Goats Bred for Meat

The Boer Goat

The Boer goat is a mix of goat breeds. 'Boer' is an Afrikaans word meaning 'farmer'. The breed was first recorded in Eastern Cape Province and spread rapidly through South Africa. The origins of the Boer are a bit vague but African goats were crossed with European, Indian, Spanish and Angora goats. By the early 1800s, the Boer goat had developed into a compact and well-proportioned meat breed. It was docile, highly fertile and rapidly matured into a very meaty animal.

In 1959, South Africa began a breed registry for the Boer to ensure the required traits of meat production, disease resistance and high fertility levels were retained. By 1970, standardised tests had been devised for breeding bucks. The Boer was the only goat breed in South Africa to have such tests.

Boer GoatsCredit: Wikimedia

The Boer is a very attractive animal. It has a nice compact shape with short but straight legs and a level topline. Bucks weigh between 240 and 300 pounds and does are lighter weighing between 200 and 225 pounds. Under feedlot conditions it is not unknown for individual goats to gain 44 pound a day. Kidding rates of 200% are common and weaning rates in excess of 160% are standard. The Boer has an extended breeding season allowing the rearing of three litters in two years. Young does come into season at five months and bucks will breed at six months old. Multiple births are the norm.

Ideally, the body is completely white with a deep red or chestnut head, ears and (sometimes) neck. The head often has a blaze or other white marking. The pendulous, medium length ears are smooth and add to its charm. Both sexes are horned. The horns are of moderate length and have a gradual sweep towards the back. The horns are round, solid and dark. The coat is short and glossy and the supple, loose skin both white and pigmented according to the coat colour.

Boer BuckCredit: Wikimedia

The Boer has a Roman nose, large, soft brown eyes and wide nostrils. The thighs and hindquarters are well muscled. The tail is short and held high. To enable the animal to cope with travelling, the legs should be strong with good pasterns and well formed dark hooves. The barrel is long, deep and broad.

Being white makes the animal easy to find while the pigmented skin on the hairless parts of the body is a good protection against sunburn and skin cancers.

Boer genetics were introduced into Australia in the late 1980s and released from quarantine in the mid 90s. Crossing with bush does resulted in fast growing young stock with kids reaching slaughter weights significantly faster and with a higher dressing out percentage than other breeds. The Boer has proven itself a superior meat goat breed.

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The meat is well-muscled but lean. It is low in cholesterol and much lower in saturated fats than lamb, pork or beef. The pelts are preferred to other goatskin as it is thicker and stronger. The leather is supple and has a good reputation in Europe for gloves and shoes.

The Boer goat is a domesticated animal rather than a feral one. Normally sheep fencing is sufficient to keep them contained although ringlock or electric fencing is preferable to plain wires. They like a mix of graze and browse and are useful for opening or clearing scrubby country.

Clipping, vaccination and drenching requirements are similar to those of sheep. Goat meat is the most commonly consumed meat in the world. Goats survive on less land and food than cattle and in general are more tolerant of hot, dry weather.

Boer goats are low in maintenance and do not need to be shorn, crutched or treated for flystrike thus making them less time-consuming and easier to maintain than more traditional sheep and/or goat breeds.