We homesteaders usually go for the Boers, Nubians and Spanish breeds when choosing the type of meat goats to raise. These varieties deliver the bulk and poundage we want when it’s time to sell them or use for our own consumption.
But we also know the challenges of keeping them healthy. Rising feed prices and veterinary costs, the need for green pastures, plus the special care required during kidding season – these all add up to the daily demands of keeping our herds happy.
The past decade in America, though, saw the increasing popularity of a lesser-known breed: the Kikos.
Kiko goats are originally from New Zealand, bred in the late 1970s by Garrick and Anne Batten. The Battens cross-bred feral does with domesticated dairy bucks of Anglo-Nubian, Saanen and Toggenburg varieties. They wanted to develop indigenous goats that were more muscular and productive, for purposes of commercial meat production. They aimed for four key qualities: hardiness, survivability, rapid growth rate and minimum input from growers. After four generations of controlled breeding and rigorous culling, they established the Kiko breed in the late 80s. The breed came to be known as the “go anywhere, eat anything” goat because of its exceptional ability to thrive in less-than-ideal environments. In 1995, Kikos were brought to the United States and have since elicited a growing interest among goat enthusiasts and meat producers.
Kikos are large-framed goats, lean but athletic in appearance. They’re usually all white or cream in color, but also can come in darker colors of camel, brown and black. They have short, slick hair in warm, sunny climate, but can grow thick flowing hair when ranged at high altitudes in the winter. They have erect ears and the bucks grow long, narrow horns if not disbudded.
If you’re looking to expand your livestock with little or no additional expense, Kikos would be your best choice. They can grow alongside cows and sheep without competing for pasture. That’s because Kikos are foragers — they will go for weeds on brush and ignore your cattle’s preferred grass. That’s what makes them excellent brush cleaners. With plenty of acreage, they will thrive and basically take care of themselves if there’s a good variety of plants. The American Kiko Goat Association (AKGA) says many ranchers note an increase in available grasses for their cattle after two to three years of running Kikos on their operations, because most of the undesirable and invasive plant species have been mowed.
While I totally adore the sweet, docile temperament of my Boers, I’m wary of and constantly having to address their susceptibility to disease. In our warm, humid climate, I have to annually battle the threat of parasitic infestation, respiratory problems and hoof rot, particularly during the rainy season. (Had I learned about Kikos earlier, and if they were easily available in our area, I would’ve chosen them first.)
Terry Hankins, who raises Kikos at Egypt Creek Ranch in Mississippi, says the breed thrives best in the Southeast, Midwest and the Deep South where there’s up to 50-60 inches of rain annually. Not surprising, since Kikos were developed in New Zealand, where annual rainfall can run up to 100 inches.  Whereas Boers were developed in South Africa, where no more than 20 inches of rain is experienced.
Richard Johnson and Mia Nelson of Lookout Point Ranch in Lowell, Ore., give their Kikos only minimal supervision beyond the basic record-keeping. They provide no barns, no supplemental feed, no hoof trimming, no worming, not even any vaccinations. They supply only mineral supplements and protection from predators.
But the defining characteristic of Kikos, say enthusiasts, is their impressive growth rate. Although the breed doesn’t grow as large as other meat goats, they are known to grow and reach market weight faster than their counterparts.
Another outstanding quality is their kids’ survivability. Dams are not only prolific – able to produce at least twins each year – but they also have excellent maternal instincts. They deliver without assistance and quickly clean their newborns, staying by their side for the first 24 to 48 hours. Kids are known to be active and vigorous at birth. They’re normally up and suckling within 10 minutes of birth.
In 2004, a study conducted at Tennessee State University showed that Kikos weaned more pounds of kid per doe as compared with Boers.  Nevertheless, Boers are still preferred by buyers at many barn sales. Size, looks and gentleness still seem to matter most to them, I guess. For this purpose, many breeders opt to cross a Boer buck with Kiko does. The resulting hybrids are vigorous and show the best characteristics of both breeds.
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