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One might ask: Why do we need another Savanna goat registry?

The answer is simple. We need a registry that focuses more on the production points of the Savanna goat and less on what has come to be called “fancy points” — such as skin and hair color, horn color and pigment.

Today’s Savanna herd books are not structured on whether a Savanna survives on the range or is a good mother or grows well on marginal land. The only determining criterion for registration in other registries is color.


Generations of correctly colored Savannas can be successfully registered as fullbloods but any offspring that displays a red head, lack of pigment or black or brown hairs is not allowed into the fullblood herdbook — nor are its descendants (which may or may not meet color standards.)

Most informed American breeders know that today’s modernized breeds of Boer, Savanna and Kalahari Red all were developed in South Africa from the same lop-eared and multi-colored indigenous bush goats. With many of the same recessive genes running through all of these breeds, it is no wonder that white Savannas sometimes have red or red-headed kids, traditional colored Boer goats may have red, white or spotted offspring, and a Kalahari Red can occasionally have a white or spotted kid. Decades of selective breeding have not been able to eliminate this trait and breeders should not be penalized when an offspring with untraditional color is born.

Some of the most closely watched and documented genetics in recent years has been the importation in 2010 of Savanna goats from Australia by Kenneth Mincey of Georgia. The four bucks and 17 young females were first-generation descendants of Savanna embryos (from three bucks and eight donor does) exported to Australia by leading South African breeders Koenie Kotze and Amie Scholtz.

This indirect method of getting South African-origin bloodlines into the U. S., via a 60-day quarantine in Australia with a subsequent 30-day quarantine in New York City, overcame the USDA embargo on direct importations of live Savannas or embryos. (The incoming genetic material had to be derived from “Australian animals” because the USDA recognizes Australia, but not South Africa, as a source country for approved stock for U.S. importation).

Embryos from these imported Savannas were implanted into Spanish recipient does. At kidding time, several red-headed offspring were recorded from these documented pure Savannas — which goes to show that no expense in time, labor and money can eliminate a possible off-colored Savanna.

Exotic animal dealer Jurgen Schulz imported the first Savanna goats into the United States from South Africa in 1994. A small group of Savanna goats was delivered to a Florida quarantine station and in early 1995 they went to a Texas ranch approved as a quarantine unit. On December 5, 1998, the surviving herd and offspring were sold through Schultz’s  Kifaru Exotics sale barn in Lampasas, Texas, to buyers from several states.

The second set of Savannas was imported by Canadian Boer pioneer Brian Payne’s Keri-rose Farm, to Alberta, Canada. These Cillier embryo-derived, Canadian-born Savanna goats hit the ground in the spring of 2000.

The third source of Savanna genetic material imported from South Africa was through DNAfrica, an organization spearheaded by Johann Campher who set up representatives (DVMs) in Canada to sell Savanna embryos or descendants. Dennise Peterson of Hanford, Calif., as well as David Hagen of Minnesota, worked with the Canadian veterinarians to implant Savanna embryos. These animals arrived in California around 2002.

All of these genetics have produced red heads or other colors that do not meet current registries’ breed standards for color despite many U.S. breeders’ efforts to eliminate these occurrences by culling every red-headed or wrong-colored Savanna from their herds.

While well-intentioned, these attempts to cull for color while ignoring other obvious superior production traits in our small gene pool has caused what some call “genetic wastage.” In other words, many good genetic traits (and good fullblood goats) were culled in the effort to eliminate a red head or offspring with no pigment — an endeavor at which South African Savanna breeders — with many years experience and thousands of goats from which to select — had failed to do.

We say stop the wastage. Superior fullblood production Savannas are too valuable to send to a second-tier registry or to the kill floor because they don’t have the right hair color or pigment. The goal of the American Savanna Registry is to preserve and propagate the best genetics that the Savanna breed has to offer. Breeders may strive to have the ideal coloration of a “totally white goat with black skin, horns, point of nose, udder, sexual organs and hooves” — but ASR does not believe an otherwise productive Savanna from a long line of ideally colored ancestors should be discriminated against if it does not meet this ideal coloration.

We agree with what South African Dr. Quentin Campbell, author of “Performance Testing and Adaptability of Boer Goats”, had to say about breed standards:

 

“The adaptability of a sheep or a goat can be determined to a large extent by means of the following parameters: health, mortality, reproduction and mass gain … performance testing in actual fact also measures adaptability … Commercial and stud breeders should keep records of the productive traits of their ewes and should select for productivity and not for fancy points … should stud breeders persist in paying a lot of attention to split scrotums and the amount of red hair and spots which may be allowed … very little genetic improvement for economically important traits will be made.”