Boer Goat

We see these everywhere in the hot dry southern states. This breed is fairly new in the US, but has very quickly dominated the goat meat industry, and is in part responsible for goat meat gaining some acceptance among the Whole Food and Real Food movements.

The Boer (most often pronounced "Bore", but spelled differently) is named for the Dutch word for "Farmer", and has South African origins. This goat is stocky, with a broad chest and neck, stocky legs, and a wide rump and back. Get a good look at one, and you'll know they were indeed bred for meat, and not for the delicate business of producing milk!

This goat breed actually produces very rich milk, which is high in butterfat, and has excellent quality. But they do not produce milk for more than a few months before drying up. When crossed with dairy goats, the offspring will be marginal milkers.

Boers are very prolific, producing 2, 3, or 4 kids per kidding. They drop them easily and thrive on poor forage and in hot climates, making them a good choice in harsh conditions.

  • Type - Meat
  • Size - Large
  • Production Capacity - Good producers of meat
  • Special Features - Stocky body is often referred to as "double muscled".
  • Best for Farms - Probably the best all around choice for pure meat production.
  • Eggs, Milk, Meat Features - Good quality goat meat.
  • Other Products - Not significant.
  • Historic or Contemporary Significance - A relatively new breed, but responsible for an upsurge in goat meat acceptance in the US.
  • Housing and Space Requirement - Typical.
  • Regional Adaptations - Well adapted to hot and dry climates, and adaptable to a range of conditions.
  • Feed Requirement - Meat production requires good feed, and while the Boer does better on rough pasture or range than other goats, it does still need a good supply of food, where there is plenty to browse, in order to grow well and reach a good weight at maturity.
  • Other Considerations - Other breeds that are strictly meat breeds are not as well established, and are less thrifty than the Boer at producing a large meat carcass. They are also more difficult to find. The Spanish goat is not a breed at all, but rather, a collection of regional breeds, so it varies widely in characteristics. This is why the Boer is the only meat goat in our listings, even though it is not a long established breed in the US.



Dairy goats and meat goats are two very different things in most cases, though the kids from dairy goats are often wethered and used for meat. 

Meat goats have a heavier carcass, but do not produce much milk. They will produce enough to nurse twins or triplets, but do not produce for an extended period of time and will dry up quickly.

Generally dairy goats require some extra feed - either grain, or sprouted grain - to produce well. All breeds are not equal in this, and higher producing breeds are often fairly feed inefficient, requiring a LOT more grain to produce a little more milk.

There is no such thing as a true dual purpose goat, they always tend to be stronger in dairy when they are classed as dual purpose.

For the purposes of listing here, weed eating is not sufficient reason to warrant a listing. Wethers are not classed here as utility animals, except for meat production, because keeping an animal just so it can eat is kind of silly, when keeping a milker or regularly replacing the wether so you can produce meat is a much wiser use of resources (yes, even scrub brush is a resource).

I am not a fan of meat goats, though many people are. Goat meat must be aged prior to consumption, to break down the muscle fibers or it is fairly tough. My sister, who raised meat goats, recommended freezing the meat for at least a month, and stated that this will work in lieu of aging the meat.

When comparing breeds, remember that top producing breeds rarely produce that heavily. They generally produce much less than they are advertised to produce. A few quarts of milk per day is considered to be good average output for a milk goat, and 1-2 is more realistic, because they do not produce heavily for an extended period of time, and their milk production will wax and wane as they go into heat, breed, and then building up again after they kid. 

To keep good milk production through the year, you need more than one goat, and they need to be bred at different times. Those breeds that are NOT seasonal have an advantage here, because you can stagger the breeding more, and maintain a more consistent production through the year. The disadvantage to breeds that are not seasonal breeders is that they will go into heat a few months after they birth (or sooner), and plague you once a month or so with a heat cycle that will slightly reduce their milk supply for a day or two and set them to bawling. 

Mini breeds usually give only 1-2 cups per milking, and while they can fit into smaller spaces, they are also much more difficult to milk - they are so small that hand milking is extremely difficult. Some full sized breeds are more difficult to milk for the same reasons.

Milking machines have attachments that are available for standard size, and miniature goats. But a milking maching is a significant investment, and they do not tend to strip out the animals well. Milk production tends to decline more than it does with hand milking, unless they are stripped out manually after using the machine.

Many sources for care of goats will recommend birthing kits, and suggest that goats require a lot of intervention for successful birthing. This is not so. Only those breeds that have been sloppily bred, or breeds like Lamanchas that have more birthing problems than other breeds will require intervention on a regular basis. NEVER EVER assist a goat with a birth (do NOT try to "pull" the kid), unless the goat is obviously in trouble, and has been laboring without progress  for more than a couple of hours. Forcing a birth can cause damage to the uterus and connective tissues in a doe, increases the likelihood of uterine prolapse, and can compromise her ability to birth naturally in the future.

I grew up with goats, and know the routines with trimming hooves, disbudding, milking, and birthing. I have also milked cows, and given the choice, prefer a cow to several goats to supply the need for milk in our home. This in part because of the nature of goat's milk, because I really like to make butter! But in a small space situation, I'd do goats again in a heartbeat.

If a farm has sufficient space for a cow, they are much easier to care for to produce larger amounts of milk. But in small spaces, goats can be kept on less than an acre of land without stressing the land as much.

We have listed only those breeds which we feel have strong utility function, no outstanding issues with birthing or genetic problems, and which can actually be obtained (some types of goat are in closed herds and are not able to be purchased by small farmers).

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