The Boer Goat
The Boer goat is a beautiful animal when standing in the green pasture with their white hair glowing in the sunlight that makes their butterscotch head stand out, or their deep brown head shine like fresh mixed brownies ready to go into the oven. They're aggravating, though, when they insist on beating each other up, or beating up equipment and housing and fences, or getting into everything they shouldn't be into, or taking off when you're trying to get them to do something.
Our goats are afraid of shadows. They don't like being asked to move into a dark place. They are easily excitable; the more they're chased the more they run (in the opposite direction from what you want). We've learned the hard way not to feed with flashlights during power outages. Freaks them out. Now we set those battery powered lanterns near each pen as we get to it. Makes us all a lot happier.
They love climbing - on anything that is available, including you if you happen to get tripped (accidently by them, of course). And, they are curious. Leave your cell phone sitting on the fence post and you just as well say goodbye to it. They can go through a gate you accidently left open ten times faster than they will go through a gate you've propped open because you want them to go through it.
Management Tips We've Learned the Hard Way
- Know what your goats look like when they're healthy and happy so you can tell when they aren't.
- Take care of their feet. Keep them trimmed and inspect for signs of foot rot or other problems. The Midwest is a horrible environment for foot health.
- Watch their horns. Keep them from growing into their heads.
- Watch for weather changes. Sudden, extreme changes in temperature and humidity can lead to respiratory problems.
- Provide shelter - Boer Goats hate being out in rain. If you're fortunate enough to live in a mild, dry climate this is not as necessary, but goats living in humid and frigid climates need the protection.
- If you choose to vaccinate - do so exactly as directed and keep and store your vaccine correctly. We recommend that you either use a veterinarian, or mail-order your vaccines to arrive air express, cold packed for next day delivery.
- Keep them clean [no - you don't have to bathe them every day, but if you keep them in pens, muck the pens out before they get mushy].
- Keep them dry [no - you don't have to take the blow dryer out there every night, just keep their pens bedded with clean fresh shavings or straw or sand or whatever you're using]. Urine soaked bedding can lead to snotty noses, runny eyes and worse in young kids, and respiratory problems in adult goats and you, for that matter.
- Lime under the bedding helps neutralize the urine. Hydrated lime is very effective, but you have to be careful when using it. Regular old calcium carbonate (ag lime) works fine.
- Keep the air circulating, but keep drafts off the goats as much as possible. The worst thing you can do in damp, cold weather is close up the barn real tight. Your goats need fresh air and you need fresh air to keep the bacterial and fungal growth under control.
Helpful Things to Have on Hand
- Thermometer (any kind will do, but a veterinary digital one is nice because it has a hole you can run a string through and retrieve if needed).
- Syringe and needles (we prefer the luer lock because the needle stays on until you twist if off.
- Drench Gun.
- Weak Kid Kit.
- Hoof Trimmers (we like the Saboton) and our son uses a razor knife instead of the trimmers, but this method is only for the experienced because that knife will easily cut through arms and legs.
- Iodine (7% - we use triodine).
- Surgical Scrub (we use providone).
- Sanox II (or some other heavy duty disinfectant).
- Dish Soap
- Mineral Oil
- Ag Lubricant (for if you have to pull babies, etc.)
- Dairy Aerosol
- Suction Ball like they use to clean out nasal passages of infants.
- Shepherds Crook.
- Towels and Rags.
- Goat Nutri Drench.
- Vitamin B Complex with Thiamine (injectable).
- Calcium Gluconate.
- LA 200.
- BOSe (if you're in a selenium-deficient area).
- Children's Ibuprofen (for dehorning).
Manage Your Support
- The American Goat Federation maintains a website that has many articles and other helpful items for dairy, fiber and meat goats.
- The University of Illinois has been an excellent resource for small ruminants in our part of the country (Indiana and surrounding states).
- Langston University in Oklahoma is also a good source for information about goats.
- University of Maryland Extension Service Small Ruminant Web page is also a good source of information.
Manage Your Medicine
- All drugs have either been cleared for use in meat producing animals or banned by federal law for use in meat producing animals.
- If you are shopping for medications, or a friend gives you something to use, check the label. If the following appears, do not use the product.
Federal law prohibits the use of this product in food-producing animals.
Not intended for use in food-producing animals.
The Never-Ending Fight Against Parasites
- Worm according to your goat's weight no matter what dewormer you use. If you don't, it won't be effective and you will build up resistance so that even if you do start doing it right, the dewormer won't work like it is supposed to.
- Many dewormers must have the dosage adjusted to a higher rate be effective for Boer goats. Check with your veterinarian for the latest information.
- Your best source of information on dewormers is a veterinarian who is fully qualified in ruminants, or an animal health supply store with knowledgeable staff, who can show and explain to you product information direct from the manufacturer.
- Control your manure to control your flies.
- Goats get lice - watch for signs and keep it under control.
- Goats can get the goat grungies - this is from mites an different from and needs to be treated different than lice.
- Coccidiosis is nasty, but can be prevented by adding a coccidiostat to the feed. If you prefer, there are also products to put in the water or use as a drench.
Manage Your Visitors
Manage Your Predators
- They must be females or neutered males. They are effective against coyotes, wolves, dogs and stray humans.
- Guard dogs (like the Great Pyrenees) work well in lots of situations, but if you live in a populated area they can be socialized by your neighbors.
- Guard dogs work best in large areas. like in the Southwest and other areas where goats free range on private and public lands.