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FARM CHRONICLE

Max Boer Goats
by Sally Colby


“I observe the goats to evaluate them as individuals and for breeding purposes,” says Julie Maxwell, who spends a lot of time watching her herd of Boer goats. This statement might give the impression that selecting the best doe-to-buck match in breeding meat goats is simply a matter of watching animals. But observation is just one of many critical management steps that Maxwell and her husband Dave rely on as they fine-tune one of the top-performing meat goat herds in the nation.

The Maxwells currently have about 80 production animals along with 100 head of young stock on their farm in Lykens, PA. MAX Boer goats place consistently at the top in shows, and perform consistently in herds across the nation.

Maxwell says that they started small “out of necessity,” but realize that starting small is the best way for those who want to join the growing number of meat goat producers. Although their herd has some of the most in-demand names in Boer goats today, Julie is quick to point out that pedigree isn’t everything.

“Never pay big dollars simply based on an animal's pedigree. This is one of the biggest mistakes people make,” says Maxwell. “Look at the animal, evaluate the animal as an individual first and foremost. Never buy a goat from its papers alone. You can have a goat whose pedigree is loaded with ennoblements that should be in a meat pen and not used as a production animal.”

Maxwell also cautions buyers to look beyond appearance. “A buck can look fantastic and not be a good producer. The test of great buck is his ability to pass on his best traits to his offspring and do so consistently.”

Although the process of selecting a top-quality goat seems impossible, Maxwell willingly helps anyone interested in meat goats, and emphasizes the importance of bucks in the herd.

“Buy the best buck you can afford,” says Maxwell. “The buck is the key to your herd and influences the entire herd from product to animals retained for breeding. If you are breeding for brood stock or show, learn how to select a herd sire to compliment your does, or vice versa.” “Do your homework before you even look at an animal. Familiarize yourself with breed standards and have an idea about the market you would like to focus on, then choose your herd sire accordingly.”

Although careful selection of does and bucks at breeding time has paid off in the show ring and with satisfied customers, deciding which animals to retain for breeding can be tough. “We base the decision on two kiddings,” said Maxwell. “We may breed the doe to a different buck to see what we get.”

Maxwell relies on computerized records to keep track of intricate pedigree and performance records. “I carry -index cards in the barn and field and make notes about what is done,” said Maxwell. “Then I enter all the information in Goat Breeder’s Notebook.” This software also helps the Maxwells keep track of management steps such as immunizations, weaning dates, sales and show records.

MAX does are bred to some of the top bucks in the east, because the Maxwells own those bucks. Does close to kidding are brought inside so that feed intake and condition can be monitored. “We have cameras in the kidding barn, with both video and audio.” said Maxwell. “It’s one of the best investments we’ve made.”

Does receive BoSe, CDT and a dose of dewormer. Each kid is handled as if it might be the next champion - blood antiserum assures maximum immunity, and an oral energy supplement provides a boost for the first hours of life.

After dissatisfaction with commercial feeds, Maxwell relied on her experience as a herdsman for other species and developed a pelleted ration for the MAX herd. One cup per head daily of the 16 percent ration gives optimum results in each goat. At shows, the Maxwells are often asked what they are feeding to make the goats look so good. The ration can be adjusted to meet variations in forage quality throughout the year. Kids have access to creep fed so that they are eating well at weaning.

"Kids are weaned at six to eight weeks of age, based on the condition of the dam and kids. If triplets are pulling a doe’s condition down, we will wean as early as six weeks. With good nutrition pre- and post-weaning,these kids perform as well as those weaned at eight weeks of age.”

As broodstock producers, the Maxwells know that getting out and showing their goats is essential. Each animal is treated as a potential show prospect, with no special treatment for show animals. “We keep our show animals right with the others,” said Maxwell. “How they look is how they are.” Maxwell observes the entire herd to determine potential show animals, and selects goats as each show date approaches. “We built our herd on our own genetics,” said Maxwell, “what we show is from our own bloodlines. We promote our bucks to promote the genetics of our herd.”

A strong biosecurity program is essential in every operation, especially when animals are shown. The Maxwells disinfect the show pens before putting their animals into them, and wear different shoes while at the show. Upon returning to the farm after a show, each goat is given a disinfectant bath, isolated for three weeks, and watched carefully for any sign of illness. Animals that are going to be shown several times in a season are housed separately. Dave handles spring shows by himself so that Julie can devote her full attention to kidding does at home.

RED HOT $, a solid red, full blood Boer goat put MAX Boer Goats on the map. He has produced numerous champions, including RED HOT IRONMAN, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s 2004 meat goat performance test winner. RED HOT IRONMAN is also the #1 indexing performance tested buck in the nation.

When MAX Boer Goats PAINTED LADY was shown at the June 2005 United States Boer Goat Association (USBGA) show in McHenry, MD, she had kidded about two weeks prior to the event. Her triplet kids waited in a pen while she was named national grand champion senior percentage doe. The same show yielded five first places for the Maxwells, including one by CODI HEAVY DUTY, the only buck they took.

At the Empire State Meat Goat Producers’ Association 2005 ABGA Sanctioned Boer Goat Show in Syracuse, NY, Painted Lady garnered more top honors. She was named Grand Champion Sr Percentage Doe and Over-all Grand Champion Percentage Doe under judge Ewing Downen of Ulvade, TX. At the same show, DANCING REDMAN won the 18-24 month Full Blood Buck class and RED HOT HEART won the 9 -12 month Full Blood Doe class.

The Maxwells maintain a separate, line-bred herd of full South African, full Codi/PCI Boer goats. The Codi/PCI genetics are the original Boer genetics that are at a premium due to out-crossing. “The Codi genetics add consistent mass and muscle to a herd,” says Maxwell. “People from all over the country seek us out for our Codi goats.”

Great Pyrenees guard each group of goats against predators. Maxwell can tell how the goats are doing by the way the dogs act and says that the dogs bond so strongly with their goats that they alert her to an ill or injured goat by standing over them. Two litters of pups are produced each year and raised among the goats. Pups are purchased by other goat and sheep breeders who realize the built-in value of livestock guardian dogs that have been raised with goats since birth.

The Maxwells offer starter packages for new breeders, along with assistance to new breeders who have purchased goats from them. Maxwell urges beginners to step in slowly before deciding if Boer goats are the right match for an operation. They offer advice and consultation for management, housing and nutrition. A steady stream of repeat and new customers is testament to the consistent quality of MAX Boer Goats.
This article is available in it's original format at www.countryfolks.com

   
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