Raising Boer goats both challenging and rewarding
I have a friend who calls on me when she and her husband leave town. They have a large menagerie of critters that need daily feeding and watering. I enjoy the quiet splendor of their property situated at the base of a hill on East Orchard Mesa. Their home is surrounded by hay pastures and a peach orchard, with Mt. Garfield majestically towering over the vineyard growing to the west.
I had gone out a few days prior to my friends’ departure to reacquaint myself with the current situation. While the routine is usually fairly consistent, there are always changes in their animal population. After tending the house cats and dog, we headed up to the barn, situated about a hundred yards to the rear of the house.
The early morning quiet was quickly interrupted by the bleating of the goats. My friends raise registered Boer goats, a large animal bred for its meat. Boer, meaning farmer in Dutch, are goats that were developed in South Africa in the early 1900s. After arriving in the United States in the early 1990s, their popularity exploded due to the demand for the high quality, lean, red meat. Further information on the Boer goat can be found at The American Boer Goat Association at abga.org.
They are large animals; the bucks can weigh between 200 and 340 pounds, while the ladies usually weigh in between 190 and 230 pounds. Boers come in a variety of designs depending on genetics, but usually display reddish color on their white coats. The goat’s eyes have a haunting look with the horizontal black slit pupil centered in a large brownish-yellow iris. They are born with two horns protruding from the top of their heads that eventually curl back along their neck as they grow.
Following my friend around that morning, she began relaying the names of each goat, describing their heritage. While she sells some of her goats each year, there are usually 30 to 40 goats that remain on the ranch for her breeding program. How she keeps up with each individual goat and can convey their mother and father’s names is bewildering to me.
The situation at the barn was similar to other visits, with some goats out on pasture and others penned up in the barn. All of the male bucks were contained as they were entering breeding season. The youngsters, separated in two adjacent pens, created quite a commotion, impatiently waiting to be fed.
Driving away that day, I was happy that the bucks were confined. Considering they outweigh me by a hundred pounds, I always keep a watchful eye on their whereabouts. The morning I was to begin feeding them, my friend rushed out of the house to update me on the changes to the goat situation on her way to the airport. The cooler temperatures had brought breeding season to a climax and they had penned all the goats into separate quarters.
The first few days were a breeze, as the goats were all quite happy in their current surroundings. Going up to the barn on the fifth morning, however, I felt uneasy listening to a loud banging noise persisting every 30 seconds. As I entered the barn area, my heart leapt as I saw one of the bucks ram his head into the side of the panel separating two pens.
The boys had been busy chewing the plywood on both sides of their adjacent enclosures, creating a large hole. They were standing their ground, charging the fence with their heads. Additionally, two of the females had stuck their heads through the hog wire and were unable to escape the situation due to their curly horns.
I found a sheet of thin metal, wriggling it between the panels to block the hole, preventing the hormonal bucks from seeing each other. I then set about freeing the girls from their predicament. It took a bit of wrangling their heads and I was perplexed as to how they managed to wriggle their horns into the small space. The one young doe squealed in protest but reluctantly calmed down when she realized my intent was simply to help her out of the dilemma.
Needless to say, I was glad when my friend and her husband returned from their vacation. They have found a unique niche in this growing industry, providing high-quality, genetically sound animals. Many of their goats are sold to 4-H kids and several have received grand championship awards in nearby county fairs. Their commitment and dedication to raising Boer goats is evident in the care they provide to their happy goat family.