Small Stock Farming: The Imperatives

Nichlas Mbingeneeko

The previous article focused on genetic value creation in small stock farming, i.e. the significance of quality in small stock farming. Genetic value creation relates to the act of producing livestock that have some level of quality and usefulness for the commercial farmer or stud breeder and the entire farming fraternity. Genetic superiority is the pivot on which the success of genetic value creation hinges. Genotype and phenotype spell quality. Quality livestock must be the preoccupation of every farmer and breeder. This article will focus on phenotypical and other key considerations for the farmer or breeder when selecting or buying a Boer Goat ram or ewe. In short, term ‘phenotype’ refers to the outer appearance of an animal or a set of observable characteristics of an animal. Over and above the breed standards, the farmer or breeder needs to study the genealogy or pedigree of the ram so as to take an informed selection decision or purchasing decision. Surely, genotype informs phenotype.

For purposes of production auctions, four typologies or categorizations of livestock are discernible in respect of quality. These typologies are cull, flock, stud and elite. Cull denotes a disqualification due to cull defects. A flock goat is one that does not comply with stud standards, but has no cull defects. A stud goat is one that complies with the breed standards. An elite goat is one that exceeds the breed standards. However, a goat may have elite conformation (bouvorm) and yet be classified as flock on colour (kudde op kleur) or flock on teats (kudde op spene). Nota Bene: If it was not for the colour or teats, the goat portrays elite potential. Buyers are advised to look at goats that are categorized as flock on colour or flock on teats with an eye that sees beyond the obvious.

As a matter of fact, every registered small stock breed has breed standards that provide a set of observable characteristics of a particular breed. The Boer Goat Breeders’ Society of Namibia set breed standards for compliance by breeders and guidance to buyers. The breed standards of the Boer Goat apply mutatis mutandis to the Kalahari Red. The breed standards should serve as a guide for any farmer or breeder who intends to select or buy a Boer Goat ram or ewe. The farmer or breeder is advised to look for an average sized heavy goat for maximum meat production that tilts the scale in favour of the farmer at commercial auctions. The body parts of the goat must be well fleshed and in perfect balance. Ewes must be feminine and the rams must be masculine with prominent skin folds for rams. The conformation of rams and ewes must be symmetrical, not cylindrical or slab-sided.

The head of a Boer Goat ram must portray strong masculinity, whereas the head of a Boer Goat ewe must portray strong femininity. In other words, a ram must look like a ram, and an ewe must look like an ewe. The forehead must be prominently curved and the horns must display a gradual backward curve. Rams that are up to 6-Teeth old, must show a perfect bite, i.e. not have an over- or undershot jaw. However, rams that are 8-Teeth old, may have a protrusion of 6 mm. Ewes of all ages must show a perfect bite.

The neck must be full, well fleshed and of moderate length in proportion to the length of the body. The shoulder must be fleshy and broad. The breastbone must be broad with a deep, broad brisket. The legs should be strong and well placed. The pastern joints must be short and strong. Guard against too long, thin neck; too short neck; shoulders that are too loose; weak pasterns; knock-knees, bandy legs, cow hocks, and sickle hocks. The hind legs of rams, in particular, play a pivotal role during mating and their correctness and strength cannot be overemphasized nor be gainsaid.

The barrel (middelstuk) should be long, deep and broad. The ribs should be well sprung and fleshed. The loin must be well filled. The back of the goat must be broad and fairly straight. The back must not be pinched behind the shoulders (devil’s grip). Select against devil’s grip, too cylindrical, too slab-sided, and a back that is too concave.

The rump (kruis) of the of the goat must be broad, deep and long. The rump must not be sloping. The thighs should be fully fleshed and the buttocks must be well fleshed. The ram must have two healthy, equal sized testes in one scrotum. Where a buyer has a choice, it is advisable to buy rams at production auctions. It is mandatory that all Boer Goat rams that are sold at production auctions are tested for fertility.

In sum, there is a plethora of considerations for the farmer or breeder when selecting or purchasing a stud ram or ewe. Where possible, it is advisable that farmers buy stud rams and ewes at production auctions for reasons of quality assurance and protection of the buyer. All production auctions are conducted under the auspices of the particular Breeders Societies. The potential buyer is advised to view the auction livestock on the premises at least a day or two prior to the auction date and prepare a shortlist of the top rams or ewes that will best advance his/her farming agenda as regards genetic value creation. The potential buyer may also enlist the assistance of experienced, seasoned breeders for the shortlisting or ranking of the top rams that he or she would purchase. Quality is everything!

The next article will focus on how to take care of and look after stud rams by farmers and breeders.

Nichlas Mbingeneeko is a renowned small stock farmer and a stud breeder of repute. His stud known as Skuilhoek Stud (in Aranos district, Hardap Region) consists of the Boer Goat, Damara Sheep and the Veldmaster Sheep. If you subscribe to genetic superiority, make Skuilhoek Stud your supplier of choice. His next production auction will be on 13 June 2024 @ 18h00, in Windhoek, Agra/Bank Windhoek Ring, Namibia, onsite & online auction. Nichlas Mbingeneeko wrote this article in his personal capacity.

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