Let's start with a nice, soothing photo of my beloved Leia and her 2020 kid, Barbarella.
Let's start with how I've bred in the past, owning up to all of my mistakes and limitations (e.g., facilities). Here's what I've tried:
1. Penning bucks INSIDE the doe paddock. The idea was that the does would flag the bucks, then I would just throw them in with the buck of my choice and voila! My doe is bred and I know the date. In case you're wondering, super hit and miss because ALL the does would hover around the bucks and act bucky when one was in heat. Thanks girls. Alternately, overexposure would result in loss of interest in those particular bucks (my personal theory, I haven't asked the girls).
2. Giving up on #1, I then dedicated a back paddock to pasture breeding. I only breed one buck at a time. I like the kids by that buck to be the same approximate age for evaluation purposes. Problem . . . I didn't know when they were bred because they like to get busy in the wee hours, when I'm trying really hard to ignore them.
New this year: In 2019/2020 I finished fencing the perimeter of the farm. This enabled me to let the bucks roam the back 40 (read: back 3 acres). It was an absolute revelation to me to discover that the bucks and does ignored each other UNTIL one was in heat. The other does typically would be far away at the feeders, while the doe in heat was displaying like a prostitute in Amsterdam (I'm talking about you Annie, you brazen little slut!). Bummer for me that I didn't catch on to this until AFTER I had bred my senior does in August. Oh well.
With the Castle Rock does on the premises, in the barn and surrounding paddocks, the bucks had the best breeding season ever! They would keep an eye on both paddocks and keep me up all night with their carousing outside the pen of a doe that was in heat. It's made keeping breeding records 90% more accurate. I'm reserving 10% for the does that I think are engaging in purely recreational sex (I'm talking about you Demeter, you Annie wannabe).
As some of you may be aware, Facebook has started enforcing it's ban on animal sales. This has created a great deal of stress in the goat world because a huge number of us marketed our animals through our Facebook pages (personal and business) and through the Facebook groups. I had the honor of being interviewed by Goat Journal, so I thought I would share what I wrote here as well.
Congratulations! You made it through Linear Appraisal. That's a huge step towards herd improvement. However, to get the most impact out of the data, it helps to be able to interpret the numbers. In this blog I'm going to share a few things that I've learned through trial and error, button pushing, and conversations with colleagues. My first bit of feedback is to slow down and take a deep breath. LA is notoriously overwhelming. It's normal to have strong reactions afterwards. You've put a lot of money, time, and passion into this project. If you hadn't you wouldn't be participating in ADGA's performance programs. Now that you've taken that deep breath, let's do some reality checks using Leia as an example. BTW, Leia was indeed named in honor of Carrie Fisher.
A few thoughts about goat development, milk test, and buck management.
Linear appraisal is always a wonderful opportunity to learn about my herd. Last year (2018) marked my sixth year of participation in this program. I have truly been blessed to have one of the most distinguished and respected appraisers visit my herd three times over the past several years. Having someone evaluate my herd in 2018 who remembers my beginnings made this year extra special for me. Each year appraisal has concluded with a discussion of my goals for the herd and reflections on where I've been and recommended next moves for herd development. (pictured are my 2017 Manuka Honey daughters and Ronin)
The work of planning breedings can be greatly helped by creating priorities and using technology. As I shared in a previous post, one of my favorite pieces of technology is Kintraks. I'm a data junkie and I love pedigree analysis, so researching the genetics online is one of my favorite activities. If you don't like to research genetics, see if a friend will share their Kintraks database with you. However, GIGO applies, garbage in, garbage out.
One of my first priorities is health. Over the years I've purchased or adopted a variety of excessively inbred animals (dogs, cats, Nubians, Nigerians). One thing that they had in common were funky illnesses and weaknesses. Funky in the sense that you didn't see these problems in animals with low levels of inbreeding. Examples include eye problems, early onset of sterility, fertility problems in does, kidding difficulties, etc. Since I've started tracking these problems, I've set my preferences between 5-10% over ten generations. Why the range? Because it depends on the pedigrees of the individual goats. Some inbreeding is desirable to gain consistency, and once you factor in historic inbreeding (7th-10th generation) it is difficult to find a goat with a COI less than 2%. And, since some genetic lines of goats are already heavily inbred (as high as 64%), bringing the COI (inbreeding coefficient) down to an acceptable level can take multiple generations.
I am a notorious buck hoarder - who just experienced a painful reality check. Over the years I've collected a large herd of exceptional bucks. However, as I've become better at analyzing Nigerian genetics, I've become concerned about the prevalence of high inbreeding coefficients.
An inbreeding coefficient is complex statistical calculation (do not try this at home!) that tells you the degree of inbreeding in a particular animal's pedigree. High inbreeding coefficients are an area of concern because the negative effects of inbreeding in all animals begins at 5% and becomes serious at 10%. The short version is that highly inbred animals often lack vigor and may suffer from higher illness and mortality rates.
Marie-France Orillion, Ph.D.
Welcome to my blog! I am a retired researcher/university administrator. Since I'm a bit of a workaholic (my other addiction is sugar), I've embarked on a second career as an elementary school teacher. When I'm not working I enjoy playing with my goats and my gardens. This blog is a place where I reflect on what I've learned along the way.