If you’ve ever thought about going into goat farming, you might want to consider Boer goats. Boer is the Afrikaner (Dutch) word for farmer. South Africa developed the Boer goat in the early 1900s for meat production. By and large, they were bred for meat over milk and, through selective breeding, earned an inherent rate of rapid growth, high resistance to disease and sound adaptation to dry climates.
At the 2017 Keystone International Livestock Expo in Harrisburg, PA, the first round of judging for the Junior Boer Goats was an interesting process. The judge acted like a professor, chatting with the handlers as well as turning away from them occasionally to talk to family members and friends in the gallery. This was a man dedicated not only to detail, but who had a propensity for noticing the smallest detail — qualities to be admired in a judge. The judging had less of an audience as the event was at 8 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 7.
In nearly every photograph you see of a Boer goat, they stand four square. That is to say, when you look at them from the side, they appear to be standing on two legs, one in the front and one in the back. Of course, they have four legs, but it is easy for them to stand four squarely, and when they lapse and are more relaxed in their posture, handlers issue constant reminders that they are show goats and more is expected of them.
In an online check, one source says that “although Boer goats raised specifically for show purposes may seem to have little in common with pastured commercial goats, the difference is superficial. They are bred to be larger than normal goats, and meet specific visual appearances, but these very characteristics are valuable genes to add to the commercial herd. Boer goats were originally imported into the U.S. and other countries for this very reason.”
With that in mind, watching the goat handler, the goats and the judge was nearly like watching a symphony orchestra, as each participant had a part to play.
The judge got up close and personal with handlers and goats, perhaps checking unflappability. He also liked to test handlers by switching goats so that the handler behind someone else’s goat gets a crack in handling a total stranger. Remarkably, goats and strange handlers did fairly well; the unflappable ratio was almost normal.
When things got back to true normal, one junior Boer named Red Fern drew the judge’s attention. He had zeroed in on this goat’s back and ran a finger along a slightly darker line of the hair. Afterward, handler Garrett Jenkins, a college student from Lancaster County, stated that the judge had spotted a knot of hair that turned out to be a non-factor in the scoring, because Red Fern took the blue ribbon. Garrett tucked the ribbon into his back jeans pocket. He has won several times before.