Courtesy of Ethan Meador
Named after Robert and Doris Kensing, Menard, Texas
Robert Kensing was an economist for the Texas A&M Extension Service. One day in 1972 an extension agent called him in about horticulture——a local hobby farmer in Menard, Texas was considering growing pecans. When Kensing left that farm, he brought away 15 does and one buck. They were Kensing’s first goats. The Kensings had just purchased property in Menard, and although they still lived 60 miles away, they put the goats on the new land. The goats could eat brush and required very little maintenance. The Spanish goats were a weekend hobby, but right from the start Kensing began selective breeding and culling. When Kensing retired in 1986, he moved to Menard, expanded the ranch, and devoted his time to breeding purebred Spanish goats.
Robert Kensing had grown up with Angora goats, which were a popular breed in Texas when mohair commanded a high price, so he had experience. In the 1930’s and 1940’s, Kensing’s family were some of many ranchers who raised sheep and Angora goats in Texas. They also kept Spanish goats. When the shearers came, the crew would camp out on the ranch. Most were Mexican, and were very happy to eat goat meat. The ranchers ate it, too. That’s what the Spanish goats were for—you needed a small animal that you could eat before the meat went bad, because in the Kensing’s area, farms didn’t have electricity until the late 1930’s. Lambs were more expensive than goats. Angora goats were more expensive than Spanish goats, because Angoras could be sold for both meat and hair. Spanish goats were just for meat, so those were the ones for eating. And the Spanish goats could just take care of themselves.
Around the time that Kensing moved to Menard, meat goat ranchers in Texas were getting excited about imported breeds, specifically Boer goats. Boers became fashionable and popular, and most breeders chose to breed their Spanish goats with Boers. Not Kensing. He knew that very often that first generation of crossbreeding is very impressive, but as time goes on the crossbreeds may not prove to be everything hoped. So he kept his Spanish goats purebred, and added good stock to his herd. The additions were bucks. Two big, beautiful bucks from a Sonora breeder (no longer in the business), and some bucks from Bill Brown (now deceased) in Menard. There were also some from San Angelo. Kensing would pay the price for excellent bucks—$300 in the 1980’s to bring bucks of excellent conformation into his herd.
The Kensings had a friend out west who needed bucks, and that type of demand helped shape their breeding strategies. The Kensings breed for kidding in January and wean the bucklings in April. The bucklings are then kept separate from the herd, and given feed daily to help them fill out and to keep them gentled. In September, bucks are leased out for breeding, and in December they return home, and are left to forage. Of these bucks, some are culled in January or February, but the best live on to breed again.
The Kensings?ranch features gently-rolling hills and great expanses of oak trees. Limestone rock in the hills has always kept the goats?hooves naturally trimmed. There are no natural water sources for the goats, so they drink from troughs. Temperatures often reach 105 or 110 degrees in the summertime, which the goats seem to enjoy. The average annual rainfall is 20 inches.
The Kensings?goats forage on “weeds.?Live Oaks and Shin Oaks factor greatly into their diets, and Robert Kensing keeps an eye on the Shin Oaks to make sure that the goats do not eat them all down to the roots. Mesquite and Prickly Pear also grow in abundance. The goats avoid eating the latter, but they will sometimes tiptoe in to eat the Prickly Pear fruit. Kensing has worked hard to control the cacti and Mesquite on his ranch. There is rarely snow in wintertime in Menard, and during winter months there are still tall, dried grasses standing, so cut hay is never used. When the goats?feed is supplemented, Kensing uses 20% protein grain cubes and shell corn. The bucklings receive the supplemental feed, as do the does at kidding time. The amounts given depend on the quality of the natural forage available.
Weather plays a large role in the Kensings?operation. Rain can bring worms, and Kensing can visually assess whether or not the goats need to be dewormed, primarily by looking at the pinks around their eyes. The forage is affected by the weather, too, which then in turn can affect the birth rate of the goats. Triplets are not unusual, but if the weather is tricky during the year and forage is poor, the goats mostly have twins.
If weather conditions through the growing season are normal, about 10% of the does will have triplets, most will have twins, and there will also be single births. The Kensings do not interfere at kidding time, and if a weak kid cannot make it through with normal care, it is left to its fate. Does are given shelter at kidding time, but usually take refuge in the shelter of the oaks.
The Kensing bucks weight in at 100 lbs when immature at eight months of age, and 175 lbs when full grown. The does weigh about 150 lbs at adulthood in good body condition.
The Kensings are fortunate in that they can manage predator problems. Eagles are rarely seen on their ranch, and the goats are safe from raptors beneath the trees. They keep one llama with each group of goats (groups consist of 50 goats running on 300 acres). The llamas are effective against the occasional coyote, and are easy to care for as they forage with the goats. The Kensings also have Texas Longhorn crossbreds who are fiercely protective of their calves against any dogs that may show up. As calving time coincides with kidding time, the cattle offer protection for the entire birthing herd.
Doris Kensing’s favorite Spanish goats were always the ones that were kind of different—the “furry?ones. These have a thicker cashmere undercoat which, Doris believes, protects the kids better from the elements. They have slightly different horns, and different, less gentle, temperaments than the rest. Their horns tend to grow more straight back than outwards, but there is only slight horn variation within their herd. The Kensings?goats have small sideways ears. Cashmere is no longer tolerated.
The Kensings do not usually breed for color, but did have a client who preferred brown goats, believing that brown coats helped to camouflage the kids and keep them safer from predators. The Kensings obliged him, and ensured that their herd included mostly brown bucks to sell. Most of their goats are brown or dark tan with a black line down the back. Some are spotted.
Robert and Doris Kensing still raise purebred Spanish goats, but most of the herd is now in the hands of their nephew, David Whitworth, who is dedicated to continuing conservation of the Spanish breed.
History of Kensing herd from Robert and Doris Kensing, February 2008.