Common Myths/Facts About Boer Goats

Added on June 1st, 2011 (Articles/Information)

By Christine Kocourek

Let me start off by saying I’ve owned dairy goats. In fact, our family grew up with two or three does always on the farm. We hand-milked, drank the milk, made cheese, showed at the county fair, and did all the many things with our goats that small farmsteads have done over the years. I still own a dairy goat, a nice registered Toggenburg who provides plenty of milk for an assortment of projects, from bottle babies to soap. I have no bias against dairy goats.

At times, however, animosity and general negative comments get directed toward the Boer breed, often from dairy raisers with limited knowledge on the actual animal. This article will address some of the more common myths about Boer goats and hopefully encourage you to add a few Boers to your herd. After all, a goat’s a goat, but a Boer’s an easy-keeping, tasty critter, perfect for small homestead’s meat production.

Boers are bad mothers. (Insert latest meat breed) are much better.

Like in the human world, the bad mothers get more publicity than the good soccer moms. Our does are expected to be able to raise twins on their own, preferably triplets and they do. Our herd has averaged over fifty percent twinning rate for over five years, up until this year when three does surprised me with quadruplets and one popped out quintuplets. In addition to our twinning rate, we’ve averaged over eighteen percent triplets (this year it’s thirty-two percent). The quad mommas delivered their kids on their own just as well as the twin mothers.

Where does the bad mother comments stem from? Often times the blame can be placed on overfat fullblood show does or the young first time does freshened before they turn a year old. If you’re truly concerned about production animals, buy from a commercial breeder. A fat show doe may look pretty but ask for the farm’s production records. For some reason, the Boers have drawn a lot of interest from “gentleman” and “lady” farmers, people who are more concerned about the animal’s price tag and the number of fancy animals in their pedigree rather than their production. As for first time does under one year old freshening out in a field—you wouldn’t expect a teenage mother to do well having twins alone in an alley, would you?

Boers can breed year round.

True to a point. It depends on your weather. Here in northeastern Wisconsin, just ten miles from the pernicious Lake Michigan, I have a hard time settling does in April and May. Friends several hundred miles farther north, have no such problems.

Nubians are the best breed to cross with.

Not so. A crummy looking doe, regardless of breed, bred to a nice Boer buck will still give you a fifty-fifty chance of producing an ugly kid. We’ve used Nubians, Toggenburgs, Sanaans, Alpines, LaManchas, and Angoras. Every crossing has its pros and cons. Our favorite, by far, is to cross to a Angora. They produce quick growing meaty kids that far outperform the dairy stock. Why? I think some of it has to do with the weather. The Angora crosses are well protected against the fickle winds by an extra layer of fuzz. Plus, Angoras are accustomed to browsing/grazing. The dairy ladies? Not so much.

I’ve seen advertising for Full South African genetics. What’s that all about?

It’s a marketing ploy. All Boer goats originated from South Africa. They were quarantined in multiple locations, from New Zealand to Australia to Canada. Don’t be fooled.

Cashmere in the Boers’ undercoat is frowned upon.

True. The registries prefer minimal cashmere in the animals’ coats. When I pressed one of the registries about this, they indicated that when the Boers shed out their cashmere, they look ratty. That’s why they put the rule in place. Chunks of cashmere blowing around the pasture and dangling from the animal make it appear unkempt. Keep in mind, most of the registries are based in the southern states. Here in the Midwest, Boers with cashmere in their coats are lucky. If we want to show one of them, we clip them or comb it out. No big deal. Plus, our hand spinners (and the birds) love the stuff.

What’s up with the multiple registries?

Sigh. Yes, that’s a bit of a black eye with the Boers. We have the American Boer Goat Association (ABGA), the United States Boer Goat Association (USBGA) and the International Boer Goat Association (IntBGA). Each offers slightly different services. All accept each other’s papers. All have their issues and growing pains. In the Midwest, the ABGA is the largest organization. It’s also been in existence the longest.

Like any fledging industry, the Boer folks are working through a transitory stage. The original breeders leaned more toward the gentleman farmer stock, men/women with plenty of money and a willingness to pay $10,000 for a breeding animal and play the cloning/embryo transfer games. Many of the original breeders are now retiring or selling out their herds. What’s beginning to be left are the ones focused on viable commercial stock. Unfortunately, both areas are still butting heads.

Boer goat udders are hideous. Four-teated, spurs, poor milkers, etc.

Yes, Boers come in two or four teats, but always two sides. The four-teated ones don’t  have four quarters as a cow does. You must remember this is a production animal suited for browsing/grazing not milking. That said, their udders are held tight to their body, small-teated, and generally at least partially pigmented (to prevent sunburn). A pendulous-uddered goat will get her udder hung up in brush.

Sometimes not all four teats milk. You’ll see two normal sized teats and two ancillary teats that don’t milk. Other times, all four teats are equally sized and milk. There hasn’t been much uniform focus on improving the teats in the Boer breed, though you can find breeders that will only breed for two teats. Others never look at teats and you’ll find animals with a clustered mess of five or six. Three teats, two normal, one ancillary, are also common.

Our farm doesn’t focus on just two-teated goats. That said, with my dairy background, I do like a pretty udder. We have a four-teated ancient doe that lost half her udder to mastitis—she’s nursing two big buck kids this year on her functioning side. Four teats are also handy for multiples. Remember, these does aren’t being hand milked and they’re raising their own kids. I’m all for four fully separate teats.

Boers are bullies. You can’t pasture them with disbudded goats.

Not true. Some Boers are bullies. Just like some dairy does are nasty queens. My dairy goat, a few disbudded Boer crosses, the petite Angoras, and the big boxy horned Boers all share the same pasture, feed bunk, and barn space. And no, we don’t have does running around missing eyeballs or limping. In fact, our most evil does were a pair of horned grade dairy does.

All Boer herds have CL.

Usually the breeder telling you this also has CL. You can find farms without CL. You can also find farms that vaccinate for it and/or have preventative practices in place.

Boer breeders aren’t concerned about CAE.

Not necessarily. There are a growing number of breeders who do test their herds. They don’t hand raise their kids on pasteurized milk. Instead, they test their adult foundation stock, test incoming new animals, and periodically take a random sampling from their herd.

Boers need a lot of grain. They’re not easy keepers.

We’re not a heavy grain feeding farm. Last year, we opted to get a higher quality hay and eliminated corn and molasses from our grain mixture. Obviously, the number of multiple births this year indicate they do not miss it. Only our nursing does and young/weaning kids get grain – a mix of alfalfa pellets, whole oats, whole wheat, and sunflower seeds. Next year we’re hoping to eliminate even that. If we had more acreage for the Boers to roam, I doubt we’d creep feed the young kids.

Boers are ridiculously easy keepers and there’s a tendency to get them overfat. Some of the very high producers (like our Silver, a seven year old whose had twenty-three babies for us), do need to be watched closer for ketosis problems. The starvation kind, not the over-feeding kind.

If you want to raise goats on pasture, pick your stock from a farm that also raises goats on pasture. A fat show doe who grew up on pellets isn’t going to wade through the brush looking for choice morsels. She’s going to wait at the feed bin, like she’s been taught.

Boers are more prone to parasites.

Again, this depends on the breeder. I know some farms that worm every month whether the animals need it or not. They’re not helping the situation. Over the years, we have culled the does that seemed more prone to parasites. We’re quite pleased with our animals’ current resistance. We are not unique. Other breeders are doing this.
We also take a page from the organic side of the house. Rotate pastures. Feed natural dewormers like pumpkins. Our herd will consume about twelve tons of mostly free pumpkins and squash in the fall. Pumpkin seeds contain a natural dewormer. Pumpkin pulp has an abundance of minerals and nutrients. Healthy animals with a well-balanced diet are better able to handle a higher worm load.

Boers should only be red-headed and white bodied. Everything else is a aberration.

Hmm, they said this about colored Sanaans too, didn’t they?

The standard color is by far, the red head and the white body. A white bodied goat was easy to see on the vast pastures they ran on in South Africa. Unfortunately, they’re also easier for the two and four legged predators to find. Today’s registries will let you register and show any kind of colored goat. The traditional color (red head/white body), is the most common color, followed by the solid reds, then the chocolates and blacks.

One thing to note: Watch out for breeders breeding exclusively for color and disregarding everything else. Black Boers are pretty to look at, but we’ve yet to see one take a national championship. Heavy inbreeding to produce this color has taken its toll. Ditto on the reds.