The Myth of Hybrid Vigor in Meat Goats


As promised last month, this month I am going to look at what we can learn from the ASU Meat Goat Performance Test about differences between breeds, and what I call the myth of hybrid vigor in meat goats.

To perform the analysis I used data from nine years of Angelo State University Meat Goat Performance Tests. The years utilized were 1999 through 2007.

During that time over 1,000 goats completed the test. Over half of those goats were Fullblood Boers, almost 20% were pure Spanish, a few were Kiko or Kiko crosses, another 20% were Boer x Spanish, with the balance being Purebred Boers (31/32nds Boer and higher crosses).

Breed Results 1999 to 2007
# Tested
Purebred Boer
Fullblood Boer
7/8 Boer
15/16 Boer
5/8 Boer
3/4 Boer
7/8 Kiko

For years I have read and heard about hybrid vigor in livestock, but have had difficulty reconciling those accounts with my own experience raising goats since 1995.

When I started out in the goat business my herd was a mixture of Kiko, Boer x Kiko, Boer x Angora, Boer x Spanish, Spanish, and Boer does. All our bucks were Fullblood Boers.

I gained quite a bit of experience over the years with various breeds and hybrids. Every year we would cull our does based on various factors like their worm resistance, productivity, mothering ability, resistance to mastitis, etc.

Pretty early on the Kiko and Spanish does were removed from our herd.

The Kiko does were good and attentive mothers for the most part, but even when crossed to our Boer bucks, raised smaller kids then the others, and seemed particularly susceptible to developing mastitis and/or pendulous udders that kids could not nurse from.

They and their offspring were the first to disappear from our herd, and at this point there is not a drop of Kiko blood in any of our goats.

The ASU test results seem to confirm this, although the number of Kikos that have ever been tested there is minuscule. The ones that have been tested as a group have done very poorly, and the cream of the Kiko crop gained weight at a rate that was barely above average.

The Spanish does were also a disappointment. Some had a nasty habit of giving birth than promptly returning to the herd, leaving their kids to fend for themselves. Even the ones who were attentive mothers tended to wean smaller kids.

Again, the test results backup my observation. The Boer x Spanish kids for the most part gain weight at a rate that is below average. They gain weight more quickly than a Spanish kid, but do not outgain fullblood Boer kids.

My understanding of hybrid vigor is that the offspring are supposed to be superior to both the parents, but that simply does not seem to be the case with meat goat hybrids.

The one group of goats that outgained their Fullblood Boer sires were the Purebred Boers. Most of the Purebred Boers on the test have come from one of two herds, mine and ASU's. Most years those are two of the top herds participating in the test.

I theorized that the source rather than hybrid vigor was the cause of the result, so I compared the Purebred Boer results to the results of the Fullblood Boers from those two herds. Even then the Purebred Boers still outgained their 1/2 brothers that were Fullblood Boers by a significant amount.

Which brings me to the last group of non-Fullblood Boer does I started out with, the Boer x Angora does. I loved those does. They were great mothers, they raised big, fast growing kids, and most of the purebreds remaining in my herd are their descendants.

In fact, my buck that won the test this year has a small amount of Angora blood to compliment his Boer genetics.

Most of the Purebred Boers you see outperforming the Fullblood Boers are in fact Boer x Angora Purebreds, not Boer x Spanish. The lower percentage Boer hybrids are nearly all Boer x Spanish.

It appears that when it comes to weight gains, crossing meat breeds does not result in hybrid vigor, just a mediocre performing compromise. Crossing a meat breed to a breed like the Angora on the other hand does seem to result in a kid that grows faster than either of its parents.

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This page updated 12/05/07