Courtsey of Autry Farms, TN
Named after Tom and Meta Syfan, Mountain Home, Texas
Tom Syfan has raised purebred Spanish goats for many years. During Syfan’s travels to destinations such as Australia, New Zealand, and Europe, he kept searching for the better breed of goat. He feels that it is at home in Texas.
Syfan raises Spanish goats for meat, and pays attention to uniform conformation. Along the way he also began breeding for their coat quality. He sought to breed goats with good coats, and more hair. The result of his attention to their coats led to an all-black Spanish herd with heavy cashmere. The black coats are striking and accentuate the goats?good conformation. The goats are medium-sized, with does weighing in at about 80 lbs and bucks average about 120 lbs at maturity.
Syfan’s herd consists of several groups: three groups of does, one group of bucks, a group of young bucks, and a group of young does. They live on 5600 acres in the Hill Country of Texas. Their diet is natural—the land offers Live Oak, Shin Oak, and many varieties of brush. They also nibble on the cactus. In the winter the goats eat a lot of Juniper sprouts, also known as cedar, which would grow extensively if it weren’t kept under tight control by the goats. Syfan only supplements their feed in the winter months, at which time he puts out corn. The goats drink well water due to an absence of natural streams in that area. The herds are continually rotated, with border collies to help.
Syfan uses six livestock guardian dogs and four donkeys to protect the herds. The dogs are Great Pyrenees, Akbash, and Anatolian, and Syfan asserts that it’s not necessarily which breed of livestock guardian dog is best, but whether or not the dog itself is effective. However, he prefers the Great Pyrenees, and finds that the Akbash (as a breed) will run off deer. Many Texans lease their land to deer hunters, and Syfan is among them, so the Akbash is not his first choice. His dogs (with help from the donkeys) deter and fend off coyotes, foxes, wild hogs, and they also watch for eagles. Syfan has successfully kept predators under control.
The herd is bred for springtime kidding. Syfan’s does usually have single births, which he attributes to the almost unsupplemented forage. If a doe has twins or triplets, she usually won’t kid out the following year. This is fine with Syfan, who finds that single-birth offspring tend to be extremely healthy.
Deworming is done on an as-needed basis, which depends on the results of fecal testing, performed a few times annually or depending on weather conditions.
Syfan has a lot of breeding experience. He was awarded the 1964 Ford Foundation National Award for Sheep Production, and applied his knowledge to goats. His methods are simple and effective. Here’s how it works:
The goats, male and female, adults and kids, are divided into three groups according to quality (conformation, size, etc.). “A” does are bred to “A” bucks, “B” bred to “B”, “C” to “C”. Once bred, the does are back to the brush, and resume their roles.
Every year, each goat is reassessed, and bred again using the same formula. A doe may drop from “A” assessment to a “C”, a buckling may come from a “B” breeding and attain an “A” status—whatever looks right in the eyes of a master breeder.
Syfan will only keep a limited number of bucks, so 80 percent of the buck kids will be castrated and kept for a year to control brush, and then sold as “mutton kids.?Culled does and doe kids also go to auction. When a good buck can be replaced with a better buck, so be it, and the culled older bucks usually go to hunting programs where their horns are prized by hunters.
Syfan sells mature does, bucks, bucklings, and a few doelings to breeders. His goats have gone to 27 states, and, although they are meat goats, many clients have bought them for their cashmere. Syfan maintains that Spanish goats are the best and most versatile goats in the Hill Country of central Texas, as they provide meat, cashmere, and have the unsurpassed ability to clear land and control brush.
History of Syfan herd by Tom Syfan, February 2008.
Tom Syfan passed away on August 10, 2013.