Did you know that the Spanish goat is one of the oldest existing goat breeds? The Spanish goat is a meat and brush-clearing breed of goat that originated from Spain before arriving in the USA. Also known as a scrub goat or a brush goat, the Spanish goat is now widely found in the United States. In the early years, the Spanish goat was considered to be a dual purpose livestock animal, used for milk and meat production. Currently, the Spanish goat breed is primarily raised as a livestock animal for production of meat.
Due to the long regional history of the Spanish goat which is scattered across North America, these livestock animals are called by different names which are also based on their distinctive characteristics – “wood” in Florida, “briar” or “brush” in South Carolina and North Carolina, “scrub” in midwest Pennsylvania and “hill” in Virginia. Before the 1980s, the Spanish goat was just raised primarily by Spanish explorers for clearing wild, undesirable plant species and brush from pasture lands and terrain.
The benefits of these livestock animals are too many to count but the bottomline is, Spanish goats are admired and valued in the field of goat farming for being tough, hardy and having impressive forage skills in the wild.
Spanish goats are known to be healthy and hardy, making them sustainable animals that can survive even in difficult or harsh environments because of their amazing ability to forage. Some goat breeders have crossbred pure Spanish goats with imported goat breeds for meat and cashmere production.
A lot of crossbred goats have been observed to show superb, hybrid vigor, which may have caused a surge in crossbreeding Spanish goats. Because of this, the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy have listed the Spanish on the watch list for threatened breeds for extinction.
Before they were considered as an all-around goat, the Spanish goat was regarded by Spanish explorers as producers of milk and meat. The Spanish goat greatly flourished in the Americas, primarily valued as a ready and abundant livestock source of hides, meat and milk by the Spanish colonists. They were taken practically everywhere the Spaniards went and eventually became a vital part of production and survival in South America, Central America and North America. Using goats for meat was also considered integral because it allowed cattle to be reserved for other uses, specifically transportation and crop production.
In terms of its versatility, the Spanish goats were practically the only known breed of goats across the southern United States and major parts of the Americas for more than 300 years. Eventually, as more goat breeds came to be known in agriculture, more imported breeds were also used for production of fiber and dairy.
Spanish goats are valued by farmers and livestock breeders because they are generally very easy to maintain, requiring minimal care or human intervention when kidding or feeding. Although Spanish goats are small in size, they are considered to be reliable producers year after year.
Spanish goats, both male and female, are known to be horned. The horns of the bucks are usually twisted and large. The ears are forward (next to the head), positioned horizontally and considerably large. A new breeder might mistake the ears of Spanish goats with that of the Nubians, but upon a closer look, the ear carriage of a Spanish goat breed is distinct. The faces of Spanish goats are also straight or quite convex, distinctly different from the Nubian goat breed.
Spanish does weigh between 100-150 pounds while bucks can weigh around 200-250 pounds. Spanish goat breeds grow up to 15-25 inches in height.
Due to the fact that Spanish goats have not been extensively bred in farm conditions, nor have they been domesticated, this breed can be sometimes wild and difficult to handle. However, according to research, there are some strains and individual goats that can be considered as domesticated than the entirety of its species.
The hair of this livestock animal is usually short but may grow up to medium length. It can also be in any color (brown, black, white, grey) depending on its breed and heritage.
According to the data collected by the Spanish Goat Association, the milk sample of Spanish goats yielded 4% protein and 4.8% butterfat. There are also studies that Spanish does may produce higher weight kids due to its excellent mothering and ease of kidding.
Farmers who are raising Spanish goats primarily for milking or dairy production may find themselves in slightly challenging situations. This is because of the resourcefulness, innate ability to forage and natural independence of Spanish goats that make them a bit wild and stubborn.
Unlike other goat breeds, Spanish goats are not known to be friendly, docile and calm livestock animals. Centuries of foraging in difficult terrain and rough brush have made Spanish goats agile climbers and hardy jumpers.
Below are some of the goat breeds crossbred with the Spanish goat:
Nubian cross – Characterized by short, heavy and thick horns with large, horizontal ears drooping straight out to the side of the head.
Alpine or Swiss dairy crosses – goats have long, heavy horns with less twists. The ears are also shorter that are usually upright than horizontal.
Boer cross – similar to the Nubian cross.
Angora cross – also similar to the Nubian cross; only difference is that it has more excess hair.
According to numerous field research units, the Spanish goat breed has undergone some selection pressure due to its various production benefits and traits such as its weight for age and prolificacy. Today, most of the Spanish goats are scattered in the Texas area.
The widespread crossbreeding of purebred Spanish goats has created an alarming shortage of livestock. According to research, there were 280,000 Spanish goats in the Texas area in 1990. However, due to the widespread crossbreeding, there were only 8,500 purebred Spanish goats left in America in 2009. These figures have alarmed several livestock breeds conservancy groups and the Spanish goat breeds have been placed under the conservation priority breeds. It’s quite a shame that this heritage breed of goat will soon suffer extinction if not for concerned scientists, veterinarians and goat breeders.
That being said, American breeders had to take precautionary measures to preserve the Spanish bloodline and improve the surviving purebred goats. In recent times, breeders and farmers are looking at Spanish goats in a whole new light, appreciating the animal’s unique traits and numerous benefits it totes along.
Many breeders regard the Spanish goat as an excellent range animal not only because it is hardy but also because of its small teats and udder. Spanish goats can also breed even when out of season, making them excellent breeds that can thrive under adverse agro-climatic conditions, with little or no management inputs needed.
Spanish goats were considered to be efficient livestock animals to thrive in the wil because they had small udders, which would lessen their risk of being cut up or wounded by rocks, thorns, cactus and other rough, natural obstacles.
Spanish goats are known to be feral, wild or semi-wild livestock animals. While relatively small animals, their actual size varies greatly to the available breeding stock, climate and terrain. The body shape, color, hair, horn and ear shape of Spanish goats are not consistent. Producers admire the Spanish goat for their ability to thrive under minimal care and forage resourcefully for food.
This livestock breed is especially tolerant of various climates and are also known to forage well on local plants, or whatever shrubs or weeds are available in the wild, in their area or habitat.
In Texas, a lot of Boer bucks (known for being rugged meat producers) have been cross-bred with Spanish does. Boer goat breeds originated from South Africa and are known for its impressive meat production and related benefits.
Nubian bucks have also been bred with Spanish does mainly to improve fleshiness of the kids, milk production of dams and improve overall body size and hardiness.
The productivity of female Spanish goats or Spanish does are considered to be above average and they can produce enough milk for the benefits and growth of the kids.
Just like any other goat breed, Spanish goats are at their happiest when they are in a herd. They are not happy and healthy when they are kept alone. In a usual farm setup, there may be other animals like horse, rabbit, chicken, and while there are some breeds of goats that are known to be friendly, it would be wise not to expect Spanish goats to show a warm behaviour towards them. Also, Spanish goats are not friendly or sociable with humans.
Just like most farm or livestock animals, Spanish goats should always be given access to clean and fresh water to keep them hydrated and healthy. When it comes to food, Spanish goats are happy and content with leaves, tree bark, shrubs, herbs, briars and weeds.
While Spanish goats are considered to be hardy animals and require minimal farm management, they might still need mineral supplements especially if the plants in the pasture, hay composition or local soil composition have no stable source of trace minerals.
Breeders who decide to give supplements to Spanish goats need to use a mineral supplement specially intended for livestock animals, specifically goats and cattle. If on a budget, breeders can simply feed Spanish goats with vegetable and fruit scraps. This can also add variety to the diet of the goats. Hand feeding small quantities of grains can also be a good way to socialize with Spanish goats.
Generally, Spanish goats are hardy creatures admired for their overall health and sturdiness. These goats are so low-maintenance that some breeders even claim that they never had to trim the hooves of Spanish goats.
Compared to other breeds, Spanish goats do not require frequent deworming. However, Spanish goats, no matter how hardy or healthy they are, are not bionic and may sometimes get sick. When this happens, it is highly recommended to contact a veterinarian who is experienced in handling and catching difficult livestock animals.
As mentioned earlier, Spanish goat does are quite prolific and they can produce enough milk for the benefits of their kids. The survival rate of the Spanish goat breed is good, which is why they have also been used in several upgrading programs.
Just like any livestock animal, the Spanish goat can be used for its meat, hide and milk. However, its amazing ability to forage, clear bushes and weeds and thrive in harsh or extreme weather is a bonus.
Spanish goats can live up to 15 years or more, depending on its environment, diet and heritage. Aside from being hardy, versatile, all around livestock animals, Spanish goats are also bred for dairy production.
For more information, research and related studies about Spanish goats, you may visit the website of the Spanish Goat Association page – http://spanishgoats.org.