A South African Boer Goat farmer finds international fame with online academy

Hailing from the small town of Alldays, in Limpopo Province, South Africa, resident Pieter Smith has captured the imagination of nearly 100,000 would-be goat farmers around the world through his groundbreaking mentorship on his wildly popular Facebook page. He recently formalised his outreach concept with the launch of the Pieter Smith Boer Goat Academy.

When Pieter Smith returned to the dusty town of Alldays Limpopo (population 3000) to get involved in the family business in 2001 after a stint playing rugby overseas, goat farming was the last thing on his mind. But when he was left with a herd of Boer Goats as payment for a business deal, his path was set – and what a journey it has been! In just six years Pieter had become a breeder of coveted (and world record-setting) Boer Goat stock.

The Pieter Smith Stud Farm Facebook page has fans all over the world – from Thailand to Turkey, Botswana to Bangladesh and his prize stud Blixem may well be the most famous Boer Goat in the world –– a recent Facebook post featuring the star breeding ram recently reached an astonishing 200,000 people.

The business of learning

Pieter’s own entry into the world of goat farming in 2014 was not without its challenges. Information was scarce and he would spend weeks, if not months, getting to grips with the many intricacies of goat farming – experiencing both the heartbreaks and triumphs so integral to the farming world.

Access to information, insight and resources about the breeding, rearing and sales of this born and bred South African breed is sorely needed. And Pieter is here for it! He readily shares informal video and written content with his global followers on a daily basis – divulging trade secrets that until now have been kept within owner-farmer ranks. And in just a few years, Pieter’s Facebook community has grown to over 90,000 hyper-engaged members.

A turning point for Pieter in his goat breeding endeavours was finding a mentor, and it is this mindset of sharing that drives his passionate Facebook community. Through his online engagement and mentorship Pieter provides regular skills-sharing updates himself and has become part of many goat farmers’ successes.

“Boer Goat Farming is closely linked to the social and cultural lives of several million resource-poor farmers for whom animal ownership ensures varying degrees of sustainable farming and economic stability, especially in backyard production systems,” he explains. Quite literally his Facebook page is empowering many to move from subsistence farming practices to profit-making business owners.

“The demand for goats is currently higher than usual, especially when it comes to good South African genetics,” says Pieter. “Not only have stud prices escalated, but also meat prices. This is a good indication that there is room for viable commercial growth in the Boer Goat industry.” It is this opportunity that Pieter is encouraging prospective farmers to pursue.

From Field Days at Alldays to all days online

In 2018 Pieter launched his annual interactive Field Day event at his farm in Alldays. Here, would-be and existing Boer Goat farmers would gather to learn and share via live demonstrations and expert lectures. It’s clear that Pieter has spotted a learning and sharing gap in the market – the 2019 Field Day event saw 153 farmers pass through the Alldays gates! Covid-19 brought this popular event to a halt and what was first planned a live-streaming event morphed into the next chapter for this entrepreneural farmer – the launch of the online Pieter Smith Boer Goat Academy.

Six online learning modules take students through the primary pillars of goat breeding which includes selection, nutrition, reproduction, health and disease management, complete with a full post-mortem demonstration. These online learning modules are all presented in video format and feature collaborations with leading veterinary and other Boer Goat experts. As the academy evolves, so the levels of learning will develop and the Academy will have upskilling options for everybody from learner farmers to experts in the field. The academy is hosted on the Pieter Smith website (www.pietersmithboergoat.co.za) which is a portal for resources and includes two shops, for Pieter’s tried-and-tested farming essentials and veterinary supplies.

This online based learning solution is a first for the Boer Goat community in Southern Africa and it is also a groundbreaking opportunity to break down barriers for many beginner and would-be farmers in the region – and around the world. “Like many other economies, our country was built by farmers and to play a small role in opening up Boer Goat farming to more people both in Southern Africa and further afield is an exciting opportunity,” says Pieter.

What is a Boer Goat?

First bred in the early 1900’s by South African farmers, Boer Goats are favoured for their high meat yield and their hardiness and adaptability, and in a century they have become a vital cog in the livestock economy in Sub-Saharan Africa and further afield. In the United States, where Boer Goats were first introduced in 1993, the meat goat value per annum is estimated to stand between $150 and $400 million dollars. It is Pieter’s long term dream to help aspiring farmers and breeders to make their own mark in their countries and communities using affordable and easily accessible knowledge he is only too happy to share.

Awards and rewards

In 2018 Pieter was placed third at the South Africa National Championships and was the breeder of the Reserve Grand Champion ewe, Princess of Parys. In that same year he was awarded “Breeder of Champions” and “Breeder with Most Points Scored” at a number of shows around the country. He repeated those wins again the following year. 2019 continued to be a good year for Pieter – he came in the Top 5 at the World Championships in Bloemfontein and was the breeder of the Sixth Tooth World Champion Ewe, Emma.

In 2019 he set the auction record price for a Bosveld Boer Goat ram (R100,000), and in August 2020 Pieter broke his own South African record when he sold an ewe for R160,000 (about $10,400).