Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
For years and years we raised Boer goats both as breeding stock and for meat. The breeding stock aspect was so much fun! Even though these goats were big, rugged, muscular animals, they were also gentle, sweet, and so personable! Boer does are also wonderful mothers; very protective of their young.
With all of the hundreds of Boer girls who called our farm home, I had three favorites: Patti, Nellie, and my sweet Button.
Button was as cute as a button when she was born, thus the name. She was also the mama of all mamas’! She gave us twins for a couple of years, and then one year, she had a single doeling. This wasn’t a problem for us because even though there was only one, we knew without a doubt this little girl was spectacular. The problem, however, was with Button. She obviously was crazy about this little girl, but there was only one! What to do? Kidnap someone else’s baby of course! I had no idea what was going on when one day I looked out and saw Button nursing two babies. Not giving it a second thought, I turned to do something else, and then realized: wait a minute; Button had a single baby this year! I went running out and took a look at who else she was nursing; lo and behold it was one of Button’s moms’ twin boys born a day later! Normally you have to trick a goat into accepting another goat’s baby, but not Button, she loved them all. After that year, it was not unusual to see Button nursing any baby who snuck under her. What a girl she was!
What makes a meat goat a meat goat? Well, for one thing, “meatiness." All goats have goat meat but not all goats are meat goats! Meat is muscle, so the more muscular the goat, the more meat can be harvested from the carcass. This being said let me share with you one very important observance we made.
First of all, goats store fat very differently than most animals (goats, much like deer, do not marbleize their fat in their muscle (meat)). Great sheets of fat can be found surrounding the internal organs or just under the skin.
A few years into our Boer goat raising experience we found ourselves really low on goat meat (we were licensed to sell it); after checking around we found two Boer wethers for sale (a wether is a neutered male). We picked them up and brought them to our processor. Imagine our surprise when we went to pick up the meat and there was about half the amount of meat that we were expecting. Why, we asked ourselves?
We asked our processor, and he explained that these two goats had way more fat than muscle. Again, why? After much research and deduction and bringing more goats to the processor, neutered and in tack, we finally realized what was going on! When a male is neutered, the supply of testosterone is cut off. What does testosterone do? It builds muscle. What is meat? Muscle!! We never, ever, neutered another meat goat, and always had great success in our meat yields.
Folks often ask us at Goat School what we looked for when purchasing breeding Boer bucks and does, and our answer is fairly simple. We always looked for a shorter legged, blockier style goat. You can’t eat bone; so long legged goats were, for us, not what we wanted for breeding.
Want to learn more about raising goats? We have two Goat Schools coming up in June! If you want to come and visit us in beautiful Maine, click on the “Spring Goat School Registration” tab. Live closer to Minnesota? We’ll be there June 22, 23 and 24. For more information about this class, click on the “Minnesota Goat School."
We also have two great books available, our “Goat School Manual” and “Goat School: A Master Class in Caprine Care and Cooking."