Boer Goat Guide 2

Author:

Published:

Updated:

About Marc MacDonald

I’ve been raising goats for nearly 20 years now. Over those years, I accumulated a lot of information about goats and what works and what doesn’t.

Learn more about Marc

Affiliate Disclaimer

As an affiliate, we may earn a commission from qualifying purchases. We get commissions for purchases made through links on this website from Amazon and other third parties.

Share the love of Goats

Boer Goat Profits Guide-Section 2

Starting a Boer Goat Operation – Your First Steps

18. What are the first steps I should take to start a Boer goat production business?

There are many ways that you can get started in the Boer goat business. Here are some of the first steps that successful Boer farmers mentioned in our interviews with them:

  1. Make contacts in your local area with knowledgeable peoplebefore buying your goats. In particular, seek out:
    • A local (or regional) goat association. Even if there’s noassociation in your immediate area, you might be able tocorrespond with association members by telephone oremail.Check out Annex B of this guide, where we providecontact information for goat associations across the UnitedStates.
    • Members of local groups can give you advice that’sapplicable to your geographic area and climate.
    • A local veterinarian who has experience with Boer goats.One of the biggest obstacles new Boer farmers face iskeeping their goats healthy. Having a local veterinarianyou can call up will be crucial to building a successfuloperation.

    Here are websites that provide links to veterinarians acrossthe United States and Canada:

    • Vetlocator has a database of over 26,000 veterinary clinicsin the United States and 2,400 veterinary clinics in Canada.Go to http://vetlocator.com/
    • You can also contact The American Association of SmallRuminant Practicioners http://www.aasrp.org/
    • This is also a helpful resource: https://www.avma.org/
  2. Have your shelter (i.e. shed/barn) in place. Boer goats don’t needmuch in the way of shelter, but you’ll need one spot that’s awayfrom the elements and has a roof. It could be in an old barn, so youcould have a chute where you could work them and vaccinate themand so forth.

If you plan to build feeders, make sure they’re short enough so the goats can reach them, but tall enough so the goats can’t defecate in them.

  1. Make sure that you know about the soils in your area. Many soilsare either deficient or marginally deficient in some nutrient.Mineral supplements are available.
  2. Start with a handful of pregnant does. As there are a lot of things that can only be learned by experience, starting small will allow you to learn without making costly mistakes. You don’t want to buy 200 goats without knowing what you are doing—that’s the worst way to go about it!
  3. After everything else is in place, buy a buck. Buy the buck a few months before the breeding season so that he’s used to your farm when the breeding season starts. The rule of thumb for bucks to does is 1 buck for 20-30 does (anolder buck can handle 40 does). During breeding season, do notintroduce new animals to your farm, as the bucks can be quitedisagreeable.
  4. Goats need clean water. If using water tanks in the summer, brushthem several times a week so that algae doesn’t grow. As withfeeding troughs, make sure the water is low enough for young kidsto have access.
  5. Make sure you have a place, like a refrigerator, where you canstore all your medications. Be aware of expiration dates.
  6. Put loose minerals out a few times a week, and see how fast theyeat it. With mineral feeders, goats are going to eat around half anounce to an ounce per day. Make sure it’s not on the ground, forthe same reason that water and food trough should not be too low.
  7. If you are close to neighbors, alert them to the fact that you aregoing to raise goats. Sometimes goats make noises that soundpained but are normal. Make sure your neighbors know and willnot be alarmed.

19. When I go to buy my first Boer goats, what should I look for?

This is a good time to talk about what kind of physical examination you’re going to do on your Boers before you buy them.

IMPORTANT: You should have a strong relationship with a veterinarian that you trust that handles this aspect of buying Boer goats for you.

Keep in mind that you can avoid a lot of problems by buying healthy animals from the get-go – although animals that appear healthy when you buy them may still become sick after the stress of purchase, transportation, exposure to new environments, feed routines, etc. This is why it’s so 20 important to keep them completely separate from any existing animals on the farm for at least 2 weeks (no nose-to-nose contact, so no shared fencing).

The physical examination

Here are the most important things that your veterinarian can do when physically examining the goats you’re interested in buying:

19. When I go to buy my first Boer goats, what should I look for?

This is a good time to talk about what kind of physical examination you’re going to do on your Boers before you buy them.

IMPORTANT: You should have a strong relationship with a veterinarian that you trust that handles this aspect of buying Boer goats for you.

Keep in mind that you can avoid a lot of problems by buying healthy animals from the get-go – although animals that appear healthy when you buy them may still become sick after the stress of purchase, transportation, exposure to new environments, feed routines, etc. This is why it’s so 20 important to keep them completely separate from any existing animals on the farm for at least 2 weeks (no nose-to-nose contact, so no shared fencing).

The physical examination

Here are the most important things that your veterinarian can do when physically examining the goats you’re interested in buying:

  • Take their body temperature and make sure they don’t have a fever. Normal body temperature for a goat is 100.5 F (up to 103 if it is a hot day or they have been running around or stressed).
  • Look for these signs of poor health:
  • Discharge from the eyes and nose
  • Coughing and sneezing
  • Poor body condition (overly thin or too fat)
  • Lack of energy
  • High respiratory rate (panting)
  • Respiratory noise (noisy breathing)
  • Limping. Animals that look like they are “kneeling in prayer” are too footsore to stand for long periods of time. They will have soiled bare knees and possibly skin sores over their knees; avoid buying these animals.
  • As you approach healthy goats, they should either show interest in you (if they have been handled a lot and are very tame), or should run friskily away (if they are not handled often). A healthy goat will not remain lying down as you approach, and should not appear to be reluctant to rise or have difficulty getting up. It should get up easily and appear sound (not limping). The two most common causes for limping goats are foot rot and “interdigital dermatitis” (also called foot scald, which is different from foot rot but still causes sore feet). Both of these problems can mean twice-daily foot care for weeks, frequent foot trims, infection of other herd animals, and general poor doing of the sick animal(s). (See the section later in this guide called 21 “Keeping Your Boer Goats Healthy” for tips on how to deal with these problems.)
  • Look at the rear end of the animal, around the tail and hind legs. It should be clean and dry, not soiled or crusty with feces. Diarrhea may an indicator of parasites and poor health and care/feeding. Don’t believe a seller that says the goat just has a “touch of diarrhea” from eating something “too rich” or some other story. A goat with diarrhea is a sick goat, or was sick recently, and could have something infectious. At the same time, a goat that doesn’t have diarrhea doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have a high worm burden! But at least it’s something you can look for and recognize as a potential problem.
  • If you can catch the goats, look in and around their mouths and eyes. Mucous membranes (the gums and inner parts of the eyelids) should be healthy dark pink and moist. Goats can get a disease called “Orf” or “soremouth” or contagious ecthyma, which is caused by a poxvirus and causes painful crusts and scabs to form around the mouth and nose, or on the teats of the does. People that handle affected goats can get the disease as well.
  • Teeth should be in good shape, not broken or missing. Goats do not have upper incisors in the front, but the bottom teeth should meet the dental pad (the upper hard gum tissue) evenly, not stick out in front of it or behind it. Missing or stubby little teeth may indicate an old animal. Pale mucous membranes mean the animal is anemic, and probably has a lot of Haemonchus worms (again, see the section later in this guide called “Keeping Your Boer Goats Healthy” for tips on how to deal with this problem).
  • Another thing to look for very carefully are any round hard lumps under the skin of the animal, especially under/behind the jaw and on the neck, and behind the elbows and hocks. 22 These lumps may be a sign of Caseous Lymphadenitis (CL), a bacterial infection that infects the lymph nodes and causes them to expand and fill with hard dry pus. If the lymph node ruptures through the skin, the pus leaks out and the bacteria will spread all over the place and can infect other goats. Affected animals are discounted at slaughter (so if you’re selling an infected animal, you’ll get less money for it), or the carcass may be condemned outright if the infection is extensive enough. Sometimes a goat will have a very small lump with a scarred hairless skin surface; this means the lymph node has already ruptured and healed at some point in the past. Avoid buying any animal that may be a suspect infected animal. People can become infected by CL, too, which is another reason to avoid infected animals.

19. Here are a few important pointers when it comes to buying Boers:

  • Keep in mind that it’s best to stay within your geographic region when buying your goats – because you are going to buy animals that are going to be adapted to the geographic and climatic conditions you are in.
  • Another benefit of buying within your geographic region: if you buy from somebody who is close by and you have a problem with your goats, usually you can go to the seller and they will help you out.   For instance, say you buy a young buck from somebody and this buck doesn’t do anything. Maybe you have him tested and his sperm is terrible quality. If you can document that, you can probably get another buck from the seller, if he has any business sense, because otherwise people are not going to buy from him anymore.
  • When looking to buy goats make sure to stay away from people who go to goat sales and advertise that they have “prize” goats (in other words, goats that have won prizes at goat shows). These animals have often been fed heavily on grain, so that’s what the goats are going to be used to. You want animals that thrive on forages and cheap feed sources, not expensive grain.

20. Average prices for goats of a particular age or pedigreePrices vary from region to region. Currently in the U.S., you can buy decent pregnant does for $200-$300 each, depending on their genetics. However, prices for bucks range widely – all the way up to $100,000. Yes, $100k for a prize buck!If you don’t want to spend too much money, it’s easier to get some average does and then to spend money on a good buck, to breed up. And even if you have some animals that don’t look good, if you put a purebred Boer buck on them, it’s amazing what offspring results.

21. Are there any “best practices” in running a profitable Boer goat farm?Good question! When we finished our interviews with successful Boer goat farmers, we came up with ten “lessons learned”. These are the lessons that farmers interviewed for this guide wished they had known when they started raising Boers.

Here are the top 10 lessons learned:

  1. Focus on quality over quantity Save up some money and buy the best buck you can at the beginning,rather than a bunch of mediocre bucks. The seller of the buck shouldstand behind the doe (and should exchange a poor-performing buck).Even with mediocre does, you’ll get healthy and strong kids when youhave an excellent buck. Many new goat farmers make a BIG mistakeby buying cheap bucks when they first get into the business. Whenbuying your goats, it’s extremely important to pay attention togenetics.
  2. Make sure your goats have high-quality food through grazing andbrowsing.Grazing of forage generally provides the least expensive way ofsupplying nutrients to animals so it’s good to develop a year-roundforage program that allows for as much grazing as possible eachmonth. But good management involves more than turning the animals out topasture. Controlled grazing of goats is similar to that used for cattle,with owners dictating the extent of plant defoliation. Goats typicallyconsume the most nutritious parts of grasses, legumes and browseplants.
  3. Use diversification to maximize the benefit from your Boer goats. For example: mix your goats with cows to clean up your pastures– toget rid of weeds– or with horses. If you have a small vegetableoperation, and you have a rotation of pastures with vegetables, youcan integrate goats to eat the forage, either perennial or annualforages, to increase nutrient cycling, and make a little money. You can raise Boers on crop aftermath. Boer goats can also be used tomanage encroaching vegetation, given their preference for plants thatwe often consider to be weeds or invasive species.
  4. Make sure you have a good fence to prevent goats from escaping andfor predator control.Goats love to jump fences – and they’re good at it! Your fencingshould include electric wire. Also, you should consider installingmesh on existing fences. It’s more costly than electric-fencing but inareas with foxes and wild dogs meshing adds protection for goats.Also, use cross fences for pasture rotation and for separation of does,bucks and weanlings.
  5. Buy a doe that’s kidded before to make sure she was a good motherand that her kids developed well. Boer goats breed year-round.Because of high fertility, in two years a doe can have three kiddings,and with good nutrition and management practices, a producer canhope for 6 to 9 kids per doe– offering a good return on investment.
  6. Talk to other farmers in your neighbourhood before getting into thebusiness; ask them what mistakes they’ve made and what they thinkthey’ve done right
  7. Install automatic waterers as soon as you get your first Boers. Doingso will allow you to avoid time-consuming handling and cleaning ofbuckets and the need to thaw frozen water.
  8. Buy grain in bulk, not by the bag, for significant savings on feed.
  9. Set up feeders so that there’s a hole in the fence and the feeder hangson the outside of the fence. This will prevent the goats from standingin the feeder and defecating in it. You don’t want your goatsdefecating in the feeder and then eating from it.
  10. Construct small shelters on each of your paddocks, instead ofinvesting a lot of money in a big barn. Paddocks are useful forrotational feeding and can accommodate goat recreation.

Continue to Section 3

About the author

Latest Posts