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Vet on Call: Fact and fiction about Boer goat

Friday October 27 2017

The Boer goat is characterised by a white body with a red head and some red colour on at least some part of the neck.

The Boer goat is characterised by a white body with a red head and some red colour on at least some part of the neck. PHOTO | JOSEPH MUGACHIA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

DR JOSEPH MUGACHIA
By DR JOSEPH MUGACHIA
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The quail bubble tantalised Kenyans for a few years before bursting in 2014.

Late entrant farmers were left holding large number of eggs and birds with no market.

I recall one of my sons slaughtering all his quails and telling us, “My fiancé and I are inviting you guys for an exclusive quail dinner.”

He had six months earlier pleaded with me to jointly start quail farming.

I turned him down, and told him quail was a hoax based on unscientific claims of supernatural medicinal powers of the bird’s meat and eggs.

After the quail fantasy that social media enthusiasts baptised “quailamid”, Kenyans have become more cautious on any superiority claims on farming.

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I get calls many times enquiring on different types of animals. Some are real while others are just figments of a gold digger’s imagination.

Some days ago, I got a call from Ben in Narok. “Hi Doc, would you know of a strange animal called the Boer goat?” he asked hesitatingly.

Ben told me he had heard of the Boer goat from his friend and the claims on the animal were outrageous.

“But you see, I am a businessman and if the claims are close to what the guy said, I would want to try the goat,” he concluded.

He told me he did not believe the goat was real but did not want to dismiss it offhand. His friend had told him the goat was a huge animal from abroad and could weigh up to 300kg but eat almost nothing.

Apparently, the goat could thrive on very poor forage and therefore was well suited for Narok.

His friend had said he could organise for Ben to get a few for trial at a cost of Sh70,000 each.

SPECIAL BREED OF GOAT

I had already got a number of inquiries on the Boer goat from various people prior to Ben and responded to them individually.

The twist of a broker in Ben’s story, with the exaggerations I noticed, got me keying this article in the interest of those who may wish to invest in the Boer goat.

I advised Ben to look up for my reply in the Seeds of Gold and ensure his broker friend also reads it.

The animal is truly a special breed of goat. It was bred by the South Africans in the 1900 specifically for meat production.

The name Boer means farmer in Afrikaans.

The Boer goat (simply Boer) is characterised by a white body with a red head and some red colour on at least some part of the neck.

The red colour may look brown in some individual animals. The animal is graceful to watch when fed and managed well.

The uniformity of colour is amazing especially when the goats are displayed as a herd.

There are few one-colour Boer goats but scientifically, there is no evidence that they are superior to the red and white breed standard.
Boer goats have large drooping ears and some people tend to mistake them for sheep due to the shape of the muzzle.

The animals are stocky with short legs and compact blocky body that allows them to pack in a large quantity of meat.

The pure bred Boer is docile, fast-growing and has high fertility.

They are loved for producing mainly twins and triplets. Boer goats have a tendency to have multiple teats going up to four but not all the teats produce milk.

The characteristic head colour is always expressed when the Boer is crossbred with other goats. It is, therefore, easy for goat buyers to identify goat cross-breeds with Boer genes.

Such crosses normally fetch higher prices than other goats as they tend to grow faster and bigger than the local goats.

LOW MEAT TO FAT RATIO

Once the Boer is introduced into a country, it quickly attains high demand because of its fast growth rate, high meat proportion to body weight, high fertility and adaptability to diverse environments.

These are the attributes that were highly deficient in the quail.

Fast growth rate is a good indicator of high feed conversion efficiency.

The Boer, therefore, has a high feed conversion enabling it to lay down meat fast and attain market weight in shorter periods than other goats.

Such meat is also tender and with good nutritional balance, has a low meat to fat ratio, meaning it is the desirable mouth-watering lean meat.

The Boer is the size champion of all the domestic goats in the world. An adult female, called a doe, weighs between 86 and 104kg live weight.

On the other hand, a mature male, technically called a buck, posts 91 to 154kg.

That means the mature doe and buck would give dressed carcasses of about 44 to 53kg and 46 to 79kg of meat respectively.

This is way superior to the 13 to 35kg obtained with mature Kenyan goats.

Of course studies are required to determine the profitability of rearing the Boer in Kenya considering that as a bigger goat, it would tend to eat more than the smaller goat.

Nonetheless, the fact that the goat produces multiple kids, grows faster and attains slaughter weight much earlier than the local goats supports superiority of the breed over local ones.

SUITABLE FOR EXPORT

The Boer, when properly fed and managed, is able to pack in 200g of weight per day, attaining 30 to 35kg live weight in about five months.

There are very few Boers in Kenya and hence their purchase prices are high.

They are, however, not anywhere close to the price the broker had offered Ben.

Currently, a mature two-year-old buck weighing about 100kg may fetch Sh60,000.

Young stock of five to 12 months fetch between Sh30,000 and Sh50,000 depending on whether they are does or bucks. The does are cheaper.

The Boer is expensive because most buyers require the goats for breeding either as pure or for upgrading local stocks.

I can predict that as more people adopt the Boer in Kenya and the goat is available for slaughter in large numbers, the prices for slaughter stock will drop to correspond to meat market prices.

For Ben and others wishing to invest in the Boer, the strategy should be to quickly establish breeding herds to supply breeding stock.

This will build the Boer population in Kenya to initiate and sustain slaughter for the meat market.

The Boer is also suitable for the export meat market because of its fast growth and the reduced rearing time.