How to Judge a Goat



Meat Goat Judging Terminology

General terms:

  • Correct bite - bottom jaw must line up with the top dental pad. Some times in kids the teeth are pushed forward - but the dental pads still align. This usually corrects itself by the time their first 2 adult teeth come it. Older goats whose teeth don't align have an incorrect bite.
  • Parrot mouthed - bottom jaw is shorter than the top jaw causing an incorrect bite.
  • His/her mouth is out - front teeth don't line up with top dental pad - usually the teeth stick out too far. The lower jaw is longer than the upper jaw. The mouth is "undershot".
  • Correct on his/her feet & legs - structurally correct.
  • Tracks wide in the front/rear - walks straight and wide in the front/rear.
  • Tracks well - walks structurally correct.
  • Smooth over the shoulders & through the front end - wide and flat through the rack. The shoulders tie in smoothly to the neck and the ribs.
  • Broad through his/her chest floor or good spring of rib - this goat will have a desired barrel shape through the ribs, his front legs will be wide apart, his rack wide & smooth, and his ribs round, not flat from the spine to the breastbone.
  • Well balanced - the goat is well put together. All the parts match & tie in correctly. Symmetrical - not real wide and powerful in the front, and narrow through the hips.
  • Weak/soft over the top - gives behind the shoulders, falls off behind the withers. Isn't smooth through the rack.
  • Lacks volume/depth/capacity - is narrow and shallow bodied. Front legs are set close together, and the hips are usually short and steep. This animal lacks room to have a large functioning rumen system, or lungs. Does lack adequate space to carry kids.
  • Lacks scale and size - not big enough for its age or sex.
  • Clean him/her up on his/her feet and legs - exhibits structure problems with pasterns or hocks - usually not serve.
  • Weak/down in the pasterns - pasterns are weak and give when the goat walks or stands. Goat may walk on his/her dewclaws is severe.
  • Hocks in - cow hocked. Hocks turn in when the goat stands or walks.
  • Splays out in the front - front feet turn out when the goat stands or walks.
  • Slab sided or lacks spring of rib - flat ribbed - these animals lack volume/depth/capacity. Narrow bodied.
  • Steep rumped - too much angle between the hook and pin bones.
  • Short through the rump - lacking adequate distance between the hook and pin bones.
  • Short through the hip - not enough distance between the hook & pin bones.
  • Pinched through the withers/behind the shoulders or sharp through the rack - the rack narrows behind the withers. Usually this can be seen all the way down the ribs & behind the front legs.
  • Deep through the twist - long between the bottom of the anus & where the legs split. Goats that are deep in the twist have more leg muscling.
  • Carcass merit - the value of the animal when slaughtered in the carcass evaluated. Overall thickness and volume of muscle as demonstrated on the live animal indicating carcass value.
  • Stylish - is well balanced and pretty to look at. Exhibits the characteristics of the type of animal you are judging.
  • Eye appeal - nice to look at, flashy.

Terms pertaining to Market Goats:

  • Finish/cover - amount of fat covering the goat. Goats put fat on two-thirds the way down the rib cage towards the chest floor first. The loin is the last place to finish.
  • Correctly finished or correct amount of finish - wether is fed out to have the correct amount of fat covering. Is not too fat or too thin. The goat is smooth.
  • Not enough finish or lacking finish - not enough fat and muscling.
  • Over finished - too fat!
  • Smooth over the rack - the goat is flat and shows good finish over the withers and ribs.
  • Stale - past his prime. Starting to put on fat and loose their top. Internal fat causes a belly, and external fat is evident.
  • Wastey - stale. Too much fat on carcass, both external and internal.
  • Smooth over the rack - feels smooth over the withers and ribs.
  • Top - muscling over the rack through the loin and hip.
  • Short through the loin - loin (between the 12th rib and hook bones) is too short for his size.
  • Short bodied - short from the shoulders through the hip. Lacking in overall body length

Judging Meat or Market Goats

When selecting and judging meat goats, or judging them for market, the following factors need to be taken into consideration:

  • General Appearance
  • Conformation
  • Muscling
  • Finish or Condition

Body Condition Scoring as a Management Tool for Appraising Meat Goats

The body reserve of goats can be evaluated by a procedure known as body condition scoring (BCS). BCS is the process by which the amount of fat covering the rump and the loin areas is evaluated by sight and by touch. The goat is given a numeric score between 1 (thin) and 9 (obese) for meat goats and 1 (thin) and 5 (obese) for dairy goats. Most meat goats generally fall between 3 and 7. A BCS of 5 indicates an average, moderately fleshed animal that is not fat or thin as shown in Table 1. With a little training and good observations, this technique can also be used to effectively monitor the nutritional status of a herd.

Table 1. System of Body Condition Scoring




Thin Condition


Emaciated - Goat is extremely thin; no fat is covering the spine and hip bone areas. The tail bone and hip bone are quite pronounced and the individual ribs can be seen.


Poor - Goat is still fairly thin. There is little fat covering the spine and hip bone regions. The hips, ribs and tail bone are less prominent.


Thin - Ribs are still individually identifiable. There is a little fat covering tail head and spine areas.

Borderline Condition


Borderline - The spine and the ribs can be individually identified by palpation, but feel rounded rather than sharp. Some fat is over the ribs.

Moderate Condition


Moderate -Goat has a good overall appearance. Fat is over the ribs, hips and tail bone areas and feels spongy to the touch.


High Moderate - Firm pressure now needs to be applied to feel spinous processes. Fat is observable and palpable over the ribs and tail head area.


Good - Animal appears fleshy and obviously carries considerable amount of fat. Very spongy fat covers ribs and tail head areas. Rounds or pones are beginning to become obvious.

Fat Condition


Fat - The goat is very fleshy and over-conditioned. Spinous and transverse processes are almost impossible to palpate. Rounds or pones are obvious.


Extremely Fat (Obese) - The goat appears blocky, tail head and hips are buried in fatty tissue. Bone structure is barely viable and is not palpable. Animal may have difficulty in mobility.

General appearance of a meat goat refers to the following:

  • Quality and Type - deep bodied, bold, rugged and masculine in appearance, showing great power and symmetry of form; clean, strong bone; smooth, well-balanced finish; graceful, powerful walk; and impressive style and carriage.
  • Size and Development - according to age, preference being given to animals showing superior growth and muscle development.
  • Condition - well-muscled with a smooth, even covering of firm flesh; hair smooth and flossy.


Conformation is the build, outline, or contour of an animal. It is influenced largely by the shape and size of the muscles. Superior meat goat conformation contributes to a higher dressing percentage, a higher cutting percentage of meat to bone, and a higher cut-out value in the higher-priced cuts. Consequently, top meat goat conformation may return more dollars.


Today, consumers are demanding meat with a maximum amount of lean and minimum amount of fat. Meat goats should show muscling in the regions of the shoulder, hind quarters, loin, brisket, and neck. However, when scoring an animal for muscling, it should be recognized that condition or fatness can create a false impression of muscling. For example, a very thin animal seldom has the appearance of muscularity, with the result that it is apt to be scored rather low in muscling. However, when the same animal is fattened, it is likely to score higher on muscling. Yet, when finish is overdone, the extra condition may cause the animal to lose the muscular appearance.

Finish or Condition

Finish refers to condition or amount of fat an animal is carrying and is the major factor affecting carcass yield of retail cuts, meat quality, and dressing percentage. In judging meat goats for finish, the quantity, quality, and distribution must be considered. It must be borne in mind that goats deposit fat internally before they do externally. The ideal condition or finish required of a meat goat is a thin, but uniform, covering of fat over the loin, rib, and shoulder areas. Some experts are recommending that the external fat thickness over the loin at the 13th rib between 0.08 and 0.12 inches or an average of 0.1 inches. However, uniform carcass standards have not been accepted at this point.

Steps in Judging Meat or Market Goats

Side View (neck, rump, shoulder, hocks, barrel, legs)

When viewed from the side, the neck should be short to medium in length, strong, and especially thick at the base, blending smoothly into shoulders and brisket. The rump should be long, broad, and slightly sloping with smooth, even covering of firm flesh. Hips wide apart and level with back. Pins wide apart and lower than hips. Tail head slightly above and neatly set between pin bones. Tail symmetrical with body. Both fore and hind legs should be nearly perpendicular from hock to pastern. Hocks should show angulation. The barrel should be uniformly deep, wide and strongly supported from front to rear, with well-sprung ribs. The shoulder should be moderately heavy, strong, and well muscled with even covering of firm flesh and the shoulder blades should set smoothly into the area of the chine.

Rear View (rump, hind legs, escutcheon, and thighs)

From the rear, the hind quarters should be full, wide and deep, with muscling carrying down deep toward the hocks – both on the inside and outside of the legs; medium in length, wide apart and nearly straight. Hocks should be wide apart. As viewed from the rear look for the greatest width in the round about a point halfway from the rump to the hocks as this indicates fullness of rounds due to muscling rather than fat.

Front View (fore legs, heart girth, brisket, and head)

When viewed from the front, the head should be medium in length, strong and masculine in appearance, muzzle broad with large open nostrils, jaw strong and even, eyes full and bright and forehead wide. The forelegs should be medium in length; set keep and widely apart indicating ample digestive capacity strength and vigor; squarely set; straight; and strong. Bones strong, clean, and adequate density to support weight; feet sound, short, wide, and straight with deep heel and level sole. Large heart girth resulting from long, well-sprung foreribs; wide muscular chest floor between front legs; and fullness at point of elbow. Brisket should be broad, deep, muscular, and firm. The animal should stand well forward.

Sue Johnson has prepared an informative article titled: The Myotonic Head - A Key Characterist in Judging the Breed. This article compares the difference between the skulls of Myotonic goats and Boer goats.

Top View (back, loin, shoulder)

When viewed from the top, a market goat should be blocky and rectangular in appearance. The back should be broad and strong with even covering of smooth, firm flesh. Top line strong, straight, and nearly level. The loin should be wide, full and deep. Width over the top and behind the shoulder should indicate a good spring of rib.


  • Estimate the amount of finish by feeling along the top line and rib area.
  • Check for quality of bone by feeling and looking for clean-cup devise, flat bone and smooth, clean knee joints. Avoid coarse, spongy bones which is indicated by puffy knee joints.
  • Check for clean, flat, and wide hocks which are free from coarseness and puffiness.
  • Check for the width of the round at a point about halfway from the rump to the hocks. This indicates fullness of rounds due to muscling rather than fat.
  • Check for as much depth as possible in the hind quarter from the tailset to the flank.
  • Check for depth of hind flank and length from the back to the hocks.

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