Posted by: Marie | March 2, 2011

Which goats to keep?

Dairy goats are a nice animal to raise, because they have a very specific standard to try to achieve.  The American Dairy Goat Association has a scorecard that tells you exactly which parts of a goat are most important, and just how the perfect goat should look.  There are many styles of goat that get close to this standard of perfection.  There are two major goals that some breeders call “stylish” and “powerful.”  Think of a ballet dancer versus a line backer, or the difference between an Arabian horse and a Clydesdale.  Our herd trends toward the line backer end with very wide bodied, larger boned does. I like the bigger goats because the broader they are, the more they eat, and the more they milk or gain weight (if they are meat kids).

Recently we have been trying to improve their fore udder attachment, meaning that they hold their udder close to their body and it doesn’t abruptly end when you reach the belly.  To work on this feature in the does, we choose a buck who has a mother and sisters who have features we like, since we usually buy a buck as a baby so he has no daughters.  So far we have gotten a lot of improvement with the first fresheners, but at least one of them seems to be making much less milk than the older goats who have less pretty udders.  It remains to be seen if she will start to have more milk soon.

In the fall we decide which buck will complement each doe to give the best kids in the spring.  Right now we only have one buck, so that’s a very easy choice.  It would be nice to get another buck who has a family history of producing big powerful does with very strong front ends and nice skin texture.  It is more likely we won’t get another buck until next year and will have dry yearlings next spring.

When we decide which goats to keep, we pick goats who are well rounded.  They have nice features from all of the parts of the score card, they milk well, they behave themselves, and right now we also choose good mothers.  We also try to keep diversity, so rather than keeping one doe, her three daughters, and their two daughters, we might choose to keep the doe, one or two daughters, and maybe a grand daughter if she improves over her mother and grandmother.  Otherwise we keep looking for the magic combination of parents that gives us the perfect goat.

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