Nubian Ibex crosses at Porter Valley Ranch
Originally from the Middle East, the Nubian Ibex is currently a vulnerable population with wild numbers estimated around 1,200. Hunting decimated the population of Nubian Ibex in the last century, but protections, wildlife reserves, and breeders in the United States have helped bring that population back up in recent years. One of those breeders is Porter Valley Ranch.
Located in Oklahoma, the Porter family are multi-generational ranchers. However, only the last two generations have bred rare and exotic animal breeds. Their philosophy is that it takes the same amount of land, feed, and care to raise exotic breeds as it does the standard breeds, but the exotic breeds yield a much higher return. While there is a better return on their time invested, Josh and Rachel Porter also realize that some of these rare breeds, including the Nubian Ibex, can be more fragile and losing one is more detrimental to the operation.
Choosing the Nubian Ibex
Josh’s dad was the first to bring the Nubian Ibex to the ranch after years of trying out many other exotic breeds such as longhorn cattle (rarer at the time than now), textile sheep, and whitetail deer. The choice to remain with the Nubian Ibex as a focus of the ranch was partly due to his background as a pastor. Josh’s dad, through his study of animals and the Bible, believes the Nubian Ibex to be the same breed as the ram that Abraham sacrificed on the mountain in place of his son, Isaac. He felt a personal connection to this particular breed of ibex.
Josh has continued the breeding of Nubian Ibex but is working to improve the breed. Most Nubian Ibex in the United States are owned by zoos or some private owners who usually bought a second generation Ibex from a zoo. This gives a fairly limited breeding pool. Many of the Nubian Ibex are inbred and not very healthy. They are prone to parasite overload and often struggle to reproduce either through failure to settle pregnancy or the kids not living long past birth. The best way to combat this is to bring in some different genetics. However, breeding a different goat to an Ibex does not give you a true Ibex.
Improving the Nubian Ibex
Josh’s program to bring health back into the Nubian Ibex population is long-term. It takes at least 4 or 5 generations after crossing a single goat into the Ibex line before the offspring start to look like a full-blooded Nubian Ibex. Josh and Rachel’s goal is for the “finished product” to be at about 90% Nubian Ibex genes. However, even at that percentage undesirable recessive traits such as smooth horns instead of ridged can still pop up. This breeding program seems to work best when the offspring are line-bred back to a pure-blood Nubian Ibex buck. While line breeding can assist in solidifying the desirable traits, it is a fine line to walk. It is necessary to have a larger herd of at least 30-50 animals to avoid inbreeding.
Because there is no registration system, it is difficult or even impossible to know the bloodlines of a Nubian Ibex here in the US. A very small percentage are pure or close to pure. To find the best Ibexes, you must go to a zoo or someone who buys from zoos. Inbred Ibexes are not always easy to spot. Often their inbreeding is not discovered until several months down the road when they consistently fail to either get pregnant or birth healthy kids.
Livestock Fit the Owners
You may now be asking where any money might be is breeding these Nubian Ibex if they are often fragile or their genetics are too watered down. There is certainly a market for exotic animals in the US, but it is often seasonal. Hunting ranches will often buy exotic game for hunters, and there are occasionally large sales for exotic animals. If seeking to purchase at these sales or ranches, be sure to research if you need a permit to own your desired animal.
Josh Porter believes that a person’s livestock should reflect their personality. It is easier to build a bond with animals that you are interested in and connect with. Josh’s herd is currently split between his ranch and his dad’s ranch. The ones at his ranch are just as bonded with his family as the dogs. While most ranches raising Nubian Ibex require a ten-foot fence to contain them, Josh’s bonded herd are kept in a 4-foot fence. They can easily jump it, and one does on occasion to graze a different area before jumping back in. However, Josh has found that even though the ibex is considered an exotic wild animal, it can easily be a loveable pet if raised as one.
At Porter Valley Ranch, there is a passion about teaching basic business principles. Rachel and Josh are both entrepreneurs at heart, and they wish to share their knowledge. This begins at home with their sons. They give their sons each a sheep or goat with the expectation to care for it. The sons decide if their animal breeds and if it is sold or retained. Any offspring sold directly benefit the son, teaching them return on their work. The Porters also share much of their business knowledge through their blog and Youtube channel. While they are new to the “homesteading” community, they firmly believe that even hobby farmers can make their hobby self-sustaining. While we often accept that our hobbies cost money (especially goats), there are ways to make sure that you can afford to keep enjoying your hobby long-term, especially if they happen to be Nubian Ibex.
Originally appeared in March/April 2022 Goat Journal and vetted for accuracy.