Living out in the country our thoughts turn to the possibilities of raising our own food, getting close to our ancestral roots, close to nature and closer to our own food source. Some in the valley have been more successful than others at this; experimenting with raising what feeds us and makes a ranch a home. In this column I will share some about that experience; the home farm and the ranch animals that bring an interesting flare to ‘The Countryside of Life.
One experiment I will share is my goat and sheep herd. Goats and what is called hair sheep which are well suited to our very brushy and mostly dry terrain in Anza and the surrounding areas. I was told by an acquaintance that her neighbor had hair sheep and goats and they just had babies so we arranged to go see them. We ended up coming home with one nanny goat kid who was ready to leave its mom with the thought we may be back to get some younger hair sheep when they were old enough to leave their mother. This was because of the wild nature of the animals. The hope was getting them young and handling them would tame them some.
Well, our first goat Miss Trinket as we called her, was a lovely roan red spotted and white Boer/Nubian cross nanny kid. She was not happy all by herself and would not be consoled. So after several days of her constant bleating we gave up and went back to the rancher to get some friends for her, bringing home two female Barbados hair sheep lambs. That was the beginning of a grand adventure.
Goats and hair sheep are grazers and can live on eating brush but do not thrive well in continually moist areas. Anza is perfect for this as if one could not buy hay these animals could live on our natural flora. They also love that intrusive mustard weed. They are the only livestock I have ever known that loves it.
Boer goats are beautiful and muscular. They proudly wear a red hood that cover their heads, running down their neck and sometimes their front parts. They are white from there on back in this combination known as the “Traditional.” They are striking in red and white but the do come in different hues from tan to brown and even in some cases, black. Most have the pattern of the solid color up front with white snips to blazes on their noses and with front stockings to ones that have spots of color through their white half too. The purebloods have roan noses and both sexes grow horns that sweep back.
The breed’s name Boer means “Farmer” in the Dutch language. This is fitting as it was a Dutch stockman living in North Africa in the early 20th century who developed the breed. He selectively crossed African goats and European dairy goats for their size, early maturity, rapid weight gain and meatiness. It was not until 1993 that the first Boer goats were released from quarantine and made their way to ranches across Canada and the U.S. It is noteworthy that the breed is probably the most popular meat goat bred in North America today.
The Boer breed is known for their easygoing temperament. Bucks or billys (adult male goats) grow to weigh approximately 250 to 350 pounds and does, or nannies, (adult females) can weigh from 150 to 250 pounds. Boer nannies are known to be prolific kidders, often having multiple births of twins and triples (a kid is a baby goat). Unlike most breeds of goats Boar nannies have four functioning teats – not just two and produce a rich milk high in butterfat. Because of their unique abilities purebred register specimens fetch a hefty price in the market. Boers are registered by three American organizations, The American Boer Goat Association, International Boer Goat Association and United States Boer Goat Association.
The breed is often crossed with other breeds. Here in America, some of the fastest maturing, most efficient meat goats are being created by crossing Boer with Kiko goats. The American Kiko Goat Association maintains a herdbook for Genemaster goats which is the crossbreed goats created by register Boer and Kiko goats.
More about goats and my goat life here in Anza in the next column of “The Countryside of Life.”