➤ Boerbok / Boer Goats

     ➤ Kalahari Red

Milking Goats

     ➤ Alpine

     ➤ Saanen

     ➤ Toggenburg

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Boerbok / Boer Goats

The Boer goat is a breed of goat that was developed in South Africa in the early 1900s for meat production. Their name is derived from the Afrikaans (Dutch) word “boer”, meaning farmer.

Boer goats are a popular breed for meat and their breeding season starts in August and runs through to December. Mixed goats are best for small herds because of the genetics in boer for meat and the gentics in the other goat.

The Boer goat was probably bred from the indigenous goats (which originated from South Africa) of the Namaqua, San and the Fooku tribes, and with some crossings of Indian and European bloodlines being possible. They were selected for meat rather than milk production; due to selective breeding and improvement, the Boer goat has a fast growth rate and excellent carcass qualities, making it one of the most popular breeds of meat goat in the world. Boer goats have a high resistance to disease and adapt well to hot, dry semi deserts.

Boer goats commonly have white bodies and distinctive brown heads. Some Boer goats can be completely brown or white or paint, which means large spots of a different color is on their bodies. Like the Nubian goat, they possess long, pendulous ears. They are noted for being docile, fast-growing, and having high fertility rates. Does are reported to have superior mothering skills as compared to others. Boer goats tend to gain weight at about the same rate as their sire, so a buck from a proven fast-growing bloodline will command the highest price, as its offspring will tend to also be fast growers. The primary market for slaughter goats is a 22–36 kg kid; kids should reach marketable size at weaning age. The kid of a proven fast-growing sire might weigh 36 kg at 90 days, while the kid of a poor-quality sire might weigh only 15 kg at 90 days. An average-quality buck will initially be less expensive to purchase; however, it can significantly undermine an operation’s long-term profitability.

Thanks to dedicated producers in South Africa who have rigorously applied selective breeding practices over almost a century, the Boer Goat is now found in almost every country across the world and now in Senegal as well.

It’s only in South Africa where the very best genetics in the world are sourced and where breed standards are determined. The Boer goat is a compact, fine quality, short-haired goat with a regular build, popular among butchers for its skin and meat. The Boer Goat has the ability to adopt in any climate situations. In good condition, the goat can be slaughtered at a young age. The goat ewes give ample milk and are generally popular. The Boer Goat is the only Goat in the world which has only been bred for meat production. The slaughter weight is between 35-40 kg.

Kalahari Red

Kalahari Reds are ideally suited to the harsh and outstretched conditions of larger parts of South Africa. In SA they are bred in harsh conditions, arid and semi-desert areas. To prevail under these conditions, animals must be sun-resistant and hardy. Over the years, a natural selection process has ensured that only the fittest animals have survived and very little artificial selection took place.

Kalahari Red’s are a distinct and separate breed of Goat (as verified by DNA testing for SA Stud Book). They are not related to the Boer Goat (don’t believe anyone that tells you so) and have additional advantages to the original Boer goat breed – they can enhance the tenderness of the meat, the hardiness of the animal and the camouflage and hence the survival of their kids.  They are generally used in meat production.

Their excellent mobility allows them to walk far in search of food and water. They feed on a vast variety of plants and are resistant to disease and parasites. Kalahari Reds are less susceptible to diseases and need to be inoculated and dosed far less than other breeds, which makes them easy to care for and less labour intensive. The limited use of vaccines makes the production of organically produced meat possible. A further bonus is lean meat with an excellent taste and texture.

Doe’s have excellent mothering instincts and kid right in the field and raise their kids there. No labourers are needed to assist does to find their young. In SA selection is made strongly in favour of these attributes because kids that are properly cared for by their mothers will do likewise for their own progeny. Through natural selection processes, only the fittest mothers have survived. The does are fertile and produce plenty of milk and, as a result, the kids grow fast. Breeders select for twins that are usually of equal strength.

To prevent kid mortalities as a result of an inability to suck, breeders select specifically for well-developed and properly attached teats. They breed all year round and will kid three times every two years.

Kalahari Reds can be used to give indigenous goats a uniform, solid red colour, with all the unique advantages that this brings. Their earthy colour provides a good camouflage that protects them from predators. White kids would be seen easily by foxes, pigs and eagles. They are fully pigmented and, therefore, able to endure heat and strong sunshine. Their dark coats and long ears provide good heat resistance and will, therefore, feed for longer during the heat of the day, which ultimately means higher weight gains.

The commercial goat farmers can cross-breed Kalahari Reds to improve the carcass mass of indigenous goats. This means more meat per hectare.

They are tall and long, which gives them excellent mobility. As they are taller than most other goats they can take advantage of more feed. Their carcass size is similar to the SA Boer goat. The average weight of a buck is as much as 115kg, while does reach 75kg. Kids grow fast. In Australia, young kids show weight gains of 1.5kg per week, with some even exceeding 400g per day.

Milking Goats


The Alpine is a medium to large sized breed of domestic goat known for its very good milking ability. They have no set colours or markings. They have horns, a straight profile and erect ears.

The breed originated in the French Alps. Mature does weigh around 61 kg and are about 76 cm tall at the shoulder. Alpine goats can range from white or gray to brown and black. Alpine goats are heavy milkers. The milk can be made into butter, cheese, soap, ice cream or any other dairy product normally made from cow’s milk . They are often used for commercial dairy production, as well as homestead milk goats.

The French Alpine is also referred to as the Alpine dairy goat and registration papers for this dairy goat use both designations as they are synonymous. These are hardy, adaptable animals that thrive in any climate while maintaining good health and excellent production. The face is straight with a straight nose as most other European breeds of goats.

Alpine goats are a medium to large sized breed. Males are over 81 cm tall at the withers and females are over 76 cm tall at the withers. Their hair is short to medium in length, and they come in all colours and combinations of colours. They have erect ears and a straight profile, and are described as being “alertly graceful” with the ability to adapt to any climate thanks to their hardy nature. They are the only breed with erect ears that comes in all colours and combinations of colours.

The sexual maturation rate among Alpine goats is at four to five months after birth for buck kids, and five to six months after birth for doe kids. However, doe kids should not be bred until they are at least 75-80 lbs. A doe’s gestation lasts for 145 – 155 days, with 150 being the average. Twins are the most common, but they can have singles, all the way up to quintuplets.

Alpine goats are friendly and highly curious; however they can be independent and strong-willed.

Known for its milk, the Alpine goat is famous for its rich dairy production. Alpine goats are extremely popular in the dairy industry for their docile temperament, high quality milk output and long lactation. Alpine milk has relatively low fat content, with an average fat percent of 3.4%. It is higher in sugars than cows’ milk but balances itself in terms of the amount of protein. Alpine Goats’ milk has 2.3g of protein per 250ml while Cow’s milk has 3.4. A higher protein count is not always good, since it packs more calories with an increased fat content. Compared to Saanen Goat Milk, it is higher in all nutritional aspects, except the fat content, making it a much healthier choice.

Alpine goats are one of the top milk producers, alongside Saanen and Toggenburg goats. They are distinct from the other two due to their low value of fat content. This could be a direct correlation between the weight of the animal and its habitual environment. Unlike the Nubian goat, whose weight is similar to that of the Alpines at maturity, yet produces a lower milk value with an increased fat content.

The peak periods for milk production occur after four to six weeks of puberty. The optimal weight at which a goat produces optimal milk production is at least 130 pounds. For the Alpine goat that number is higher at 135 pounds and produces 2,134 pounds of milk per lactation. Good nutrition, proper milking procedures, reproductive management, and disease control are also factors that contribute to milk production of the Alpine Goat.

There are four requirements that need to be efficient for optimal dairy production. Dairy goats must be housed in specific conditions so that their milk production is not alarmed by changes. Changes in external factors can cause a decrease in milk production due to the pressure applied on the goat to adapt to these changes. The four factors for optimal production are; adequate ventilation, dry beds, uncontaminated feeder and water supply, minimal labour and disturbance.

Alpine milk, as with all goat milk, must be filtered and chilled immediately upon separation from the lactating doe when intended for human consumption. The temperature at which milk will remain the best is at 4.4 degrees Celsius. Cooling is required immediately of the milk so that there is no excess bacteria growth. Warm bacteria grows at a faster rate and multiplies so that the milk is spoiled. The milk that is refrigerated has a shelf life of about three to four weeks. However, consumers like to freeze the milk and increase its shelf life by about four to five weeks.


The Saanen originates in the historic region of the Saanenland  (French: Comté de Gessenay) and in the neighbouring Simmental, both in the Bernese Oberland, in the southern part of the Canton of Bern, in western Switzerland. Because of its high productivity, the Saanen has since the nineteenth century been exported to many countries of the world.

The Saanen is reported from more than eighty countries. The total world population is reported to be over 900,000 head. Of these, some 14,000 are in Switzerland.

The Saanen is the largest breed of Swiss goat: Billies stand about 90 cm at the withers and weigh a minimum of 85 kg.  It has white skin and a short white coat; some small pigmented areas may be tolerated. It may be horned or hornless, and tassels may be present. The profile may be straight or somewhat concave; the ears are erect and point upwards and forwards.

The Saanen is the most productive milk goat of Switzerland, which has the most productive milking goats in the world. Average milk yield is 838 kg in a lactation of 264 days. The milk should have a minimum of 3.2% fat and 2.7% protein.

The Saanen is not well suited to extensive management, and is usually raised intensively.
Being pale-skinned, it does not tolerate strong sun.

Because of its productivity, the Saanen has been exported all over the world, and has given rise to many local sub-breeds, often through cross-breeding with local goats.


The Toggenburg is a Swiss dairy goat from Toggenburg Valley of Switzerland at Ober Toggenburg. They are also credited as being the oldest known dairy goat breed.

This breed is medium size, sturdy, vigorous, and alert in appearance. Slightly smaller than the other Alpine breeds, the does weight at least 55kg.

The hair is short or medium in length, soft, fine, and lying flat. Its color is solid varying from light fawn to dark chocolate with no preference for any shade. Distinct white markings are as follows: white ears with dark spot in middle; two white stripes down the face from above each eye to the muzzle; hind legs white from hocks to hooves; forelegs white from knees downward with a dark lien (band) below knee acceptable; a white triangle on either side of the tail; white spot may be present at root of wattles or in that area if no wattles are present. Varying degrees of cream markings instead of pure white acceptable, but not desirable. The ears are erect and carried forward. Facial lines may be dished or straight, never roman.

Toggenburgs perform best in cooler conditions. They are noted for their excellent udder development and high milk production, and have an average fat test of 3.7 percent.

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Richard Belcher

Amanda Belcher