The other white meat.by Gary Mitchell on 08/21/15
Fat, the other white meat. Too many fullblood show judges cannot tell fat from muscle. We have all seen shows where they might as well use a digital scale to sort the classes. Many new goat enthusiasts cannot tell muscle from fat, unless they have a livestock background from another specie. They buy overly fat bred does from a sale, and the next item on their educational agenda becomes Ketosis treatment options. Lets discuss where fat comes from.
As animals consume calories, there are different hierarchies regarding the order in which those calories are used. The 1st priority is skeletal growth. This is why underfed animals can appear "leggy". Once skeletal growth is met for the day, the 2nd priority to use any remaining calories is muscle. This is why competitive show wethers are fed a limited amount, as opposed to full feed. If a wether is fed to gain 1/3 lb/day, he will be leaner than one fed to gain 1/2 lb/day even with the same end weight. After skeletal and muscular needs are met, any additional calories are stored as fat. As the fat layer increases in depth, the animals appear thicker, and fooling some into thinking this is muscle. We all have a "friend" who has bought an expensive animal, just to have it melt away at home in the weeks to follow. I have not spoke about calories used to maintain fetal growth in a pregnancy, that is a topic for another day.
So how do we tell a heavy muscled lean goat from a fat one? Let me share some background. Before the internet was invented, I used to be able to go to the Nebraska Sandhills and buy genetically superior but thin club calf prospects to bring back east and fortify our club calf sale numbers. If you have never seen the Sandhills firsthand, imagine pastures of several hundred rolling acres of dead brown grass about 3 inches tall. The cattle that graze these pastures in the late summer can be described as a bit thin and stretchy. The genetics of these cattle are outstanding. So how do we take off our weekend show jockey hat and put on our Stockman hat and acquire some of these "diamonds in the rough"?
It starts by understanding where true indicators of muscle can be expressed in a thin and stretchy individual. The forearm and the stifle muscle are the best indicators. If you do not know your animal parts, the forearm can be akin to the bicep muscle; below the elbow on the front leg. The stifle muscle is just above the flank and will be the round bulge that pops out when an animal is walking. If they have a stout forearm and stifle, and some width of skeleton (envision the bones); they will power up when hauled back east and put on full feed. In 6 weeks these calves would gain 100 lbs (google compensatory gain). They would be the powerhouses that their genetics suggested they should be. However, if you view a fat animal that lacks an expressive forearm and stifle, that one will melt away after you pull the feed bucket a way. A term used to describe this type of animal is counterfeit. Whether it is goats or club calf prospects, I prefer to buy heavy muscled, structurally correct animals and put the "right" amount of condition on them myself. This is how I prefer to sell animals as well. Selling counterfeits does not to any good to this industry; and they cost more to buy at a sale. Hopefully you feel more educated at a buyer now, and can avoid the other white meat.