Hardy Boer Meat Goats
Our Pasture Program for Boer Goats and Meat Goats
Pictured above, Boer Goats Graising Max Q Fescue and Durana White Clover on August 20th, 2009
Pastures are very important for keeping the costs of raising goats down. We purchase all of the hay we feed. During a normal year we feed very little purchased feed or hay from April through December. In January and March our goats receive about 50% of their nutrition from purchased feed and hay, the balance from pasture. In February they receive all of their nutrition from purchased feed and hay. During droughts or cooler than normal winters we have to feed more. In north central Arkansas the two pasture plants with the longest growing season are fescue and white clover. While sprouts are great for goats they have the shortest growing season (5 months) of anything a goat will eat, and they will not survive more than three years in a permanent goat pasture. Some have suggested that permanent sprout pastures could be maintained for goats by rotational grazing. The problem with this theory is that the leaves on sprouts wax over shortly after they emerge and after waxing over they have very little nutritional value. To keep sprouts nutritious throughout the growing season they must be grazed constantly.
We use turkeys to control grasshoppers in our pastures. One grasshopper per square yard will eat as much forage as one cow per acre. We also have wild turkeys that help controle grasshoppers in our back pastures.
Fescue toxicity caused by a fungus (entophyte) which infects the fescue, causes poor condition and health problems in goats. Goats and cattle react very differently to fescue toxicity. With cattle it is a problem during hot summer weather. Since goats will not eat toxic fescue when there is anything else for them to eat, fescue toxicity is a bigger problem for goats in the winter when fescue is the only grass available for them to eat. In the winter fescue uses sugar as anti-antifreeze making it very palatable for goats. There are varieties of fescue that are entophyte free, but these varieties are not hardy and do not produce well. A new variety of fescue called Max-Q has an entophyte that is non toxic and this variety is very hardy and produces very well in north central Arkansas . All of our pastures have Max-Q fescue and we like it very well. We believe it is the hardiest most productive grass one can grow in this area, and our goats do very well on it. This variety is patented, and the seed is marketed by Pennington seed. The seed is very expensive, but it is worth the extra money. Once established Max Q fescue is permanent, and very hardy. It will save money on purchased feed for many years. It will also make money through improved animal health and increasd production. The fungus is only spread through the seed. When the fescue has seed on it do not let your goats travel between fields that have toxic fescue and fields that have non-toxic fescue. Do not feed any hay that has toxic fescue seed in it. The toxic fungus can pass through the digestive tract of goats and infect clean fields if the goats eat any contaminated fescue seed.
For forty years we had over-seeded our pastures with ladino or regal varieties of white clover. We have had to do this every 2 to 3 years because white clover does not last very long in our climate. We had also over-seeded our pastures with Korean lespedeza each year to provide a high protein legume in the hot summer months when regal and ladino clovers go dormant. Five years ago we tried a new variety of white clover called Durana. It is much hardier than Regal or Ladino and does not go dormant during the hot summer months if plenty of moisture is availoable. The Durana clover has gotten thicker and produces better each year since we first planted it. It also does well on poor or acid soils where Regal and Ladino will not grow. It will even grow well when over-seeded on well established Bermuda grass. Durana white clover also produces better than Regal or Ladino in the winter. Unfortionately Duranna white clove did not survive the severe drouths we had in 2011 and 2012.Durana white clover is patented and marketed by Pennington seed.In the future we plan to use subterranean clover intead of white clover for our cool season legume. While subterranean clover is normally not suited for growing in the climate of northern Arkansas, a very hardy and persistent strain has been found growing on the farm of Ken and Candy Ziemer, twenty-five miles south of the Missouri border in north central Arkansas. This subterranean clover has re-seeded itself for forty eight years. It produces an abundance of forage every spring and most autumns and winters. Autumn and winter growth depends on the amounts of autumn rain and the mildness of the winters. See the article on subterranian clover.
We try to keep about one fourth of our pasture in Bermuda grass. It is best used on steep south slopes where fescue does not do well. Bermuda grass must be kept short or the goats will not eat it. The fall rain usually brings on new lush growth of Bermuda grass which is freeze dried into standing hay by the first frost at its ideal stage of growth. Goats will eat this standing Bermuda hay up to the end of December.
Goats must have a 2:1 calcium to phosphorus ratio in their diet. Grasses and legumes have a much higher Ca:P ratio than this. Cattle which are natural grassers can tolerate this higher Ca:P ratio, but goats which are natural browsers can not tolerate a high Ca:P ratio. Goats will not do well on grass/legume pastures unless they are fed a high phosphorus cattle mineral (12% Ca & 12% P) free choice. They will balance their own Ca:P ratio. If they are eating a lot of sprouts they will eat very little mineral. If they are eating grasses and legume they will eat more. Goats will not eat any white clover if they do not have a high phosphorus mineral free choice. Do not use sheep mineral for goats because it does not have enough copper for goats. Do not feed goat mineral to goats because it is too expensive and if the goats are on pasture or hay it does not have enough phosphorus.
Do not feed goats any feed that has the word goat or horse on the bag because it is too expensive. Cattle feeds work well for goats.
Come Visit Us and See Our Herd
is four miles south of Yellville, Arkansas, on Highway 14.