COMMENTARY The Future of Spanish Goats By Donna Askew

Living Oak Farm was looking for brush goats to clear briar and help restore what was once a thriving cattle ranch. However, when the briar goats arrived, they were sickly. The goats had thin bodies, rough coats, peeling skin, mites, etc. We held out little hope for these goats but if they survived a month, they would earn their cost. I set about doctoring these goats as they were sent out into the brush surrounded by electric netting. Within 30 days these goats were miraculously transformed. I called the seller and asked, “What are these goats?” She responded, “Oh, didn’t I tell you? These are Spa- nish goats and what you have is the Baylis and Low Country blood- lines. Let me give you a number to call so you can find out more about the goats and in the meantime, I’ll send you the paperwork that goes with them.”

No doubt Living Oak Farm became roughly the 60th listed on the Spanish Goat Association website.


After a time of raising Spanish goats we moved all the goats out to pasture and decided to raise them without shelter, vaccines or grain feeds.

One day while walking the pastures I noticed a 3-5-day old Low Country doe kid digging in the dirt. She was no more than 5 or 6 lbs. I got down on my belly and this kid was digging up the grass root shoots and eating them. WOW! That behavior is genetic — a genetic for survival. Yes, we know they adapted and survived the continent for hundreds of years, but when you witness a newborn kid foraging at this level something clicks.

That experience became the driving force for my choice to con- serve the Low Country and Baylis bloodlines. Here we are, it’s 2020 and the Spanish Goat Gathering brought unprecedented results in the face of an international pandemic.

The average price of the goats in the auction was $895 (to be

fair, this average does not include the one buck that sold for $7,300). Just a few years ago folks were delighted to get $250 off their farms and ranches. Yes, there is more demand than supply for good Spanish goats that are free from CL and sore mouth, whose genetics can be tracked and DNA Registered. Farms and ranches are working to build DNA Registered seedstock that are vaccinated to prevent disease that

will meet the demands. When the DNA Registry was introduced, Verified Listed Breeders were split over the DNA and feared it was going to harm the breed and it was not necessary. Others said, “Why would you put papers on “briar goats?””

Thinking through the resistance two things stood out. For one, a member driven and run organization and registry brings a level of complexity that the then typical Spanish goat breeder does not want to manage, does not see the need to manage, and were happy where they were.

Additionally, if we looked over the history of other breeds, we would see the slow decline of a livestock animal and its utility. Most cringe worthy is when the paper that represents the goat and validates its heritage becomes more of a selling point than an actual picture of the goat or data on its performance.

The Spanish Goat Registry is the pioneer for the private grant study to determine genetic markers for all goat breeds.We started with blood samples at $20 each and now we are sending hair samples for $30 each. To ensure breeder confidence in the registry we have kept all fees at cost and continue to build the breed database while at the same time saving breeders $10 per sample. A consequence of not for profit is the work is done by vol- unteers who oftentimes get covered up by all the paper and things move slowly. However, it is worth it because new buyers of Spanish goats are telling us that it is the DNA Registry itself that has brought the confidence and the credibility to the breed that it needed to sit in its rightful place as a meat goat breed. The Spanish Goat Association (SGA) website and Facebook group were designed to be a source of information for folks looking to learn about the breed and also a source of available goats for folks that are ready to purchase a pure Spanish goat with confidence. The SGA website provides a level playing field to all verified Spanish breeders while at the same there are very few guidelines and paperwork, or participation asked of listed breeders. There is a place for the larger “hands off” commercial producer who raises goats for a living, the multiple production farms with smaller herds that use the goats for management of lands.

There is also room for those that do not consider themselves farmers at all but want a healthy lifestyle for their family, the newly retired looking for a hobby or further still those looking for an agri- cultural tax deduction. And finally, there is also room for the conser- vationist.

There are a few things these folks have in common, they all breed Spanish goats, have available goats for sale at least once a year, at a minimum they want the goats to pay for themselves, and they are busy. Most importantly, I do not believe any breeder wants to be a part of or watch management practices change the breed beyond recognition.

The Spanish Goat Gathering is growing and fulfilling a need of bringing buyers and sellers together while at the same time giving potential buyers and others the opportunity to see the goats, learn about the breed, meet the community and perhaps come back next year and take a starter herd home with them.

40 Goat Rancher | November 2020

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