BOER GOATS FOR BEGINNERS
Published In The November 1995 Issue (Vol. 77 No. 2)
||Q: What is a Boer goat?
The Boer goat was developed in South Africa as a breed
meant solely for meat production. The term "Boer" refers to the
descendants of the Dutch immigrants, or Boers, most of them farmers, who
settled the country; thus, "Boer" goat simply means "farmer's"
goat. Because of the intense selective breeding over the past 50 years or
more by South African goat breeders, the Boer goat is considered far superior
to any other goat for meat production. It is known for rapid weight gain
and heavy muscling and has high fertility. Boer does typically give birth
||Q: What's a Boer goat good for?
the Boer was selectively improved for its meat production ability and its
ability to pass on that trait to its offspring, along with other traits
including pasture hardiness, the addition of a Boer buck to a commercial
meat goat herd can improve the meat characteristics of the offspring without
making them too "soft" to be pasture goats.
||Q: Aren't Boer goats from South Africa? Why did many come from New Zealand?
they were first developed in South Africa, for a couple of years nearly
all Boer goats in the United States came from New Zealand. In the late 1980's
several frozen Angora and Boer embryos were smuggled out of South Africa
via Zimbabwe by New Zealand and Australian companies. The smugglers were
primarily after the Angora embryos because of the high quality mohair producing
Angoras bred in South Africa; the Boer embryos were just an afterthought.
The companies implanted the embryos into recipient does in New Zealand.
One Australian company got into financial problems and ownership of many
of its embryos and offspring went to the quarantine station operator, Rob
Moodie of New Zealand, who named his herd African Goat Flocks. The other
major holder of African Boer and Angora goats in New Zealand was Landcorp
Farming Limited, a government-owned entity. Still another Australian firm,
Australian Breeding Management, had thousands of African Boer and Angora
goats, and those goats were recently released from quarantine.
||Q: Can I import a Boer goat directly from Africa?
can, although if you're just after a few head of breeding stock and you
think you must have an "African" goat, you ought to consider buying
stock from a breeder who already has brought in goats directly from Africa;
it will be less expensive and much less work. Until this year, the USDA
required importers bringing sheep and goats from South Africa to put them
in a strict quarantine for five years. But in mid 1995 the USDA changed
the rules for sheep and goats imported from South Africa. Now live animals
brought directly from Africa only have to be put into a herd that conforms
with the USDA's Voluntary Scrapie Flock Certification Program, or VSFCP.
That program is a means the USDA is using to try and detect and control
sheep and goat flocks that might contain the scrapie disease, which has
no known cure and the cause of which is not really understood. Offspring
from the goats in those flocks, however, may be sold and moved freely. Goats
originally imported from New Zealand face no requirement to be put in a
VSFCP herd. The USDA plans to relax other import rules to allow free collection
of embryos and their importation from South Africa to the United States.
||Q: I hear Boer goats originally sold for astronomically high prices. Why?
was due a little bit to supply and demand and a little bit to psychology.
When a new (to the U.S.) animal species is introduced into this country,
especially a species that has commercial potential, often an artificially
high "breeder's" or "exotics" market develops for the
animal. This happened with the ostrich and emu, even with the potbellied
pig and hedgehog. The Boer goat is a bit different, however. When ostriches
were imported into the U.S. there were few if any existing flocks of ostrich.
It took years for the breeder's market to be satisfied. But when the Boer
goat was introduced, there were already millions of goats in the United
States. With embryo transfer technology and artificial insemination, we
have gone from a few dozen Boer goats to thousands of full-blood goats in
a couple of years. And people are still importing live goats. The
psychology part of an "exotics market": People think they can
make lots of money selling high-priced exotic animals, especially when the
animals can reproduce and make more high-priced animals. The catch: To make
money, you have to know what you are doing, know the particular breed, and
you have to get in the market very early-on. Timing is everything; early
bidding for a limited number of sought-after animals can go very high.
||Q: What do Boer goats cost?
Are prices still high? Boer goat prices are still
relatively high but are approaching what you'd pay for a quality registered
Angora or registered dairy goat. They are nowhere near the steep amounts
paid during the winter and spring of 1994, when a bit of buying "frenzy"
took hold of some goat breeders and exotics traders. Before the frenzy hit,
back in August 1993, the cost of buying a goat at an auction in New Zealand
and transporting it to the United States was about $8,000 to $10,000. At
the time, people suggested that buyers who spent $10,000 bringing in a Boer
goat might ought to spend some time in the loony bin. But those early buyers
saw the potential worth of the breed. By March 1994, newborn Boer kids were
selling for $7,000 to $10,000 each. In one 1994 auction, $80,000 was reportedly
paid for a full-blood adult buck. Except for an unanswered private treaty
offer of more than $100,000 for a stud, $80,000 was about the highest price
paid in this country for a Boer goat. About mid summer of 1994, the Boer
market declined to "only" about $25,000 to $35,000 per animal
and settled there. In an auction during early 1995, full-blood Boer goat
bucks sold for an average of about $9,000 per head, while does brought about
$11,000 per head. Prices continued to decline during 1995. As more and more
kids reached breeding age and were put on the market, going prices went
lower. Then, too, demand for breeding stock was being satisfied, so finding
a buyer for purebred Boers was sometimes hard to do. That has changed a
little now. It seems like more farmers and ranchers in sections of the country
not normally thought of as goat country are hearing about Boer goats and
the meat goat industry. At a Boer goat auction in early October 1995 Boer
prices stopped their decline and actually improved. At that sale, breeding
age does sold for $800 to $1,500 per head. Adult bucks went for around $2,000
||Q: Will Boer goat prices go even lower, and should I wait for that to happen?
Ever hear the old adage, "You get what you pay
for."? Well, that saying applies here. After the buying frenzy in early
1994, people began to wise up and be more selective about how much they
paid for what type of goat. Buyers no longer paid high prices just because
the goat was white with a red head and was called a Boer goat. Quality became
important. You could probably buy a so-so full-blood Boer buck these days
for as little as a few hundred dollars. Quality Boer goats, both bucks and
does with outstanding conformation and muscle mass and the ability to pass
on those traits, still sell for fairly high prices and will continue to
||Q: Do I need Boer influence in my herd to be a successful meat goat producer?
Not at all. Right now you could probably do well raising and selling meat
goats (providing demand holds at present levels and imports don't absolutely
flood the country) even if you raised wild, skinny, tough, unimproved meat
goats. But as the industry develops and grows, you'll probably want to add
at least a Boer buck to your flock to compete with the meaty animals sure
to hit the market in the near future.
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