When you think of goats, does the state of Missouri pop into your mind? It should. The state ranks fifth in goat production in the U.S. And one family has been a part of the industry's rise over the past 40 years.
Sitting right off Interstate 44 in Lebanon, Mo., is a 40-acre farm owned and operated by Freman and Connie Elam. It is one of the state’s 4,132 goat operations. Their operation focuses on meat goat production and benefiting the commercial producer, while also bettering the goat industry.
Their goat endeavor started in 1974, when their son was born intolerant to cow’s milk. Freman’s father suggested they buy a dairy goat and use its milk for their son. They bought the first goat, and the family’s operation soon grew.
In the beginning, the Elams purchased mainly dairy goats — Nubians, Lamanchas, Saanen — and even a few pygmy goats. These breeds not only provided milk, but also were great at clearing underbrush and weeds in pastures.
“Then I decided if we’re gonna have goats,” Freman says, “we might as well have something to bring money in.”
So, in 2000 the couple traveled southwest to Texas to look at meat goats, particularly Boer goats. They came home with three does and one buck to start their new, full-blood herd — Bear Creek Boers.
MEAT MAKER: The Boer goat breed was developed in South Africa in the 1900s and became known for its meat. The breed is relatively new to the U.S., arriving in 1993. Meat goat producers fell in love with the breed’s ability to pack on the pounds quickly, with yearlings averaging 80 to 100 pounds.
The Elams take pride in raising Boer goats and keeping the bloodlines within their own herd. The only outside influence is purchasing a new buck every two to three years to expand their genetics for repeat customers. Offering quality stock for customers is their main goal.
“Everything you see on our farm today has been born and raised on the farm.” Freman proudly states.
Originally, the goat business appealed as a supplement to retirement and to stay active, but Freman noticed of all the different livestock they cared for throughout the years, the goat market was the most stable. “We’ve sold goats all over the United States, Canada and the Philippines," he said.
The Elams take pride in supplying commercial farmers with seedstock that gets kids to market quickly, from 90 to 120 days. But while functionality and production are two of the most important factors in their operation, another influential component is being able to help others.
Share the knowledge
The Elams are involved in the show goat industry, something they call their “country club activity.”
Connie says the couple has not missed an American Boer Goat Association National Show since 2002.
The show industry is where the couple can visit with people who have similar interests. Watching kids grow up in the show ring is something Freman describes as “making goosebumps go up and down your back.”
CENTER STAGE: Boer goats are at the heart of Freman and Connie Elam’s Bear Creek Boers operation near Lebanon, Mo. The couple first purchased the breed in 2000 from a goat producer in the state of Texas.
For the couple, it is about helping others, educating them on raising meat goats. They host farm visits, explaining how to set up fencing and facilities, what feed to use or what type of goat operation to have — seedstock, meat or dairy.
Ultimately, what the Elams hope people leave the farm with is a sense of how much they care for their animals, and the joy they have from working as a couple. After all these years, Freman and Connie still think of Bear Creek Boers as “an adventure” they get to share together.
Whether it is a show project for a 4-H or FFA member or a producer experiencing his or her first kidding season, helping others achieve success is what keeps the Elams in the goat industry. As Freman says, “What else is there to do in life besides help people?”
Loges writes from Springfield, Mo.