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Margaret Shackles

From Brown Goats With White Edges
White Goats With Red Heads

Margaret Shackles

First let me tell you who I am. Although English by birth I've lived in Wales for the last 25 years and have been breeding goats for 30 years. I've had a certain amount of success in the Show Ring and with Official Milk Recording (an ongoing means of obtaining a total lactation yield, organised by the British Goat Society, to which I belong). My herd prefix is PARCMAWR, a Welsh name meaning big field!

Until 1993 my main preoccupation was with British Toggenburgs, you know, the brown jobs with white edges; for many years I had males at stud, usually two or three BTs, a British Saanen and a British Alpine, but by the beginning of the nineties times were getting hard and I decided that some of them had to go. A lot of my stud customers had white goats; many of them only put their goats in kid for the milk supply, the kids going into the freezer, so I decided to replace all the other breeds with one Boer male for the benefit of the customers. I didn't intend to start breeding them myself, really I didn't!

I'm a senior citizen with limited financial resources, so the Boer male had to be cheap. I found a 2 week old 75% Boer kid from the Redhill herd (25% Saanen-type milker), sired by Eaglemead Rupert, a respected British male of German origins. At the time I was going through a phase of calling the BT males after warships, so we called our kid Crewman because he was one of the crew. He was skewbald in colour (paint, I think you call it in the US). Being dairy people, we expect to bottle feed our kids and Crewman was no exception. He became an instant friend of ours and grew rapidly over the summer months. He was a great success with the customers, particularly when his kids began to arrive and they saw what an improvement he made on their meat kids.

Things would have gone on like this, but in 1996 an 85 year old lady who'd been using my males for a long time phoned to say, would I have these Crewman triplets that one of her goats had just produced because she couldn't cope with them! I expected to hand rear them for the freezer, but they were three lovely little girls who really grew on you. You can guess what happened. By the end of the summer, I had decided to become a meat goat breeder. I couldn't afford to keep all three, so one went to a different stud customer who had one lonely goat which needed company and I kept the other two. Their great grandmother was a goat called Pretoria (after a nearby house where she was born, not the country), so when it came to naming these three, I got out the atlas and looked for good names a couple of stops down the line from Pretoria, SA. I came up with Temba, Benoni and Zimbi.

I still wasn't expecting to breed Boer goats, just decent freezer kids from the two that I kept, Temba and Benoni. When the time came for them to be mated, I put them back to their father, because he was handy and it didn't matter if the meat was inbred. I hadn't bargained for the arrival of Temba's kid. She was a lovely deep chestnut colour all over, with just two little white bracelets on one front leg. "That's beautiful!", I exclaimed the moment she was born, "We've got to keep her". In that moment, I became a Boer Goat Breeder. Shortly after, yet another stud customer asked if I'd like an inbred Crewman triplet from her British Saanen line, so I acquired Amboseli; the red one was named Arusha and they became inseparable friends.

Of course, we couldn't use Crewman as sire yet again, so the next thing was to find another male. We acquired a 4-month-old kid, Wellington Admiral, 85.55%, whose outcross was Anglo Nubian. He has black markings in his head colouring; black is not a socially acceptable colour in the British Boer Goat Society and this downgrades him to commercial, not show, colouring (very few of his offspring have turned up with black in their colour-scheme). He grew into a big buck, with long legs more appropriate to his AN blood, but with the heavily muscled body of a Boer. Our percentages began to creep upwards.

After nearly 40 years of marriage, husband Derek still manages to surprise me; suddenly he suggested that what I needed was a 100% female kid, so that was the next project and we bought Macriloda Benita who is line-bred to Eaglemead Rupert. Last year we acquired Symphony Copland, a 100% buck, also line-bred to Rupert.

You might think that the object of all this was merely to breed up to purebred Boers and indeed, this is part of the programme. However, while collecting all these kids from elsewhere I began to notice an emerging pattern. They were all suckled kids, shy, nervous, unfriendly and, particularly, not in very good condition compared with our dairy kids of similar age. Apart from Admiral, they were unwilling to drink milk offered to them at an age when they would still have been drinking a considerable quantity of bottled milk, had they been hand reared; and they were slow to put on growth. I had already decided that all kids which were to be reared as breeding animals would be bottle fed (so as to encourage them to be friends of ours) and to let the potential meat animals suckle. Most of these sucklers grew well, demonstrating that the crossbred milkers were adequate milk producers. I did milk record Benoni for one lactation - she achieved 1092 kgs (240.5 Imp. gallons) in 365 days, which isn't bad for a goat who had no justifiable claim to being a dairy goat.

Boer Family This year, Benita was two years old and kidded for the first time. Her kids, one of each, by Copland look most promising. Sticking to my rules, I took them away from her at 4 days old and put them on the bottle, while she joined the dairy herd to be machine milked. I soon saw the reason why my bought-in suckled kids were undersized. She produced a peak 24 hour yield of 2kg (under 4 Imp. Pints), which just isn't good enough to feed two kids. The boy was bigger than the girl from day one, so you can guess who'd have had the best share of the milk had they been left to their own devices. I expect to bottle feed kids at a rate of 4 pints per day each until they are at least 5 months old and these two were no exception. They are still smaller than the rest, but that's mainly due to the fact that they weren't born till mid-May!

In January 2000 Zimbi was returned to me. She brought her friend Nansi with her, a white goat of dairy type, but no known parentage. Both were now rising four and maiden milkers. Fortunately, they both came in season shortly after, so we were able to get them mated and productive. This year Nansi had quads by Copland, two of which are self-coloured red ones of dairy type, one of each sex. They are both beautiful kids which I shall keep. I intend to use them to mix with the Boers to make more milk, also using my BT buckling, Djebel Kinsman, a grandson of my full Champion male, Parcmawr Quercus, who is from my highest-yielding line.

One thing I didn't mention was that I bought Copland because his auntie was a red boer. Put to Arusha, he sired a splendid red female kid as well as Dulcimer and Didgeridoo, Nansi's two. So now you can see where I'm going - red Boers with lots of milk - I hope. Maybe I should say that "the road to Hell is paved with good intentions" !

You can see pictures of most of the goats mentioned on my website:



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