I recently got the chance to visit Emily, a passionate goat breeder based in South Norfolk. Emily has been brought up on her family farm which also includes pigs, cattle, sheep and donkeys! Emily first introduced goats onto the farm at the age of 15 and has grown her herd rapidly since then. I was really looking forward to meeting Emily and her goats, as goats are something I really have very little understanding about, or come into much contact with. What I realised was they have very inquisitive natures and rather stubborn but they will do anything for food!
Emily's herd consists of 35 goats including her handsome buck, Goliath pictured here with one of his 2018 kids.
How long have you had goats and how did you become interested in them?
I first bought two pedigree female Saanen goats (A dairy breed) at the age of fourteen; after carrying out lots of research into keeping goats and a fascination of the species itself. My grandfather and uncle used to have goats when I was younger, and can vividly remember helping with kids from a young age.
How many goats do you have?
At present, I own two herds of goats. My main herd consists of 35 Boer Goats (which includes all Does, Kids, Doelings and my Buck, Goliath) and my second herd consists of 5 Pygmy goats, a new new venture for me!
What numbers do you hope to get up to?
Myself and my father have just purchased another herd of Commercial Boer Goats, consisting of 33 breeding females. We plan to keep the herds separate so we can monitor closely which goats give progeny to have the best growth rates, to compare. We hope that by 2020 we will be breeding 75-100 Does from our closed herd … Watch this space!
One of Emily's commercial goats.
What made you choose Boer Goats?
I soon realised that the dairy goats were producing far more milk than we could get through and with being at school at the time it was a huge commitment to get up and milk. So, in the summer of 2010 I purchased Peace, who was in kid at the time. Peace is a 75% Boer. When she kidded she produced far less milk, but enough to sustain her kid- I then made the decision to sell my dairy goats and go more into Boer goats. I always knew that there was a gap in the market for goat meat around this area through going into local butcher shops and asking for it, so I knew that it would be worthwhile looking into raising the kids for meat. (May I remind you that I made this decision at the young age of fifteen!)
Where do they originate and what is their history?
The Boer Goat originates from South Africa and was developed in the early 1900’s for meat production. Its ability to produce excellent carcass conformation coupled with a fast growth rate is second to none, which has been improved over the years through a selective breeding programme. UK Boers were imported from Europe in the late 1980’s although, the year 2000 had seen more importations from Canada and New Zealand to strengthen the genetic pool; this is due to the EEC regulation dis-allowing direct imports from South Africa to UK.
Emily with one of her breeding Boer does.
Boer goats are well known for their meat, is this something you are interested in developing and promoting with your herd?
Goat meat has a taste between lamb and beef, so it appeals to many people. In addition, it is low in cholesterol, high in iron and ounce for ounce having less fat than chicken with about the same amount of calories- this is what makes this meat so popular and a great alternative for the health conscious. The meat taken from a Boer or a Boer cross kid is generally better in both texture and flavour than the meat taken from a dairy animal, as is the compassion between dairy and beef cows.
I plan to keep all of my castrated male kids from 2019 onwards to fatten for meat, which I shall supply local butchers and sell direct to customers. All of our meat produced shall be from young stock which will be bred on our farm in South Norfolk, and shall be between the ages of 6 – 18 months old, as we believe this is when kid meat is at its prime for flavour.
In regards to promoting the meat, I believe that the power of social media will help us lots, I already have a Facebook page; Homeleigh Farm Boer Goats which has a huge following- check us out!
Boer goats are known for their excellent carcass conformation.
Do you find the Boer goats to be good mothers?
Definitely, I find that they are very docile and attentive to their young. They are far easier to kid than what a sheep is to lamb, in my personal experience!
What do you plan to do with this years kids (2018)?
I have sold all of my male, castrated kids for this year, they will leave the farm in mid June. I have had so many emails and messages of people wanting to ‘Give Goat A Go’ this year and I have happily sold them. I think its really important to encourage other people to get the enjoyment out of them, as I do!
All of the doe kids which I have bred this year, I plan to keep to form as replacements for my herd number one! These doe kids will be first bred in 2020.
How many kids does one goat tend to have?
Goats are very much like sheep, in that you would hope that they will give birth to twins. I always have said that I would rather have a herd of goats giving birth to twins than anything else; this is due to goats having two teats. If a goat gives birth to a single, there is usually too much milk produced and therefore a risk of mastits to the doe, similarly if the doe gives birth to triplets, it usually results in the fostering of one of the kids onto another doe (which can result in the kid becoming abandoned) or bottle feeding every 4 hours!
How long do you keep the kids with their mothers?
As a general rule of thumb, we wean when the youngest kid reaches three months old. By this point they are eating creep feed more than they are drinking from their mother. I always monitor both kid and mother closely during the first three months and if I feel a mother isn’t giving the kid/kids what they need I will wean early and/or bottle feed supplement, depending on the age of the kid at the time.
A group of Emily's 2018 born kids enjoying the creep feed.
What do you look for in a ‘good goat’?
A very good question! … As I breed primarily for the meat market, I would look for good conformation (structural correctness), good appearance (size, width and depth of body along with good muscling), good length in the back loin is important as this is one of the best cuts and good health and condition. I always ask, when buying a goat what the sellers health status is, if the goat is up to date with its vaccination and worming programme and if the goat / herd has been CLA, CAE and Johnes monitored.
What is your favourite thing about owning goats?
I love the way that they always seem so happy to see me, they all have different personalities. I also like the way that they all keep me on my toes, I am forever having to out think them… where are they going to try to escape from next is usually the thought that goes through my mind on a daily basis!
What advise would you give someone looking to get into goats?
I have owned goats for rising 8 years now, Its had its highs and lows but that is livestock for you! If you are willing to work hard, never give up and strive to succeed with them, you will go far. Advice that my father gave me right from the start is ‘Where there is livestock, there is dead-stock...’ - This is a hard fact of life that you need to be prepared to deal with, as long as you do your up most best for a goat you will do well!… other advice includes make sure you have good fencing, I have seen a goat jump a 5ft high gate!
A massive thank you to Emily for taking the afternoon to show me around her farm and introducing me to her herd of goats. If you would like to see more of Homeleigh Farm Boer Goats, you can follow them on Facebook and Instagram.
Facebook - @HomeleighFarmBoerGoats
Instagram - @homeleigh_farm_boer_goats
I am Izzi, farmer’s daughter and textile designer at IzziRainey. If I am not designing or sewing you will find me out in the farmyard with my cattle. I am constantly seeking inspiration for my prints, not that I have to look very far. Growing up on the farm, I have always been influenced by my surroundings and this combined with my passion for farming is what inspires my designs. I love spending time on the farm but I also enjoy learning about other people’s animals, passions and stories, which are also influential to my design process. I hope you enjoy reading ‘Over the Farm Gate’