MINNEOTA - Dawn VanKeulen laughed as she watched one of her baby goats frolic around the pen and a few more jump off and on a bale of hay.
"They're a curious lot," Dawn VanKeulen said.
For almost six years, Dawn and her husband, Jeff, have raised Boer goats, a meat goat that originated in South Africa, on their farm in rural Minneota. They have 100 breeding does, more than 60 kid goats and three herd sires.
Photo by Cindy Votruba
Jeff VanKeulen feeds a pair of Boer goats recently. The VanKeulens raise more than 160 goats on their farm near Minneota.
The VanKeulens used to raise sheep, when they got eight to 10 goats "just to see if we like them," Dawn VanKeulen said.
They got to know a couple formerly of Hendricks that raised Boer goats. Dawn VanKeulen said that couple had bought a new house in Clear Lake, S.D., and asked the VanKeulens to take the herd and kid them out.
Pretty soon, the VanKeulens were asked if they wanted to buy all of the goats.
"They had good stock that came out of Texas," Dawn VanKeulen said.
So in 2004, the VanKeulens started raising Boer goats.
"It was an untapped niche when we started," Jeff VanKeulen said.
Dawn VanKeulen said it's only been a decade since the South African boer goats have been in the United States.
"They become like dogs, they have a personality," Dawn VanKeulen said.
The Boer goats are bred specifically for meat. Depending on the market, Dawn VanKeulen said some will want the kids right off the mother at 30 pounds, but the largest percentage want the kids that are 60 to 80 pounds.
"Sometimes it depends on the ethnic group, the certain holidays," Dawn VanKeulen said.
But one of the VanKeulens' markets is for 4-H projects.
"They're a fun project, they'll follow you around the yard," Dawn VanKeulen said.
Dawn VanKeulen said a lot of retired people get Boer goats for hobby farms because they're easy to handle and pet-like.
"For grandkids," Jeff VanKeulen said.
"They're gentle animals," Dawn VanKeulen said.
The VanKeulens have three kidding seasons, October, January and April.
"We kid in January specifically for the 4-H market," Dawn VanKeulen said. The rules of showing is the kid has to be born after Jan. 1 in the year it is shown.
Jeff VanKeulen said the kidding time can be a little intense.
"I think we try to squeeze the schedule as tight as possible," Jeff VanKeulen said.
The VanKeulens said they'll kid as many as 30 does in 48 hours.
"This time of the year when we're kidding is a full-time job," Dawn VanKeulen said. "It's a commitment. They need to be fed and watered and cared for."
During the summer, when the goats are out grazing in the pasture, it's not nearly as busy, Dawn VanKeulen said.
Some who do raise goats may kid their goats right on the pasture, Dawn VanKeulen said.
"But in the winter in Minnesota, it's impossible," Dawn VanKeulen said.
Right after they are born, the VanKeulens will put the doe goat and their kids in a pen.
"It's for mother-kid bonding time," Dawn VanKeulen said.
To breed the does, the VanKeulens use three different herd sires. Every two to three years they bring in a new sire.
"We get them from all over, Indiana, Missouri, Texas," Dawn VanKeulen said. about the herd sires.
The VanKeulens said they look at the market needs at the time they are selecting a new herd sire.
"We sell bucks to other goat (owners) who want new bloodlines," Dawn VanKeulen said.
Part of the goat raising business is learning the market, the VanKeulens said, and they have sold goats all around the country. They've also learned to recognize pneumonia and treat it.