Boer Goats: Beyond the Meat
Can You Milk Boer Goats?
Reading Time: 5 minutes
What are Boer goats even good for? They’re good for meat. Goat tacos. Food for human consumption. They’re like all the other species meant for slaughter, correct? Cornish chickens, Angus beef, and Yorkshire pigs.
As a person who personally knows several Boer goats, let me begin to correct this assumption.
Boer goats are loving. They are sweet. They have a wide array of silly personalities, common among goats. They are snack hogs and chronic personal space abusers. They are also known for giving slobbery, whiskery goat kisses, and getting into mischief.
Boers are one of the best-known meat breeds, but they are significantly more than that as well. Due to selective breeding, Boers grow remarkably fast and have a meaty carcass. A good line of Boers will reach butcher age by three months. Should one search “Meat Goat” in any major search engine, around 90% of the photos will be of Boers. I invite you to notice, however, their sweet faces and how superbly fluffy they are as well.
Did you know Boers are great mothers? They are arguably one of the best breeds when it comes to mothering instincts, not only in my own experience but from what I’ve read about them as well. I run a herd of Boer crosses specifically for this reason. Kidding season is a stressful time for even the most experienced of goat owners. I have come to appreciate the ability and natural instincts my Boer moms show.
I’ve had one goat, Wednesday, from the time she was a kid. She has had four kidding seasons here and not once during those four years have I witnessed the act. I always try to catch her kidding, but every year I go out to the pen to find her nonchalantly chewing her cud, a new baby or two at her side, looking at me like, “Oh, what, this little thing? Yeah, I just birthed it. You missed it. Again.” I’ve never felt so judged by a goat for being a slacker until I met Wednesday, but I am so grateful she can handle the job without me.
Although a typically considered a meat breed, something I hear often is, “Can you milk Boer goats?” My answer? Yes! After the moms have their kids, they don’t just become obsolete for another season. Boers have very creamy, rich milk. It has a high butterfat content and is comparable in taste to the best milking breeds. I don’t find my girls difficult to milk, and they are perfect for my homestead.
Boers have a smaller milking window than milking breeds. A good milk goat can lactate for up to 10 months, whereas Boers begin to dry up around six months. I enjoy the shorter milking window. Milking is a time-intensive chore and needs to be done at least once a day while the doe is lactating. I give kudos to anyone who milks for ten months straight, takes two glorious months off, then does it all over again. I love fresh milk, and I love utilizing what my girls give me. But ten months. Whew. Not for me. Even my goats would laugh at me at that point.
Many farmers are moving toward using Boer goats for companion animals or pets. For anyone who has ever wondered how long Boer goats live, rejoice, for they can live up to 20 years. Females typically outlive the males, but overall Boers seem to have a high resistance to common goat diseases and can outlive most other breeds with proper care. This makes them great choices for pets due to their considerable lifespan and mellow attitude.
Boers are also excellent goats for showing. Many people opt to get into showing Boers not only because of their longevity but because of their “gentle giant” personae and a gorgeous array of coat colors. We’ve all seen the traditional Boer with the white body and red head. However, the breed standard as defined by the American Boer Goat Association states, “The typical Boer goat is white-bodied with a red head, but no preference is given to any hair color.” They come in any color imaginable, with so many beautiful combinations. Boer goat color can be dapple, have moon spots, be polka-dotted, black, brown, red, white, tan, or any variation of these. Owning a herd of Boer goats is like having a pack of affectionate, delightful flowers. Flowers that give milk, love, and kisses.
I asked a few Boer breeders what their favorite thing about Boers is and received some valuable responses. Carli Fripp of Fripp Family Farm answered, “I love the size, build, and durability of the Boer. They are tough and resilient to parasites and predators.”
Kristin from Bleating Heart Farm added, “They have so much personality! Very friendly, calm demeanors, and extremely loving. They have so much more to offer than being a commodity.”
With anything, there are some downsides to owning Boers. I can certainly think of a few and I will address them to nip any hearsay in the bud now. All good arguments offer a fair assessment and representation of both sides.
- Boers are big. While you are around these magnificent creatures, you will always be fighting the urge to go for a ride. So will your kids. You must be prepared for this reality and be the adult. Say no.
- Boers are expensive. Once you have one or two Boers, you’ll want to buy more. You’ll spend all your money on your goats or planning to buy more goats. You’ll also want to buy them all the snacks because they beg and plead with their eyes. You’ll be in the aisle at your local feed store, and flashback to your Boer guilting you the last time you came back without a snack, and be forced to buy a little something-something. Every. Single. Time.
- Boers are phenomenal cuddlers and incredibly affectionate. You’ll consider the repercussions of having a lap goat. (Are there any? Really?) You’ll decide it’s worth it, then have to explain why you and your 300-pound companion goat are knees-deep into the first season of The Walking Dead, eating popcorn together on the couch when your significant other comes home.
- Boers get you. You’ll wonder if the airlines will accept an emotional support goat. You’ll actually call your local airport to ask. You’ll be upset when they say no.
- Boers are brilliantly resourceful. They know how to get out of places and squeeze into other places they can’t quite fit into yet also can’t get back out of. They know.
- Boers are confident. They pose for pictures. Your other goats will look drab compared to these meaty supermodels.
The good clearly outweighs the bad when it comes to owning Boer goats. There is little more endearing on a farm than a fluffy, chunky, boundary-pushing animal trying to get at the crackers in your jacket pocket because she knows she can get away with it. Boers are the perfect all-around lovable goat. They are excellent pets, companion animals, milkers, meat producers, and entertainment. When shopping for your next goat, consider the Boer, because they’re more than meat.
Originally published in the October/November 2019 issue of Goat Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.