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.
What does the scorecard say about shoulder assembly? First of all, you need to look at "Front End Assembly." There is no "Shoulder Assembly" category. Here's what it says about Front End Assembly:
Front End Assembly) (sic) - prominent withers arched to point of shoulder with shoulder blade, point of shoulder, and point of elbow set tightly and smoothly against the chest wall both while at rest and in motion; deep and wide into chest floor with moderate strength of brisket.
In this next section I will discuss what you want to see, broken into components and illustrated by Leia and Sun Shower. I picked Leia because a highly respected appraiser found her shoulder assembly to be "Very Good" and her legs, front and back, to be "Excellent." Leia's front legs are slightly forward of her withers, affecting her SA score.
The Scorecard Categories are Interrelated!
As noted above, more detail about the withers can be found under that category of "Dairy Strength."
Withers – prominent and wedge-shaped with the dorsal process rising slightly above the shoulder blades.
To complicate matters further, "Body Capacity" also affects the front end (e.g., shoulder) assembly. The chest must be full from the crops down to the point of the elbow. Without sufficient body capacity, the elbows will not be able to tuck into the chest.
Chest – deep and wide, yet clean-cut, with well sprung foreribs, full in crops and at point of elbow.
Finally, the legs! Over the years, it's been pointed out that the legs need to drop straight down from the shoulders ("squarely placed," see below). What makes this possible is when the scapula (shoulder blade) and the humerus form a right (90 degree) angle.
Legs, Pasterns & Feet . . . front legs with clean knees, straight, wide apart and squarely placed . . . .
To do this analysis yourself, go out to your paddock and start taking candid photos of your goats. That in itself is an educational process as you will become much more aware of which goats naturally stand square and which ones would need help (e.g., posing). After I took my pictures, I used the markup function in my iPhone to draw the shapes on my goats.
After you have your pictures (or before), put your hands on your goats and feel for smoothness of blending at the withers. Then, watch them on the move. Do the crops (the part of the scapula just below the withers) or elbows pop out when the goat is in motion? The crops often become looser as does age, so be gentle on the oldsters. However, the elbows should stay snug against the body regardless of age.
Some final notes about blending. First, overconditioning can result in pads of fat developing between the scapula and the dorsal process, thus creating gaps in the blending. It is extremely hard to correct this once it happens. Second, don't be hasty in evaluating the tightness of blending in juniors. I've found that kids are sometimes born with some looseness in the area of the withers that tightens as they mature. Finally, this is an excellent place to look for signs of smoothness (or coarseness) of blending overall, as the withers blend into the (1) neck, (2), chest, and (3) chine/back. I like to look for smoothness from the neck to the withers and from the withers to the back. I dislike dips in either location.
In my next blog post I plan on addressing feet and legs. This is a challenging area for Nigerians because of the structural constraints created by the need to maintain a small size. What I see happening all too often in LA is an appraiser with a background in standards marking down Nigerian legs due to factors that are not on the scorecard. For example, fixating on the proportions of the cannons. I get it, it looks off to them because they are used to the proportions of a standard sized goat, but for heaven's sake, stick to the scorecard. It's there for a reason. Yeah, this is my soapbox. More on this topic later.
I hope this helps!