South African Boer Bok

Autumn Olive Farms is a family based operation in Augusta County. We have a dual focus model with a singular commitment to the health and wellness of the land, animal and the consumer. We raise the beautiful South African Boer Bok as an environmentally sound method to combat the invasive plant species problem while producing one of the finest and healthiest meats in the world right here in the Shenandoah Valley. The combination of the worlds premier, purpose bred and standardized meat goat with the fantastic forage base of invasive species here in the Valley provides a win-win situation for the land, its owner and the consumer.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Home for the Holidays........

The girls moved back to Autumn Olive Farm on Saturday. They still had a few days of forage left at their last site at the Culture Museum, but Saturday was the best day to move them back home. There is a final site behind the 1850 farm, but its far too wet now to brush hog the fencing lanes to move them there. Instead, they will clean a 7 acre site here over Thanksgiving and then we will move them one final time to their winter location close to the house and stands of large pine trees that provide them natural protection from the elements.

Both areas used to be a pasture over 25 years ago. It is now filled with Autumn Olives, Morrow's Honeysuckle, Red Cedar and Poison Ivy. In the winter loafing times the Boer Bok will eat the thin bark off the Autumn Olives, killing many in the process. This will allow the native grasses and plants to start growing back that much sooner.

Like last year, we will feed them high quality alfalfa/orchard grass hay and free choice minerals. It is over 21% protein this year and they will have no need for commercial feed at all! We use large round bales and unwrap it is needed on plastic, saving every bit of the pure alfalfa powder to put into old cattle mineral tubs. They do seem to lose all civility when we serve up the green crumbles. We can't imagine wasting it. The hay has almost no seed so the manure produced is of a very high quality that we incorporate into our vegetable gardens.

In the meantime, I am in the process of getting everything set up for my meat business. You know, all of the fun stuff... liability insurance, LLC, inspections, etc. (I received my Meat Handlers License today.) I should have samples to the restaurants the first week in December. I hope you will see Autumn Olive Farms Boer Bok on several menus locally in December. We had our meat reviewed by an Executive Chef and will post his review on the blog next week.

We will also be featured in some upcoming publications. I will keep you posted on that as well.

Thanks for keeping up with us and we hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

What a difference!

This picture shows where the brush hog went through thick honeysuckle and multi-flora rose to cut a path to run the fence. What a difference where the Boer Boks have been! You can now see what is under all of that thick growth of invasives. This allows for safe clearing of thick overgrown areas. They are now in the area on the right. This will be their last area to clean up before coming home for the holidays. :)

Before and After photos of the project areas

These are before and after pictures of site one. They cleaned up 18 acres in 19 days. As you can see they pretty much defoliated all of the invasives. When they defoliate a plant, the plant then puts its energy into sprouting new leaves where the leaves were plucked off by the Boer Boks. If the plant had been cut or mowed down, then it would put its energy into the root and sprout new shoots. After being defoliated several times the plant dies.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The girls made the paper again....

The Waynesboro News Virginian printed the news release from SRC&D about the goat project on page 7 of today's paper. We are glad they got the info about the project in the paper and hope to do a more thorough article with them at some point. They even have a picture of Clover browsing. The News Virginians website is limited and this article is not on the web. Below is a copy of the news release from SRC&D.

The Shenandoah Resource Conservation and Development Council announces a new project taking place at the Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton: goats eating invasive species to help reclaim pastures.

In conjunction with partners the Headwaters Soil and Water Conservation District and Autumn Olive Farms, this pilot land reclamation project involves South African Boer Bok goats browsing down Autumn Olive, vine and bush honeysuckle, multi-flora rose, oriental bittersweet and more. The goats must browse the invasive vegetation down several times in order to kill it.

Biological control of invasive species represents a viable alternative to the use of herbicides and their effects on streams and watersheds. While devouring the invasive plants, the goats are building soil and putting on weight to also create a healthy meat product.

The goats are fenced in with a special fence and protected by guardian dogs, specifically bred as working dogs to protect the goats from predators. The goats are moved from pasture to pasture and will come back next spring and summer to continue to browse down and ultimately eliminate invasive species from the grounds of the Frontier Culture Museum.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Boer Boks on front page of paper....

The Boer Boks are featured on the front page of the Staunton News Leader. You can click on the link under Project Links to view it. There are also 9 pictures of the goats you can access when looking at the article as well. It is a good article to let people know about the project and to answer the question.... What are goats like these doing at a place like this?

There are a few corrections to the printed article. (They corrected the article that is online.) The most important one is we did not receive a grant from USDA. We received a grant from a private family foundation through the Shenandoah Resource Conservation and Development Council, which is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization composed of volunteers across the Valley.

Somehow we ended up with a picture of our ugliest goat on the front page that isn't even a Boer Bok. She is Black Betty, a very old Nubian that we retired this year. She has a face only a mother could love. :)

We will have some more articles coming out soon and will keep you posted on when and where you can view them.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Quite a Scare...........

I went to check on the goats this afternoon and noticed they were all in a tight group on the hill. I called and called for the dogs and they did not come. Then I noticed that someone had opened the fence and they did not connect it properly and there was a gap between the poles big enough for the dogs to get out. I continued to call the dogs for a couple of minutes and got no response. I called Clay to alert him to the possibility that something bad had happened. I fixed the fence and went looking for the dogs.

The goats were very nervous like something was wrong. When the goats get scared they get in a tight group with the little ones in the middle and the older does on the outside. Kind of like circling the wagons.

It was breezy and I thought that the dogs might not be able to hear me calling. I walked halfway up the hill calling them and thankfully saw one tail bounding down the hill and then two more. I breathed a big sigh of relief and fed the dogs.

Now it was time to count the goats. They were still in a tight group which makes it impossible to get a head count. I called them down the hill and they were very reluctant to come past the area where the fence had been opened. I finally got them strung out enough to get a head count and only got 58. There should be 68! I counted two more times and still got the same number. I went to the car to get my list to figure out who was missing. Unfortunately I switched cars and left the notebook in the Suburban. (will put a list in both cars!)

I decided I would walk up to the top of the hill where the dogs came from to see if I could find the missing 10. Thankfully when I got to the top there they were! Of course one of them was Ginger. Those of you who know my goats will know that Ginger would be the ringleader of the missing ones. She "beats to her own drum." Princess and Black Betty were amongst them as well. How predictable!

I still don't know who opened the fence and what they were doing. I hope to talk to the guy who likes to watch them in the mornings to see if he saw anything. I alerted one of the dog walkers and she said she will start walking her dog in that area to check on things. She is usually there twice a day. How nice to have extra eyes and ears there.

I wish the goats and dogs could talk! Maybe not. :)

Thankfully Clay didn't have to drive out there. He was home picking Autumn Olive berries. When I got home had cooked a 5 gallon bucket of berries into a delicious sauce that we will can. Yum!

Friday, October 23, 2009

On the hill......

The Boer Boks are loving their new location on the hill behind the pond. What a site to drive up the first morning and see them all laying on the hill with the three dogs lying amongst them. We met a nice man that was parked across the road just watching and enjoying the scene.

They were all a bit sleepy though. I don't think they slept too well in their new location. It takes a couple of days for them to feel comfortable after they are moved.

Yes, I did say three dogs! We moved Zoe to the new location. It is a much larger area that can handle three dogs. Zoe is our Pyrenees that has untreatable mammary gland cancer. We had planned to breed her to our male Pyrenees x Komondor. She went into heat when she was a year old and developed mammary glands like she had milk. The Veterinarian said the only thing we could do was to spay her and the glands should go down. We had her spayed and her glands never went down and he said she would some day develop cancer. That was three years ago. We took her to the Veterinarian a few weeks ago and he said she now has cancer in her glands and her lymph nodes. She is doing well and he said she probably has a year or two before she can no longer work. We decided we would keep her home and retire her, but she was SO UNHAPPY! She barked and cried day and night. She did not like being here without the goats and other dogs. As soon as we took her to be with the other dogs and goats she was running around and so happy. We will let her continue to be with the herd as long as she can.

Clay took pictures of the new site and you can view them at this link

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

If you see goats walking down the boulevard don't be alarmed! They are not ordinary goats!

These are our herd of Boer Bok or "Farmers Goat" and they have been on the job at the Frontier Culture Center in Staunton, VA since September 30th clearing invasive plant species.

They are being used as Biological Control Agents and are doing a great job so far. In fact they
already need to be moved to a new location on site. We will be moving them today to Site #2, a thick area on the hill above the pond. I will now be blogging on a regular basis to let you know how the project is going.

We are pleased with the progress to date. They have cleaned up the 14 acres in Site #1 a week sooner than expected. They all seem to have adjusted well. Their body conditions look really good on the new forage. These Boer Bok only eat forage and alfalfa/orchard grass hay in the winter. This is a completely natural diet as we do not use supplemental grain or feed. Some of the does are actually fat on their forage diet of Invasive Species! Clay has taken quality photos to document and demonstrate what these Boer Bok can do.
Go to our Flickr site to view the photos:
They are the Frontier Culture Center Project Sets.

We have a brochure available at the Museum store and Visitors Center that gives details on the project. Here is the link to the Shenandoah Resource Conservation and Development Council website where you can see the brochure

The dogs have also adjusted to their new location. We have two on site right now protecting the herd. It is amazing to me how the dogs know who and what is a threat. I was very concerned about the dog walkers and how our dogs would react to them. Much to my amazement, the dogs quickly figured out that these dogs are okay. They give a warning bark and then go about their business of protecting the herd. We have enjoyed meeting the dog walkers and appreciate them keeping an eye on the herd when they are there.