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Answered by
Doc Fleming


How the heck do I know what I am looking at when I go to buy that all important starter stock?


Ah! The million dollar question. I meet people almost every day who are "thinking" about starting a small herd of goats. The $10 million dollar question I ask is: "What is your terminal purpose?" In other words, "What do you want them for? Show? Brood stock? Pets? Meat? Sales? Weed eaters?"

If there is even the remotest possibility that you might want to show, then you'd better buy from someone who shows. Makes sense, huh? Some of the bigger names in showing only have a handful of goats -- but the dollars are laid out without hesitation based on genetics and potential.

For people who are interested in raising them strictly for meat, it would make sense to buy a commercial grade Boer buck -- has the frame, has the genetics, but just doesn't have what it takes for the show ring or to produce offspring for show. But, even a good ol' commercial buck can sometimes produce exceptional kids. So, whatever you do, get a registered fullblood. His kids that you choose to sell will generally bring more should you decide to sell his female offspring for brood does -- at a minimum they can be registered as American Boer goats (percentage goats). And, in my experience, I make 35 to 100% more on kids I sell with registration applications. My requirement for my herd is that they pay their own way. For the last two years, they've done that and much more. His male offspring, fullblood and percentage Boers, should make excellent meat goats and you might even get a very good price for the male fullbloods.

About your does. Consider what you're breeding them to -- a Boer buck -- kids being born at 8, 9, 10, and I've even seen one at 14 pounds -- big heads, thick bodies -- even at birth. The does should have a frame that can carry such a load and then feed it when they're born. Twins, triplets, quads, and occasionally quints -- a couple of years ago, Boer Goat magazine had an article on a doe that had quintuplets with a combined birthweight of 50 pounds! Your does don't have to be Boers, but Boers crossed with Spanish or Kiko or Texas GeneMasters -- or even some of the larger dairy breeds. You'll want your brood does to have good udders with separate, functional teats ... personally, I don't care how many they have as long as they work. I'm not into bottle raising on milk replacer -- that's the doe's job. It would be a grave mistake to attend a local auction and buy a bunch of mixed breed does that are full grown at 90 pounds -- that is a disaster waiting to happen. I bought such a doe once -- she spent the last 45 days of her pregnancy up on her front knees -- struggling to breathe.

If I just wanted meat, I wouldn't start my own herd at all. I would buy just-weaned wether goats and finish them to the slaughter size I wanted . . . I mean, how many goats can you eat in a year? That way, you'll probably only have to feed, water, worm, and worry about 3 to 4 months per year! I don't know when I've had more than a three-day vacation thanks to my goats.

But, even as hectic as it is, I wouldn't trade kidding season for anything -- this is a high coffee, low sleep evolution in every herdkeeper's life. I'm like a kid at Christmas every time one of my girls goes into labor and there's nothing like watching 20 or 30 frolicking kids playing king of the hill. Maybe I have my vacations right here at home? I thought I'd get tired of trying to arrange and monitor anywhere from 15 to 25 does at kidding time, but somehow, it all works out. This season, we'll have about 35 does kidding . . . and only four kidding stalls. I gotta sell some goats!

You'll know you're hooked when it comes time to clean colostrum poop from a kid's rear and it doesn't bother you (that much). Colostrum poop? a walnut- or golfball-sized, orange-yellow, ball or glob that is blocking the exit spot, matted to the hiney fur -- puts limburger cheese to shame. It ain't all about watching "king of the hill."

I don't know if I've answered the MILLION dollar question, but maybe I've given you some food for thought. Ask yourself these questions:
1. What do I want them for?
2. Do I want them year round?
3. Will I ever show them? Will my children or grandkids show in 4-H?
4. Am I planning on selling some to help defray costs?
5. Will my spouse still love me after kidding season?
6. Can I afford to do it right?
7. Do I know enough to keep them healthy?
8. Do I really like goat meat enough to make it worthwhile?
9. Can I slaughter and eat the same kid who had me laughing hysterically three days ago?

Best wishes ...


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