PW Botha lost his heart on Boer goats during childhood and today his love for this breed remains undeniable. Stockfarm recently visited his Eastern Cape farm, Slabertina, near Jansenville. PW believes that each goat has a unique personality. “They all have different temperaments and, besides their obvious intelligence, they just are a different type of animal to farm with. It gives me pleasure to work with them.”
According to him, Boer goats don’t have issues, except for their predisposition to walk far and climb through wire fences. Fortunately, he has a solution for this in the form of a drone that makes the tracking process much easier.
Before PW started farming he had his own electrical contracting business which allowed him to visit countries in Africa a number of times. Because the area is relatively disease-free, he bought land between Jansenville and Klipplaat 16 years ago and started farming part-time with cattle, Dorper sheep and Boer goats. “Seven years ago I tackled full-time Boer goat farming and registered my stud – the PW Botha Boer Goat Stud.”
He believes the reason this breed is chosen by people to farm with is the large number of multiplets yielded and the fact that it stimulates cash flow. “Our breeders’ society is very active and there is a strong market for Boer goats in South Africa, as well as in African countries such as Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe.”
He is part of a group of five producers, known as Karoo Boer Goats, who focus on veld-adapted rams for their annual auctions. “All our five-month-old rams are kept at one of the breeders who has the best veld at that stage, where they are grown out until the age of twelve months. Approximately three months before an auction the chosen rams are rounded off in a feedlot so that they are in good condition. We offer rams and ewes for sale at our auctions.”
PW initially attended several courses to refine his knowledge of Boer goats. “You need to know the breed very well and learn as much as possible about it if you want to be a stud breeder,” he says. The South African Boer Goat Breeders’ Association approached him at one stage to write a judges’ examination, and he has been acting as a selector and judge at various shows for a number of years.
The Boer goat course presented by PW in Jansenville during September is an annual institution. “People from as far as Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Uganda usually attend.”
He sells Boer goats from his herd and stud in countries such as Zimbabwe and Botswana, where he presents courses on invitation. At the same time, he uses the opportunity to visit his clients. “Role-players in Zambia and Uganda recently approached me to present courses there as well.”
Intensive lambing camps
According to PW, it takes a lot of time and attention to obtain a good weaning yield, and it pays 100% to devote all your attention to the lambing process. He made use of lambing pens in the past but found that some of the ewes will stay there for too long before starting to lamb. “I was impressed by the lambing camps owned by Fransie Fourie, one of the farmers in our area. I set up a similar system on my farm and have never looked back.”
PW says his Boer goats have two or sometimes three lambing seasons, with around 150 ewes per lambing season. “The smaller groups of goats allow me more control than with a big herd.”
He performs a laparoscopy on each ewe and 17 days later a group of follow-up rams are placed with the ewes for 19 days. “The ewes are scanned six weeks after the rams were removed. This allows me to distinguish between the ewes that underwent a laparoscopy and those covered by the rams. There is a 17-day lapse before the second group of ewes start lambing.”
PW uses 24ha of irrigated land on which he plants oats for the winter lambing season and teff in summer. “The ewes that were impregnated using laparoscopy are brought to the lambing camps next to the fields a week before the lambing period, where they can relax and get to know their environment. I put ten to 15 ewes in a camp and they usually start lambing a few days later.”
The ewes that have already lambed graze on the fields during the day. “After a month they access the field during the day by jumping over a jump gate while the kids stay behind in the camp – here they can feed on creep feed. The ewes return before the end of the day, after which the kids can suckle.
“The reason I use creep feed is that the kids can be weaned at two and a half months and the ewes can return to the veld and be placed with a ram earlier. This also means the kids reach their target market weight at four months and that I can then start selecting for breeding and herd animals.”
Control over kids
The rest of the pregnant ewes that start lambing 17 days later, must then be brought to the lambing camps. “In this way I have full control and each kid can be saved – as opposed to ewes that lamb on the veld where predators such as caracal, jackal and crows have easy access to the kids. The number of kids I retain thanks to the intensive lambing camps are just so much more.”
PW says the kids are dosed against milk tapeworm when they are one month old. “Afterwards they receive a broad-spectrum dose at two months. I dose only if needed. At weaning age, the kids usually contract scabby mouth which is treated with great care. Once the first kids show signs of the disease, I isolate and treat them immediately.”
Profitable with strict selection
According to the South African Boer Goat Breeders’ Association, selection aimed at determining whether it is a stud or herd goat, should be performed when they reach the age of ten months. After selection PW markets the ewes.
He selects the rams very strictly and culls those that are not on par. “I weigh the rams on a regular basis and ensure that they have good feed conversion figures and meet the prescribed breed standards. Our market is commercial producers and it is therefore important to breed veld-adapted Boer goats.”
PW believes there is an excellent market for breeding animals, which fetch a much better price than normal slaughter goats. “I recommend strongly that anyone who wants to farm profitably with Boer goats, should seriously consider investing in breeding animals that meet the breed standards.” –Carin Venter, Stockfarm
For more information, phone PW Botha on 082 800 9310 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.