Boer Goats: What and Why?
by Gail Bowman
I raise Boer Goats in the
First of all, what is a Boer Goat? Boer goats are large framed animals resembling, in many ways, the Nubian goat. The most obvious difference is the size. A Boer is a large, double muscled animal. Boers are specifically meat goats. They can consistently produce more muscling in less time, and will pass this capability to their kids. Boers are to the meat goat industry what imported cattle were to the beef industry. Boers goats were developed in
What do Boer goats look like? As I said before, they are large animals, generally white with a reddish brown head and (usually) a white blaze down the middle of the face. Solid red Boer goats are also becoming more and more popular. Mature weights between 200 and 350 pounds for males and 120 to 200 pounds for females are considered normal. They have long ears that should hang down along the sides of their faces. The leg bones and general bone structure of a Boer goat are bigger and thicker than in other kinds of goats. When you look at a Boer goat you should look for a deep, broad chest, good back, strong shoulders and heavy muscling in the rump.
Boers are hardy, adaptable and easy to handle. I use a simple three sided structure to give my goats shelter from the sun, wind and snow. However, my Boers often don't use it. They seem to be very happy lying out in the sun on 90 to 100 degree days (their skin is darkly pigmented under the white fur to reduce the risk of sun burn). The Boers in my herd have also been known to sleep outside down to about 10 degrees, rather than curl up in the goat house with the rest of the herd. I have also noticed that Boers aren't as interested in jumping fences as dairy goats. I have found that any kind of mesh fencing or electric fence, at least 3 or 4 feet tall will confine my Boers.
There are many other kinds of animals that produce meat in the
At the end of 18 months, the cow should be pregnant again, and her calf is ready to be sold for $325 (in current market conditions here in the Northwest). The six does have kidded again with another 12 kids (plus the does would be pregnant again) who are now 5 months old and ready to be sold for another $720. Feed cost comparisons between one cow and six goats would vary greatly, depending on the time of year, type of pasture and area of the country. It may cost a little more to feed the six does than the single cow, but the difference in the sales ($1440 - $325 = $1115 more gross sales) certainly makes up the difference. Plus you don't need expensive squeeze chutes, and it is easier to own a buck than a bull or to artificially inseminate a doe than a cow.
If you have 10 acres, you can easily raise 60 goats or ten head of cattle. Goats, especially Boers or Boer crosses, can survive, even prosper, on poor pasture and brush that would not support cattle. Many breeders find the fact that goats will eat berry bushes, Russian olive, elm or cottonwood trees, ragwort, gorse, dock, amaranths and other weeds, to be an important factor when deciding to raise goats. Some ranchers also find it good pasture management to run goats on the pasture after their cows to clean up the weeds.
Goat meat has a lower fat content than either lamb or beef and is eaten by over 80% of the world's population. Already, the popularity of goat meat in the United Sates is rising dramatically. One reason might be the improved flavor that the Boer adds to the meat. We have found that adding just 50% Boer bloodlines to our goat meat produces a very mild and tender, light red meat that readily takes on any seasoning we have tried. Breeders have reported that their kids are ready for market sooner, and their customers will actually pay them a premium for their meat goats if they add Boer blood to their herd!
Many people raise milk goats because they love goats. But it has been said that it takes less time to feed 100 goats than to milk 10! More and more people, like myself, want to buy a small piece of land and raise a few animals, but not an animal that is going to run over me or break my foot if it steps on me. What do you do if you don't especially want to milk, can't stand the smell of pigs, the mess of rabbits, or the stupidity of sheep? Thousands of people have found meat goats to be the perfect answer.
How do you get started? There are as many answers to that question as there are breeders. A meat herd should have a Boer or Boer-cross buck or two, and as many dairy, spanish or mixed-breed does as you want to raise. I definitely recommend buying your goats from reputable breeders rather than the stock yard auctions. Most people find that the loss from diseases brought home from the stock yards more than make up for the lower prices. Your Boer or Boer cross buck should be papered. Blood lines may not be important to your meat herd, but a registration paper is your only way of being reasonably sure that you received what you paid for, or maintaining the resale value of your buck!
If you just want to raise a few breeding animals, rather than a large meat herd, my best advice is to know the breeder you are buying from! Never buy breeding stock from a truck that is just passing through! Always have a pedigree or pedigree application in your hand when you leave the ranch with your animal. Ask about disease control programs. Take a look at the condition of the whole herd, ask to see related animals that have reached maturity (if you are buying kids), and make sure that your breeder intends to guarantee your purchase should the animal turn out to be a non-breeder (a very rare situation in goats). The vast majority of breeders are in the business of raising animals because they love the animals, and are truly trying to do a great job. Find one of these to buy your breeding stock from! Boer goats are fun to raise and can be very loving animals. Enjoy
Why Should You Raise Meat Goats?
by Gail Bowman
The demand for `chevon', or `cabrito', or `goat meat' in the
Much of the demand is generated by the changing ethnic demographics of the continent. About 63% of the red meat consumed worldwide is goat! Much of the goat meat demand in the
What is so special about chevon (goat meat)? Many people have digestive problems that require a careful diet. The molecular structure of chevon is different than that of other meats. Therefore, chevon digests more easily. It is also a low fat, good tasting alternative to chicken or fish. I am one of those people who have to watch what they eat. I can eat chicken, some kinds of fish, turkey and chevon. I prefer chevon from an animal that is at least 75% Boer. The Boer influence changes the taste of the meat to a milder, more veal-like flavor. When you have as few choices in your diet as I do, you learn what you like. I have not had the opportunity to try Kiko or Fainting goat meat. My comparisons are with dairy goat meat.
The Direct Market Niche and the Commercial Meat Herd In our area, if you put out the word that you have meat goats for sale, you usually have enough calls to sell your animals right off your ranch. I get about $1.00 per pound on the hoof. I have had other breeders tell me that they can get more for goats with Boer blood. This is a good example of one way to market your goats - find a profitable direct market niche.
One of the most popular market niches in the meat goat industry today is the direct market. A `direct market' is a group or type of buyer that will come directly to your ranch to buy from you, for a specific reason. There are many direct market niches for meat goats. I have already suggested one type of direct market niche: the ethnic meat market. Another direct market niche involves the growing trend in the 4-H and FFA clubs to raise meat goats. One of the most profitable direct market niches supplies Chevon to the local restaurants that are serving an ethnic clientele. Another direct market niche is the market for meat breeding stock. Commercial meat breeders will usually pay about double, for breeding stock, what you might have expected to receive for the same animal by the pound.
Many breeders are now working together, in cooperatives or associations, to meet large commercial sales contracts. These contracts supply the meat markets on the east and west coasts of the
In many areas of the country, slaughter houses are being constructed specifically for goat meat. However, almost none of the goats being processed at these facilities are actually meat type goats. There are just not enough meat goats being raised, which are not pre-sold to direct markets, to supply a production facility.
Fullblood Meat Goats
There are several types of 'meat' goats: Boer goats, Tennessee Fainting Goats, Kiko goats, and 'Spanish' goats. However, only three of these are true breeds with breed associations and standardized meat breed characteristics. These are the Boers, Kikos and Tennessee Fainting goats. The 'Spanish' goats are an indigenous goat of the southern
Boer goats are large framed animals resembling, in many ways, the Nubian goat. The most striking difference between a Boer goat and any other type of goat you may have seen, is the size. A Boer is a large, double muscled animal developed in
The Kiko goat is a recent development of a
Fainting goats are not huge animals. They average between 17 and 25 inches tall, and weigh between 50 and 165 pounds. They come in a wide variety of coats and colors, with long ears that stand out to the sides of their heads. Fainting goats have very distinctive 'bulgy' eyes. Several breeders have spent a lot of time and energy breeding this basic breed up into an 'improved' meat goat that is larger and heavier and crosses well with Boers.
Fullblood breeding animals are a whole different industry from the meat production industry. However, the two are very closely tied. When you take a look at what you want to raise, you might consider adding at least a few quality fullbloods to your operation. If the meat industry in your area blooms and expands, there will be more demand for good fullblood meat goats. We are heading into an era of serious meat production.
In all livestock industries, there is a place for the good registered herd sire. These animals must be proven to be fertile and prolific, adaptable, disease free, and have the meat and muscle characteristics that will add productivity to a commercial meat herd. It may be a good idea to consider whether or not you want to make the initial investment to start a good breeding stock herd. Or, alternatively, add a few breeding stock to your meat herd, or some meat production stock to your fullblood herd. The two types are not mutually exclusive. As a matter of fact, one usually leads to the other. If you start with a meat herd, but have to add a fullblood herd sire, sometimes you will also be tempted to buy a fullblood doe to go with him. Then you are suddenly producing herd sires for your neighbors. This is a good idea, because one good fullblood sale a year can pay nearly 1/5th of your feed costs for a year (if you are raising 50 goats).
What are the prices on fullblood meat goats expected to be in the long run? Many things will affect the answer to that question. I know a couple who breed fullblood registered angus cattle. How many rural communities have plenty of cattle? How can these people make their money? They market. They have big production sales where breeders come from all over the world, or tie into a satellite link, to buy their stock. I believe that there will always be top breeding stock. People that advertise, raise quality disease free animals, and let the meat producers know they are out there, will always have a market.
As in all industries, the price you will be able to get for good fullblood stock will depend on the quality of your animals and the effectiveness of your advertising. If you do not want to market, you will probably be able to sell your fullbloods to your neighbors at about $250 each, indefinitely. If you are well known, and advertise, and you have animals that make the buyer's head turn, you will probably always be able to get at least $800 for your fullblood meat goats. At the time of this printing the prices for good fullblood stock are about double that amount, and are actually going up. These prices have been stable for three years now, and the market seem to indicate that they will remain firm in the future.
Whether you are interested in raising goats for meat or for breeding, or some combination of the two, meat goats, and goat meat, are here to stay. The market is increasing and expanding, and shows no signs of slowing down. You don't need a lot of specialized equipment to raise meat goats, and you can reasonably plan to raise about 6 does with their kids per acre of good edible vegetation. As an industry, meat goats are replacing beef, hogs and dairy herds nation wide. Meat goats are the newest and fastest growing small acreage industry in the