Colorado woman finds niche with Boer goat breed
Gena Rose slipped into her coveralls, pulled on a baseball cap and reached for a glass Corona beer bottle from a picnic table.
“It’s milk for one of the kids,” she said. “We’d use old Coke bottles, but you can’t find them anymore. The rubber nipple doesn’t fit on anything else.”
Rose was introduced to the Boer goat breed four years ago.
“I was already familiar with regular goats,” Rose said. “They were kept on hand here for the milk, which was used to feed any orphaned or rejected elk calves.”
She got hooked on Boers after a visit to a ranch that raised them. Right away, she and her partner, who owns the elk, purchased two orphans and named them Little Boy and Little Girl.
“They’re worth a good deal of money if purebred,” she said. “Boers are known for their meat, which is high on the market right now.”
She admits she “started the process blind,” and learned along the way. The first hard lesson was not to get attached.
“When you bottle-feed something, it’s hard not to fall in love with it,” Rose said. “I look the other way when they’re sold and try not to think about what’s next for them.”
Rose gestured towards the large, protruding belly of Little Girl, now three and a half.
“That’s where hamburger comes from,” Rose said. “I’m told the meat is really good, but I’ve never tried it.”
Breeder Erica Ashby of Kicking A Ranch in nearby Austin helped Rose start well with the day-to-day upkeep of these goats.
“She taught me how to trim hooves and recognize good features.”
Ashby also connected Rose to the American Boer Goat Association in case she decided to start showing her goats — something Rose said she doesn’t have time to do.
“I’m way too busy with my other jobs,” she said.
Rose is a full-time personal trainer, fitness instructor and dance teacher at the Bill Heddles Recreation Center in Delta.
Her partner feeds the goats when she’s unable to get to the elk ranch.
“Erica is always available when I need to chat or get help,” Rose said. “She is very educated.”
Another thing Rose learned is the difficulty of keeping bucks.
“They smell really bad,” she said as she wrinkled her nose. “They tend to be destructive, too.
“You have to remember at all times that they’re bucks, and they are strong and ornery because of all the testosterone. They can easily knock you over.”
Rose’s first two, Remington and Little Boy, are for sale so Rose can afford to buy more does.
Typically, Boers range in color from dark or light brown and white to black and white “spackle.” They’re sweet-natured, too, and easy to train. Goats follow Rose wherever she goes.
While common with goats, female Boers are not used for milk.
“… (T)heir teats are way too small,” Rose said. “You can only do it after they’ve given birth.”
For Gena, at least one of those births came unexpectedly —another lesson.
“You have to separate the sexes shortly after they’re weaned,” Rose said.
She left one young buck with the mother too long and he bred her.
“But the baby turned out okay,” Rose said.
Remington is a good producer, Rose said.
“Remington is exceptional,” Rose said. “He’s perfect for breeding.”
Faith is Remington’s mother and recently produced twins, Brownie and Daisy.
But there have been problems along the way. Despite three very expensive trips to an outside breeder, Little Girl is barren.
“Orphans tend to become pets when you bottle-feed them, at least with me,” Rose said. “Now I have to decide if I’m going to keep her or sell her for meat.”
Learning and raising a breed of goat has been enjoyable, though, for Rose.
“It’s been a really fun process, though, and I enjoy being with them.” ❖
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From June through September, John Etchart spends most of the day driving a tractor through hayfields below the mountains near Meeker in northwestern Colorado.