Linear Appraisal scores can be tough to analyze. Oftentimes, linear appraisal explanations only further mystify the situation. The reasons are simple, Linear Appraisers are not trained educators. They are trained evaluators. This is an important distinction.
There is another problem. Linear Appraisers are under strict time constraints. Rushed evaluations can result in validity errors (in case you haven't read my bio, I'm a retired educational researcher, data and validity are my grooves). One possible error is the halo effect, where the evaluation (negative or positive) of one of an individual's traits affects the evaluation of the other traits. This error is common in all forms of evaluation.
I see that less with seasoned appraisers. They may have a bone to pick (e.g., rumps), but that bone doesn't affect their evaluation of the goat's other traits. Over the years, owners usually figure out what any particular appraiser's personal bone (or soapbox) is, and mentally adjust for that when looking at the scores. It's not a big deal because it didn't bias the evaluation of the other traits.
Moreover, a rushed appraisal, coupled with limited opportunities to record the interaction, typically results in an incomplete understanding of the basis for a particular score. I've been doing this for over a decade now and I still look at my scores and try to figure out why one animal got a "Good Plus" in Shoulder Assembly while another animal got a "Very Good."
In this article, I'm going to go back to the basics, the ADGA Scorecard. The goal of this article is to empower owners to independently evaluate their goats and to be able to tease out what aspects of the shoulder assembly may need improvement. To accomplish this, I'm going to use photos of goats from my own herd.
This is a hard blog for me to write for many reasons.
First, the dairy goat community is unforgiving where disease outbreaks are concerned. That may not be obvious to people who are new to the community, but if you've been here for a while, you've heard the gossip and maybe even been encouraged to boycott this farm or that farm because of rumors of disease. The following are two examples that I have experienced directly.
All domestic animals have been subject to inbreeding during their periods of breed formation. Breed formation for Nigerian Dwarf goats began when small goats were imported from Africa between the 1930s and 1950s. These were primarily zoo animals per the Livestock Conservancy. Nigerian Dwarf goats were first recognized as a breed by the American Goat Society in 1981. The American Dairy Goat Association did not recognize the breed, by creating a purebred herdbook, until 2005. Thus, It is a breed that has gone through the development process fairly recently (1950s-1980s). Nigerians did not graduate from the Livestock Conservancy's priority list until 2013. Since then, the breed has exploded in popularity, especially among hobby farmers. Along the way there has been a resurgence in inbreeding with the goal of concentrating the genetics of popular sires and dams.
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.
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.