Contents
Industry Background
Management
Nutrition
Animal Health
Breeding
Fibre Production
Fibre Marketing
Meat Production and Marketing
Pasture and Weed Control
Economic Analysis
Tanning Skins

A3

Introduction To Boers

  • Sue and Geoff Patrick, Binnaway, NSW

The "Farmed Goat" Meat Industry is expanding rapidly due to the positive influence of the Boer Goat.

Production of goat meat in Australia is valued at approximately $20 million per annum. Goats used for meat production also benefit pasture and help to control many weeds. Research has determined that there are large potential savings in labour and chemicals for weed control and in reclaiming land from weed infestation, especially woody weeds, that have hardly been tapped in most grazing areas of Australia.

Prime goat meat is traditionally regarded as lean, tender and juicy. It is sold under many names but 'capretto', the Italian name for tender, milk-fed kid, is the best known in Australia. Australia is the world's leading goat-meat Exporter, with the majority of meat originating from captured bush goats, Orders for goat meat usually exceed our capacity to supply. Unfortunately these markets have depended on the low cost and erratic sources of bush goats from semi-arid rangelands. Expanding potential markets in south-east Asia cannot be supplied as production of farm-reared goats is low. Unsupplied markets exist in all capital cities in Australia, The goat meat industry needs greater supply of quality, market-specific goat meat, which means more goats on well managed farms in reliable grazing districts.

Being agile, goats can be grazed on steep, inaccessible and weed-infested country provided that suitable fencing and management practices are implemented. Goats have successfully controlled or have assisted in the marked reduction of many weeds in Australia including :

  • gorse, briar, blackberries
  • scotch broom
  • saffron, variegated, nodding, spear and artichoke thistles
  • serrated tussock

Goats have been used in the management of Pinus Radiata forests by reducing herbage growth to allow easier access during pruning and thinning and also by reducing the amount of pruning required.

The Origin of The Boer Goat

Boer goats evolved in Southern Africa from indigenous African goats with some infusion of European, Spanish ,Angora and Indian Goats.

In the Eastern Cape Region by the early 1800's the distinct characteristics of the common Boer Goat were evolving as a compact, well-proportioned and short haired meat animal.

By the beginning of the 20th Century, the emergence of a distinct breed was evident, with good overall conformation, high growth rates, high fertility, short hair with distinctive red markings around the head and shoulders. In July 1959, breeding and selection became regulated with the founding of the Boer Goat Breeder's Association of South Africa and a truly improved Boer Goat emerged through formulation of breed standards as guidelines for selection. Breed standards stipulated that the ideal colour of the Boer Goat be white with a red head and blaze; a limited number of red patches were allowed. A pigmented skin was preferred in areas with no hair cover. The Boer Goat had to be robust with good conformation and have a Roman nose. Legs sturdy, with well muscled thighs and hindquarters, which is important for good carcass characteristics.

Performance testing of Boer Goats started in 1970 under the South African National Mutton. Sheep and Goat Performance Progeny Testing Scheme.

This was the second phase in the development of the Boer goat breed. (The first was the adoption of breed standards of uniformity of type, colour, hair and body conformation),

Performance Testing involved:

  1. Doe characteristics - Excellent milk production and therefore fast growth weight of offspring up to weaning.
  2. Post-weaning growth of kids at various ages.
  3. Efficiency of feed conversion and body weight of male kids under standardised conditions.
  4. Qualitative and quantitative carcass evaluation of a buck's progeny.

The Boer Goat in Australia

Boer goats were introduced from South Africa in the late 1980's, involving up to 6 years of quarantine either off-shore or on mainland Australia. They were released from quarantine in 1995, and have revolutionised Australia's goat meat industry by solving many of the problems previously facing it. They breed virtually year round (which provides continuity of supply), have a placid temperament, superior carcase characteristics and have revitalised interest in the "Farmed" goat meat industry.

Boer Breed Characteristics

Boers are sleek, short haired animals with strong legs and good balance, They are ideally suited to opening up or clearing non arable land. Because of the pigmentation on all areas of exposed skin (eg muzzle, under tail, around eyes) the Boers susceptibility to skin cancers is substantially reduced. They have a "high twitch" skin, which repels most insects and parasites and, being short haired, can be dipped easily should they be clearing tick infested shrubbery or the like.

The Boer is long lived, generally breeding for 10 years or more and has a strong resistance to disease.

Defining Boers and Crosses

Full-blood Boers are entirely descended from animals exported from Africa as registered Boers, with no outside bloodlines.

Pure-bred Boers are the result of up-grading (crossing). A doe is regarded as a pure-bred at the fourth cross (i.e. 93.75% Boer blood), and a pure-bred buck must be the progeny of a pure-bred doe (i.e. fifth cross or higher, 96.9% Boer blood). No amount of upgrading can make pure-bred animals into full-bloods.

Cross-bred Boers The sire of all registered cross-breds must be a registered full-blood or pure-bred buck. First Cross (50% Boer blood), Second Cross (75%), Third Cross (87.5%), Fourth Cross (93.75%)

Commercial Animals The BGBAA recognises that not all animals are ideal representations of the breed and that animals will be bred that are not of a standard that the breeder wishes to register in their name as a 'stud' animal. These animals (generally bucks) may, however, offer considerable benefit to commercial producers, and breeders may therefore choose to register an animal as a commercial animal. The progeny of commercial animals, whether male or female, are never eligible for registration. Cross-bred animals (again generally bucks) can also be registered by this means with their progeny never eligible for registration.

Breeding

Does cycle every 18-21 days and their gestation period is about 150 days. Boer does will cycle virtually year-round if run under favourable conditions. This is pivotal to the potential of the industry, as year-round supply of top quality carcases is vital for the continued development of regular markets prepared to pay accordingly.

Does will generally not require assistance with kidding. Where predation is a problem, the use of baits or guard dogs is essential. Kidding does should be run in sheltered paddocks where protection can be sought if necessary.

A mature Boer doe (kidding at around 24 months or more) can be expected to produce twins, triplets or more, while maidens will generally produce a single kid or twins. Does can be joined from about 7 months of age, but rearing the kid can limit the doe's long-term growth. A first natural kidding at around 18 months is usually acceptable.

Does can be flushed for Embryo Transfer from about 7 to 8 months as they do not undergo the strain of raising kids with this process.

Boer does produce exceptionally high butterfat milk (believed to be twice that of the highest dairy breeds) Mature Boers comfortably rear triplets.

Boer bucks can be fertile from 3- 4 months of age (once over about 32 kgs), and therefore must be weaned by this age to avoid them mating their mothers. Mature bucks serve more reliably than young bucks, particularly if out-of-season breeding is required Under broad-acre management a ratio of one buck per 50 does will ensure a relatively condensed kidding period, if more protracted kidding is acceptable a lower percentage of bucks will suffice.

Growth

As with any meat animal their weight will vary depending on the environment in which they are run, the time of year etc. The following can be taken as a guide for full-blood Boers, in rangeland conditions :-

BUCKSDOES
BIRTH3.7 kgs3.4 kgskgs
WEANING24 kgs22 kgs
7 MONTHS40 - 50 kgs35 - 45 kgs
12 MONTHS50 - 70 kgs45 - 65 kgs
MATURE90-130 kg80-100kgs

These figures equate to an average daily weight gain of close to 200 grams (for the initial 12 months). With more intensive management or more favourable conditions a daily weight gain in excess of 250 grams per day can be achieved.

Commercial Meat Production

Breeds

Meat is produced by all fibre goats, dairy goats, bush goats and the improved Boer goat. Boer goats are specifically bred for meat although some also produce cashmere. A range of pure and cross-bred Boer goats are available and Boer x cashmere goats are becoming more numerous.

Running goats for meat offers a viable diversification alternative for Australian farmers, without high establishment or change-over costs. Boers demand no shearing or crutching and are not susceptible to fly-strike. By complementing existing sheep, cattle or cropping operations with meat goats, farmers will enjoy improved pasture and weed control, reduce chemical costs and environmental damage and generate added income by selling goats for slaughter. The browsing habit of goats ensures that a healthy herbage cover remains intact to protect soils from erosion by wind and water. Even when forced to graze intensively, goats are not inclined to eat roots of grasses as sheep do. lt is envisaged that farmers wishing to raise commercial meat goats will base their herds on crossing Boers with bush does or other large framed does.

Crossing with Australian Bush Goats

There are estimated to be some 4 million bush goats in Australia, predominantly in NSW, Qld, WA and SA. When these goats are harvested, the males are slaughtered and the suitable females retained for joining to Boer bucks.

Boer sires are purchased from studs selectively breeding to improve carcase attributes. In addition to examining a potential sire (subjective selection), purchasers may choose to use objective Performance Recording data, where it is available from stud breeders.

Little formal research has been completed in Australia to assess feed conversion and growth rates in Boer cross kids (although the University of Queensland and Agriculture Western Australia are currently undertaking such research). The general consensus is that Boer cross kids reach target weights in approximately half the time that straight (farmed) bush goats require.

Abattoirs and processors are, in many cases, prepared to sign forward contracts for the purchase of kids. These contracts are specific with regard to weight, age, fat depth etc. and are generally available to producers of large numbers of kids. Those breeding smaller numbers should work with nearby breeders - your state's Goat Meat Producer Association or branch of the BGBAA can assist with this.

Crossing with Cashmeres

Cashmere goats are descended from bush goats and have been selected for their cashmere production. Cashmere is a secondary fibre produced, to varying extents, by all goats. Cashmere breeders looking to improve carcase attributes (and produce a dual purpose animal) are increasingly using Boer sires over cashmere does. Given that cashmere does are domesticated they provide an ideal cross for meat producers looking for female stock, whether they wish to shear the cashmere or not.

Crossing with Angoras

While Boer-Angora cross milk-fed kids are sought after for the capretto market, older first cross Boer-Angoras are sometimes more fatty that other crosses. North American markets in particular seem to favour the Boer-Angora cross. First crosses will generally have a heavy "cashgora" fleece that will be shed in spring or may be shorn. The skin-on market generally does not accept the Angora cross as the are difficult to dehair.

Crossing with Dairy Goats

Boer does offer excellent milk production and as such are being introduced into some dairy goat operations to increase butterfat content. Those wishing to produce meat kids need to be aware that dairy does have been selectively bred to produce copious quantities of milk, more than the kids require. As a result damaged udders and mastitis problems can arise when dairy does are used in commercial meat goat operations.

Intercrosses/Upgrading

Consistency of carcase quality is a characteristic for which the Australian goat meat industry must continue to strive. 2nd cross animals (75% Boer and 25% other) generally offer increased consistency over first crosses (50% Boer). While the effects of heterosis (hybrid vigour) are reduced in a second cross, the increased genetic stability ensures that more of the kids produced are Boer like (i.e. meatier).

Most breeds of goat are suitable for upgrading as long as they are healthy, well grown and structurally sound.

It is generally accepted that the use of first-cross Boer bucks leads to only minimal increase in carcase quality. High cross or full-blood bucks are required to make significant improvement.

Products and Marketing

Boer and Boer-cross carcases generally dress out at around 50%

Research presented to the Nutrition Society of Australia (1997) confirms the reputation that goat meat has for being low in fat and cholesterol- All carcases analysed showed a range in cholesterol levels. Goat meat offered as low as 5 mg of cholesterol per 100g of meat, whereas the lowest figures reported for other meats were 44 mg for beef, 52 mg for lamb and 66 mg for pork.

Goat meat is believed to be 850% - 1100% lower in saturated fats than beef, lamb and pork. There is range of markets for which Boer cross kids can be targeted.

Capretto is a milk fed kid (i.e. slaughtered prior to weaning). Capretto carcases can range in weight from 4 kg (on the hook) to around 12 kgs. Small carcases are generally cooked whole.

It is expected that the 13 - 20 kg carcase (27 - 40 kg liveweight often referred to as chevon) will emerge as the most sought-after product, both for the domestic and export markets. This places goat carcases alongside prime lamb carcases. It had been thought that in Australia goat of this weight will only sell if priced lower than the comparable lamb. In practice, however, the demand for goat meat domestically is outstripping supply and prices are comparable with lamb. In Asia, and increasingly in Europe, goat commands a price twice that achieved by lamb.

Goat meat has no religious barriers.

Goat meat is exported at commodity prices to Taiwan (41% of the export market ) the USA , The Caribbean , Canada , Malaysia and to high value markets in Europe.

Frozen carcases comprise 68% of the meat trade, with bone in cuts, boneless meat, and live goats making up the remainder. In past years live goat and carcases have been air freighted to markets in the Middle East.

Potential exists to develop chilled primal-cut markets in Asia but a predictable supply of high value animals must be maintained.

In the past, carcases over 25 kgs have only been achieved by aged animals whose carcases have only been worthy of dicing, freezing and exporting as a cheap source of protein for developing countries The introduction of the Boer has allowed 25 kg carcases to be achieved in around 12 -16 months (run commercially - i.e. grass fed). Work is underway to educate the markets of this new option.

Domestically a moderate number of older animals can be slaughtered for use in smallgoods. Goat meat absorbs more liquid than other meats and therefore less actual meat is required in manufactured goods. Animals over 12 months generally satisfy this market

Because the export markets are desperate for any goat meat they can get their hands on, it is possible to sell carcases at virtually any weight (in quantity). As an industry, however, we must ensure that we optimise our financial return by targeting specific markets (at a young age, with limited fat, a desirable meat colour, minimal bruising etc.)

© B.G.B.A.A.