- Animals: goats
- Animal Production: livestock breeding
- Education and Training: demonstration, on-farm/ranch research, youth education
- Farm Business Management: marketing management
I have been involved in sustainable agriculture practices since before I was old enough to join 4-H. Living on a "homestead" type farm, I grew up raising market hogs, dairy goats, rabbits, chickens, and various other poultry that are raised for the products they provide my family (meat, milk, eggs) and to sell some animals for income to provide feed and hay for the ones that stay on the farm. A couple of years ago I was the one who decided to add Boer goats to our farm. I have learned that by keeping good breeding stock and showing at local fairs for publicity I have earned a good reputation for quality animals and have no problems selling my livestock to other 4H kids and the people who want either raise animals or buy them for meat (rabbits and goats).
Since I have kept separate herds of Boers and Nubians and have shown both as wethers, I wanted to see how a cross bred wether would do in a market wether class. I thought that keeping track of how Boers, Nubians, and the crossbred kids did would be a unique way to see if I wanted to change my breeding selections. My goal with the Boer goats is to raise breeding stock to sell and to show a champion wether. With only two seasons of kids I am accomplishing that goal, and I am doing it using various sustainable agriculture practices: Raising goats is a small scale livestock production. My goat herds provide alternative weed control. I do not use any hormones or additives in raising my kids, so they can be considered organically raised meat. Their manure is a useful byproduct, used as fertilizer on our gardens. Extra milk from the Nubians is used to help finish out my market hogs and clabbered for chick feed.
A. Boer Doe to a Boer Buck
B. Nubian Doe to a Boer Buck
C. Nubian Doe to a Nubian Buck
A: "Maybelle" kidded on Feb. 14, triplets, two bucks and a doe. When found, one buck was dead.
B. "Mandy" kidded on Feb. 13, twins, a buck and a doe. Buck was made a wether.
C. "Moon" kidded May 3, triplets, two bucks, one doe. When found, one buck was dead.
Weight Chart: Kids were weighed at birth, at approx. one month old, two months old, and final at approx. five months of age.
Does A and B were both wormed on 2/19. The Boer and Crossbreed kids were given their first shot on 2/19 and dehorned on 2/20. The Crossbred buck was also castrated on 2/20. Kids received their second shot on 3/2. Doe C was wormed on 5/10 and Nubian kids were given their first shot on 5/10, second on 5/30. Both Nubian kids were dehorned on 5/13.
As you can see by the weights listed above, the Boers and the Crossbred kids gained comparably, while the Nubian kids were on the small size all the way through their program. I believe this was due to a couple of variables: The Nubians had a smaller birth weight to begin with and were born to a much older doe who's milk production was down due to her age compared to the other Nubian in my program. These kids were all hauled to their first fair June 22. The Boer and Crossbred kids were four months old and the Nubians were only seven weeks old. Since the Boers do not have to be shown with a full udder, the kids were still nursing their mother and were allowed to be stalled with her. The crossbred kids and the Nubian kids were removed from their dams at 8:00PM the night before the show and due to the show schedule were not allowed to nurse until about 4:00PM the next day. The mothers both had engorged teats and did not want the kids to nurse as they were sore, so they had to be milked out by hand. The crossbreds were older and the lack of milk did not bother them as they were already past possible weaning age. The Nubian kid's dam never recovered her already decreased supply of milk and they started to grow at an even slower rate of speed. At this time I tried offering bottles to the Nubian kids to supplement their mother since they were so small, but they would not take a bottle.
Besides the lack of milk for the Nubian kids, I firmly believe that hauling them at a much younger age made more stress for them. The older Boer and Crossbred kids were able to deal with the travel and change of environment better. They were all away from the farm for four days so it was a big stress for the younger kids.
The later date of kidding of the Nubians did not benefit their growth compared to the others; it was hotter weather and this caused the does to lay around the barn more hours during the day so the smaller kids did not benefit from grazing/browsing.
All kids had access to a creep feeder and were fed grain twice a day. They were all de-wormed three times during the program.
I breed my Boers earlier than the Nubians so my kids will be better able to compete at the fairs I show at. The Nubians are bred later in the year since my mom is the one that does the milking. The warmer weather is easier on her and the kids at birthing time. I want the Boer kids to be mature enough that my wethers have a chance to win a grand championship at the fairs. I want the bucks and do I show to be big enough that prospective buyers at the fairs will see their potential and want to buy them and they will be ready to go as soon as the show season is over.
My main goal with this coming Boer kid crop is to raise at least a couple of nice wethers so I can take them on to the State Fair.
My mom, Pam Cox-Williams, is my 4-H Dairy and Meat Goat Project Leader and she helped me with the weighing and record keeping. My dad, Sam Williams and did the dehorning and castrating. He also helped me to design a goat chariot that I made as a welding project with my welding instructor, Dave Bates. The chariot will be used with future kids to exercise and help build muscle. My parents made this project possible with their help and expertise. Thanks, Mom and Dad!
I knew the Boers were fast growers and I was excited to see how the crossbreeds would do, and they kept right up with the Boers.
The results of these three does are: A. Maybelle, the Boer bred to a Boer: Her buck, Morris, was kept as my future herd sire and is presently in with his second batch of does. He has grown out to be a very wide and well muscled buck and I am looking forward to his first crop of kids. He did well at the fairs, winning a Blue Ribbon at each show, and all three judges made the same comment: "If he was a little older he would be at the top of the class.” At each fair he competed against bucks that were much older than him, but was always in the top third of the class, even placing over many bucks that were larger than him. The doe, Marigold, was too nice to sell. Since the Boers are infamous for their extra and messed up teats, I am only keeping does in my herd that has two normal teats, which she has. She is staying here in our Boer herd and will have her first kids in May. She won Blue Ribbons and was second in her class at all three fairs. (She was only beaten by another one of my Boer doe kids that I did not keep after show season because of her teats.)
B. Mandy, Nubian doe bred to Boer buck: Both of the kids were colored like their sire, looking like Boers and not Nubians. The wether was second in the Market Wether Class at one fair, and Grand Champion at two fairs. He was sold for $1.20 a pound after show season. The doe, Molly, was also kept in the Boer herd. She is as wide in the chest and along the top line as the pure Boer doe from A. Since she is half Nubian I believe she will be a great milkier like her dam and give her kids a jump start with a little extra milk. She was Reserve Champion grad doe at two fairs.
C. Moon, Nubian bred to Nubian. Although on the small size, both of these kids had great Nubian characterics and conformation. I am sure that as they get older they will continue to keep growing and eventually catch up to where they are supposed to be. Since my Nubians are all registered, the buck was sold as a Herd Sire to another Nubian breeder, and the doe was sold to a fellow 4-Her to add to her herd. Both won blue ribbons at the various fairs.
As a result of trying the cross breeding experiment I was well pleased with the outcome. The crossbreeding is in my opinion of benefit to people raising meat goats. The Boers hardiness and meatiness comes through. Demand is high for quality Boer does so it would probably be more economical to start a herd with some decent grade Nubian does and invest the money in a good Boer buck ending up with a crop of nice crossbred kids that will sell good on the meat market. Whatever type of doe you have, they will need proper nutritional care during their pregnancy and your herd will need regular de-worming, hoof trimming, etc. Castrating and dehorning is a lot of work, but if you are trying for the meat market this is something you should take the time to do. Horns can cause eye injuries, hanging in fences, etc., and the castrated kids can run safely with your does.
The only thing I would change if doing this project again would be to use a Nubian doe that was not as old for a test subject and have them bred at the same time. I feel that since she had smaller kids to start with (triplets are smaller) and less milk than normal, she did not give a good representation of the Nubian breed and how adaptable and fast growing their kids can be. I also think the age they were hauled around to the fairs and heat of the sea on had effect on how they grew. I will have crossbred kids again this year since I kept the Boer buck for a herd sire his mother is bred to my Nubian buck. We will see how that cross works!
Growing up on a homestead type small farm I am familiar with sustainable agriculture practices. I just never realized the way we raise our animals was so categorized: Alternative Weed Control, etc. With my parents being 4-H leaders and my mom coming from family of farmers for generations back I am more aware of this than the normal kid. The biggest problem people like us face is how to make it profitable to keep animals and continue these practices. Feed and gas prices keep going up and my mom works off the farm just to support the animals. If it weren't so ingrained in our blood we would probably sell the animals. It has already made a difference in the amount of animals we keep on the place; we have downsized the poultry, rabbits, and the Nubian herd.
I have talked about this project at my Dairy Goat and Meat Goat project meetings. I have talked about it at my 4-H club meetings and in Ag class. I would be glad to share my experience with anyone.