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, April 5, 2010

To our Sheep Farmer Friends........

In the recent "In the Kitchen" article April 1, the writer marvelously covered many facets of our Boer Bok program and did an outstanding job. On the concept of healthy foraging however we did not convey clearly to her one of the very important aspects that is causing so much damage in the goat industry and more specifically Boer Goat herd health. That is the topic of grazing vs browsing. In the article sheep were  attributed with being plagued with the intestinal parasite problem. Actually it is the goat and more specifically the boer goat that has suffered with this malady as a result of being managed like sheep and not goats. You can see the confusion, in fact most universities still teach this failed model or the latest version of it.  

We do not raise sheep but know that sheep are primarily grazers ie they eat grasses in a head down fashion similar to cattle.  Goats on the other hand are primarily browsers ie they eat the forages that are available at a higher level or head up much like their cousin the deer. The huge health issue with meat goats in this country has been the organized determination to raise goats like sheep and cattle. That is, to put them in a pasture management program where they have nothing to eat but grasses. It is GOATS and not sheep that are plagued with parasite issues from this design, even using rotational models.  

"Goats on grass", came about as best we can tell, as a well intentioned plan of how to effectively integrate the newly imported Boer Bok onto existing farms around the country in the late 1990's. We have been to numerous college seminars and each promoted a singular model of effective foraging on various grasses using rotational grazing techniques. Unfortunately this has been very much a "learn as you go" research lab where the standards continue to change as more bad health news confirmed the current models have been insufficient. So insufficient in fact that the Boer Bok, the finest meat goat in the world has suffered greatly. In our 5 years of active management we believe strongly and can validate that this "weakness" represents a failed management protocol and not a breed deficiency as is commonly bantered about. After much looking, we still know of no parasite problem in any herd where improper herd management is not the central cause. It would appear that folks can't successfully raise boer bok because they are not yet qualified to do so. It requires a model to fit the animal for there to be success and although not perfected yet we are having that success.

It sounds so simplistic for us to say "these goats are eating what they were designed to eat," but it is in fact, the difference in success and failure for the meat goat industry. Using our invasive plant species model in the valley as our primary forage base, we have seen our herd health issues plummet when compared to our previous model in NC. There we had a modified model trying to make the standardized university models work by using rotational pastures supplemented with head up foraging in timbered woodlands and right of ways. That required us to go "old school", taking out the whole herd once or twice daily on free ranging expeditions in the woodlands or along a utility easement beside the highway. We met a lot of people who were so amazed that the boer bok could work literally along the side of the highway with no barriers, eating their way on at least 30 varieties of plants. It would only take one hour for them to be bulging full and ready to head home for some quality "cud time".

We do appologize to the writer and to all the fine sheep produces for the lack of clarity on this important and complicated topic. This problem is with the meat goat producers and not the sheep.

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