If you want to raise goats for meat, you can't go wrong with the popular Boer
If you're looking for an economical meat animal or are interested in making a little extra money, consider raising Boer goats. Originally bred in South Africa, Boers are now one of the principal meat goat breeds in the U.S. -- and for good reason.
"They're thicker and have more length from the thirteenth rib to the hip bone. They're deeper and fuller in the leg," says William Turnquist, a former show judge who raises Boer goats near Caneyville, Kentucky. "They're carrying a lot of red meat."
Mature males or bucks typically weigh in at 200 to 350 pounds, while females or does level out at 120 to 200 pounds. Despite their substantial muscle, Boers tend to be gentle. "Once in awhile, you'll have an ornery one, but you can get a halter on a 300-pound buck, and he'll walk right along with you," Turnquist says. As with all livestock, you want to be careful.
If you are considering purchasing a few Boer goats, there are some things that need to be addressed. First, you will need a fenced pasture capable of handling them. Turnquist recommends a 4-foot-high, high-tensile, electrified fence. He warns that the goats are clever enough to find any weakness in your fence and will escape if they find one.
Second, be prepared to pay well for Boer breeding stock. "On average, you can buy a good doe for $500," says Turnquist. "A buck is going to cost more, depending on its breeding and confirmation." When buying your goats, avoid auctions. Instead, visit a reliable breeder. Once you see and approve of the breeder's facilities and the way the goats are raised, you can begin looking for healthy ones to bring home.
"You want an animal that walks straight on its legs, stands straight, and has some thickness to it," Turnquist says.
Feed and care
Once you get your Boers home, you have a few decisions to make about how you want to feed them. Some owners choose to feed hay and grain in addition to pasturing their goats; others just let them have the run of the land. Turnquist keeps his pastures well fertilized and supplements the goats with grain, when needed.
Providing a decent shelter, particularly if you live in a colder climate, will help keep your goats in shape. While it's not impossible to keep your herd outdoors all the time in warmer climates, Turnquist doesn't recommend it. "You can leave them out, but I know of 30 does in Texas that were under a tree when lightening hit and it killed all of them."
You should also provide your animals with abundant fresh water, mineral supplements, and vaccines where necessary. While Boers are known for their hardiness and resistance to disease, "You have to be careful," says Turnquist. "Quick pneumonia or heat exhaustion can cause you to lose an animal. I had one that keeled over with a heart attack. You just never really know when it comes to livestock."