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SPANISH GOATS — SPECIAL EDITION What does the buyer need to know? By Donna Askew


The goal of each of these Goat Rancher magazine articles is to educate readers about Spanish goats. The following topics have been covered in several articles over the last two years — origin of the breed, mothering characteristics, herd health, herd sire strength, hands-off management of the herd, unique genetics, endangered status, cross- bred populations, bloodlines and the DNA Registry. Education is essential to the mis- sion of conservation and economic viability of the purebred Spanish goat breed and its role in the meat goat industry.


Contemporary Spanish goat DNA traces to Iberian origins, which confirms the fact that they were brought to America over 500 years ago by the Spaniards. They are a local, landrace breed that is sustained by adaption and survival. Their phenotypic ap- pearance and predictable reproduction are what makes them a breed.


Spanish goats are highly adaptable and will remain healthy and productive in most any management, nutrition, and climate con- dition. The fact that the large range ranches have continued to raise them “hands off” en- sures their self-sufficient productivity. As all livestock producers are aware, profit is the net of gross sales minus input. Therefore, the most profitable goats are those that require the least input. Meat pro- ducers will tell you this is a fact of the Spa- nish goat breed. However, not all producers are able to run hundreds of goats over thousands of acres and load hundreds of kids for slaughter and doe replacement on an annual basis. Ad- ditionally, not all producers are raising goats for meat production — many raise them to keep lands maintained and others raise them for pure enjoyment.


Regardless of a producer’s goals for choosing Spanish goats, the challenge for the breed is to ensure the characteristics that make them adaptive, healthy and productive are not lost to over management, goals of meat production and a lack of selective breeding due to demand.


Spanish breeders are a diverse pop-


ulation. We have the historical range cow- boys that run hundreds of goats for land management, meat production and nanny re-


Gold Certified Breeder Nathan Marker of Plum Creek Ranch in Kansas running a for- age-based Syfan herd.


placement. These breeders rely on the envi- ronment to feed their goats, along with good minerals, fresh water, hay and possibly pro- tein pails and/or feed supplement when the growth stage or environment demands the extra calories and protein.


These animals are not provided with shelters, kid out in these conditions and are worked about two times a year (when breed- ing and weaning). Therefore, goats raised under these conditions are managed “hands off” and as a herd versus individual goats. Smaller family farm producers are scat- tered across the country and run their goats as a herd for the same purposes but in smaller numbers and land areas that may require


more management and feed supplementa- tion. Hobby producers are those breeders that rely more on feed, barns, vaccines and de- wormers to manage their goats.


Normally they have come to Spanish goats through the frustrated trials and tribu- lations of other breeds and want something easier. These producers want to breed goats and sell offspring for profit. Initially, these breeders have old habits and tend to over- manage Spanish goats; however, given time they begin to see the goats for what they are and come around to a less intensive form of management.


The third group of producers is what I would call the contemporary Spanish goat


September 2020 | Goat Rancher 17


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