AmericanFarm.com

No kidding around: Boer goats hold Sarver’s heart

By JANE W. GRAHAM
AFP Correspondent

NEWPORT, Va. (Feb. 16, 2016) — This time of year, Betsy Sarver is spending a lot of time in the barn with her Boer goat does.
It is kidding time at Sweetwater Farm where she and her husband Eddie raise the Boer goats and have a beef cattle operation.
Sarver is passionate about the small herd of registered Boer goats she says have become an addiction for her.
While the Sarvers have had as many as 100 goats in the past, Betsy has downsized as she grows older.
The difficulty getting their hoofs trimmed is another reason.
In the kitchen of her Giles County farmhouse, Betsy talked about her goats, more often referring to them as girls and boys rather than does and bucks.
Betsy enjoys going to goat shows and sales to see what other goat owners are producing. She also enjoys competing herself.
“I really enjoy it,” she said. “It’s addictive.”
They got their first goats in fall of 2004. The herd consisted of six does and one buck.
The big white goats with varying shades of brown to rust heads are usually considered meat goats; Betsy does not market the animals just for meat.
She breeds them for show and brood animals and attempts to sell them that way. She said unfortunately a few are sold for meat from time to time.
The female Boers range between 150 to 175 pounds, she estimated, but bucks ready for the show ring can weigh as much as 260 pounds.
A recent experience with artificial insemination showed her it is best not to aim for fat goats when readying breeding stock to be bred.
She took several of her does to nearby Virginia Tech to be bred with AI using laparoscopic techniques, she said, a new process available at the university.
Betsy added they had tried AI once before and were not pleased with the results.
She prefers using bucks but her current prize-winning buck has fathered so many of the does so she needs to introduce new genetics into the herd.
The 10 does bred AI in October should have kids by the end of March and she can then re-think the situation if they reproduce well.
The normal breeding season for these goats is July and August, she said.
It is hard to breed them more than once a year even though their gestation period is five months.
The Sarvers currently have 32 breeding age does and 10 yearling does they plan to sell as show or brood animals.
Her present buck was the West Virginia State Fair Grand Champion in 2012.
She and the buck have a life-long history, she said.
“I sat up all night,” she said of his birth. “Then we had to have the vet.”
He has proved to be worth the effort it took to deliver him alive and well.
“This boy changed my goats,” she said. “Since he came along we have seen a big difference in our herd. We have so many of his girls we have to get a new buck.”
His portrait is now featured on her business cards.
Good fencing is one of the things that enable the Sarvers to keep the goats near the farmhouse.
That and good dividing stalls in the goat barn mean she can separate does and bucks in breeding season to insure she gets the animals bred to meet her goals.
It’s not just breeding restrictions that make good fences a necessity on a goat farm.
The animals just like to wander and can find a place to escape if it exists.
This is something new goat owners often learn rather quickly, she said while discussing the trait.
Along with the fencing, she has some help in keeping her goats safe. Several guard dogs of varying breeds are part of her labor force.