Onion Creek Ranch, Lohn, Texas
Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Lohn, TX
Lohn, Texas
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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

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Important! Please Read This Notice!

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.

The author, Suzanne Gasparotto, hereby grants to local goat publications and club newsletters, permission to reprint articles published on the Onion Creek Ranch website under these conditions: THE ARTICLE MUST BE REPRODUCED IN ITS ENTIRETY AND THE AUTHOR'S NAME, ADDRESS, AND CONTACT INFORMATION MUST BE INCLUDED AT THE BEGINNING OF THE REPRINT. We would appreciate notification from any clubs or publications when the articles are used. (A copy of the newsletter or publication would also be a welcome addition to our growing library of goat related information!)

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