Breed Profile: Kiko Goat
Kiko Goats Size Up to Challenging Conditions
Breed: The Kiko goat breed gets its name from the Māori word for meat.
Origin: In New Zealand, fast-growing meat goats were developed during the 1980s by crossing selected feral does with dairy bucks. A large population of feral goats had derived over the previous 100 years from interbred European dairy breeds, Angora goats, and other imported landraces. They were hardy and perfectly suited to the wide range of climates and environments that exist over the islands of New Zealand, including subtropical, semi-arid, alpine, and temperate maritime regions. However, they were small with low milk production. Large dairy sires were chosen to improve size, growth rate, and milk yield to support fast kid growth.
Thriving under Difficult Conditions
History: In 1978, twenty of the heaviest, stockiest feral females, with sound bodies and capacious udders were chosen to breed with bucks selected from commercial farms, sons of the largest and most productive dairy dams, including Saanen goat, British Toggenburg goat, Nubian goat, and British Alpine goat does. Dairy bucks and the best male offspring were used for the first three generations until 1986 when crossbreeding was closed to sires other than Kikos. Within the open nucleus system employed, other does that met selection criteria could join the project. The aim was to increase meat production under difficult conditions by selecting for survivability and growth rate.
Kikos lived with sheep in steep hill country on low-grade pasture at a high stocking rate. They needed good foraging skills to thrive with minimal husbandry. Only survivors that kidded well, while needing no hoof care, no supplemental feeding, and minimal parasite control, were selected. The herd showed a dramatic improvement in live weight and production, and became consistent in performance. The Kiko goat breed was tested in the varying natural conditions of New Zealand and Pacific Island countries, and was found to be highly adaptable. However, Kikos did not gain popularity in New Zealand as Boer goats were preferred.
Perfectly Adapted to the Southeastern United States
Around 1992, many Kikos were exported to the United States. Boer goats were initially more popular, but they did not adapt well to the humidity of the sub-tropical southeastern states. Studies revealed that, in this area, Kiko goats consistently performed better than Boer, and were as hardy and productive as Spanish goats, while yielding higher carcass weights. American breeding goals continue to promote survivability with minimal inputs together with high productivity.
Conservation Status: Kiko goats are a rare breed in New Zealand and a minority breed abroad.
Biodiversity: The varied ancestral base provides genetic diversity, while selection for survivability and robustness has promoted a healthy and useful gene pool which is adaptable to different conditions. Kiko goats have a good balance of complex traits that are sadly lacking in some commercial breeds. The lack of standardization for show purposes enables Kikos to more readily adapt to a new locality.
Kiko Goats Benefit from a Non-Standardized Form
Description: While having no standardized appearance, Kiko goats are consistent in their fast-growing offspring on a purely pasture-based system, while requiring minimal husbandry and health care. The resulting goats are medium- to large-frame, stocky, of various colors and coat patterns, generally with thick, outward-curving horns and large, crimped or drooping ears.
Weight: Adult bucks 250–300 lb. (113–136 kg); does 100–180 lb. (45–82 kg); kids 60–90 lb. (27–40 kg) at 8 months and 100–150 lb. (45–68 kg) at 15 months.
Height to Withers: Adult bucks 30–37 in. (76–94 cm); does 26–30 in. (66–76 cm).
Popular Use: Meat goat farming and as sires for crossbreeding in both meat and dairy herds to improve hardiness, parasite-resistance, and growth rate. Their nature lends promise to other activities, such as a pack goat breed and land management.
Productivity: From two years of age, does consistently produce two kids per year that quickly reach market weights. Does have long productive lives.
Adaptability: Kiko goats have adapted well to a wide range of climates and landscapes all over New Zealand, and in the Pacific Islands, North America, the Caribbean, and Mexico. They are highly parasite tolerant, disease resistant, and resilient. Kikos live at pasture with minimal veterinary care, and rarely contract mastitis, foot problems, or respiratory infections. They are efficient foragers on varied pasture, needing plenty of room and good fencing. Does rarely need assistance at kidding, bond quickly with their young, and are great mothers. Kids are quick to stand up and nurse, have high survival rates, and recover weight gains quickly after weaning.
Friendly, Peaceful, and Compliant
Temperament: Active, alert but calm, and easy-going, Kikos that are used to human contact are friendly, trainable, and amenable.
Quotes: “We love our Kiko. Beyond the desirable breed characteristics that make them low maintenance, there is just something different in their disposition. They are very curious and eager to engage, but in a respectful way. As strange as it sounds, they have a unique expression, almost a ‘knowing’. They are very confident and capable of withstanding rigorous challenges, from extreme weather to performance on the trail as pack animals. This confidence translates into a docility which is not at all passive. It is almost an absence of fear. They are willing to do what we ask them to do without stubbornness. Their mothering instinct is strong, and they will sort into multigenerational family groups that care for one another, rather than compete.” Karen Kopf, Kopf Canyon Ranch, Idaho. www.kikogoats.org
“Kiko are one of the more teachable breeds. They are one of the strongest, both in muscle and willpower. A Kiko has a ‘can do’ attitude. They are fun on the trail, because they are mellow. They perk up at noise, but don’t get nervous or panic—they wait for direction. They are not as aggressive in their play, or as determined to establish dominance as other breeds. They are very ‘live and let live.’” Clay Zimmerman of High Uinta Pack Goats, Wyoming.
“Introduction of milk production genes from selected sources has increased kid growth rate, but emphasis on survivability has mitigated against incorporation of the poor features of dairy goats. The testing environment and low input husbandry system has identified weak and less productive animals facilitating culling and breeding decisions …
“The Kiko, with its selected crossbred base, has stabilized the aspects of increased production and demonstrated superiority over other breeds.” G. J. Batten, Caprinex Ltd, NZ.
American Kiko Goat Association https://kikogoats.com/
Rare Breeds Conservation Society of New Zealand http://www.rarebreeds.co.nz
An Peischel. 2001. The Kiko of Goats Unlimited.
Batten, G. J. 1987. A new meat goat breed. Proc. 4th Int. Conf. on Goats. Brasilia. 2, 1330–1336.
Browning Jr, R., Leite-Browning, M. L., and Byars Jr, M. 2011. Reproductive and health traits among Boer, Kiko, and Spanish meat goat does under humid, subtropical pasture conditions of the southeastern United States. Journal of Animal Science, 89(3), 648–660.
Browning Jr, R., Phelps, O., Chisley, C., Getz, W. R., Hollis, T., and Leite-Browning, M. L. 2012. Carcass yield traits of kids from a complete diallel of Boer, Kiko, and Spanish meat goat breeds semi-intensively managed on humid subtropical pasture. Journal of Animal Science, 90(3), 709–722.
Pellerin, A. N. and Browning, R. 2012. Comparison of Boer, Kiko, and Spanish meat goat does for stayability and cumulative reproductive output in the humid subtropical southeastern United States. BMC Veterinary Research, 8(1), 136.
All photographs © Susan Schoenian, Sheep and Goat Specialist, University of Maryland Extension, https://www.sheepandgoat.com/
Originally published in the July/August 2019 issue of Goat Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.