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Kikos for the Small Farm

By Mary Wilson

Most dairy goat breeders keep their focus on milk production, but some are branching into the goat meat market with the addition of Kiko meat goats to their small farm stock. At Half Creek Farm we have found they are a good way to increase profits from the farm with little additional input. We raise Kiko meat goats on our farm in the high desert in Washington. Similar to Boer meat goats in muscle type, they are different, however, in their color patterns and they are known for their strong survival instincts.

Kikos were developed in New Zealand from feral stock. They were culled heavily for years to improve on maternal qualities, milk production, parasite resistance, feet and hoof quality, and their ability to gain weight on forage only. These are all the qualities we wanted in our meat goat herd, so Kikos were an easy choice.

Kikos come in a variety of colors although they tend toward white. This makes them less identifiable than Boers, and while the country is covered with Boer shows, Kiko’s are a production-based breed—no Kiko shows. Instead, Kikos are assessed on their production qualities. How many kids did they have; how many did they raise to weaning; what was the weaning weight? These are all factors we watch in our herd. Kids are weighed at birth and at 30, 60 and 90 days to give us maternal data. Then we weigh again at 120 and 150 days to see how the kids are growing after weaning when they’re on their own. We kid mostly twins but each year we end up with a triplet or so. I like to keep an eye on the girls during kidding. In our area, being out on range kidding can be dangerous. Predators are, if nothing else, opportunists. I rarely intervene in kidding. The goats know what they’re doing better than I do. Kiko kids range from five to eight pounds, making births much easier on mom and kids. The kids are up and nursing in under an hour. I do catch them shortly after birth to put iodine on navels, weigh them, and get in a couple pets, then off to mom.

Colored Kikos
Colored Kikos

At Half Creek Farm we check for parasites several times a year. Parasite resistance is a culling criteria in Kikos. Routine worming throughout the goat world has caused some significant parasite resistance to commonly used wormers. Goat producers have altered the way they use wormers in recent years but a lot of the damage is already done. Kikos are parasite resistant, allowing us to bypass routine worming. Now we assess each animal twice a year and document if they needed worming. If we have to worm them several times a year we cull them.

We check hooves several times a year and trim as needed. We rarely have a doe we have to do more than twice. I don’t cull much for bad feet, as I really haven’t seen bad feet in Kikos.

Maternal instinct is a trait we cull heavily for. We want does to wean their weight in kids. I want consistent twins, no birth problems, attentive moms, and vigorous kids right from the start. We’re trying for 50 pounds at 90 days herd-wide, and we’re getting closer to that goal all the time. We had one set of triplets last year that weighed 42-50 pounds each at 90 days. This is an indication of the milk production of the doe. This mom was able to provide enough nutrition to keep good growth in the three kids through weaning. The next weights show us how the kids do on pasture when they’re on their own. If they continue putting on weight, on forage, we’re happy.

Kikos don’t need grain to gain weight; our animals are fed forage. We do use a little grain to help tame them. I think it’s important in smaller operations like ours to keep the goats fairly comfortable around us. We have to vaccinate, trim hooves, check for parasites, etc., and with only Dave, Wookie (the dog) and I, we’re not interested in a wrestling match.

Kiko goats are assessed on their production qualities. Twins are common at Half Creek Farm, with an occasional triplet birth.
Kiko goats are assessed on their production qualities. Twins are common at Half Creek Farm, with an occasional triplet birth.

At an elevation of 3,500 feet we experience severe winters and predator pressure. Our property is very rugged and the forage is weeds, scrub oak, willow, and an assortment of brush. There is only Dave and I to tend the farm so labor has to be kept to a minimum. We choose our animals carefully to blend with our time, skill and stamina. Those are all in short supply at our house! Although the goats are permitted free range during the day, they return home every night where they have shelter if they want it. Snow doesn’t bother them, but rain, well, goats dissolve if any water touches their skin (or so they think).

We have a farm dog that helps us when we’re working with the goats. Wookie is a Bouvier des Flandres and has had herding lessons to help us work together. She’s not a guard dog for the goats and doesn’t go out with them when they graze. She is the farm dog, and responsible for the whole place. Her warning barks to the local coyotes are a big part of keeping them away from the area. Since we got Wookie, we’ve not lost a single animal.

Meat goats are a great addition to a small farm. They’re easy to raise if you choose the right breed, which of course I think is the Kiko. Goats are personable, saleable and much easier to handle than cattle. They need about a fifth of the land that a cow needs and enjoy a much lower quality pasture. Often goats and cattle are grazed together with the cows eating grass and the goats eating weeds, brush, wild rose, blackberries and every other invasive pest you can think of—and loving it.

Half Creek farm recently partnered with friends who own Gateway Farm in nearby Centerville, Washington, to market USDA goat meat directly to consumers.

This is a new venture for us and looks like it may be a good choice. We’ve gone to the farmers market in The Dalles, Oregon, twice and both times did well and really enjoyed talking with customers and telling them about chevon (goat meat). We’ve made up flyers to give a quick little explanation of how to cook with chevon, and our local group even made up a cookbook called Kidding Around in the Kitchen to provide tasty recipes. I think people are becoming more interested in the qualities of locally grown products and are willing to try something different. In this country, chevon is still considered "something different," in spite of its being a huge part of the rest of the world’s meat intake.

The American Kiko Goat Association (AKGA, www.kikogoats.com, 254-423-5914) and the International Kiko Goat Association (IKGA, www.theikga.org PO Box 677, Jonesborough, TN 37659), are great places to read more about this wonderful animal and find breeders in a particular area.





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