When Mike and I first entered the Boer Goat world, we followed the feeding recommendations of several large breeders that we met at shows. Their goats were winning, so we thought that was the only way to feed your goats.
Our first kidding season was about to happen and we began having our first problems with Ketosis and Pregnancy Toxemia. One of our “very best does” was the worst offender. She was slow to breed, nearly 3 years old, but she looked like the show does, which is the way they are supposed to look, right? When she finally bred, she went down about 3 weeks prior to her due date, so we took her to the vet, and the first words out of his mouth were, “That animal is too fat!” Fat, we thought, she is perfect. Looks just like those goats that are winning at the shows. We treated her for Ketosis, and she delivered a single doe kid, but only with assistance.
We ignored the vet’s advice about slimming our goats down, mainly because of the idea that all goats should look like the goats we see in the show ring. After nearly three years of similar problems, we took a second look at our herd and decided that if we were going to raise healthy animals, we needed to modify our feeding program. We researched on the web and asked questions of our vets and other breeders that were not in the Showing Business. We concluded that our goats were not healthy and needed to go on a “goat diet”. We fenced and opened some woods and cut them down to 3 meals a week of a lower protein and lower fat pellet with hay, free choice in the winter. After several months we saw a big difference. Instead of those girls that jiggled when they walked, we saw girls that were trim and actually had some visible muscle.
Fat hides a myriad of flaws that are visible to the eye. We were finally able to judge the structure of our animals, but better yet, we were able to eliminate many of the pregnancy and delivery problems our girls were experiencing. We have gotten used to seeing fit not fat goats and recently decided to haul a couple of our girls to the show, just to test the waters and see if what we had heard was true. In the last couple of years we had been hearing that the judges were putting fat goats to the back of the line. Our two goats were in the same class. Both were fit and in excellent shape. They placed 4th and 5th and the only negative comment was that they lacked “show condition”. This is the code phrase in the show world for “not fat enough”. Needless to say, we will not feed our goats into obesity in order to show them. This idea that goats must be fat, is probably the biggest disservice to our industry and to our animals that the Show people have ever done. Sure we hear about cheating on birth dates and pedigrees, but if we continue to propagate the idea that a fat goat is the standard, we are hurting our animals. Fat obstructs the birth canal. Fat hampers the rumen. Fat collects in the abdomen. Fat causes Ketosis and fat KILLS. How many people have bought those fat show goats and run into the same problems we did as newcomers, then given up because goats are too hard to raise? That is where we were several years ago, before we changed direction toward a fit not fat goat. If you see your goats jiggle when they walk, if you are having pregnancy and birthing problems and if you want your goats to live a long, productive life, then my best advice to you would be get them in shape. Don’t listen to them when they beg for more , and PLEASE don’t think that those fat goats you see at shows are healthy and reflect the way a goat should look.
We have been raising goats on Cow Creek Farm since 1997. Please visit us on the web at www.cowcreekfarm.com