The South African Improved or Ennobled Boer goat is the only true meat goat in the world. It represents the culmination of 50 years specialized breeding in its homeland for improved meat quality and quantity.
“The breed was not created from two or more pure breeds, as is the case with other varieties of animals bred in South Africa. Rather, the prototype for the breed was selected from all existing breeds of goats in South Africa in order to achieve the functional characteristics and type as they are today – hence the name Improved or Ennobled Boer goat.” (The Improved Boer Goat Brochure – no author).
The Boer Goat Association of South Africa was founded in 1959 and the breed standard was set at that time, but it was not until the 1990 that the association allowed any of its Boers to leave the country. Prior to that all its goat meat was consumed by the home market and neither goats nor meat were exported from South Africa.
The first Boer goats to arrive in the US in the 1990s, were imported from South Africa via New Zealand.
The Improved breed was first released into Australia in April 1995 after the imported animals had undergone the mandatory seven years quarantine period to ensure they were not carrying the disease Scrapie (related to the devastating encephalopathy–Mad Cow Disease). After completing the stipulated time, the original imports were destroyed and their brains examined for any traces of the disease. Only the progeny of those goats that were born on the quarantine station were released to the stud breeders who had been patiently awaiting them.
In Australia, ‘goat’ was once a dirty word. The cockies (farmers) hated them. However, the introduction of the Boer goat led to a complete turn-around in attitude. Within a decade of their arrival, farmers and graziers were looking at the vast number of feral goats in a different light. From an animal that was long despised, poisoned and shot by the thousands in large-scale and expensive eradication programs, cross-bred meat goats, sired by Boers, were soon to become a profitable and accepted commercial enterprise in the pastoral station country.
Properties of the Boer Goat
With a docile nature, Boer goats are intelligent and easy to manage gentle giants – the mature bucks reaching 135 kg in weight and does 95 kg.
Males (bucks) demonstrate high fecundity (able to serve 40 does easily), while females (does) are capable of kidding 3 times a year and usually produce twins or often triplets. The does also have good mothering qualities.
The weight gain recorded in Boer kids is the fastest of all small ruminants. Early Australian trials using Boer bucks over feral does showed an increase of 40% in carcase weight of first-cross Boer kids as against feral kids.
Desirable physical features of a Boer goat
Colouring: A strong red head and neck with a broad white blaze running down the curved forehead and nose. A pair of strong rounded horns bent backwards.
An all-white body with a well fleshed broad barrel.
Darkly pigmented skin (visible around the anus).
The coat should be short and slightly glossy. The skin should be supple and folded around the neck (on the bucks).
Sturdy legs with strong feet and hoofs.
Farming Boer goats:
Goats are browsers not grazers. Sheep eat pasture from ground level to 5” upwards, whereas goats prefer to browse on anything 5” and above. Experiments have proved that Boers eat 74% leaves, woody bushes and shrubs and only 26% grasses. Therefore, goats are ideal to run with cattle without being in direct competition.
Because goats eat thorny plants, such as blackberry plus other hardy invasive vegetation, they are useful in clearing/controlling weeds.
With good feet and strong hoofs, they are hardy and adaptable and can cover long distances over hard surfaces.
They are relatively disease resistant.
Boer goats are not labour intensive, and production costs are low with no shearing, crutching or muesling necessary. (Mulesing is the removal of wool-bearing skin from around the tail and breech area of sheep to reduce the incidence of flystrike.)
Boer meat goats produce high quality meat with low fat content. They also produce quality skin with a high leather value.
Read more about commercial goat farming in previous article.