Breeders & Associations Negative Impact on "High Maintenance"
The South African breeders did not have a "high dollar" industry in front of them
when they started the work developing the Improved Boer Goat breed. They had negative
characteristics of the local animals that they wanted to improve to make them more
hardy and produce more goat meat per animal. Their main focus was to improve the
hardiness, kidding percentage, and the mothering instinct in the breed and make in
good looking in the process.
When the Boers came to the U.S. their were $$$$ in the eyes of the breeders. The
focus was to reproduce them as fast as possible and sell them for top dollar. Because
the Boers were high priced initially, everyone was treating them with kid gloves
and doctoring every runny nose. As more and more Boers were available in the U.S.,
a breeder no longer got premium prices just because it was a Boer. It then became
the bloodlines with the winning records in the shows got the top dollars. That brought
on more pampering and cheating to get those wins. Then you had to have the "New genetics
from South Africa". After that you had to have the genetics from the top breeders
winning in the show rings. Nothing in that period ever focused on hardiness or being
"low maintenance". It was worth it to spend the extra money and time to continue
pampering them because those breeders were getting the top dollars. Now, the genetics
that were being pampered were also the ones being bought from across the country.
Look at the committees listed in the Boer Associations and you will see that the
majority of them are focused around showing. Look at how many of the directors in
the associations are also judges. The U.S. Industry has been show-based from the
beginning and has totally let the industry down in not focusing on hardiness and
Here are some examples of where breeders or association have taken the industry in
the wrong direction from my perspective:
A major breeder would take part of the kids from a mother and put them on milk goats
for nursing so the kids would grow at a much greater rate. This reduces the ability
of identifying mothers that could not properly raise their own kids therefore genetics
were spread of animals that may not meet the criteria for a good dam.
Flushing does. This was acceptable initially when there were so few animals available
however it is still a major practice. A breeders gives a shot to a selected doe causing
her to produce a large number of eggs. She is then bred and the embryos are removed
and placed into recips which were normally a non-boer or a percentage doe. A single
doe could have 100 or more kids during her life that were carried and raised by a
non-boer doe. We have heard that some of the earlier flushes, the breeders would
just do a c-section on the non-boer does and kill them after the kids were delivered.
All of this allows plenty of room for the wrong genetics to get into the "top bloodlines".
Several major breeders looked for does that only had singles or twins so the kids
would be bigger for showing at the early ages. This results in genetics that produce
fewer kids than normal and the objective in the meat goat business is producing the
maximum number of weaned lbs. That is not done by selecting does that only have singles.
More bad genetics.
Many breeders reshape the horns on their animals so they look perfect. There is a
specific standard for horns in the associations and many of the best known animals
have had their horns reshaped so they would do better in the show ring. Now, you
want to have animals that have the same beautiful set of horns so you select their
genetics only to find out you got real problems. If a breeder is caught changing
an inch of color on an animal, they may be thrown out of the association. If you
change the shape of their horns, you may get Grand Champion.
The standards call for a perfect mouth on animals until they are 2 years old and
then they can have a 1/4 inch gap. If the average productive life for an animal
is 10 years, that means the mouth is perfect for around 1 1/2 years and then off
for 8 1/2. However, if a young kid's mouth has a slightly over bite (lower teeth
hitting on the pad instead of fitting next to the pad) at an early age, the mouth
will continue to grow the same way but the mouth may now be perfect for 9 to 10 years
instead of off for 8 to 9 years.
In our early days of raising Boers, we asked a major breeder about what we needed
to do for showing our buck. He indicated we needed to get him where he was eating
around 6 lbs of grain a day. Another show breeder we know told us one of his show
bucks had died shortly after selling him and that he had been feeding him 8 lbs of
grain a day. A third major breeder that was having a big production sale told us
the secret to a good sale is to have fat animals. Buyers love to see big meaty animals.
He told us his monthly grain bill was around $3,500 and that was not for a big herd.
Another friend of ours had an Ennobled animal die. The animal was cut open to see
what the problem might have been. He said he could not believe how much fat was around
the vital organs. How many of these premium animals' body these days is just fat
that will certainly not be good when those genetics get into the commercial herds.
Breeders that are constantly worming their animals with multiple wormers every few
weeks are growing super worms that are resistant to all of the wormers. This may
be one of the most serious problems in the industry. These bloodlines will spread
those super worms across the country and severely impact any other healthy herd they
are placed into.
Several years ago, the ABGA board tried to change the standards without any member
input. One of the changes was to state that single teat structure should be considered
the preferred teat characteristic. The board had to rescind the change and allow
the members to voice their opinion and that statement was removed. The concern here
was well known names in the industry were trying to change a characteristic in the
standard and they had no justification to back it up. Now if you look back at the
original value the South African breeders put on the boer breed they were developing,
a key value was having an animal with high fertility or producing a higher number
of kids per doe. Our (Jack and Anta Mauldin ) kidding stats for the last 4-5 years
has been around 2.5 kids per doe. Nature is trying to prepare the does for taking
care of multiple kids by having 4 teats or 2 per side. The association and many breeders
are selecting to go against Nature and have a less optimum capability with no justification
for that choice other than single teats look better in a show ring.
We purchased two does at one of the premier production sale from some of the premier
breeders in the show ring. They were out of two of the better known bucks at the
time. At the sale, the comment was made to the audience that they were breeding for
a very tight udder in the does. They said sometimes the judges had a hard time telling
if a 2+ year old doe had ever kidded before, which is a requirement. Judges love
very tight udders on the does. One of the purchased does kidded and had triplets.
Although her udder was very tight, she had almost no bag for milk. We had to pull
two of the kids off and bottle feed them and the one that stayed on the mother did
worse than the two that were bottle fed. So the focus of a tight udder was met at
the expense of almost no milk to raise even one kid. This was the doe's first time
kidding but we had at least 6 other does from our breeding that were kidding for
the first time and none of them had any problem raising their kids (twins to quads).
All of their udders were at least 2-3 times the size of the purchased doe.
The second doe we purchased had a similar udder problem but also could not deliver
her kids. Her pelvic bones never spread and she died during birth. Both of these
does had Ennobled bloodlines as far as you could see and they could have done well
in the show ring. However, they could not be productive animals in real life and
we lost a lot of money chasing some Ennoblements bloodlines.
The chat rooms are full of breeders talking about kidding problems they are having.
The ABGA president told me one of the Kiko associations had someone going around
speaking to breeders about how much more problems Boers had in kidding than Kikos.
Then the president said an important fact that he did not even realize he was really
saying. He said "They are comparing Kikos out in the pasture against Boer show goats".
While he thought he was justifying why there may be a real difference, he was also
stating it seems to be a fact that the Boer show goats have a difficult time in kidding.
What are the most sought after genetics that buyers want??? Genetics from the most
winning show goats, thus quickly spreading the genetics of animals that seem to have
a problem in kidding on their own. The fact is it is not just show goats that have
problems kidding. It is the same problem as with pampering the animals every time
their nose runs. Because they were initially so expensive, every effort was made
to ensure all of the kids were successfully delivered no matter what it took. Also
remember that these key breeders were trying to pump out as many animals as possible
and were doing this through flushes, which allowed non-boers to carry the kids through
pregnancy, deliver them and raise them. If that dam had the genetics of not being
able to properly deliver kids and raise them, it was hidden by cheap replacement
mothers that were better able to do the right job.
Another chat room topic is related to weak kids. You can read about this over and
over. Someone has some kids that were born weak and could not stand on their own.
They are wanting to know 2-3 weeks following their birth, what else can they try
to get the kids standing on their own. This comes about for two reasons. First, very
few of us want to see any of the kids die because it is like losing part of our family.
The second reason is because a breeder can't sell a dead animal. Also, you will rarely
raise a strong, hardy animal by having to hand raise them for the first month or
two. You can only end up with premium, hardy animals by paying attention to Nature.
Breeding animals have to be a cut above the commercial animals in some way other
than just looks.
The associations have a rule that no percentage bloodline can ever become a fullblood
no matter how high the percentage. This gives breeders a signal that a fullblood
is always a better animal than a percentage. That is just not true now. The animals
that are probably more hardy out in the pastures now are most likely the percentages.
The percentages are "lower maintenance" and have become basically the same size as
Many of the breeders are heavy into line breeding. Line breeding is used to produce
more consistent looking animals with fewer variations. Many times at a production
sale, you may hear the commentator point out how similar the animals look that are
coming from a specific breeder. It will also produce similar bad characteristics
such as problems in kidding, little immunities against specific diseases and problems
with parasites. Cross breeding on the other hand is used to improve on sire and dam.
The sire and dam normally have different immunities and different positive characteristics.
Cross breeding is intended to produce offspring that the sum is greater than the
two individuals. However, if you look at the Mission statement of ABGA, it states
the mission is to "preserve the breed". If you focus on preserving anything, you
can't make it better. You can only make it worse.
After the initial Boers came to the U.S from New Zealand, some breeders started bringing
in Boers through Canada. Canada could get Boers just like New Zealand but breeders
started bringing them in through Canada and marketing them as the "New South African
Genetics". It became a big negative to have an animal with a pedigree showing any
animal in its background coming from New Zealand. You can still see this being kept
alive by the International Boer Goat Association only adding a SA at the end of an
animals ID if there are no New Zealand or Australian ID's in the pedigree as far
back as can be traced. This is a shame because the Kiko originated in New Zealand.
The Kiko is known for its hardiness and its resistance to parasites even when raised
in wet climates, which is where the Boer does the worse. You see, Boers originated
in the deserts of South Africa where the breeders were lucky if they got 20 inches
of rain a year. The Kikos originated in New Zealand where they were lucky if they
only got 100 inches of rain a year. The U.S. breeders may have had more hardy bloodlines
coming from New Zealand than from South Africa.
The last point relates to the importance some judges place on how straight an animal
walks in the show ring. If a leg sways a little to the outside while walking, it
is all over. The problem is the effort that was put into the feet of the animal prior
to the show. It is nothing to walk though the show barns the night before the show
and see breeders with electric grinders working on the hooves of their animals. Some
of these animals have work done on their feet every few weeks in order to keep them
walking properly for the judge. From the judge's perspective, the feet may be the
most important because the animal may have to walk long distances in pastures to
make a living. I have no problem with that. However, I have $100 that says an animal
with a slight swing outward of a leg will have no problem keeping up with an animal
that walks perfectly straight. Now, lets look at the real requirement for the Boers.
Take the same two animals and put them out in a large pasture for 9 months without
trimming their hooves. Some hooves grow very fast and in all directions while others
don't seem to grow at all or will trim their self through walking. You may very well
have a Grand Champion animal that could walk perfectly straight as long as there
was an electric grinder or a dedicated hoof trimmer around but have a hard time walking
200 yards after 6 months without any "high maintenance". We see it over and over
on our farm. Some animals have hooves than need constant care and others that never
seem to need any attention. There have been many, many animals win show points just
because they had such a straight walk. Is that the animal's genetics or the skill
of the breeder in trimming. Achieving "low maintenance" will require focusing on
the genetics that need little if any hoof trimming to keep them easily walking the
pastures without well trained hoof trimmers with full employment.
Lets call this a good start on listing issues where the industry may have been misled
in what makes up an outstanding Boer goat.