Often, I am asked the same two initial questions when I am chatting with friends, customers and even co-workers about life on the farm or ranch. First ... why goats? And second ... why Kikos (key-kos)?
You may have your own answer to the first question already. Or you might be like many others who are just getting started, asking, well why small ruminants and not cattle or some other type of livestock? Any goat lover, owner or rancher could answer the first question with any variety of reasons. My answers might include, goats are different, resourceful, intelligent and my personal favorite, inquisitive. However, my number one reason is goats are less intimidating, given I am not a farmer or rancher by trade. Doesn't the saying go something like, size does matter.
That's not to say goats don't have their challenges and don't require a solid understanding before diving in. However, commercial goats have a relatively low price point to get started and have a reduced overall footprint when compared to larger livestock. Smaller barns, less pasture requirements and goats can forage, and they typically have more offspring than cattle. Twins are the norm, triplets often and quads and quints are not unheard of and their gestation period is only about 150 days.
The answer to the second question, of why Kikos, requires a two-part answer. The first part of the answer is short. Did I want to raise dairy, fiber or meat goats? My arrival at meat goats was quite simple. Did I have time to milk goats every day or harvest fiber? Sure goats require attention every day including a variety of chores. However, milking them twice a day and completing all of the other associated work just isn't in the cards with my full time job off the ranch nor harvesting fiber, spinning it and any of the other related functions.
The second part of the answer focuses on deciding what meat breed is right for me and why? There are a few standout meat breeds in North America including Boers, Kikos, Myotonic or Fainting and Spanish goats. Each share a number of common characteristics related to overall size and weight gain but also offer the rancher specific characteristics to fulfill their specific goat husbandry requirements and regional needs. Although not mentioned previously as a general characteristic, common to all goats is the overall nutritional value of goat meat. Considered a red meat, chevon or cabrito, as it is referred to, is healthier in comparison to other meats, including chicken and even some fish varieties.
The Kiko goat breed was derived from feral stock, originally from New Zealand. Consequently, unlike other goat breeds there is no common color or coat pattern with Kikos. Kiko goats are relatively new to the goat ranch scene in the United States, only recently imported as early as the mid-1990s. After a few months of research, late one fall, I landed on the Kiko goat breed for a few strategic reasons.
Aside from the typical characteristics of meat goats, mentioned previously, first and foremost, generally Kikos are remarkably hardy and require much less rancher input than some other meat goat breeds. They have superior maternal instincts, have prolific breeding habits, fewer foot/hoof problems or health issues, good udders, are aggressive foragers and have the ability to travel long distances for browse. Living in Maine with harsh winters, wet springs, and semi-humid summers, exceptional survivability instincts was also a leading factor in my decision making process and a key ingredient for you to consider for your particular goat husbandry approach.
Kikos also show greater parasite resistance where many other goat breeds may only show resilience, for example, to the barber pole worm or Haemonchus contortus. When every dollar counts to the success of your operation, resistance is much more important for long-term breed development and the overall health of your herd. Goats, which are resilient, may maintain their weight or even increase their body weight and remain individually healthy. However, these resilient goats pose a risk to the rest of the herd as they shed parasites in barns, stalls, pens and pastures which may infect other members of the herd when picked up around the ranch.
Like many who are embarking on something new, exciting and maybe even a little overwhelming, I did a fair amount of reading and inquiring with local goat producers to better understand how to get started. I likely touched on just a few high level points, hopefully enough to get you started but leaving you with more questions to have answered or research to complete as you get started on your farm or ranch. I encourage you to check out some of the websites I shared below to further explore Kiko goats.
For more detailed information on "Thinking Outside the Fence", visit the National Kiko Registry (NKR) at nationalkikoregistry.com
For more detailed information on the "Kiko Advantage", visit the American Kiko Goat Association (AKGA) at kikogoats.com