As the goat industry has grown here in the U.S. expansion has taken place in almost every state including Alaska and Hawaii. In reading articles about production, management and breeds, one thing has become apparent; we (producers) are our goat’s worst enemies. We simply love them too much. A prime example is the Boer goat, which was developed as a breed in the Republic of South Africa. The climate there ranges from semi-arid to sub-tropical (high rainfall) areas and the breed prospers across this country.
Our U.S. Boers though have as a whole been ruined by our constant intervention and over-management of them. We have taken a hardy, tough, breed of goat and turned them largely into pets that have a tough time making it in many climatic regions. This is due to over-management and saving every kid born due to the prospect of great financial return. I myself am guilty having bragged in years past of a 320% kidding rate with a 270% kid crop weaned. What we have to ask is at what cost to the breed?
This especially when we take into account they were developed to be some kind of tough, along with the fact many of the first Boers came from New Zealand, the same place the Kiko breed was developed. When we take this into account it forces us to look hard at our management and what we’ve done to the Boer goat.
Look at how many years “brush goats” have lived in the Southeast with little human intervention and prospered while doing so. Then we look at the Kiko breed that was developed with stringent culling criteria and seems to do well in this region as well.
And yet at the recent Alabama Goat Conference Dr. Mobini from Fort Valley state University in Georgia commented that even within the Kiko breed there are individual goats that seemed more susceptible to internal parasites. This is where breeders, regardless of the breed they raise, stand to benefit from strategic de-worming using the FAMACHA system. This systems incorporation into a management system allows for identification and culling of parasite susceptible individual animals no matter what breed. As was addressed in (the April, 2006) Goat Rancher by Mr. Paul Turner, adopting a tough love approach towards our goat herd is what it takes to make it profitable.
This requires committed breeder efforts and stringent culling just as was used by Garric Batten when starting up the Kiko breed. As was mentioned in (the April, 2006) Goat Rancher by Mr. Jeff Crawford, breeding for what he needed would have taken several generations so he went from Boers to Kikos for a quick fix. Then towards the end of his article he mentions a Boer doe about which he states, “On our farm, the most fabulous animal that has ever lived is a 100% registered Boer nannie”.
A good example of how genetic selection can impact a breed can be found once again coming from the country of New Zealand. After countless years of trimming hoofs and trying differing types of mechanical invention to trim hoofs, they finally incorporated into their breed standards a segment governing hoof growth patterns. Through genetic selection they developed Angora goats that no longer require hoofs to be trimmed. This is just an example of what genetic selection can accomplish for a breed. Here in the U.S. the goat industry is still undergoing growing pains with what could be considered unsuitable animals being sold as breeding stock. My first Boer goats required more feed, worming, and hoof trimming than those now produced, but it has been a thirteen-year venture to get to where I’m at today. And I have to say I’ve not yet quite gotten my herd to where I want it to be in terms of what could be considered a “hands off’ herd who can completely take care of themselves. The bright side is hoof trimming, worming and disease treatment has almost been eliminated within the herd. Hopefully three more generations and I’ll have the type of goat I really want, which is fast growing, tough, hardy animals who need minimum attention. Until then though, I’m still fighting the same problems many of you are. Luckily due to the short generation interval genetic advancement is achieved faster with goats than most other livestock species and they can be made into what fits your purposes with perseverance and patience, so don’t lose faith. Having faith in the American farmer I know that when it comes to development of these “hands off” goats I know we as an industry can “Get-er-done” with any breed we choose to focus on.