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Good genetics drive Dunagan farm success

Staff writer

Whether they are producing and selling efficient meat goats or effective guardian dogs, the Dunagan family of rural Hillsboro gets the job done with good genetics.

Brent and Andrea Dunagan, daughter, Mesa Merrell, and son, Cannon Dunagan, moved to the Hillsboro area five years ago but have been involved in a highly successful meat goat operation for almost 10 years. Their farm southwest of Hillsboro is home to a herd of more than 50 Boer meat goats, one of which is a National Champion. Many others have earned ennoblement points and placed high at shows across the country.

“Our animals usually place first, second, or third at the big shows we go to,” Andrea Dunagan said. “We show at the Kansas State Fair, at Ft. Worth, the Denver Stock Show, and state fairs in Oklahoma and Texas.”

This past summer Mesa Merrell led the grand champion 4-H market goat at the Marion County Fair in Hillsboro.

“We breed our goats to make 60 pounds in 60 days,” Dunagan said. “If they can’t convert, then we cull out those lines.”

Most of the Dunagan farm Boer goats freshen, or kid, in the spring, with a few does due in December and the rest in March, April, and May.

“We show them from zero to three months of age, so they grow very quickly on the dams,” Dunagan said.

Good genetics make it possible for the does to produce growthy kids at the top of industry standards.

“We started with Double Eagle lines from Earl Peacock in Texas,” Dunagan said. “Then we used AI (artificial insemination) and embryo transfer to keep those good lines going.”

Several top quality donor does are flushed each year and approximately 12 to 15 eggs are harvested, then implanted into carrier does in the herd.

“Embryo transfer is really not that expensive or hard to do anymore,” Dunagan said. “And it gives us a boost in the show ring as well as in marketability.”

Most Dunagan-bred goats are sold as breeding stock to other breeders, but some top wethers are pulled out to sell to 4-H members or youth looking for show-quality market projects.

“Mesa gets first pick, of course,” Dunagan said. “But we try to keep the wethers affordable for other youth to have success with, too.”

Wethers sell for an average of $125 to $150 each while breeding stock can go as high as $1,800.

“We sold a bred doe at the Cowboy Classic in Texas for $3,000,” Dunagan said.

To protect their high dollar investment in goat genetics, the Dunagan’s raise and train guardian dogs to protect the herd.

“I really like the three-way cross we have now,” Dunagan said. “They have the alertness of the Great Pyrenees, the territorial abilities of the Anatolians, and the athleticism and aggressiveness of the Irish Wolfhounds.”

Though the meat goats graze over 40 acres of pasture and woodland trees, Dunagan said the dogs have kept all predators away.

“We hear lots of coyotes and we had problems with humans at our other location before we moved here,” she said. “But the dogs are very skilled at protecting the goats. We have never lost anything here yet.”

Brent and Andrea Dunagan used to raise beef cattle when they lived near Rose Hill, but meat goats have proven to be a great fit for their Hillsboro farm.

“We get real attached to the goats and the dogs,” Dunagan said. “They are just like family and it’s hard to let them go when we sell them.”

Dunagan said they plan to be in the business for many years yet, as Mesa has a keen interest in the livestock industry, and young son Cannon, now 19 months of age, will likely be involved as he grows up.

Last modified Dec. 1, 2011

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