The Kikonui Project (Kikonui means "better than Kiko") began in the early 1980s with the development of the Kiko breed in Brightwater, New Zealand. Approximately 10,000 feral does from various North and South Island sources were screened to select 26 animals for the Kiko breed based on size, physical confirmation of feet, udder, and mouth, temperament, and general eye appraisal.
These does were mated to dairy breed bucks chosen from commercial dairy goat herds based on the dam's meat-type appearance and especially good udder confirmation.
Each year, 6-10 dairy breed buck kids were obtained, hand reared, and evaluated, with one or two chosen for subsequent mating the following year. The crossbreds were interbred after two or three generations of crossbred mating. The Kiko breed's basic philosophy has been to use large population genetics to identify superior animals performing in significant production areas. As a result, selection was primarily based on growth rate and survivability. Dam twinning ability and temperament were less important criteria. The program employed an open nucleus herd, best to best breeding, and independent culling levels.
By 1986, the Kiko program had formed the basis of a paper presented at the Third International Goat Congress in Brazil, demonstrating a 70%+ improvement in Kiko performance over the base feral stock.
The limited number of goats available due to property size had been a constraint on the breeding program. Goatex Group Limited had six shareholders, including three other farmers, as it worked to expand the breeding herd. From the shareholders' combined 1000 does, approximately 100 top does were chosen. Through the early 1980s, this operation followed the same principles of simple production selection parameters of growth rate and survivability, but with a greater emphasis on twinning.
Survivability was primarily determined by tolerance to internal parasites and the absence of foot problems while farming in difficult environmental and nutritional conditions. The top buck kid born in each generation in terms of growth rate was used to mate all does in the core flock the following year.
Since the early 1990s, there has been a greater emphasis on survivability, with 30% of buck kids kept entire at marking being carried through for the following year and wintered on a heavy-soil block to primarily test potential foot problems. A very limited parasite control program was implemented.
practiced on the entire flock. Animals that were unable to handle the parasite or foot challenges were either culled or died. By this point, you could almost guarantee a 200% kidding.
Goats were exported to tropical Western Samoa, Tonga, Papua New Guinea, Niue, Hawaii, and Nepal during the original Kiko breeding program and subsequent operations.
Animals in all exports performed admirably in acclimating to this wide range of management and climatic conditions. The Nepalese crossbred animals performed similarly to other crossbred animals in a research program with questionable parameters. Kiko goats have also adapted well to a variety of environments and climates in New Zealand.
All of the Kiko animals and records were sold to American interests represented by the Goatex Group LLC in 1994. The new owners purchased 60 does, a group of bucks, and some young stock.
Canterbury mated some and later exported breeding does and bucks to the United States. Some animals were sold in the United States, but the majority were super-ovulated for an embryo transplant program, and the population grew. The goal of the import to the United States was to create a new meat goat breed that would appeal to wealthy exotic animal collectors. This was partially successful, as animals sold for exorbitant prices. The market for those animals in the United States at the time was not a meat goat market. It was an exotic animal market supported by a mindset that places little value on meat goat performance.
Twenty years later, there were three Kiko Breed Societies, each with its own set of philosophies. One Breed Society, for example, will only accept registration of animals that can be traced directly back to the original New Zealand imported stock. The market in the United States is large enough to justify a premium for such animals and other "purebred" registered stock. One cannot criticize the breeding programs of members of society who benefit economically. Prices and values, however, may have no relationship to commercial meat values or productivity.
The fact that the American Kiko Goat Association paid US$40,000 for a Registry to enable it to establish a pedigree recording scheme, despite the fact that the four generations Registry was a figment of the US Goatex Group LLC's imagination using only one year's records, demonstrates the level of interest and application of American exotic animal breeders.
In the United States, almost all breed development has been pedigree-based, with an emphasis on breed standards. As a result, little emphasis has been placed on production characteristics. There are exceptions, such as Dr. An Peischel's closed herd at Goats Unlimited. Another is Lookout Point Ranch in Oregon, which is carrying on the low-input, production-based philosophy that began the breed in New Zealand.
This pedigree-focused activity in the United States that paid little attention to productivity or profitability was the impetus for launching the KIKONUI Project in New Zealand (see below) to capitalize on previous experience with the Kiko breed and use the same successful breeding philosophies and practices to realize the potential and further develop a more productive and profitable pastoral goat
Kiko photos on US breeder websites reflect changes over the last two decades as a result of various management and breeding decisions. Anyone can call a goat a Kiko, though inclusion in a Kiko registry may confer some extra status in the United States. Kiko goats from the original herd are incorporated into the KIKONUI Project in New Zealand, though Kikonui Xbreds can be called and registered as Kiko.