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By: D. M. Barry and R. A. Godke
Department of Animal Science, LSU Agricultural Center
Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge, Louisiana 708003

Adaptability and Hardiness

The Boer goat is one of the most hardy of all small stock breeds in the world. Although acclimatization is often a slow process, taking a year or longer, the Boer goat has the ability to adapt to almost any climate, from the hottest dry desert climate as in Namibia and Australia, to the snow covered mountains of Germany (1).

During December of 1977, 11 Boer goats were exported from Namibia (ambient temperature 30 degrees C) to Giessen, Germany (ambient temperature 5 degrees C). These 11 animals increased to 54 animals during a 27 month period. This resulted in a fucundity level of 2.04 offspring per doe, and an inter-kidding period (IKP) of 234 days (2). The possibility exists of reducing the IKP to 250 days, since the period from kidding until conception in the Boer goat can be as low as 62 days (3,4). The females that kidded in Germany weaned offspring of an average mass of 19.4 kg at 3 months of age. This resulted in an average of 32.8 kg per doe, or 609 gm per kg of doe annually.

TABLE 1. Production Parameters for the Boer Goats In Namibia & Germany

     PARAMETER               NAMIBIA              GERMANY

     Kidding                  98.0 %              100.0 %
     Kids per annum            1.9                  1.9
     Birth weight               -                   4.0 kg
     Weaning                  97.4 %              100.0 %
     100 day mass             23.5 kg              24.0 kg

     ADG OVER 100 DAYS

     Singles                 239.5 gm             257.0 gm
     Twins                   236.7 gm             193.0 gm
     Triplets                217.7 gm             182.0 gm
     Male Kids                  -                 213.0 gm
     Female Kids                -                 184.0 gm

The Boer goat has strong, sturdy legs and can travel long distances. It moves just as easy in dense shrubbery as it does over rugged mountainous areas. They have been known to travel over long distances for food and water. They are believed to be able to survive droughts without supplementary feed, the best of all the goat breeds. The Boer goat is very resistant to diseases, like bluetongue, and to a lesser degree to enterotoxemia (Clostridium perfringens type-D), and to poisonings like prussic acid (HCN). Grazing habits make the Boer goat less susceptible than other goat breeds to contamination by internal parasites. The boer goat is a browser, and if shrubs are not available, it prefers not to graze in the early mornings when the dew on the grass makes it most favorable for animal contamination (l,5). The hardiness and adaptability of the Boer goat gives it a reproductive life of up to 10 years or longer.

Sexual Cycle and Fecundity

The number of kids born per Boer goat per breeding season ranges between 1.6 and 2.1. The weight of Boer goat females at puberty is given in Table 2.

TABLE 2. Age & Body Weight of Boer Goat Females at Puberty (6)


       During Kidding Season    157.2 days           27.4 kg
       Out of Kidding Season    191.1 days           31.1 kg

Although the Boer goat is a partially seasonal breeder, complete anestrus does not occur in the breed (7). Shortening daylight length generally stimulates the does, with a peak in sexual activity during the months of April and May in the southern hemisphere. The period of least sexual activity is usually from October to January. Tables 3 and 4 gives the estrous cycle and gestation period of the Boer goat doe (3,8), respectively.

TABLE 3. Estrous Cycle

       Length of estrous cycles                  20.7 days
       Does with cycles LT or EQ to 13 days      16.6 %
       Does with cycles GT or EQ to 25 days      10.2 %
       Mean length of estrus                     37.4 hours
       Does ovulating between 32 & 38 hours      87.0 %
         post-onset of estrus

TABLE 4. Gestation Period

       MEAN GESTATION LENGTH                    148.2 days

            Does with singles                   149.1 days
            Does with twins                     147.8 days
            Does with triplets                  146.8 days


            Kidding in kidding season            37.3 days
               (Sept - Oct)
            Kidding outside of season            59.9 days
               (March - April)
            First cyclic activity post-kidding   20.0 days
            Kidding to pregnancy                 62.0 days
               (no breeding season)

During the beginning of the breeding season (February - March in the southern hemisphere), the estrous cycles tend to be shorter, while during the period of least sexual activity the cycles are often longer than 21 days.

The Boer goat breed is well known for fecundity. It has been reported, that under field conditions, a Boer goat doe ovulates 1.8 (+ or - 0.9) ova per estrous cycle, with a range of 1 to 4.3 (3). Under free ranching conditions, an annual kidding percentage of 95% is not unusual. Between 7 and l5% of the does can be expected to produce triplets, and more than 50% to produce twins. The does react very well to flush feeding, and fecundity rates of more than 2.0 are often obtained following this flushing procedure.

Milk Production

In the Boer goat, as with other goats, the average daily gain (ADG) of the kids is directly related to the milk production of the dam. With a preweaning ADG of 300 gm, the doe must produce up to 2.5 liters of milk per day. The doe must reach her peak production during the 4th week of lactation. Although the doe produces enough milk to raise two kids, the supplementation of feed to the doe with twins or triplets is highly advisable. Feed supplementation will clearly reflect in the weaning weight of the kids (9).


A comparison in growth rates obtained during 1986 and 1989 from phase D2 of the National Mutton Sheep and Goats Performance Testing Scheme (10) is presented in Table 5.

TABLE 5. Average Daily Gain (ADG) & Food Conversion Efficiency (FCE) of Young Boer Goats

              GROWTH                  1986             1989

        ADG of fastest growers      118.0 gm         163.0 gm
        ADG of slowest growers       13.0 gm          22.0 gm

        DRY FIELD GRAZING/1 kg
          GAIN IN MASS (FCE)

        FCE of fastest growers       17.7 kg          13.6 kg
        FCE of slowest growers      154.7 kg          88.0 kg      

The Boer Goat Breeders Association (of South Africa) joined the National Mutton Sheep and Goats Performance Testing Scheme in 1970. The increase in average 100 day adapted weaning weights for the 12 year period after 1970 is given in Table 6.

TABLE 6. Average 100 Day Adapted Weaning Weights of Performance Tested Boer Goat Kids

               YEAR             BUCK KIDS            DOE KIDS

               1970              24.0 kg              21.9 kg
               1971              25.4 kg              23.0 kg
               1972              26.3 kg              24.1 kg
               1973              22.1 kg              21.1 kg
               1975              23.6 kg              21.7 kg
               1977              22.4 kg              21.3 kg
               1978              27.1 kg              24.9 kg
               1979              36.6 kg              29.2 kg
               1980              29.0 kg              25.3 kg
               1982              32.3 kg              27.8 kg

As illustrated in Tables 5 and 6, when purposeful selection for growth rate, weaning weight and post weaning weight gain is pursued in Boer goats, as much as 20% or more increase in ADG can be expected, with a subsequent decline in FCE.

Meat and Skin

The Boer goat is raised for meat production, and has as such played an economical part in the meat trade in South Africa. If the Boer goat is slaughtered at an early age it has a tender and a very tasty meat. Boer goats must be marketed at a very young age with the carcass not weighing more than 23 kg on the rail. The dressed weight percentage at specific ages is given in Table 7.

TABLE 7. Dressed Weight Percentage of Slaughtered Boer Goats at Different Ages

             AGE                   DRESSED PERCENTAGE

        8 to 10 Months                   48 %
           2 Teeth                       50 %
           4 Teeth                       52 %
           6 Teeth                       54 %
     Full Teeth Placement             56-60 %         

No other mutton breed has a higher dressed weight for young animals. A live-mass weight of 38 to 43 kg is considered the best marketable weight for young goats. The carcasses of kids weighing less than 18 kg lacks sufficient fat covering and is often discriminated against. "Kids" implies the meat of a goat with no permanent incisors. Only kid carcasses can be graded as "super", the best possible grade that can be achieved for goats. This classification has high quality carcasses with a thin layer of fat. Too little or too much fat or a weak conformation causes a lower grading of the carcass.

The skin of the Boer goat has a high leather value in comparison with that of other small breeds and that of cattle. The length and thickness of the hair aids in determining the quality of the skin for leather production. The short shiny white hair of the Boer Goat gives a high quality skin. This leather is used for shoes, for gloves and for special book covers.

Cross Breeding

The aim of cross breeding is to transmit the superior phenotypic characteristics of a breed or breeds to the F1 offspring. The Boer goat breed poses many of these outstanding phenotypic characteristics which can be clearly seen in its cross breed offspring.

Haas (1978) (1l) has compared the growth rate of Boer goat crosses to that of indigenous Small East African goats in Kenya. The birth weight and weights at different ages, as well as the ADG are given in Table 8.

TABLE 8. Birth Weight and Weights at Different Ages of Boer Goat Crosses and Small East African Goats (SEAG) (11)

                 AGES       BOER GOAT CROSSES          SEAG

                Birth             2.6 kg              2.3 kg
               42 days            8.3 kg              6.9 kg
              150 days           19.7 kg             14.9 kg
              180 days           21.8 kg             16.2 kg
              275 days           28.2 kg             20.2 kg
              365 days           34.3 kg             22.0 kg

Haas (1978) also compared the average daily gain (ADG) of the Boer goat crosses to that of the indigenous Small East African goats in Kenya (11). He found that the ADG was significantly better in the Boer goat crosses than in the indigenous Small East African goats.

The ADG of both breeds as found by Haas is given in Table 9.

TABLE 9. Average Daily Gain (ADG) of Boer Goat Crosses and Indigenous Small East African Goats (SEAG) (11)

           STAGE          BOER GOAT CROSSES           SEAG

      Birth to Weaning       114.0(a) gm            84.0(b) gm
      Weaning to 365 Days     65.0(a) gm            32.0(b) gm

 (ab)The different superscripts in a row are significantly different 


The outstanding characteristics of the Boer goat as a meat goat, make the breed a primary choice when selecting a breed for hardiness, adaptability, fertility and growth potential. The Boer goat has the ability to transmit its superior phenotypic characteristics to other breeds when used for cross breeding. It is also an excellent animal to counter-attack bush encroachment, and when used in a free ranching cattle production system, it was found that the two species utilize the vegetation at different levels, and the income generated by the Boer goats can thus be taken as a bonus.


1. The economic value and characteristics of the Boer goat. Boer Goat News 9:51-53.

2. Matter, H.E. and J. Steinback. 1982. Production results of Boer goats in Germany. Boer Goat News 4:25-26.

3. Greyling, J.P.C. 1990. Sexual activity of the Boer goat doe. Boer Goat News 9:58.

4. Skinner, J.D. and Hofmeyr, H.S. 1969. Effect of the male goat and of progesterone and PMSG treatment on the incidence of estrus in the anestrous Boer goat doe. Proc. S. Afr. Soc. Anim. Prod. ppl55-156

5. Boomker, J., I. G. Horak and K. M. MacIvor. 1989. Helminth parasites of grysbok, common duikers and Angora and Boer goats in the Vally Bushveld in the eastern Cape Province. Onderstepoort Journal of Veterinary Research 5 (3):165 172.

6. Greyling, P.C. and C.H. van Niekerk. 1990. Puberty and the induction of puberty in female Boer goat kids. S. Afr. J. Anim. Sci. 20 (4):193-200.

7. Van der Westhuizen, J.M. 1979. The estrous response and changes in plasma progesterone concentration of Angora and Boer goat does following injection of a GnRh analogue. S. Afr. J. Anim. Sci. 9:17-19.

8. Greyling, J.P.C. and C.H. van Niekerk. 1986. Synchronization of estrus in the Boer goat doe: Dose effect of prostaglandin in the double injection regime. S. Afr. J. Anim. Sci. 16:146-150.

9. Fourie, A.J. and H. H. Barnard. 1984. The improved Boer goat: Milk production in a grass-shrub environment. Boer Goat News 6:16-17.

10. Campbell, Z.P. 1990. The Boer goat after 40 years. Boer Goat News 9:42-43.

11. Haas, J. H. 1978. Growth of Boer goat crosses in comparison with indigenous Small East African goats in Kenya. Tropenlandwirt. 79:7-12.

Reprinted With Permission of The Authors


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