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BOER INFLUENCE ON THE MEAT GOAT INDUSTRY - FAD OR FUTURE?
April 9, 1993 - Boer goats are being released from a New Zealand quarantine station. After consuming their airline tickets, some have boarded a jet bound for the United States of America...and the meat goat industry hasn't been the same since! Never before in the history of domestic meat goat production has an event created so much excitement and enthusiasm. People which, heretofore would have never been associated with goats, now consider meatgoats a viable enterprise. Longtime goat breeders are excited about this new genetic material and its potential to radically change the meatgoat industry. Who are these new kids on the block, where did they originate and what role(s) can they play in the U.S. meatgoat production industry?
The Boer Goat
Trade sanctions and the fear of such diseases as hoof and mouth, scrapie and heartwater have prohibited importation of goats directly from South Africa. Goats were taken from South Africa to Zimbabwe and subsequently placed in quarantine in New Zealand in the mid-1980's. Many of the goats in the U.S. have come from the New Zealand quarantine. A small group of South African origin has been imported into Texas. A protocol is now in place to bring embryos from South Africa into Canada, place them in reciepient females and then bring the recipient females into the U.S. Relative to the diversity of our domestic goats, the Boer genetic base currently in the U.S. is narrow yet rapidly broadening.
Once confined to South Africa, Boer goats are now also found in Zimbabwe, New Zealand, Australia, Germany, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom and the Middle East.
Boer goats range in color from solid red to almost completely white. The most preferred and widely recognized color pattern is a white body with dark cherry red neck and head with a blaze face. The ears are long and pendulous. Both sexes are horned. Horn size and mass exhibited by the males are much less than traditionally found on Angora or Spanish goats.
South African breeders have emphasized muscling and structural correctness in their selection programs. As a result, the Boer goat is a thicker, meatier animal than our domestic goats. Frame size is moderate; not as large as many of the dairy breeds (i.e. Nubian, Saanen). Mature bucks can weigh in excess of 300 pounds while the largest does will exceed 200 pounds. Birth weights range from 6-15 pounds and preweaning average daily gain can exceed 0.5 pounds. Does are recognized for excellent udder conformation.
Feeding and Management
Boer goats like to eat and they are good at it. Unlike most Spanish and Angora goats, Boers seem to be much less "picky" in their eating habits. Halfblood kids also seem to exhibit similar eating behavior. If these habits are real and heritable, the Boer could make a feedlot phase in goat production more feasible. Previous feedlot efforts have been largely unsuccessful because of unsettled dispositions and poor feed consumption. The feedlot phase mentioned here is aimed at growth and weight gain more than fattening. Including a feedlot option in goat production could assist in managing the seasonality of goat marketings.
Judging by their appearance, Boer goats appear to have greater rumen capacity (gut fill) than other domestic goats. The increased spring of rib, greater depth of body and a paunch protruding on both sides of the abdomen point toward greater digestive tract capacity. Under range conditions, greater rumen capacity allows for consumption of larger quantities of poor quality roughages. Greater forage consumption relates to improved performance. South African data comparing Boer goats to sheep indicates they selected a lower quality diet (higher in crude fiber).
Bloat and acidosis have never presented a real problem for goat feeders because domestic goats seem to have effective intake regulation mechanisms. However, cases of acidosis have been observed in Texas Boer goats offered an excessive amount of feed. Higher crude fiber contents (>16%) should be considered when feeding goats in confinement, especially under self-fed conditions. Several feed mills have also elevated the coccidiostat levels in goat feeds to combat a potential coccidiosis problem.
Goat meat is particularly appealing to the diet-health conscious population because of its high lean to fat ratio. Boer goats appear to be "easy keepers"; capacity for subcutaneous and abdominal fat deposition appears to be greater than Spanish or Angora goats. While abdominal fat deposition represents efficient energy storage by the range animal, large quantities of internal fat adversely effect the dressing percentage of slaughter animals. In addition, excessive body condition can be detrimental to the reproductive performance of the doe.
Fad or Future
No doubt, price has kept many commercial goat producers out of the market. However, prices have softened significantly and are currently more compatible with commercial meat goat producers' cash flow. As ac\vailability continues to increase, prices for the premier breeding stock should stabilize in the $2000-3000 per head range.
Performance and carcass information on crossbred and percentage Boer goats indicates that, in fact, the Boer does have the genetic predisposition to increase growth rate and feed efficiency. Carcass merit is enhanced in Boer-sired offspring. Similar information on the purebreds will follow when collection of such becomes economically feasible. As value of the purebreds comes more in line with meatgoat prices, the influence of the Boer on the Meat Goat industry will expand rapidly.
Improved carcass characteristics, greater growth potential, improved appetite, enhanced mothering abilities, docility, long breeding seasons, biological brush management - all are pieces of the puzzle entitled Meatgoat Production and Management.
According to the definition, Boer goats are a fad. However, they appear to be a fad with a future.
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