Raising Meat Goats – The Importance of Culling

Culling meat goats simply mean to remove specified members from the group that threaten to damage the characteristics or production of the overall herd. This can be an emotional time for producers. Accepting the fact that there are some goats that do not measure up can make an owner feel inadequate in the original selection of stock. It is also difficult because discarding animals is not as simple as picking and tossing away bad apples. But there are many reasons why culling is the most important part of raising meat goats and is a ritual that must be performed in order to be in the business.

Illness and Disease

A goat can become ill then shake it off but if one member becomes sick over and over again, the immune system is probably not as strong as the others. This can lead to disease that can spread like wildfire among the herd. Watching this member closely and removing if necessary can keep an infestation of illness from attacking the entire herd.

There are three types of disease that producers need to be aware of in meat goats. Johne’s Disease, Caseous Lymphadenitis (CL) and Caprine Arthritic Encephalitis (CAE) are common incurable diseases that attack herds. Johne’s Disease or Paratuberculosis is an infection that strikes the small intestine and is very contagious. Only mammals with four stomach chambers fall prone to this strain of infection. An outward sign is if a goat begins to shed hair profusely or the coat becomes mangy and dull. Left unattended, wasting and diarrhea can follow. This is a sure sign that death is eminent.

CL or Caseous Lymphadenitis is a bacterial infection that is also contagious and can occur from wounds, scratches or licking an area where pus has formed. Not as life threatening as Johne’s Disease, herds have to be checked often for sacs of pus around the jaw area and ears. This is a way of life for goats but left unchecked, can infect an entire herd. The good part is that it is curable with isolation and treatment. Once the infection is gone, culling can end and they can return to the group. Currently, there is no vaccine to ward against this infection. Flies can easily transmit the tainted pus from one goat to another so frequent checking is necessary.

CAE or Caprine Arthritic Encephalitis is a disease of the nervous system that is passed through milk of an infected doe to her kid. Thought to be caused by a virus with no feasible way to control, kids should be immediately culled after birth to prevent the threat of CAE. Once artificially weaned, they can return to the herd that has been tested for CAE and given a clean bill of health.

Natural Signs of Weakness

There are other reasons for culling when trying to raise the best goat meat possible. Aging goats that are over six years old begin to have a difficult time chewing and walking. Without being able to keep up nourishment or interact with the rest of the group, their presence becomes unsustainable. Culling does not suggest that goats must be put down but separated from the well performers. Other reasons for culling include aggressive goats that bring stress to others, female goats with poor nurturing skills and runts that never seem to grow.

Raising meat goats can be rewarding and profitable but only if there is diligence in observing signs that must be addressed and culling when necessary. If the situation is questionable, cull to be safe rather than sorry.