Good Looks Aren't Everything

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I just received the latest edition of this fine publication, and all I can say is WOW!!! I don't believe I've ever seen so many big color advertisements for goat sales in one magazine ever. There must be in excess of 3,000 head selling in the next few months at these sales.

I contrast that with what I'm experiencing and hearing, and something doesn't add up.

For starters the demand for commercial does has been almost nonexistent for the last 10 months. I base that not just on my own experience, but on the number of calls I have gotten from other livestock dealers calling to ask me if I'm selling any goats because they haven't been.

Unfortunately, I have to tell them that I haven't been getting any calls either. Most years I sell several thousand head of goats, but since last October I haven't sold one single commercial doe. Not a one, and it isn't because there aren't any to sell. In fact, most of last fall I had a group of 1000 very nice, young, bred Boer cross does for sale for $107.50 per head. Couldn't sell them.

Then spring came, a time of year when I normally get a lot of calls, but not this year. To compound things Texas had one of the wettest starts to a year on record (by the end of July my area had already gotten more than our normal annual rainfall), so nobody in their right mind was going to sell bred does or pairs for anything resembling a good price, and the few people that called decided they didn't want to pay that much for goats.

If you're thinking about starting or expanding a commercial goat operation, the time to do it is right now when prices are at their lowest point. Don't wait until spring, and think that you can buy heavy bred does or pairs cheap. Even in bad drought years the spring prices are higher than most buyers want to pay. If we are having a wet year, if you have to ask the price you probably can't afford it.

Then there is the matter of the 34 registered does I have been trying to sell for 4 months now. No calls on them either. We sell out of our bucks every year, but practically can't give their sisters and mothers away.

It isn't too hard to figure out why the bucks all sell, as I write this 4 of the top 5 bucks at the ASU Performance Test (including the top gaining buck) are from my herd, and 7 of our 30 entries are gaining 0.8 lbs/day or more. 24 of them are gaining more than the 0.62 lb/day average with 4 more within a couple of hundredths of a lb/day of the average. There are only 4 weeks left in the test, so hopefully those results won't change much before the end.

The does I'm selling have the same genetics. Am I the only breeder in the country interested in raising Boer Goats that can thrive in a pasture environment, grow quickly, and exhibit heavy muscling? My herd didn't get this way by using good bucks on inferior does.

Don't get me wrong, the red-headed lambs in those ads are beautiful, but I'm pretty sure they would all be dead in a matter of weeks if I put them out on my pasture with no supplement. At best they would look pretty pathetic.

I've heard commercial producers criticize Boer and Boer influenced goats for a long time now, and their criticisms don't match my experience with the breed, but I can easily imagine why their goats are lousy mothers that can't thrive in a pasture environment.

The fact is that the vast majority of Boer goats are pampered and have been selected based on their appearance, not their performance. When the breeder is present for every birth, and personally delivers, cleans off, and feeds each newborn, then supplements them while they are still on their mothers, how can that breeder determine which does are good mothers and which are not? They can't, and that is why so many Boers in the US are poor mothers.

When most members of a breed are raised entirely or partially on feed that comes from a bag, how can you select for pasture performance and parasite resistance? Again, you can't, and that explains why so many US Boers are poor pasture goats.

Several thousand head of Boer Goats will sell in the next couple of months. The vast majority of them have been bred and selected for the showring. I can't help but wonder how many of the buyers will then introduce those genetics to commercial meat goat herds, and later wonder why they are having so many problems.

I wonder even more about how much the past practice of using show goat genetics on commercial herds has to do with the recent apparent lack of growth in the number of commercial herds. After all if the people currently raising them are having nothing but problems, why would anybody else want to raise them?

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This page updated 08/09/07

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