PEDIGREES, REGISTRIES, AND GENETICS: HOW ARE THEY RELATED?
Registries exist to record the pedigrees of individual animals. Pedigree information includes sire, dam, grandsire, granddam, and prior generations. Registries also record the animal's date of birth, sex, breed, percentage of breed (if crossbred), number in litter, horned or polled, domestic or imported breeding, identification method (tattooing, ear tags, microchipping), and natural delivery or birth through artificial insemination or embryo transfer. Registration further provides breeder information, including names and locations. This is all valuable information.
What registration does NOT provide is more important: Registration does NOT mean that the goat is an animal of good quality or conformation worthy of being used for breeding. Too many goat raisers (especially "newbies") have been convinced to believe otherwise and buy based upon registration, because they are looking for a quick and easy way to identify what they believe is proof of a quality goat. Many goats are registrable if the buyer is willing to pay the fees and provide required information, but that does not make them quality animals.
Why is pedigree registration not synonymous with quality? Genetics involves a lot of variables, and these variables heavily influence breeding results. Quality genetics is only the STARTING POINT for raising goats. And quality genetics can be diminished or even destroyed by improper or inferior management practices.
Circumstances on your property differ from year to year, month to month, and pasture to pasture. No two days are ever alike. Nature is a moving target, always challenging us. And all of these changes affect the goats living there.
The best doe and the best buck can breed one year, producing terrific offspring, yet breed the next year and produce culls. That the goats are a year older may been enough to have an impact on quality of offspring. Number of kids in the litter has a bearing on how those kids grow out. Triplets take longer to grow than do singles.
Too much or too little rain affects plant growth, in turn impacting what is available for goats to eat. Although supplemental feeding is essential, goats are always going to go for the new and tender and green vegetation when it is available. It is their natural diet and they metabolize it better than other food sources. Drought, heat, and cold also impact their productivity.
Hay quality varies from year to year and local conditions can present problems. In Arkansas and other areas where poultry production is widespread, chicken litter (feces) is used as fertilizer. Too much phosphorus in the diet causes serious problems in goats. The high levels of phosphorus in chicken litter are absorbed by plants, requiring local goat producers to add calcium carbonate to their goats' diet. Processed grains (sacked feed) and loose minerals, although manufactured to exacting specifications, always have some small differences in them from batch to batch. Changes in feed affect goats' performance.
There are many things for which you have to make constant adjustments. Insects, birds, and mammals bring diseases onto your property. Cold, heat, drought, rain, snow, ice, hail, wind -- these weather conditions affect animals that live, breed, and raise their offspring outdoors. The presence of predators, even though they may be kept away by livestock guardian dogs, stresses goats. The introduction of new goats into the herd brings stress; the pecking order resolution starts all over, changing the status of goats in the herd which affects the amount of feed that each goat is able to eat.
Introducing new livestock guardian animals is another stressor. Simply moving goats from pasture to pasture will stress them. Anytime you move a goat, prior thought must be given on how to reduce the stress that the move creates. Goats don't transport easily and don't like change.
You must learn how to evaluate breeding goats based upon body conformation and productivity and hopefully back trace this to dam/sire and to granddam/grandsire. Quality meat goat genetics should breed "true," i.e. with consistency of muscling and body conformation from generation to generation. In fact, the definition of a breed is consistent reproduction of traits for at least seven continuous generations. Sometimes one parent's bad traits overcome the other parent's good traits. Not all genetics are equal nor is it 100% consistent throughout a given animal's lifetime. Culling is necessary in every generation, even with the best genetics.
Knowing how to breed quality meat-goat breeding stock can be more of an art than a science, and not everyone has that ability.
You cannot look at a kid or a weanling and definitely know that this will be a quality goat. Kids are cute, sometimes colorful, and sex is obvious. That's all that can be said about kids. Anyone who says that a certain kid will grow out well because it is a descendant of a well-known goat is simply trying to sell a goat. This is particularly true as the generations get farther away from the original quality genetics. For example, people who buy a great grandson or even a granddaughter of OCR genetics from another breeder are wasting their money because too many non-Onion Creek Ranch genetics (and even other breeds) have been mixed into that goat to make it worthwhile breeding stock. Instead, you should go to the source (Onion Creek Ranch) and buy quality genetics. Top-quality genetics costs money. There is no shortcut or 'free lunch."
I've been raising meat-goat breeding stock since 1990. Even now, I only occasionally can tell if a kid is going to grow out to be a terrific breeding animal, assuming nothing bad happens to it as it grows. My conformation evaluations are not made until the goat is a yearling. Body conformation develops as the goat grows. I pay attention to sire and dam and evaluate consistency of good traits, but this is only one part of the selection process. After I have visually identified good body conformation, then tolerance (no such thing as "resistance") for wormloads, ability to hold its place within the herd's pecking order, good mothering traits (females), fertility, libido (interest in breeding), and a host of other factors are continually evaluated. This information is impossible to know until the goat is nearly a year old and oftentimes not that soon. When the hide is off a meat goat, color is irrelevant.
Culling must be done in every generation, and culls must go to slaughter. Even if you are raising goats as a hobby, you are going to have animals that need to be sold.
The work involved in accomplishing all of the above should tell a goat buyer than any goat being offered for a few hundred dollars isn't worth having. You get what you pay for.
Buying based solely upon registered pedigree is no guarantee that you are buying quality goats. There is no shortcut to developing excellent goat genetics. And good genetics never overcomes bad management.
Suzanne W. Gasparotto, ONION CREEK RANCH, Texas 020123
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All information provided in these articles is based either on personal experience or information provided by others whose treatments and practices have been discussed fully with a vet for accuracy and effectiveness before passing them on to readers.
In all cases, it is your responsibility to obtain veterinary services and advice before using any of the information provided in these articles. Suzanne Gasparotto is not a veterinarian.Neither tennesseemeatgoats.com nor any of the contributors to this website will be held responsible for the use of any information contained herein.
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