Named after Elgin and Shirley Pape, Harper, Texas
Shirley Pape was raised in Texas on a ranch that had bred sheep and Angora goats since the 1920’s, with Spanish meat goats kept separate from the Angoras. But Elgin and Shirley Pape did not raise goats themselves until one day, in the 1960’s, their daughter returned home with eight does and a buck, all purebred Spanish. She had been rewarded for her helpfulness by Mr. and Mrs. Midkiss of Kerville (now deceased), and thus began one of the largest purebred Spanish goat herds in Texas today.
The Papes added to their growing herd through the years, but only with stock from trusted friends and neighbors. They also raise Savanna and Savanna-cross goats, but the Papes keep the different breeds on separate ranches in the area. The Spanish goats are in ‘Hill Country?#151;a hilly area that is dry, rocky, and quite open, where Live Oaks, Shin Oaks, Mesquite, Yucca, and cacti grow amongst other shrubs and forage. It is a constant task to keep the Mesquite and cacti in check. The goats forage extensively on brush and Live Oak leaves, but the Papes supplement their feed with round bales of Sudan hay, protein blocks, cotton seed, corn, and grain cubes, which are a composite of pressed grain. The goats love the grain cubes, and the rustle of a feed bag will bring them running to their owners, showing them to be a pretty tame bunch. The goats have constant access to both mineral blocks and loose minerals, and drink from troughs as there are no natural streams or water sources in their pastures.
The Papes deworm twice per year, running the goats through a chute and using a worming gun to dose the goats with oral dewormer, usually Ivermectin. The availability of rocky surfaces in the area ensures that there is never any need for hoof trimming.
Buyers of their Spanish goats usually want weaned kids that are 30–50 lbs., and want them at different times of the year. The Papes meet this demand: most kidding occurs in January and July, allowing for the availability of young goats throughout the year. The bucks are never separated from the does, and mate selection occurs naturally. Because of this, the herd uses a mixture of inbreeding and linebreeding, which has worked well for decades. The Papes enjoy a reputation for having great goats, and have shipped goats to breeders throughout the United States.
The Papes do cull goats continually, but always for conformation, size, and udders, never for color. Their herd is comprised of a variety of colors, and includes slight variations in horn shapes, some curving slightly, some rising straight.
The success of the Papes?Spanish herd is only marred by one thing—predators.
Bobcats, mountain lions, coyotes, eagles, buzzards, and hawks have all taken their toll on the herd. When there are thousands of acres of pasture, pastures are hard to defend. The Spanish goats are now kept close to home and protected by one jenny per group. Each group consists of 300–350 goats and ranges over a few hundred acres. The Papes find that jennies stay more focused if not in pairs, but sometimes will run ragged protecting the herd and still have difficulty keeping coyotes at bay. Eagles pose another problem. There is no dense tree coverage protecting the land, and a constant supply of young goats also means that when the eagles return to the area after migration, there are kids to be had. Lately the eagles have been staying year-round. One day Mrs. Pape, grandchildren in tow, was horrified to find 16 kids killed by eight eagles who were perched at the water troughs. There may have been more kids missing—eagles will dive down at their prey and swoop back up, carrying it off in their talons. They’re daring and fast, and seem to defy the abilities of any livestock guardian.
In the early 2000’s, the Papes lost almost 60% of their stock to predators, but every year that percentage lowers. In 2007 losses due to predation still amounted to almost 20%. For Shirley Pape, who has loved goats since childhood, the losses are heartbreaking.
The Papes use government trapping and control programs, including aerial shooting, to help with predators, but these methods are not completely effective. The Papes have participated in many meetings with other Texan ranchers to increase government intervention in predation, but would like to see more results from the effort.
The Papes believe that predation is one of the main reasons why many local ranchers are giving up goat ranching, and see this as a great threat to the preservation of purebred Spanish goats. But the Papes won’t give up yet, and continue to do their best to conserve this endangered breed.
History of Pape herd from Shirley Pape, February 2008. She passed away on September 26, 2010.