Eastern Cape Boer Goat Club veld ram project: All eyes on the king of the goats!

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

  • Boer goats, she says, are extremely characterful, smart and dynamic animals that have a unique personality and appearance.
  • The Eastern Cape Boer Goat Club’s veld ram project commenced in 1998, with the first intake on 16 April 1998 on Broer (Joshua) Bester’s farm Buffelsfontein. The first and foremost aim of the project is, among others, to gather young rams at a central point to perform growth tests under similar conditions.
  • The project aims to make affordable and fault-free rams available – after they have been subjected to four rounds of selection – to producers and stud breeders.
  • In addition to the vitamin and mineral supplements that all goats receive three to four times a year, rams receive an affordable supplement monthly during the weighing process.

Letting a Boer goat loose in the Jansenville veld makes for one very content animal. And it is this hoofed species that Marlé Slabbert from Osplaat Boer goat stud has had a love for since childhood.

Boer goats, she says, are extremely characterful, smart and dynamic animals that have a unique personality and appearance. She spoke to Stockfarm about her involvement in the breeding and manipulation of Boer goat genetics – something she finds fascinating – and the progress of the Eastern Cape Boer Goat Club’s veld ram project. As the group’s 2022 project manager, she oversaw the goats on her farm after they spent several years on the farms of other members.

Background of the project

The Eastern Cape Boer Goat Club’s veld ram project commenced in 1998, with the first intake on 16 April 1998 on Broer (Joshua) Bester’s farm Buffelsfontein.

The first and foremost aim of the project is, among others, to gather young rams at a central point to perform growth tests under similar conditions. These results are made available to potential buyers and the rams are sold at a public auction.

Rams that are part of the project are reared under realistic commercial conditions and are work-ready come auction time. The rams are evaluated using objective criteria and their genetic potential is estimated based on established indices. The results are beyond reproach and each ram remains anonymous until after an auction.

Read more about the South African Boer Goat Society.

Selecting and auctioning the best

According to Marlé, the project aims to make affordable and fault-free rams available – after they have been subjected to four rounds of selection – to producers and stud breeders. “This gives producers peace of mind that the animals they buy are free of any cull or hidden faults.”

This type of animal, she says, is adapted to different veld conditions and can gain weight without having to receive complementary feed. The advantage of this is that rams entering the finishing or feeding phase will continue to perform.

“Another bonus of the veld ram club project is that we can distinguish between rams suited for either stud of commercial purposes – this of course depends on each ram’s growth rate and development,” adds Marlé.

Entries must comply with certain rules. Each member of the veld ram project pays an entry fee per goat, together with the feeding phase of each individual ram. There currently is no limit to the number of rams that each breeder may enter.

Each ram’s testes are measured upon intake. An average of 30 rams are sold at the annual auction. The reserve amount for each ram provides producers with the assurance that they will enjoy a return on their investment. Rams not sold at auction are returned to the owners.

Read more on how to combat liver fluke this autumn.

Contributing factors for success

In addition to the vitamin and mineral supplements that all goats receive three to four times a year, rams receive an affordable supplement monthly during the weighing process – the amino acids included in the product have a major impact on rams’ weight gain. This is a joint test conducted by the veld ram project and Virbac to determine how successful the product is when administered as a dosage agent rather than a supplement.

“For the first time since the inception of the veld ram project, all rams in the group gained at least 5kg, or even more, during the adaptation and veld phase. The rams also appear stronger with a physically larger carcass, adapt better to their environment, and gain weight faster.”

Rams falling ill is also not a problem. She is rather curious about what influence the product will have on the fertility of rams, as they seem to be more active than usual.

Table 1 provides a summary of the adaptation phase (from 4 April to 26 June 2022) during which rams had an average weight gain of 7,2 kg per ram. According to the rules of the project, the rams must not have shed any teeth at selection.

Read more about what to look for when buying Boer goats.

Table 1: Ram intake on Osplaat, 2022.

Date4 April 2022
Number of breeders11
Number of rams49
Average ram weight37kg
DeadOne ram, during adaptation phase
Rams that shed teeth7
Average increase during adaptation phase7,2kg

At the start of the veld phase (26 June to 27 October 2022) there was a total of 41 rams with an average weight of 53kg (Table 2). During their time on the veld, their weight increased by a further average of 7kg. This means an average increase of 16kg per ram since the start of the project in April 2022.

Rams did not receive any complementary feed during the veld phase. They must search for and consume what grows naturally in the veld. Lucerne and feed pellets are only provided during the feeding phase while preparing them for the auction in February.

Table 2: Ram project’s veld phase, 2022.

Date26 July 2022
Number of breeders11
Number of rams41
DeadOne ram, at the start of veld phase
Number of rams remaining40
Average increase during the veld phase7kg
Average weight of rams on 6 September53kg
Increase in average ram weight from 4 April to 6 September (each ram’s weight was conveyed to breeders after each weighing session)16kg

The feeding phase commenced on 27 October and concluded with the auction held on 7 February 2023 at Somerset East.

Adaptable animals

“The Osplaat Boer goat stud is dedicated to Boer goats, and it was therefore a privilege to be so closely involved in the veld ram project during 2022,” says Marlé. The Eastern Cape’s Boer goats, which are extensively farmed, produce adaptable, hardy, strong and dynamic rams and ewes. They can traverse mountainous terrain and search for food, all while maintaining condition. These hardy animals remain fertile under difficult conditions such as drought, hot summers and freezing winters, and are able to maintain their condition on veld.

“It takes a special ewe or ram to conquer these challenges, and these are the qualities we strive for,” says Marlé.

Read more about South African goat breeds in Zimbabwe.

Osplaat’s Boer goat flock is very pure, thanks to Marlé’s efforts to keep the genetic pool as clean as possible in order to achieve uniformity. She believes the more uniform a flock, the easier it will be to see what you can improve on. “If you do buy a ram, you won’t necessarily get a perfect animal, but you will certainly get one that can eliminate certain mistakes in your flock.” – Carin Venter, Stockfarm

For more information, contact Marlé Slabbert on 082 578 3785 or osplaat@gmail.com.

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