HUNNEWELL, Mo. – When it comes to goats, the Behring family isn’t kidding around.
What started as a high school FFA project with three goats is now a 56-head herd of Boer goats tended by the three Behring kids, ages 13 to 19.
Megan Behring, a 19-year-old junior in animal sciences at the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, started the project at the recommendation of her adviser at Marion County R-II Schools, Brent Meyer, who raised goats himself.
The herd, now in its fifth year, has grown to 34 adults and 22 kids. Megan enrolled in the MU College of Veterinary Medicine’s Pre-Veterinary Medicine Scholars program, which guarantees admission to the vet school upon successful completion of the program’s undergraduate requirements.
Even though the Behrings show the goats at FFA and 4-H fairs, they are also pets. Many of them are named after Disney characters.
With Megan now in college, much of the responsibility for the herd falls to her 16-year-old sister, Amy, and 13-year-old Adair, a third-year member of Pleasant Day 4-H Club in Marion County.
The siblings are responsible for feeding and watering the goats, keeping their stalls clean and dry, and taking head counts. They also help with the kidding. The does usually produce twins, plus an occasional set of triplets.
Megan’s mom, Richelle, is a second-grade teacher at Marion County R-II School in Philadelphia, Mo. Her dad, Gale, is a maintenance worker at Continental Casting in Monroe City.
Through the years they have lost a couple of goats and have had their trials in feeding the goats during winter storms.
Although goats are known for their wandering ways, Boer goats usually stay close to home, Richelle says. When they do get outside of the fence, they will stand by the fence waiting to return to the herd. They also meander pastures in groups. “They’re social animals. They don’t like to be alone,” says Richelle. “They’re very home-oriented. They have a home and they know that’s where they belong.”
The Boers were chosen because they were easier to handle than cattle, Megan said. Boers are a breed of goat developed for meat production by Dutch farmers in South Africa in the early 1900s. The goats are fast-growing, muscular and smart, and are known for being docile and having high fertility rates. For the lanky Behring girls and their young brother, 100-pound Boer goats were a better fit as FFA and 4-H projects than a 1,000-pound steer.
“Goats are smarter than a lot of people think,” says Richelle. One of the goats, named Grace, can unlatch the barn door and gates. They also are “sorters” when it comes to feeding, picking out the grains and pellets they prefer and leaving the unwanted parts behind.
The Behrings said they have learned about goats by listening to other goat producers, attending MU Extension programs at Lincoln University and consulting the MU Extension website for new information.
Adair has learned about goats, and also about time and money management, through his 4-H project.
Although the goats are raised for meat, the Behrings have never eaten one of their own herd. “They’re one of our own,” Megan explains.
For more information from MU Extension about goats, go to www.extension.missouri.edu/animals.
For more information about the Pre-Veterinary Medicine Scholars Program, contact Kathy Seay, Admissions Manager, W-203 Veterinary Medicine, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO 65211, VetAdmissions@missouri.edu, 573-884-3341.