There are over 210 breeds of goats. The Boer goat breed is a special breed and is gaining more popularity in the United States. Here in this article, we will discuss what makes the Boer goat breed so special, uses of the breed, how to care for Boer goats, and so much more.
History of Boer Goats
Boer goats were developed in the 1950s by M.T.B Jordann in Eastern Cape, South Africa. The word “Boer” is Dutch for a farmer. Boer goats were brought into the United States in 1993.
Boers were bred for meat production. Today, in the United States, Boer goats are used for meat production, companion animals, show goats, and very rarely milk production.
Characteristics of Boer Goats
Boer goats usually have white fur all over their body with a distinct brown/red coloration in their head and neck region. Some Boers have been bred to be solid white.
Other colors of Boer goats can be found but are quite a bit more rare. These include spotted, dappled, and roan.(source) The American Boer Goat Association (ABGA) breed standard does not give preference to any particular color. (source)
Weight and Size
With a very fast growth rate, Boer goats are the largest of all goat breeds. With an average height of 30 inches, bucks (males) weigh between 200 to 300 pounds when mature. Matured Boer does (females) can weigh up to 190-230 pounds. Boer goat kids weigh up to 13 pounds when they are born.
You can identify Boer goats with their long and pendulous ears. Their ears are usually brown just like their head and neck.
Boer Goat Breed is a Hardy Breed
The hardiness of the Boer goat breed is a major reason why it is very popular in the United States. Boer goats can withstand a wide range of temperatures (cold, hot, humid, or dry) and other environmental conditions.
They can breed in harsh conditions. With no breeding season, Boer goats can breed throughout the year (in other words, they are polyestrous).
Aside from the ability to withstand various environmental conditions, Boer goats are disease-resistant. Boers can survive some diseases that other breeds of goats cannot survive. According to a research published by Malan and Erasmus (2000), (source) examples of disease that are fatal to other breeds, but are not fatal to Boer goats are:
- Blue tongue,
- Prussic acid poisoning and,
- Enterotoxaemia (to a lesser extent)
Boer goats require minimum attention. They are a hardy breed. Of course, that doesn’t mean that they are unfriendly at all. Quite the opposite. While they may not be delicate, when properly socialized they do enjoy human company.
Boer goats outside the United States (especially in Africa) are hardier than those in the United States. Due to scarcity of the breed population in the late 1990s, weaker individuals (that should have been culled) were bred with others to have more Boer Goats.
Many Boer goats in the United States are used as pets, so they have adapted to be pampered in a cozy environment.
Boer goats that are raised primarily for meat production in other regions are adapted to stress (hot temperatures, no supplemental feed, etc.), so they are hardier. Nevertheless, the Boer goat breed (in the United States) is hardier than several other breeds. (Source)
The Longevity of Boer Goats
If Boer goats are not used for meat production, old age is the major cause of their death. Bucks can leave up to 8-12 years. Does can reach 12-20 years.
Uses of Boer Goats
Boer goats were initially developed for meat production. Today, they have a wide range of uses. The uses of Boer goat breed include:
- Family pet
- Show goats
- Milk production
- Meat Production
- Prevention of bush encroachment
Boer Goats as Family Pets
Have you ever thought of buying your child a pet? Consider buying Boer goats. This breed of goats is sometimes referred to as gentle giants.
Boer goats can easily bond you with and your family. Properly socialized they can be great companions for children. They are a favorite for livestock competitions for this reason.
Boer goats used as show goats are bred to be a little bit different from other Boer goats used for a different purpose (for example meat and milk production).
Show Boer goats are generally larger and stronger than other Boer goats. The purpose of the distinction between Show Boers are other Boers is raising awareness of the Boer goat breed to the public.
These goats are judged against the breed standard. The animal that matches most closely in any given class wins the award that day.
Boer Goats Used for Dairy Purposes
Boer goats were bred for meat production, not milk production. With a lactation period of 12 weeks, Boer goat does do not have enough milk for commercial purposes. That being said, very few Boer goat owners get to enjoy Boer goat milk.
You could milk your own doe for fun but, if you want a consistent supply you would be better off choosing a goat breed more suited to milk production.
Boer goats reach table size just after lactation. This means that Boer goats can be used for meat just after 12 weeks.
Under feedlot conditions, Boer goats gain an excess of 0.4 pounds daily. As the largest and fastest-growing goat breed, Boer goats are the top choice for farmers who raise goats for meat.
Boer Goats Preventing Bush Encroachment
Boer goats love to eat plants that farmers consider to be weeds, and other herbivores refuse to eat. As a hardy breed, weeds are only unsafe to Boers if herbicides or pesticides have been sprayed on the area.
Boer goats will eat the smallest of grasses up to plants that are up to almost 6 feet high.
Farmers use Boer goats to clear weeds that cows usually reject. The ability to eat weeds that other breeds reject makes Boer goats a wise choice when you are looking for a cheap way to clear weeds from your backyard.
Boer Goat Breeding and Registries
Something very cool about the Boer goat breed is that they grow fast, reaching sexual maturity in just 5 months. The gestation period of Boer does is 5 months, they take care of their kids for 3 months, so they can give birth to three sets of kids in 2 years.
Boer does usually have an average of two kids per pregnancy and they can keep breeding until they are 12 years old.
Boer Goat Does in Heat
The estrous cycle (or heat) of the does of many goat breeds falls on hot months. Boer goats are hardy and Boer goat does get on heat even in cold months.
The heat period of Boer does is 21 days just like other breeds. To breed your goats and have offspring successfully, the does have to be in their estrous cycle (or heat period).
Here are methods of identifying does in estrus:
- She bleats continuously
- She always wags her tail
- Loss of appetite for food
- Regularly mounting bucks
- Reduction of milk production
Growing Boer Kids
The growth rate of Boer goat kids is determined by their sire (i.e. male parent). If a buck grew quickly, all his kids should grow quickly as well.
Offspring of a fast-grown buck can reach up to 150lbs in 3 months. Fast-grown bucks usually cost more than other bucks.
Breeding and Registering Boer Goats
Purebred bucks and crossbred does are commonly used for breeding purposes. Crossbred bucks and purebred does are mostly used for meat production, show goats, or pets.
Common goat breeds that are bred with Boer goats to get crossbred Boer goats are:
- Angora goat
- Spanish goat
Boer Goat Registries
For your Boer goat to be a show goat, it has to be registered in either of the following associations:
- American Boer Goat Association (ABGA)
- Canadian Meat Goat Association (CMGA)
- International Boar Goat Association (IBGA)
- United States Boar Goat Association (USBGA)
Buying Boer Goats
Are you interested in buying Boer goats? The American Boer Goat Association (ABGA) has a list of registered breeders on their website. To get Boer goats, you should search for Boer Goat breeders near you. (source)
The price of Boer goats varies according to the breeder and location. Purebred Boer goats can be sold for $150 to $400. Rare colored purebred Boer goats can easily be $2,500 or more.
Feeding and Caring for Your Boer Goats
Boer goats love to browse and eat weeds they can find. One slight issue in feeding Boer goats is that not all the plants they eat (when browsing) are available throughout the year.
Some plants do not grow in winter. Except it is winter or you live in an area with few pastures, you do not have to worry about giving daily supplemental feed to your Boer goats.
Alfalfa hay is a good supplemental feed for your Boer goats.
Giving grains that are rich in proteins to Boer goats is not very important. As ruminant animals, Boer goats can process the plants they eat into the nutrients they require.
If you are raising Show Boer goats, you can give them grains for an extra protein source to develop their muscles. Pregnant does should also be given grains.
Feeding Orphaned Boer Goat Kids
You do not have to feed young goats if they are with their mother. You should bottle-feed orphaned Boer goat kids for 12 weeks (3 months).
You should start weaning off Boer goat kids when they reach 8 weeks of age. Below is a table of how much milk and grass you should give to orphan Boer goat kids from week 1 to week 12.
|WEEK||QUANTITY OF MILK (OUNCE)||BOTTLE-FEED FOR EVERY||QUANTITY OF GRASS|
|Week 1||4 oz||2-4 hours||None|
|Week 2-4||6 oz||4 hours||None|
|Week 4-5||8 oz||4 times daily||None|
|Week 5-6||8 oz||3 times daily||A little|
|Week 7-10||10 oz||2 times daily||As much as possible|
|Week 10-12||1 bottle||Once daily||As much as possible|
Feeding and Caring for Adult Boer Goats
Allow your Boer goats to browse and search for grass and weeds. If there is little or no pasture, you should provide feed for your goats. Do not overfeed your goats because overfeeding can lead to bloating (an enlarged stomach) or obesity.
As a general ruminant animal tip, do not change the feed of your goats regularly. The bacteria in the gut of your goats that help goats digest their food take a while to adjust from an old feed to a new feed. If you want to change your goat feed, mix both the old and new feeds for a week before you start feeding them with just the new feed.
Boer goat feeding and water troughs should be elevated so that the goats will not mess up their food. To keep your goats healthy, give them dry grass as harmful bacteria can only survive on a damp surface. You can add medical supplements to their feeding troughs. Only add supplements when your vet asks you to add them.
You can give your Boer goats tasty treats. Consider giving them delicious and nutritious fruits that they love.
Housing Boer Goats
Boer goats need a shed just as you need a home. Some people raise Boer goats in barns where other livestock are raised, but it is better when Boer goats have their shed. Shed protects your goats from theft, cold, predation, etc.
Below is the spacing requirement of boar goats based on their age.
|AGE||REQUIRED SPACE INSIDE SHED (SQUARE FEET PER HEAD)||REQUIRED SPACE OUTSIDE SHED (SQUARE FEET PER HEAD)|
|0-3 months||2 – 3.5 ft2||4 – 6.5 ft2|
|3-9 months||6.5-8 ft2||13 – 16 ft2|
|9-12 months||8-11 ft2||16-22 ft2|
|Does (Adult)||16-22 ft2||32-43 ft2|
|Bucks (Adult)||27-32 ft2||54-65 ft2|
How big should your shed be? Looking at the table above, you can calculate how much space your Boer goats need. Let us assume that you want to raise 4 Boer goats (1 buck, 3 does). The least amount of space that a Boer goat buck requires is 2.5ft2.
Does require at least 16 FT2. That’s roughly a 4×4 stall area. Keep in mind all of these sizes are minimums, you can have the pens as big as you like.
If you are breeding and have three does, the least amount of space they need is 48ft2. That is roughly a 6′ x 8′ stall.
When you add the space requirement of the buck and does, you get 75ft2. 75ft2 is the least amount of space for a buck and three does (inside the shed).
Of course, while math would seem to indicate that this is linear, the fact is that all four goats would probably be fine in the 6′ x 8′ stall. You really just have to look at how comfortable they are and ensure they get out daily for exercise.
It is highly recommended to lay hay or dry grass on the floor of the shed. Boer goat kids should be kept in warm places (during winter) to prevent potential pneumonia. Boer goat sheds should have windows.
The windows of the shed should be open in the day for air circulation and ventilation. The windows should be locked at night or during the winter to protect your goats from predators, thieves, the cold, etc.
Keeping Your Boer Goats Healthy
Boer goats are a hardy breed and require less attention, but you have to care for them. Here are some tips on keeping your goats healthy:
- Visit the vet regularly
- Always provide clean water
- Elevate feeding and water troughs
- Provide supplemental feed during winter
- Separate sick goats (if any) from healthy goats
- Remove the dung of your goats from the shed daily
The Boer goat breed is the largest breed of goats. Boer goats are hardy and require little care. Boer goats enjoy weeds but should be given supplemental feed during the winter or when pastures are scarcely available. You can use Boer goats as pets, to produce meat, to prevent weed encroachment, etc.
Have you seen a Boer goat before? What was it like? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.