The baby goats born in April at Enchanted Acres were nearly as decorated as the eggs that were hidden in celebration of Easter. Photos that I’ve posted online this spring have prompted site visitors to ask why our goats are spotted.
Truth be told, our fancy crop of kids come from “designer genes.” (Science was one of my favorite classes, and I’m still fascinated by it!) Recessive traits can be carried in a parent’s genes without appearing in that person. For example, a dark-haired person may have one gene for dark hair, which is a dominant trait, and one gene for light hair, which is recessive. The same is true for the spot gene in goats as spots and dapples in the Boer goat are genetic throwbacks caused by dominant and recessive genes.
Using a Punnett Square, you can calculate the probability that a human baby will be born with dark hair or that spotted Boer parents will produce spotted offspring. (This sounds like a great learning experience for my son’s high school ag class. Do I dare give his teacher the idea?)
Paint, Spotted and Dapple Boer Goats are relatively new to goat market because they’re non-traditional. Traditionally, Boer dams and sires (mothers and fathers) have been selected for superior body shape, fast growth rate, fertility, large frame and coloring. More emphasis was placed on body and frame as Boer goats are a meat breed.
Boer goats that exhibited superior breed characteristics were kept for breeding purposes. Goats that didn’t have white hair on their bodies with reddish-brown or all red markings on their head and neck were culled, which means they were mostly likely sold and eaten.
In the early 2000s, American goat breeders decided to keep red, spotted and other goats with non-traditional coats. A new niche market was born as they began to breed goats specifically for their fancy coats (pelts). With Americans penchant for designer handbags and designer dogs, I guess we really shouldn’t be surprised by the rising popularity of designer goats.
The three types of Boer goats include:
1. Paint – has more color on the body than is allowed by a traditional Boer. A solid red goat would be considered a paint as would a white Boer goat with one solid brown leg. I believe that a two-inch spot anywhere on a goat’s body, with the exception of its tail, qualifies it as a paint.
2. Spotted – smaller white spots are scattered on large patches of color. Moon spots are light spots, but never true white, over a darker color.
3. Dapple – irregular shaped splotches of color mixed in the coat. Dapples, or splotches, can be a blend of other colors.
This market for designer Boers is not a fad but rather it’s a legitimate market, according to Max Boer Goats. Admittedly, I’ve become fascinated with designer goats. (I honestly have a fascination with fancy animals, including our Mini Lop rabbits and my daughter’s Paint horse.) Now I’m trying to get smarter about a breeding strategy that will increase the quality and consistency of our goat herd.
Quality is one of the breed characteristics that judges at the county fair will be looking for when my daughter and her “projects” enter the showring. Stay tuned for a blog post coming soon about how goats are judged at fairs and shows nationwide!