Teasel and Me

Teasel - a white Spanish doe.
“She thought she wanted Boer goats, and then she got me!”

In February of 2007, while researching “The Challenges of Raising Rare Breeds” (Hobby Farms, May/June 2007), I had the great fortune to enjoy a long, productive, telephone conversation with Don Schrider, communication director for the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. We spoke of Marsh Tacky horses, endangered hogs (“Southern Heritage Hogs”; Hobby Farms, July/August 2008), and finally, Spanish goats.

“Breeding to Boer goats has almost wiped out the pure Spanish goat,” he told me, and that made me stop and think. When we moved to the southern Ozarks in 2002, we saw herds of Spanish goats wherever we went. We still see some Spanish does but now they’re pastured with Boer bucks. As they die or are culled for age, they’re replaced with their part-Boer daughters.

When we moved here, one of the highlights of going to town was passing an Ozark hill farm where a magnificent Spanish buck with huge, twisty horns, led a herd of handsome Spanish does. But soon after our arrival, a Boer took the big buck’s place. Still, I had my eye on a favorite long-horned, cream-colored doe and over the years I’ve picked her out whenever we drove by.

Fast-forward to June of 2007. Picture this: we’ve stopped to chat with the Ozark farmer who owns the goats, as we often do. As usual, I comment on my favorite doe. Her owner says, “I’m taking her to the sale next week.”

So, of course, I bought her and now I have my own Spanish goat. I named her Teasel because she’s as tough and as beautiful as a teasel flower and unfortunately, every bit as wild.

I love goats. I have goats of several breeds including Boers, and the Boer goats are my passion. However, my girls are expensive pasture ornaments instead of breeding stock because they’re family and we can’t bear to lose any more of them during kidding.

Rangy, rugged Teasel has lived among Boer royalty for exactly one year, consuming the same feed and sharing their housing. Based on fecal testing, she has yet to be wormed and we’ve never had to trim her hooves. When the Boers and my Nubian dairy queens hunker down under a tree in the yard and wait to be fed, Teasel marches past them out to the pasture to munch brush and, sighing, the others get up and follow. When something unusual happens, Teasel is the sentry who issues a warning call.

The difference is like night and day. Teasel is a rugged, resourceful, go-getter and my beloved Boers are caprine cream puffs. Which would I choose if I were still raising goats? Spanish—in a heartbeat!