Goat is the most eaten red meat in the world. Depending on where you are in the world, and how old the goat was at slaughter, it can be known under all kinds of names - Chevon, cabrito, capretto, and kid, just to name a few. The meat goat market is one of the fastest growing markets in the US, but we still import over 70% of the goat meat consumed in the US (mostly by ethnic populations). This means a huge opportunity for goat producers.
The Boer goat breed was developed by the Dutch farmers in South Africa in the early 1900’s specifically as a meat producer. The word, “boer” means “farmer” in Dutch. A Boer goat usually has a white body and a red head, but recently, registered Boers of all colors and spotted patterns have become very popular. Boers, in comparison to other goat breeds, are not prone to push their boundaries, and although, like all goats, can be escape artists when it comes to fencing them in, they prefer to stay in familiar surroundings with their homies. They have a very docile demeaner. (It is a race between my goats and KuneKune pigs to greet me at the gate
and I have to pet each and every one of them or they take it
personally.) Boers have a high fertility rate, often twining even on their first kidding, and triplets are common in more mature moms. Mature Does can weigh around 200 pounds and Bucks can get up to over 300 pounds.
Goat meat is mild (more mild than lamb) and can be used almost interchangeably with lamb in most dishes. We substitute the ground goat for a lot of beef recipes. The most popular meal in our house is “Goat Burgers”. The meat can be very lean, depending on how you like it cut. Goats layer their fat on the outside of the muscle beds, unlike a cow that “marbles” its fat throughout the muscle. Goat meat is also lower in cholesterol and higher in iron than beef. Carcasses usually dress-out to approximately 50% of the hanging weight and most goats are butchered by a year old before they get over 100 pounds (although we butchered a couple of wethers at 2 years of age and the meat was very tasty, but a bit tougher than the yearlings).
Goats work great in a rotational grazing system (which is what we are trying to do) as they eat different stuff than the cows and pigs (our clean-up crew is the chickens), preferring browse and just nibbling off the tops of stuff. We’ve also used them to clear invasive rose from one of our little forested areas.
Goats do require some shelter as they don’t like to get wet (they HATE mud), but they don’t seem to mind the heat or the cold. Also, unless you live on rocky ground, you will need to trim hooves on a somewhat regular basis. Because goats are historically from lands with dry, rocky terrain where intestinal worms were never a problem, goats do not have the natural defenses against these parasites, and you must monitor your goat’s health closely and de-worm as necessary.
Our goats are strictly pastured with occasional trips into the forest to “trim” it. We do give vaccinations and will give antibiotics if needed by a sick animal. They do get a little grain as treats now and then and during stressful times like late pregnancy, lactation and weaning.
Robin is our herd queen, being the oldest and having the biggest horns. Robin likes the quiet life, is very docile and can stand for hours when being petted. For the last three years, she has been bred to 100% boar bucks and has produced healthy beautiful twins each kidding. Thanks, Robin!
Lillie should be renamed Loki. She is very intelligent and loves to stir things up in the pasture, just to see what will happen. And she likes to look at the world up-side-down (long story). She knows she SHOULD be herd queen because Robin is not the sharpest tool in the shed, but alas, her horns are not big enough, and that's what it takes to be on top in the goat world - big horns. Lillie has also been bred to a 100% boar buck for the past two years- first producing triplets, then a set of twins last year. Her kids seem to be just as curious about life as their mom, and like looking at the world upside down as well!