December 2014 Issue

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Subscribe FREE now! Monthly issues with new articles and other educational information on meat goat health, nutrition, and management written by Suzanne W. Gasparotto of Onion Creek Ranch and Pat Cotten of Bending Tree Ranch. In all cases, it is your responsibility to obtain veterinary services and advice before using any of the information provided in these articles. Neither Suzanne Gasparotto nor Pat Cotten are veterinarians. None of the contributors to this website will be held responsible for the use of any information contained herein.

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PEDIGREES AND GENETICS: ARE THEY RELATED?

Goat registries exist to record the pedigrees of individual animals. Pedigree information includes sire, dam, grandsire, granddam, other ancestors, date of birth, sex, breed, number in litter, horned or polled, domestic or imported breeding, identification method (tattooing, ear tags), and natural delivery or birth through artificial insemination on a specific goat. Registration also includes the breeder information, including name and location, all of which is valuable information.

Now let's talk about what registration does not provide: Registration has nothing to do with whether the goat is of good quality or conformation. Sadly, too many producers think it does and buy based upon pedigree, perhaps because they are looking for a quick and easy way to identify what they believe is evidence of a quality goat.

Why does pedigree registration not identify quality animals? First of all, genetics is largely a crap shoot. The best doe and the best buck can breed one year, producing terrific offspring, yet breed the next year and produce culls. The single fact that the goats are a year older has 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. There is much more to finding a quality goat than age, litter size, and pedigree. Any goat that meets certain breed percentages can be registered. Because a goat is a certain breed does not make it a quality animal.

Not only does the way that genetics works affect the quality of offspring, but also 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 to try to catch up. And all of these changes affect the goats living there.

Too much or too little rain affects plant growth, in turn impacting what is available for goats to eat. You can supplementally feed goats, but they are always going to eat nutritious new tender vegetation over other food sources, and they grow better when it is available. Cold, heat, drought, rain, snow, ice, hail, wind -- these weather conditions affect animals that live, breed, and raise kids outdoors. Hay quality varies from year to year and sometimes local conditions present problems. For example, 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 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 over which you have no control and for which you have to make constant adjustments. Insects, birds, and mammals bring diseases onto your property. The presence of predators, although 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 what each goat gets to eat. New livestock guardian animals are another stressor. Simply moving goats from pasture to pasture can stress them. Goats stress easily and do not move well. Anytime you move a goat, prior thought must be given to how to do this with the least amount of stress.

You must learn how to evaluate breeding goats based upon body conformation and productivity and trace this back to dam/sire and to granddam/grandsire. Quality genetics breeds "true," i.e. with consistency of muscling from generation to generation, but there are always outliers that must be culled. You must learn to cull heavily in every generation. You must learn that you cannot look at a kid or a weanling and definitely know that this will be a quality goat except in very rare circumstances and after you have had lots of conformation evaluation experience. Kids are cute and sometimes colorful. That's all that can be said about kids. Anyone who says that a certain kid will grow out well because he is a descendant of a well-known goat is simply trying to sell a goat, because there is no way the seller can guarantee that statement. This is particularly true as the relationship gets farther away from originally sound genetics.

I've been raising meat-goat breeding stock since 1990. Even now, I only occasionally can look at a young kid and tell if he is going to grow out to be a terrific breeding animal, assuming nothing bad happens to him as he grows. Most of my conformation evaluations are not made until the goat is a yearling. Color is irrelevant. Body conformation develops as the goat grows. I pay attention to sire and dam and evaluate consistency of good traits, but this is only a small part of the selection process. After I have visually identified good body conformation, then tolerance for wormloads, ability to hold its place within the herd's pecking order, good mothering traits, 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 sometimes not even that soon. Culls must and do go to slaughter. Culling must be done in every generation. Even if you are raising goats as a hobby, you are going to have animals that need to be sold from time to time. Maximize your financial return on goats sold by using these practices.

The work and time involved in accomplishing all of the above should tell a goat buyer than any goat being offered for a couple of hundred dollars isn't worth having. The old saying that you get what you pay for is valid.

Buying based solely upon pedigree is a foolish and faulty way to buy. There is no shortcut to developing quality goat genetics. And remember that good genetics will not overcome bad management.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto, ONION CREEK RANCH, Texas 12-7-14

PURCHASING BREEDING STOCK

1) Don't buy goats before determining your market. The type and breed of goat that you buy should be suited for the market for which you need to produce animals. Example: If your market is Hispanic, then kids that will achieve 70-75 pounds liveweight in three months are not what you want; they will be too big for that market and you'll lose money. You may discover that there is no market for meat goats in your area.

2) Don't buy based upon what your neighbor is buying. Don't assume that he knows more than you do. He usually doesn't -- even if he has been raising goats longer than you have. Don't be a lemming. Because you don't know a lot about meat goats doesn't mean that you are stupid; educate yourself. Good sources of information exist at little to no cost to you. You may find that you want to introduce new breeds and new genetics into your area and get a "leg up" on your competition.

3) Don't believe all the hype you hear about how easy it is to raise goats and the quick money you can make. Goats are not easy to raise unless high mortality doesn't concern you. Much misinformation has led to lots of bad management. An organized meat-goat industry is still in its infancy in this country. Double-blind studies offering useful statistics on goat nutrition and growth are limited. Studies on feed conversion, ADG (average daily gain), and live-animal pasture testing are new to goats and some of the studies are flawed. Even some university studies may be tainted by financial contributions from special interest groups that desire a certain outcome. (Think of the global warming/climate change hoaxes that have been reported recently.) So-called pasture tests consistently ignore the home field advantage of local goats and do not provide time for goats imported from other areas to ADAPT to the environment into which they've been placed for testing. This kind of information has long been available in the cattle and sheep industries, but goats are the "new ruminants on the block." Too few research studies have been done on goats to produce much useful data. Take what you read, especially in advertisements, with a grain of salt. Numbers may be incomplete or improperly arrived at; vital factors could have been omitted -- not necessarily deliberately, but still affecting the outcome. Any industry has its share of people who will manipulate the numbers in order to sell their products. Ask questions. If it seems too be good to be true, it usually is.

4) Don't believe that good genetics will trump bad management. Some of you are trying to raise goats in unsuitable climates and conditions -- too wet and/or too crowded, for example. Looking for a quick fix, you might believe that the solution to adaptability issues is to buy goats from within the same geographic area that are supposedly already adapted. This can work up to a point: When goats are brought into a new area, people tend to buy from each other, resulting in interbreeding that brings bloodlines too close. You need to bring into your herd better meat goats as well as new genetics to avoid the problems that occur when meat goats are linebred. Highly adapted hardy goats when put into overly-managed conditions will lose their adaptability within a few generations. Changing breeds without changing management conditions will not solve your problems.

5) Don't assume you can get good information about goats from friends, neighbors, teachers, universities, or even veterinarians. Oftentimes the best information about goats comes from knowledgeable producers. But there is both good and bad information on the Internet and you will have lots to read and evaluate. Use your common sense to question information that doesn't sound right to you. Join a meat-goat discussion/education group and lurk and learn. My free meat-goat education group ChevonTalk on Yahoogroups has been on the Net since 1998. ChevonTalk has over 3000 subscribers and most folks silently monitor posts until they have a goat health, management, or nutrition problem. MeatGoatMania, my on-line magazine, is on Yahoogroups, is free, and is published mid-month. Avoid chat groups that focus on people rather than on goats. Smart people talk about ideas and facts; petty and ignorant people talk about other folks. You have better things to do with your time. Stick with information-based groups. Choose your mentors carefully.

5) Don't believe that show goats are meat goats. If you wish to raise commercial animals or breeding stock, stay away from show goats and their producers. This is a totally different market.

I continue to be amazed at what some people consider to be a quality meat goat. I see pictures of goats advertised for sale that I would be embarrassed to own. You cannot develop quality genetics without going outside your area to obtain new and better gene pools. Learn how to manage goats to help them maximize their adaptability so that good genetics do not elude you. There is no quick fix to anything when raising goats. If it is cheap or easy, it doesn't work with goats.

Most of you don't know what you need to be looking for -- and neither do your neighbors. This is nothing to be ashamed of; we all have to begin somewhere. No one could have been more uninformed than I was in January 1990 when I bought my first goat. I never owned an animal of any kind until I was 42 years old. I lived in a townhouse in Houston, Texas and sold real estate. If I can learn about goats, so can you. That you are reading this article is an indication that you wish to educate yourself about meat goats. If my comments apply to you, then learn from them. If you already understand some of them, then pass this information on to other goat raisers. These guidelines apply to all meat breeds of goats. Detailed articles on most of these topics can be found on the Articles page at www.tennesseemeatgoats.com.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto, ONION CREEK RANCH, Texas 12/7/14

BendingTree Ranch TexMaster Goats

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Pat & Clark Cotten Bending Tree Ranch
located near Greenbrier, Arkansas
501-679-4936

www.bendingtreeranch.com
bendingtreeranch@cyberback.com

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