Vaccinating and Castrating Boer Goats with Delbert Kessi

May 30, 2013 · 5 comments

Boer goats // Wayward Spark

Harlan, Oregon with it’s forested hills and vibrant green pastures is one of the prettier places on this earth. In the first half of the 20th century, this area was a major producer of angora (goat) mohair. Delbert Kessi was born and raised in this valley and has worked goats pretty much his whole life. For decades he raised angora goats, going through the yearly cycles of kidding, shearing, tending his heard, and then trucking a huge trailer full of prized fleeces all the way to Texas (the county’s current leader in mohair production) every winter to sell them.

Almost ten years ago, Delbert figured he was about ready to retire or at least slow down a bit, so he sold off his whole herd of angoras. He still kept cattle, but after a few years, blackberry vines and other invasive plants that cows won’t eat began to creep into his pastures. Once again, he decided to bring in goats, but this time, he switched to Boers, a hearty breed of meat goats that originated in South Africa. (Read the Wikipedia article on the breed here.)

Boer goats don’t need shearing (much to the relief of local sheep shearers), but they do need to be vaccinated, castrated, and tended to on a regular basis. Every spring, the nannies* kid, and then they’re all fattened up on lush summer grass and forage before Delbert sells all the wether kids later in the fall to various local livestock buyers. He keeps the best of the nannies every year for replacement breeders.

Within a few days of kidding, Delbert managed to vaccinate all this spring’s kids by himself. Two-ish months later, though, all the young kids were due for a CD & T (clostridium perfringens┬átypes C and D and tetanus) booster shot, and the billies* needed to be castrated before they reached breeding age. Delbert can and has done this whole program by himself, but this year, he finally took Henry up on an offer to help out with the goat wrassling.

Delbert’s goats (currently just nannies and their spring kids) voluntarily spend nights inside a large, old barn, so on this particular morning, Delbert closed them up and didn’t let them out to pasture. He and Henry funneled about a third of the herd down a chute and used panels to close the entrance behind them, forcing them into a tight clump.

Delbert Kessi sorting goats // Wayward Spark

One by one, Delbert and Henry pushed, pulled, or shooed all the nannies out of the small pen and into a larger section of the barn, leaving just the kids enclosed.

Boer goats // Wayward Spark

The nannies waited calmly for their kids to join them.

Delbert Kessi vaccinating Boer goats // Wayward Spark

Delbert loaded two syringes with vaccine.

Boer goat kids // Wayward Spark

The kids stayed in a huddle, nervous but mostly quiet.

Boer goat kids // Wayward Spark

One at a time, Henry pulled a kid from the crowd.

vaccinating goats // Wayward Spark

Henry rearranged the kid’s body (30+ pounds) to present him or her to Delbert. The kid struggled and screamed. Henry tried not to get poked in the face by budding horns.

vaccinating goats // Wayward Spark

Nannies just got a quick shot subcutaneously in the neck before being released on the other side of the fence with their moms.

vaccinating goats // Wayward Spark

The billies, however, were presented butt-down and with feet-restrained.

castrating goats // Wayward Spark

Delbert positioned his Burdizzo clamp (read the wikipedia article here) at the base of the scrotum above a single testicle and pressed it shut to crush the blood vessels leading the the testicle.

castrating goats // Wayward Spark

He repositioned the unit and clamped above the other testicle.

This was obviously very unpleasant for the kid, but the Burdizzo was highly effective, and there was no blood, which pretty much eliminated the chance of infection. After castration, the wether was released and seemed to go about his business without further trauma or serious discomfort.

Boer goats // Wayward Spark

After the first batch of kids were processed, another third of the herd went through the same treatment.

Delbert Kessi and his goats // Wayward Spark

Delbert is no spring chicken (he has grandkids Henry’s age), but he can wrestle goats with the best of them. Throughout the program, he was constantly giving Henry tips on different holds or more efficient movements. He even held a few goats himself, so Henry could try out the Burdizzo.

Boer goats // Wayward Spark

After about two hours, all the kids had been vaccinated and castrated (if necessary), and they were eager to get out on pasture.

goat barn in Harlan, Oregon // Wayward Spark

goats being let out of a barn // Wayward Spark

They filed out of the barn and headed for the hills.

Boer goats // Wayward Spark

goats on pasture // Wayward Spark

goats on pasture // Wayward Spark

goats on pasture with cows // Wayward Spark

The herd of goats shares an expansive pasture with a bunch of cows, and they all get along just fine.

Delbert Kessi brings a long lifetime of experience to his daily animal husbandry duties, and his animals all benefit from his skill and conscientious caregiving. For the last two years, he’s allowed Henry to use a piece his property as a remote beekeeping yard (more on this soon), so Henry has appreciated any opportunity to repay the favor, all the while learning a whole lot from someone with such a depth of knowledge on a wide variety of subjects (livestock, timber, local history and geography, etc.).

Thanks for letting us come out, Delbert!

*Delbert uses the terms “nannies” and “billies”, so that’s what is used here even though it contrasts with the currently accepted terms “does” and “bucks”.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Bill May 31, 2013 at 3:52 am

Great photos. Thanks for sharing this.

A couple of thoughts for folks thinking of raising goats or looking for advice. I recommend wearing safety glasses when wrestling with goats (for loading, hoof trimming, etc.). As they’re thrashing about the glasses can protect your eyes.

I don’t think it’s accurate to say that it is necessary to regularly vaccinate goats. We rarely give ours any shots and never non-therapeutically. I do not know anyone who vaccinates against enterotoxemia. I think our way of doing it is the norm, even though it is common (unfortunately) to overuse wormers (which are administered orally).

Finally, our experience has been that buyers prefer uncastrated male kids (which we try to sell at 50-60 lbs/3-4 months). It is generally not necessary to castrate them.

I’m sure there are good reasons Mr. Kessi does these things and they must be preferred or necessary on his farm. But I wouldn’t want folks to get the impression that these practices are uniformly required in order to raise Boer goats.


Katie Miller May 31, 2013 at 7:50 pm

Great article and beautiful pictures!


shelly June 5, 2013 at 10:02 am

Wow, I am thrilled I discovered your blog. I love every photo you take. Going to add it to my favorite list of blogs on my blog. Please never stop and make sure to publish your book if it’s not published yet. Thank you! shelly


Rich July 18, 2013 at 10:23 am

I am raising Boer Goats here in South Texas. What is the best vaccine for them ? 8 way ?




rodney April 2, 2017 at 8:31 am

Do you leave your heard out at night. In the terrain you live in. With the predators that are up in the hills


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