, compared to goats harvested at live weights that were between 30 and 35 kg.[4]

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