Raising Goats: How Do You Know When To Butcher A Goat?

Boer doeling

Raising your own meat goats for the freezer? Nice! Homegrown and nutrient dense, that’s a winning combination!

Now that you’ve put all this time and work in growing out your goat, you’ll want to be sure to butcher it at the right time. How do you tell?

Your goat is ready to butcher when it has reached 8-10 months of age and has muscling in the forearm and stifle.

It can be a bit tricky to figure out when your goat has reached market size, it’s not just about weight or height, it’s about yield. Yield is the amount of meat per goat.

The catch here is that what a ready to butcher goat looks like will vary, depending upon breed.

However, the places on the goat where you will be looking to evaluate muscling and market readiness will be the same, no matter the genetics of the individual.

How Much Will My Goats Sell For? goes over finding the market goat prices for your area. If you are buying your butcher goat, rather than raising it, this article will help you plan what your should pay.

Looking for more information about getting started with a herd of goats? Check out my article Buying Your First Goats. This will give you an idea of the places to look for your herd and the places to avoid!

Goat Muscling: What to look for

When evaluating your goats for their readiness to butcher you need to look at the muscling of the forearm and stifle and the overall appearance of the goat.

Remember, you will be eating muscle, so more muscling on the goat means more meat in the freezer.

Here’s a link to a Boer goat judges tips on what he is looking for in a market goat.

This will give you an idea from an evaluation perspective what to look for. Even if you do not have Boer goats, it will still be helpful.

Look at the muscling of the goat’s forearm

The basics first: where is the forearm located? The forearm is the top of the front leg, right where it meets the body.

On the outside of the leg from below the shoulder to above the knee is the muscle you are looking at specifically.

What have you got? See some definition or not so much?

Your goat is going to grow frame first then put on muscling. If you aren’t seeing the muscling you think you should, give your goat more time to grow and fill out.

Look at the muscling of the goat’s stifle

The basics first: where is the stifle located? The stifle is the outward facing muscle on the rear leg right where the leg meets the body.

It is below the hips and above the hock. It will be easiest to see the stifle muscling from the rear.

The stifle should bulge out when viewed from behind. The more width from stifle to stifle, from one stifle across the body to the far edge of the opposite stifle, the better.

While you are at the rear view, take a look at the inner thigh of your goat.

You should see muscling coming in from the rear legs towards the center of the body, as well.

This is not the stifle, but since you are in a spot to easily view it, you might as well scope out this muscling as well.

Consider the goat’s overall “look”

Take an objective look at your goat, meaning pretend it’s not your goat, and ask yourself what you see?

Ideally, you will see wide, wide, wide, meaning wide body, wide stance from the rear and wide loin.

Granted, these carcass traits are genetic, but no matter the goat or it’s breed these are the places you’ll look to evaluate the likely yield from the carcass.

Are you seeing depth of muscling? Do you see definition in the stifle and forearm? If so, you are seeing a market ready, or in your case freezer ready, goat.

If you are not seeing the muscle definition, you need to change your management and give that goat time to develop more muscling.

No matter the breed or combination of breeds that make up your goat’s genetics, you are still looking for muscling and a well filled out frame.

Space Needed To Raise Goats gives you some ideas about keeping goats, even if you do not have tons of acreage.

2.5 month old dappled Boer goat doeling
This is my Boer goat doeling Agatha. She is about 2.5 months old in this picture. Notice how wide she naturally sets her front legs. If you want a meatier goat, get meatier genetics!

Keep track of your goat’s growth

I’ll admit it can be hard to see growth in your goats, since you look at them at least twice a day when you feed them.

I tend to get into the routine and thought pattern of feeding the growing goats, which is true, at first. Eventually, the growing goats are grown!

Since the changes in growth and muscle development are slight and daily, it catches me off guard. Then I notice, wow, those kids aren’t so baby anymore!

How do you know when your goats are market ready so you won’t be caught off guard? Since you are a beginner, the easiest way is to compare the kid to his mom.

The market kid should be more meaty than the doe. If you don’t have his mom, look up similar goats online and see how your kids compare.

A second option would be to occasionally take a picture of your goats from the classic three views for evaluation: front, side and rear.

This may sound a bit crazy, why take a picture of a goat you see everyday? That’s the point, since you see your goats everyday, it’s hard to keep track of the changes and their growth.

The pictures will give you a point of reference to go back and refer to. Once you get some experience, you’ll be able to tell with a quick look if your goats are going to yield well.

Until then, use the tools you have available to help you. Take those pictures!

Once again, be objective about what you are seeing. Got muscle development and a well filled out frame? Then you’ve got a market ready goat.

Muscling matters for goat meat yeild

The reason muscling is such a big deal here is that the carcass yield of a goat is around 50%. That means if you raise your goat to 80 pounds the hanging weight will be about 40 pounds.

Don’t forget that you’ll still have some trim to come off that poundage to get you to the amount of meat you put in your freezer per goat.

The more you can increase the percent hanging weight, the more meat you’ll end up with.

Here we circle back to genetics.

Goats with primarily dairy genetics are going to have a lower hanging weight percentage than goats with meat breed genetics. This is not a problem, just something for you to keep in mind.

Both dairy and meat goat genetics can produce a good market kid. The differences will be in the initial cost of the goats and the meat yield of the carcass.

Run the numbers for your area and see which makes more sense for you.

smaller breed goat

Know the age of the goat

To give you a ballpark figure, your goat should be butchering ready at about 8-10 months of age. The specific age will be determined by the genetics of the goat and the way you raised him.

The 8-10 months figure is for a market goat. If you are looking for a smaller goat, more like a roaster, then your goat will be ready sooner.

In our area, the 50-60 pound roaster goat, which is younger than 8 months, is very popular for sellers and buyers.

The point is that you get to choose the size best suited to you and your family’s needs. If you want more cuts then you’ll want your goat to be bigger, since bigger goat equals bigger retail style cuts for you.

Feeding to match your goat’s growth

If you want to finish your goat sooner, plan to feed a bit of concentrates of some sort. This could be a grain, grain mix or pelletized feed.

If you want to grow out your goat on browse only, super! That will be great tasting meat!

Browse or forage only raised goats will take a bit longer to reach butchering weight, since they will be growing slower.

No worries, if you have plenty of browse available and suitable genetics, this is the way to go.

One condition before we move on: if you have meat type goats like Boers, they will need some supplemental feed in order to grow optimally.

They will not be able to keep up with the calorie demands of their growth off of foraging alone.

If you want to forage the goats only, no concentrates, then get the genetics that will work in this situation, like Kiko or Spanish.

You need to match your management to the needs of the goats.

There is no better breed, however, there is a better type of goat for your situation and your goals. Match them up and you’ll like what you get!

Weight of a market goat is 80 pounds

If you have been keeping track of the weight of the goat you’ll have a better idea of when it is ready to butcher.

Most people will be shooting for 80-100 pounds for a market goat, keeping in mind that is an individual preference.

As mentioned above, the bigger the carcass the bigger the retail style cuts for your freezer.

Run your goats through the scale every month or so to keep track of how they are growing. Write down the weights!

Knowing their weight helps you make better management decisions and can help you notice when your goat is not growing as it should.

If you do not have a livestock scale, the easiest way that I know of for weighing your goat is to use your bathroom scale, the kind that you would step on to weigh yourself.

Weigh you then weigh you holding the goat. The difference between those two weights is the weight of the goat.

Keep in mind a bathroom scale is not meant to be outside and is not adapted to barn conditions.

Be sure to keep it on a level, hard surface that is clean. A high spot in the middle of the scale, like placing it over a stone or uneven surface, will cause the scale to read inaccurately.

Goat not ready? Some options

If you have looked over your goat and found it to not have the muscle development that you are looking for, what are your options?

Does your goat look great?

The first one is look at the goat, itself. Does he look healthy and well grown, overall? If so, keep on keeping on.

If he looks a bit scruffy or has a rough hair coat, you need to address the underlying problem.

Consider your management, starting with deworming then upping his daily calories.

If your goat has a heavy worm load, you’ll need to deworm first, otherwise you are just feeding the parasites!

Maybe your goat needs more time

If your goat is healthy, tail up and spunky, then you just need more time. Since your goat looks great, he’ll get there, he’s just not there now.

For your next goat, ask the person you buy from how long it takes her to grow out goats and what she feeds them to help them grow their best.

No one knows the genetics of your goat and how they will perform better than the breeder.

She wants you to be happy with your goat and have a successful goat raising experience, ask her about what you should expect.

If you are the breeder, wonderful! Congratulations on getting started!

That’s a huge step towards getting better with goats. Now you’ll have hands on experience and that is the best teacher, by far.

You’ll have the advantage of being able to compare the kid to the parents, to give you a better idea of when your goat is finished.

Kids need a bit more time, no problem. Make note on your calendar to check again in a week.

My go to source for goat info

Whenever I have a question about goats I go to Onion Creek Ranch owner Suzanne Gasparetto.

This link will take you to my brief summary of what I’ve found when reading her articles, including a link to her site.

Check it out. She has tons of goat raising experience and is a straight talker.

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