Joubert Horn’s journey into quality goat breeding started with his father. Around 2005, his father bought a few goats on the side of the road from random people, Horn tells Food For Mzansi.
“His intention was not to farm with these goats, but rather to have them wander around the farm like kraal chickens,” he says.
The Horns’ farm is situated just outside Burgersdorp in the Eastern Cape and is particularly suited to goats.
“Anyone who lives there will tell you that the winters are extremely cold, with temperatures reaching -15° Celsius!” he says.
“There are rather large mountains on the farm where these goats had to live and there were about 30 of them. They lived in this rugged area with no help, no extra food, shelter, or anything. In a very short time, [my father] realised his 30 goats had multiplied to a 100.”
The former professional rugby player says that his interest in goat breeding started while he was still studying, and the flourishing of his father’s herd deepened his interest.
“One day I asked my dad, ‘Why don’t we actually start to farm with the goats in a more serious sense?’. His reply to me was that if I managed the farm with him and bought 50% of the shares in the goats, we [would have] a deal. And this is where it all began.”
Horn’s rugby career was in full swing at the time. Using his earnings from matches, he bought 50% of the goat business from his father. “In a short period of time, we realised our goat population had tripled and we were now the proud owners of 300 goats. I ultimately bought my father out of the goat business and, well, the rest is history!”
Nicole Ludolph: The tongues are wagging about your recent purchase of Maserati, the world champion Boer goat. But before we delve into it, tell us a little more about your family farming enterprise.
Joubert Horn: [Firstly], it is impossible for me to run everything on my own. My father, wife and worker, Piet, play a huge role [in the business], and hopefully at a later stage, my son will also.
[At the beginning], I downscaled [from 300 goats] to 50 goats with the help of Boer goat judges. After my rugby career, I got the opportunity to farm in the Kalahari and of course the goats went [along].
This was a totally different environment for the goats. It was extremely hot and very often very dry. It was an eye opener; how quickly they adapted.
I registered my stud in 2017 and started to utilise some of the top rams in the industry. After two years, we moved to Vryburg and again the goats went with us and adapted even faster than the previous time.
Today, I have Boer goats that have travelled to three different locations, have experienced lambing seasons in the past with no help, no shelter, no lambing pens and no extra food. With good rams, I made tremendous progress and even today I can see that my goats can survive in very harsh circumstances.
What do you look for when purchasing a champion goat? What are the characteristics of a champion?
The characteristics of a champion…is a goat that is very correct, or almost faultless. In all goats, you get very good quality and very good genetics, but we will always talk about a negative.
Every goat has a negative – even champion bucks – but his negative you almost don’t see. [That’s] because he is very correct. That is the characteristics of a champion goat! Then of course, [he] has all the basic characteristics. He’s got length; he’s got depth; he carries his head well; he’s got a strong head; he moves very easily.
You recently purchased Maserati, the reigning world champion buck who is described as the best breeding buck in the industry. What makes Maserati so special?
This ram is just very correct, or almost faultless. He carries his head very well, and he’s got a very long body, but you won’t even realise. Still, with that long body, he is very well balanced. In my stud, I want to make my back quarters better and this ram’s got a very strong back quarter.
What is the importance of breeding with quality genetics?
I think it’s very important to breed with quality genetics, not just if you are in a stud, but also [for] commercial farmers. If you buy yourself good genetics in terms of a ram, it has a very big influence on your whole herd or your whole stud.
At the end of the day, it’s about meat. And when you have a ram that can breed bucks with a lot of meat, with a lot of depth, with a lot of width, and long bodies, that’s what you want. Good genetics is non-negotiable when it comes to goats.
Do you have any tips for aspiring goat farmers?
I know not everybody [has] the same budget, but I would suggest that the first thing you do is a junior Boer goat course. Then you know what to look for. You can go to a farmer by yourself and know what a nice ram is, or what a nice female goat looks like. It’s always nice to have someone who helps you and gives you advice, but you must also have an idea.
Secondly, I would say invest in a ram if you can. Maybe you have a tight budget and you can’t afford everything, but you can farm with average ewes and…make them better over time with good rams. So I would say make sure you buy the correct ram, as it can really add value to your stud.
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