Myotonic goats or Fainting goats are as popular as their name makes them. These goats are more amusing than other goat breeds. They are called fainting goats due to their tendency to look like they are fainting when startled or scared. Fainting goats also have a docile temperament and are typically quieter than other breeds. They are mainly sold for their meat, but some are sold as pets. Other than that, some Myotonic goats also grow long coats producing wool for fabric.
To raise Myotonic goats, it is important to be aware of their condition that makes them vulnerable to predators. Hence, they should be secured within a perimeter fencing that can withstand sneaky coyotes, bobcats, or mountain lions. Also, they should be sheltered in an adequate-space shelter and pasture they can go foraging in or exercise.
Moreover, their diet should be a variety of greens, hay, grains, mineral supplements, fruits, and vegetable scraps. As a meat breed, Myotonic goats need to be fed with nutritious food for muscle buildup and to keep them disease-free. Myotonic goats are parasite-resistant, but they are more commonly infected with a bacterial disease called Johne’s disease than the other goats. Hence, it is important to seek a veterinarian also to keep them vaccinated annually.
Myotonic goats, as mentioned, are a meat breed that are also sold as pets and for their thick coats. With that, Myotonic goat farming is obviously potentially profitable, especially if done right. Hence, this article provides information and a comprehensive review of how to do it.
The history of Myotonic goats can be traced way back between the 1870s and 1880s. Stories had it that a John Tinsley, a traveling farmworker arrived in Marshall County, Tennessee. He was bizarrely dressed in a cap that looked like a fez or a beret. Also, he spoke with a brogue, which made people assume that he came from Nova Scotia. He had with him four unusually stiff goats, which he called his “sacred cow.”
Soon, the goats became popular around the hills due to their stiffening and falling over when startled. A Dr. H. H. Mayberry got interested that he offered to buy the goats. Tinsley did not agree right away but eventually ended up selling the goat for purportedly $36. He then left the hills about a year later.
Then, Mayberry raised kids out of the goats and sold them to farmers around Tennessee and Kentucky. Slowly, the goats spread across the Southern States and became known as Tennessee Fainting goats, Stiff, Nervous, Scare goats, and the others. Between the 1930s and the 1950s, the goats came to Texas, where they evolved to become bigger and meatier goats.
However, after a while, the number of goats declined. In 1988, the American Livestock Breed Conservancy’s Conservation Priority List declared the goat breed endangered. In fact, there are only about ten thousand of them in the world. An increasing number of farmers are embracing these goats though for potential profit and for amusement.
Myotonic goats are of smaller size breed than the standard ones. They generally grow up to around 43 cm to 64 cm tall at the withers. Also, their weight can be anywhere between 27 kg and 79 kg or heavier. Myotonic bucks, in particular, can weigh up to 90 kg or about 200 lbs. Characteristically, these goats are stocky with heavy muscle mass and are wide-bodied in proportion to their height.
A fairly unique trait about the Myotonic goats are their large, prominent, protruding eyes in high sockets. Due to this, they are sometimes called bug-eyed. Other than that, their heads are of medium length with a wide muzzle as their jaws. Their faces are straight or convex, their ears typically close to it. Their ears are also medium-sized, are carried more horizontally than Swiss breeds, and less drooping than Nubian or Spanish goats. Moreover, their horns, one to two inches apart, are large and twisted or small, simple, and swept-back. Their necks are dense with muscle and more round than dairy breeds, with thick, wrinkled skin, particularly on bucks. Also, their necks tend to run horizontally; hence, their heads can be lower.
More often than not, Myotonic goats are shorthaired. However, some grow longer and thicker straight coats producing wool for fabric. These coats come in all colors, patterns, and markings, but the most common are black and white.
Myotonic goats are docile, easy to handle and adapt well to living with people. They are vigilant, quieter compared to other goat breeds, and can adapt with low-input farmland and foraging. They are also conveniently parasite-resistant and are amusing due to their tendency to fall over when startled.
The tendency of Myotonic goats to stiffen or fall over when they are startled is caused by the genetic condition myotonia congenita. This condition causes the skeletal muscles, mainly in their massive rear legs, to contract, hold, and gradually release after. Hence, the goats seem like they are fainting. However, during their fainting episodes, the goats are actually not pained and are conscious all throughout, waiting for the stiffness to pass.
There are levels of accepted stiffness recorded in Myotonic goats, according to Myotonic Goat Description by Roberts and Sponenberg (2005).
- No observed stiffening episodes but consistent with other pedigree traits.
- Very rare stiffening episodes. Never falls.
- Occasional stiffening. Rarely falls.
- Normal walking without swivel. The hind limbs lock up readily and the front limbs less so. Rarely falls.
- Relatively normal walking with a swivel at the hip. Somewhat stiff in the front limbs. Rarely stiffens when stepping over a barrier or when startled.
- Constant stiff movements to some degree. Readily locks up when stepping over a low barrier or when startled.
The more typical degrees of stiffness are levels 4 and 5. Goats with level 1 stiffness are called limber legs or limber goats. These kinds of Myotonics are atypical and are not so much used in responsible breeding programs.
Myotonic goats, as all the other goat breeds, should be fed two to four times a day. The more frequent, the better the buildup of their muscles. Also, they enjoy usual goat foods like the following:
- Grass, shrubs, weeds, herbs, leaves, woody stems from pastures and ranges
These are basically every goat’s main diet. These are no-cost and nutritious for the goat at the same time. Other than that, giving the goats the freedom of the pastures allows for their exercise. However, feeding goats entirely on these is not advised as it may cause bloating, which can be harmful.
Hay, particularly Alfalfa, should be present in the Myotonic goats’ diet, stored in a manger. Alfalfa hay is nutritious and is specifically high in calcium, which is important, especially for the kidding does.
- Grain feeds or pellets
When Alfalfa hay is expensive, other goat farmers opt to supplement with alfalfa pellets instead. These are popular extra nutrition sources, especially for kidding does. However, this may not be strictly necessary as it may cause the goats to get fat.
- Mineral supplements
These may be needed for additional nutrition, especially if one feels that the goats’ diet is not that of standard quality. It is important to purchase supplements designed for goats or perhaps, cattle, but never for sheep. It is because goats and/or cows supplements contain copper, which is necessary for them and is not present in the sheep supplements.
- Fruit and/or vegetable scraps
These may be added to the Myotonic goats’ diet for variety. Goats love a variety in their diet.
It is important that the goats have access to fresh and clean water. This is a must, especially during hot weather or during lactation. Water can be stored in buckets or shallow tubs as long as there is no threat that the goats will fall in when they faint.
Myotonic goat farmers should have a veterinary doctor at the start of the goat farming venture. The vet shall instruct on the ideal food for the goats and proper hoof trimming, and perform regular deworming and vaccination.
The vaccination is crucial for Clostridium perfringens (C & D), tetanus, and rabies. CD&T should be initially given to kids that are eight weeks old and boostered four weeks after or when there is a risk for tetanus. The risks include dehorning, disbudding, castration, or when there are wounds. On the other hand, the rabies vaccine should be initially given to kids that are at least twelve weeks old. Then, CD&T and rabies vaccines should be given yearly. Also, pregnant does should be vaccinated a month before they are due to ensure high antibodies in their first milk.
This is a serious disease that is more common in middle-aged myotonic goats compared to the other goat breeds. This is a bacterial disease that makes parts of the body become gradually weaker. Rotting teeth, tumors, and Caseous Lymphadenitis tend to be the causes of Johne’s disease. It spreads likely at birth from a mother to the offspring, the infection typically residing in the mother’s utter. Besides, this disease can be obtained through foraging as the bacteria stays in the soil for a year or two.
LOCATION, SHELTER, FENCING, AND BEDDING
As most of the goat breeds, Myotonic goats do not need a lot of attention. They need, however, a big space where they can go foraging for food and exercise. Hence, it is ideal that the goat farm has access to ranges, pastures, or the woods. It may even cost a farmer cheaper to zero dollars for goat food.
The goats will need shelter to relax and to protect them from the elements. Colder climates will require a fully or partially enclosed shelter or barn. It does need to be elaborate as long as it is sturdy and well-constructed for the outdoor elements. Also, it needs to be raised and is not situated on the low ground so as to not accumulate rain. Moreover, the floor should ideally not be wood as it can get slippery with mud or manure. This may potentially injure the goats or cause problems in their feet.
Furthermore, does will require another shelter when they are kidding. They need to be separated from the herd while the kids are still little. Their shelter should be a solid building, necessarily for colder climates. The building may be divided using livestock panels to create separate pens for different groups of does and kids. The same space or pens may be used by different does, though, at different times. However, space should be strictly cleaned and sanitized before a new doe is placed for another kidding.
Besides, the shelter may also contain farm equipment, goat food, and bedding, other than the goats. Having a proper storage will keep the food and water clean and less waste.
Perimeter fencing is important to keep the goats in and the predators out — bobcats, coyotes, and mountain lions. Three-rail wooden fences with a top board shall do the job. The wooden fence should be lined with hog panels to make it difficult for predators to get in. Also, the hog panels shall keep the kids from getting out.
Besides, a high-quality goat wire will persist through the chewing and leaning of the goats. However, it is important to take note that there are no openings that are more than four by 4 inches. This will prevent the goats from sticking their heads out when they find attractive weeds on the other side of the fence.
Due to their genetic medical condition, Myotonic goats typically do not jump, unlike other goat breeds. They only jump about two feet high and only climb on low and stable structures.
Other than the perimeter fencing, pens shall be made to separate the goats from each other. For instance, bucks should be separated from the does and the weaned kids from the does. The purpose of separating the bucks from the does is to prevent unplanned breeding. Generally, a 30-square-foot of paddock space and/or pasture per goat is needed. This much space is ideal to avoid overcrowding, which leads to increased risk of infestation of parasites, lice, and stress.
Bedding is especially necessary for pregnant does that are about to give birth aside from their required separate shelter or pens. They need someplace to lie down during birthing comfortably. For the other goats, bedding may be used to add up the warmth in their shelter during the colder climates. Placing bedding also makes it easier to clean up the pens. The bedding has to be regularly changed, though. Mucking out maybe least once a month during the summer and less frequent during the winter.
Bedding can be any of the following:
• Straw and Hay
Straw and Hay are similarly less dusty and can be eaten by the goats if fresh. Besides, these are cheap and easy to store as they come in bales.
Sawdust is practical in areas with little rain. It may be stored or kept conveniently outside.
• Wood chips or pellets
These are efficient in absorbing urine and odor. However, they might be a little too hard and uncomfortable for the goats. They may also be relatively expensive compared to the other types of bedding.
Myotonic goats reach maturity as early as their fourth month. However, breeding right away at that age should not be advised. Ideally, a does should be bred when she reaches about 80% of her adult weight. That is about her eight-month, but it is safer to wait until she is one year old.
Moreover, Myotonic does are polyestrous. This means that they can breed all year long when they are exposed to bucks. They can breed again in six months after giving birth. Also, they have plenty of milk to raise their kids, which are commonly twins or triplets.
When a doe is coming into estrus or heat, she usually gives off signs. Such signs include the flagging tail, swollen rear, mucus or discharge, more pronounced or strange yelling, or bleating. Moreover, if a doe is exposed to a buck, she usually shows great interest in him and seeks him out.
When a doe has been bred, it is important to calculate 145 to 155 days for monitoring so that she can kid safely. Myotonic does are great mothers who uniquely hide their kids a day or two after giving birth.
Bucks, on the other hand, are most fertile during the late summer or early fall. When rutting, they conspicuously go off feed. Also, they tend to give off a foul and musky odor and begin fighting with each other.
How much does a Myotonic goat cost?
Usually, it costs about $300 to $500 to purchase a pedigree Myotonic kid. An unpedigreed one, on the other hand, may cost cheaper at about $200 to $400. However, the amounts may vary on a case-by-case basis, depending on the breeder and the region from which the goat is to be purchased. Also, mature goats may cost relatively more expensive than the kids, the bucks usually being the most expensive. However, it pays to know that purchasing mature goats means sparing a year of waiting when they are ready for breeding.
Should one desire to purchase a Myotonic goat to raise it as a pet, wether for sale as pet costs about $50 to $100. Myotonic wethers are popular and excellent pets. Their popularity as pets makes up for the farmers’ dilemma, figuring out what to do with the unneeded male kids. Hence, aside from the meat, selling excess bucks as pets are an additional income source from a Myotonic goat farm.
Is it safe to eat Myotonic goats?
Myotonic goats have a genetic medical condition called myotonia congenital. This condition causes them to stiffen and fall over when they are startled. The condition is also present in humans, some dogs, cats, and ponies. However, as a hereditary condition, this is no threat to the humans who consume the goats’ meat. Nevertheless, they had been listed as endangered and currently ”recovering” by The Livestock Conservancy. Hence, they are not slaughtered as often as other breeds.