First off, a phonetic lesson. The word boer is pronounced: Bo sounds like BOO (with the long oo), and the r is pronounced the same as the first letter r as in red. The e is silent. The word boer is an Afrikaans word taken from the first Dutch settlers to land in the Cape. It means ‘to farm’.
Our Afrikaans farmers are called boer (singular) or boere (plural). They labor in the sun, taking great pride in their land, and in true keeping with the spirit of the Boer goat, when they have fun, they really can cause mischief and mayhem. Congratulations you have just learnt your first ever Afrikaans word!
Boer goats were originally bred in South Africa to cope with extremely dry, drought conditions. South Africa’s weather conditions have been pretty reliable from the get-go. You either live where it is cold and rainy or where it is hot and dry.
The third option would be where I live, Mpumalanga, where you have to dress in layers and always carry an umbrella because we get all four seasons every day, so you never know what to expect from a day.
If you are a homesteader in or from South Africa, you will know that we have vast areas where almost nothing grows. The only things that grow in these areas are thorn trees, thistle, and shrubs that have no nutritional value to humans. The Boer goat spends more time grazing on these meager plants than other goats.
Fortunately, some super smart wise guy decided to breed out a hardier breed of goats who would thrive in these conditions. And so, the Boer Goat was born.
These goats were bred for meat primarily. They have large bodies, with more muscle than other goats; they have a high growth rate; they are also highly fertile and easy to breed with.
Because of the hard conditions they were bred for, they are very adaptable to any environment. They survive off of whatever they can find to eat. If it is hot, for these goats, it is business as usual; if it is cold, they grow a thicker coat. (A very South African lifestyle. )
Boer goats are highly resistant to disease and bucks tend to live 8 to 12 years. Doe’s can live 12 to 20 years.
What Are Boer Goats Raised for?
Boer goats are bred for meat. They have large bodies with a lot of meat, and to grow them from kid to slaughter age is quick and easy. They are also great milk producers. Their milk is thick, sweet, and creamy. In a word: delicious!
Boer goats are often used to crossbreed to improve the characteristics and size of other breeds. They are often used as show animals as they are friendly and easy to manage and because of their composition.
They are used to rid pesky invaders like weeds and blackberries from pastures. They improve the quality of the pasture by removing these, leaving only good grazing for your grazing animals.
Many people have Boer goats as pets because of how friendly, loving, and docile these animals are. (If you are raising goats for the meat, their personalities will make this challenging!) They need very little human intervention.
The Growing Demand for Goat Meat
The goat meat demand is huge! Because there are no religious restrictions on goat meat, it is very popular in the Muslim community.
In the field of hospitality, goat meat is the healthiest red meat that can be consumed – it is high in unsaturated fats and low in saturated fats. It is becoming a favorite for exotic meat chefs because of its health benefits and because of the flexibility in terms of delicious ways to prepare and serve.
The fact that Boer goats are hardy and can be home grown in the USA is making the meat popular amongst people who prefer to support local businesses rather than purchase expensive imported meat.
In the Muslim communities, there are religious ceremonies that call for the slaughter of goats which are then consumed.
Because the meat can be sold directly to consumers, a large portion of the expense, that would have gone into the abattoirs pocket, stays in the farmers pocket as he can sell directly to consumers.
Raising Boer Goats for Meat
Often called ‘the poor man’s cow’ because goats require so little space to forage and roam, goat meat is the most rapidly growing meat industry in the USA. Boer goats need little intervention, and rarely even require supplementary feeding, they live off of anything they can find to forage.
The meat yield is great and the market for it is insane. Whether you are raising Boer goats for your own household or to sell the meat, the meat is an excellent, healthy, protein source.
If you want to keep your operation small, take some meat samples to a select few restaurants in your area. Exotic food restaurants often purchase 1 carcass at a time, but it is a steady stream of business that pays well.
Raising Boer Goats for Dairy
Boer goats produce really yummy milk, but they were bred for producing for meat. They only make a small amount of milk for each pregnancy – usually, just enough to feed their kids to weaning.
Farming them for milk will not be as efficient as raising dairy goats.
Boer Goat Characteristics
Boer goats are known to be the hardiest of all goats. They adapt easily to their environment and require little to no intervention by humans.
They are vulnerable to parasites; therefore, regular deworming is essential to ensure good weight and health at slaughter. They will also need regular dipping to prevent tick bite fever which can be fatal.
Boer goats have white bodies with convex-shaped heads that are reddish-brown and pendulous (floppy) ears. Some have a prominent blaze, but not all. Both the does and the bucks have horns that curl backwards.
A mature doe can weigh 190 to 230 pounds. A mature buck can weigh 200 to 340 pounds. Both reach an average of 2 ½ feet tall at their withers.
Boer Goat Behavior
Boer goats are easy to raise because they are mild tempered and very affectionate. This breed is ideal for newcomers to goat farming because they are so flexible to the environment and require little to no human intervention in raising.
Goats love to climb. This is very important to know before you go out and buy hordes of these ‘hill Billy’s’. It makes housing them quite challenging at times (especially if there is a doe in estrous nearby). Just look up goats on the internet and you will see all the strange things goats like to climb.
Boer goats will not climb high in trees, but they will make their own mischief. Because of their energetic, curious natures, Boer goats forage rather than graze. They yearn for a little adventure in their lives and are not shy to cause chaos.
They are very social animals, and because they forage instead of graze, they make excellent pasture mates to other animals. Just do not be surprised if you come home to a goat sleeping on the back of a cow, horse, or structure.
Because they like to climb, they prefer hills; however, you can create structures for them to climb with old tractor tires, sheds, and even hay bales. They are not as good at climbing as mountain goats who literally live on cliffs, but they are still adventurous.
Because of their friendly personalities and because they are easy to manage, kids love them (human kids) and proudly show off their pets at animal shows.
Boer Goat Care
Caring for your Boer goats is very simple. They need only a few things from you to let them thrive. Because they are highly social animals, they should always have friends to hang out with. Because they are so easy going, any buddy will do.
Keeping only 1 goat can be emotionally traumatizing, if you plan on only raising 1 goat, it will have to be housed with other farm animals, pets, or – if you are not particular about a house full of broken items – even with you.
I do not advise the last option; it is like living with a two-year-old child who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) 24 hours a day!
Goats need at least 250 square feet per animal to thrive. As they are foragers, space is very important. If they do not have enough space, they could eat up valuable grazing to fill their tummies.
Foraging for food also gives them the exercise they need to stay healthy.
Boer goats have a very important role to play in nature. Because they enjoy foraging and consume so many food sources, they have played and are still playing a vital role by consuming many invasive, alien plant species that would otherwise be hard to eradicate.
If you want healthy, large goats and healthy kids, the best nutrition you can give your goats is high quality pasture. Goat’s love looking for different tastes and will consume 25 different species of plants every day.
If you live in a complete desert condition where absolutely nothing grows, or in areas where snow covers everything in sight, you may need to purchase feed to see them through the rough months.
Letting your Boer goats forage for food will improve the quality of the grazing for your other animals and it will reduce the financial impact of buying feed every month for your goats.
They are quite picky about the hygiene of their food. Food that is contaminated with urine or feces will not be eaten. For this reason, you should ensure that the feed and water bowls are raised off the ground.
Their diverse tastes include weeds, leaves, shrubs, and brush.
There are going to be times when you will need to supplement your goats’ food. You will need to add feed when your goats are confined and or kidding. You will need to supplement their feed if there are insufficient nutritious plants, during extreme drought, or if your herd has grown to big for their pasture and the land has become overgrazed.
Boer goats that are raised in pastures lower your costs and increase your profit margin if you sell your goats to the meat market.
Providing salt and mineral licks is a good idea. Your goats will not need much at a time, meaning it will last a long time.
In winter and, before, during, and after kidding, your goats should be given horse quality hay. They should also get in plenty of legume hay like alfalfa and lespedeza as these are high in protein, vitamins, and minerals.
Goats do not like to eat grain, save your money on that one. If your goats are very underweight, they can be given grains to help build up their weight.
They do love scraps from your kitchen. Leftover vegetable peels, carrots, potatoes, and any fruit or vegetables that are beyond fresh enough for you to eat will brighten up your goat’s day!
Dealing with Disease
There are a few common illnesses to watch out for in Boer goats. All goats are vulnerable to:
- Contagious exthymia – small sores that form around the kids mouth and can then be transmitted to the ewe via the udder; although the condition is painful, the disease can be prevented with a vaccine (this condition can be transmitted to humans, leaving you with painful sores on your skin)
- Heartwater – spread by the bont tick, this can lead to death; regular dipping is effective in keeping the ticks off, but if you see symptoms – high fever, trouble walking, odd chewing, and convulsions – you should consult your vet for antibiotics as soon as possible (ticks can also affect humans very quickly if they get bitten; my husband was down for months thanks to a tick that had been on him for less than a half hour – we almost had to put him down )
Pregnancy can be a dangerous time for all goats. Infections like:
- Pregnancy toxemia
- Exposure to steroids
Can all lead to spontaneous abortions or still births.
Boer Goat Feeding
Goats are picky, but I fully understand their logic. When they eat, even the food they forage, they do not eat anything that is close to the ground where it has been exposed to urine and feces – their own and any other animals. That makes perfect sense.
Always elevate your water and feed troughs. They should be 24 inches off the ground with a horizontal bar that is 14 inches above the ground for the little ones. This forces them to use their hind muscles by making them stand on their hind legs to reach the food. These feeders are called Flex Feeders.
Your goats will each consume 4 to 5 liters of water a day. A lactating goat will need twice that amount. Drinking water is very important when seasons are dry as the food they find will not have much moisture in it.
As with their food, they will not drink contaminated water. They will need continuous, clean water. You should consider investing in a continuous water filtration system that basically acts as a running stream that removes contaminants and returns clean water to the goats.
Lifecycle and Breeding
Boer goats are sexually mature and ready to breed at 5 months old. My recommendation, and I say this for all animals you wish to breed, is to give the animal 2 extra months to grow before you start breeding with them.
This just gives the animal a bit more time to grow and develop, upping the odds of a healthy pregnancy and kids. However, that is just how I do it. You can start breeding at 5 months.
Boer goats are polyestrous. This means that, unlike other goat species, Boer goats can breed all year round.
Boer goats live for 12 to 20 years, but for meat, they can be slaughtered as young as 3 to 5 months old.
Boer Goat Breeding
The kids will inherit the buck’s growth rate. Breeding with fast growing bucks can be more lucrative than breeding with whatever buck you have. A fast-growing buck will be a good investment for your homestead.
Kids can gain 0.4 pounds or more a day. This means they will gain quickly and grow heavy.
Choosing the Right Goats to Breed
Sometimes it pays to carefully choose a better bloodline and pay more over buying a full herd for a reduced price.
On your homestead, you will probably want to start small. The ideal size for a herd of Boer goats is 1 buck per 25 doe’s. But you can start with 1 doe and 1 buck and gradually grow your herd.
Talk to your neighbors and your vet before committing to a purchase to make sure the seller is someone known and recommended by people you trust.
Always inspect the goats you are planning on purchasing and look at their housing situation at the breeder or seller. If the conditions are dirty, you stand a better chance of bringing illness back to your homestead than you have of raising healthy Boer goats.
Take note of the hair, it should be smooth and glossy; all the eyes and noses should be clear of any discharge; the goats should not be coughing, and they should not have any problems breathing; none of the animals should be limping, they should have good hooves and every goat should be moving about comfortably; the goats should all be a good weight with well-developed muscles.
When purchasing doe’s, I recommend that you buy a doe who has kidded at least once to make sure she is not infertile.
You should not buy a new doe who is in her last 30 days of pregnancy or who has kidded within the past 30 days. They are very vulnerable to disease in this period.
Ask questions! Ask about previous pregnancies and deliveries, ask about the health of her offspring and about her treatment of kids. Is she attentive, did she have any problems during pregnancy, delivery, and nursing? Is she a good milk producer?
Ideally, your new doe should be 10 to 36 months old.
When purchasing a buck, look for a clear (not crossbred) bloodline. Rather spend a little more on a buck that is big as his offspring will follow his growth rate and carry his characteristics.
The color of the buck does not matter if you are breeding for meat, but you should see a broad chest, long loin, and deep muscles.
Buying an older buck is significantly more expensive than buying a young buck. This is because the buck’s records will show if he is a good breeder, the quality of his offspring, and his kid’s size.
Unproven bucks (the youngsters) can be a roll of the dice. Take your time and check his bloodline. Get his health assessed before you commit to the purchase.
Because they are polyestrous, they do not wait until a specific time of year to start breeding. In fact, goats move in faster than the boys on the Bachelorette.
For a doe to breed, all she needs is exposure to a buck. As soon as exposure happens, the doe immediately comes into heat. In her lifetime, a doe can produce kids for 6 or more years.
Boer goats are very easy breeders and require little or no human intervention when kidding. You may need to help by getting the kids to stand immediately and draining their mouths and noses by holding them up by the back legs – this just allows gravity to drain the mouth and nose of amniotic fluids. You may also need to help the kids latch onto their mom if she is too tired to help them.
Normally, when a Boer doe kids for the first time, she will only have 1 kid. After that, most of her pregnancies will result in twins, triplets, or even quadruplets (although this is more rare).
Because there are normally 2 kids born from each pregnancy, you need to make sure that each kid has access to enough colostrum and milk. If there are more than 2 kids, you may need to bottle-feed the runt or place that kid with a wet nurse (an unrelated doe who is still producing milk even though her kids have been weaned).
Because doe’s go into heat every 18 days they can be bred twice every 36 days. I do not recommend this. I prefer to give a break between kidding. That way the doe has a chance to heal from the delivery and wean her kids. She will be stronger for the next pregnancy if she has been given a little baa-time.
Rams are normally weaned at 12 to 15 weeks, and female kids are weaned at 15 to 18 weeks.
Separating females is not required for most of the pregnancy. About 2 to 4 weeks before kidding, you should move the doe’s to an isolation pen where they and their kids will not be harmed in fights. They will have to stay separate for 4 weeks after kidding.
If you do see fighting before then, go ahead and separate them immediately.
Avoid spontaneous abortions by increasing the volume of food they consume and by decreasing the stress on the doe by creating a calm environment for the doe and kids.
Boer Goat Housing
Your Boer goats should always have access to shelter from the sun, rain, snow, and wind.
Obviously, the best-case scenario is that the goats spend their days outdoors foraging and climbing. On a practical level, this may not always be an option. A properly built barn will not only protect your goats from the weather, but it will also protect them from predators.
If you are looking at raising your goats indoors, they will need at least 20 square feet per animal. This would apply mainly in winter.
If your goats are free to roam in the daytime and only come in at night, they will need 10 to 12 square feet per animal.
Remember, do not built their shelter too close to the fence that keeps them in, they will jump on the roof of the shelter and jump the fence.
Housing Boer Goat Bucks
Housing a buck can be a very frustrating thing to do. If they can smell a doe that is in heat, good luck! That is a real problem since doe’s go on heat every time they are around a buck.
Given the weight and sheer determination of a Boer goat buck, they will break through wood and wire without much effort at all.
You should always create a no-mans-land between pens of 20 feet or more. This is to prevent sharing a fence. Bucks will do whatever it takes to cover doe’s over shared fences.
Keep your fence posts close together to add strength to the structure. And consider using pipe rather than wood as the goats will eat the wood. Adding a low voltage electric fence will also help keep your bucks at bay.
Always remember that Boer goats are social animals. Try not to house bucks individually. It is better to either house multiple bucks together (not too many, you do not want to set the scene for a riot) or house your buck with cattle, pigs, or even chickens. They just need some activity and chatter around them to keep them calm.
Fencing for Boer Goats
Fencing for your Boer goats is important for keeping goats in and predators out.
Boer goats do not typically jump as high as some other goats. They will, however, still jump, climb, and lean. Which is why you should pay attention to your fenced in pens.
They often stand on their back legs to reach leaves, if they are using the fence to do this, you should ensure the fence can take the weight. For this reason, the design and materials used are very important.
One other thing to remember when putting up your fence is that goats chew EVERYTHING!
For Boer goats, your fences should be 4 feet or higher, especially if you are housing other species together with your Boer goats.
Razor or barbed wire will not keep your goats penned. In fact, it will only harm them as they are consumed with the need to ‘hook up’ with the pretty girl next door. Use woven wire to build your fence as it is strong enough to tolerate any attempt to break out.
Goats love to stick their heads through the openings on fences. They are curious about the world around them, and like to chat to other animals face to face.
The problem is, putting their heads through the fence is easy enough, taking their heads out with their big horns is a whole other issue. Make sure the opening between fences is no larger than 2 x 4 inches.
Your fence posts can be no further than 8 feet apart. Goats love to scratch themselves on fence posts. For this reason, your corner posts should be cemented in. Depending on the size of the pen, you may want to cement in a few posts along each side of the pen to add structural integrity.
Protecting Boer goats is much easier than protecting other goat species. Their weight makes them harder to carry off.
However, given the opportunity, coyotes, wolves, bobcats, and mountain lions will attack any goats.
The kids are at risk of being carried off by foxes and even eagles.
If you live in an area known for predators, the smart thing to do is to build a fully enclosed shelter or barn to turn the goats in to at night when most predators are out hunting.
Electric fences will also help provide a layer of protection for your goats.
Many farmers are using Great Pyrenees dogs as they are nocturnal and were bred to navigate rough terrain to protect their goats.
How to Jump Start Your Small Enterprise
If you want to start a small business raising Boer goats for meat or for milk, here are some items to think about as you plan for your newcomers:
- What condition are your pastures in? You need to ensure that you only purchase enough goats for the size of land you have available
- Do you have sufficient housing to protect your goats?
- To whom and how will you sell your goats?
- How much do you know about the goat meat and goat milk business?
- Do you have sufficient animal husbandry knowledge to raise goats, vaccinate, trim hooves, administer medication, and assist with difficult deliveries?
- Do you have a good local vet who can advise you on all issues relating to your Boer goats?
With a little planning, you can set up a breeding schedule that will give you more animals in time for religious celebrations. Plan so that you maximize on space and give doe’s a break after kidding before breeding them again.
How to Profit from Your Boer Goats
Goats are profitable and great for your homestead in 3 ways.
- They supply great quality milk that is rich and creamy
- They are a great source of healthy meat for your family and the exotic meat market
- Selling offspring to breeders
The size of your operation as well as how you plan to market the meat (slaughter and packaged or by selling the whole carcass) will have a direct influence on your income. The more goats you are raising, the bigger your income could be.
Either way, the exotic food market is lucrative to tap in to. Chef’s and butchers will pay premium money for free-range goats.
Many households are also making goat meat a favorite for the table because it has a higher protein content than beef; it is lower in calories, total fat, saturated fats, and cholesterol; and is higher in iron, selenium, potassium, and contains healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
Pros of Raising Boer Goats
- Their meat is very lean
- The meat sells easily and brings in top dollar
- Because they are calmer than other goats, it is easier to keep them penned in
- They require fewer ‘toys’ to play with and entertain themselves easily
- Because they are so popular on the meat market, you will not have to butcher them or take them to market – take samples to local restaurants and let them purchase directly from you
- The demand is massive
- They are great milk producers
- They do well in shows
- They are good climbers, so they do not need vast tracts of green pastures
Cons of Raising Boer Goats
- They require more space to forage
- They are larger and therefore need more housing space
- They require extra feed during cold and dry seasons
- They require a lot of roughage
- The large bucks can become aggressive
You have all the land you need, you have chickens and ducks for eggs, you have a cow or two for milk, you have pigs for bacon, you have a rich vegetable garden and plenty of fruit trees, so what do you need goats for?
You need goats for the health of your own family. Boer goat meat is one of the healthiest meats on earth.
You also need Boer goats to put a few extra dollars in the bank every month. The meat is popular and easy to market, and you can go straight to the user (restaurants and butchers), ensuring that you profit optimally from your goats.
This has been a fun article to write about, partly because I am proudly South African, but mostly because a have a real passion for Boer goats. I love their friendly personalities and the penchant for mischief. You never know where you will find a goat…
Give me a shout in the comments below if you have any questions or comments.
Boer goats are often slaughtered at 3 to 5 months old, at this age they will weigh 25 to 50 pounds.
Depending on the size of the goat, whether the doe has bred successfully, whether the buck has proven to breed large healthy kids, the age of the goat, and its overall health, Boer goats sell for $150 to $500 each.
That depends on how hungry you are and how fast they can run. KIDDING! If you care for your goats properly, they can live for 12 to 20 years.
Boer goat meat is high protein, low in calories, total fat, saturated fats, and cholesterol, and high in iron, selenium, potassium, and contains healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
Both buck and doe’s are considered mature at 5 months and can be safely bred then.
Boer goats thrive on shrubs, leaves, brush, legume hay like alfalfa and lespedeza, kitchen scraps, vegetables and fruit.
Boer goats are very low maintenance animals that can survive in very extreme situations. The biggest issue with raising Boer goats is their size. They are larger that other goats, and therefore require larger living space per animal than other goats.
The bucks normally weigh about 350 pounds.
The does weigh 190 to 250 pounds.
You need 2 (of course), 1 male and 1 female. Because they breed rapidly you will soon find yourself with a full yard.