by Robert Spencer
A good livestock producer should constantly be assessing ways to improve the quality of his/her herd. Genetic and nutritional management are two basic ways to improve overall herd quality.
Last month, I talked about the essence of proper nutrition; this month I will talk about the role a quality buck plays in herd quality. I can tell you from personal experience, don’t be too quick to discount a buck his first year as herd sire.
First of all, let me start off by saying the greater the amount of money spent on a buck does not guarantee greater quality. Some people figure the more a buck costs, the better genetics he will put into a herd. Not true! I have seen some high dollar bucks ($1,000 and much, much more) throw a mixture of traits into offspring, some good, and some undesirable. I’ve seen some inexpensive bucks ($200 -$400) throw consistently good traits; and then again, some bucks need to be sold for meat. The important thing to look for when evaluating offspring from a buck is quality and consistency!
When shopping for a buck, people place emphasis on certain things. The first thing people often look at is pedigree; they look for the number of ennoblements in an animal’s pedigree. Based on some of the judging I’ve observed at sanctioned goat shows, I would say ennoblements are not everything.
The next criterion (Boers only) is how the animal looks: markings (amount of color on head, paint or traditional color), color (dark mahogany or lighter reddish-brown), head structure (Roman nose or smooth nose), body confirmation (long, bulky, short, tall), straight back (sway-back is undesirable), thick legs (needed to hold that weight), back end (there should be a lot of meat in those hindquarters), and etc. Body confirmation is the most important aspect as far as I am concerned.
The next criteria should be how the offspring look. Do they have good body confirmation, desirable traits their mother and father carry, and are they hardy? This type of evaluation could take up to two years or two breeding seasons. This is what I had to learn after five years of being in the goat business.
Another factor many goat owners consider is personality; it should be friendly, not overly aggressive, sociable with other animals in the herd, and a temperament that allows the owner to readily handle the animal. A full-grown buck that is aggressive can easily hurt someone.
Another primary factor to consider is how well the genetics and traits from a buck meld with what you desire or already have in your herd. Sometimes things just don’t click despite an impressive pedigree; certain bloodlines do not mix well! There again, it all depends on what you seek to improve in your herd.
The two latest controversies regarding Boer Goats are South African on the pedigree and two teated goats. Let me remind everyone, the Boer Goat originated from South Africa. The fact some made their way here though Australia, New Zealand, or Canada should not make any difference. I think this is just one of those "snob factors" some people like to utilize. Two teated or four teated goats are equal in my opinion. When it comes to odd number of teats, fish teats, or non-functioning teats, based on show standards these are faults in the animal. In case of triplets or quads, it is nice to have extra faucets on a nanny so all the kids can readily eat.
I’m sure there are other traits that others consider important, but these are some of the primary factors I look for when evaluating a buck. Each farm situation has a different set of expectations and goals. Only that manager can determine what is important to him or her, and implement accordingly.
In the past, I would give one kidding season to determine whether to keep my buck or not based on his first batch of kids; this applied to does also. What I did not realize is it takes two kidding seasons before an animal (doe or buck) hits its prime. After one and a half years (the first kidding season) I was ready to get rid of my current buck. His first breeding season produced good kids, but nothing spectacular. Then I saw some recent pictures of his full brother and the awards he was taking in various shows. Luckily, no one had made me a reasonable offer on my buck so I used him a second year. The second go round was impressive; the quality of his offspring the second time around is spectacular. Keep in mind I used the same does, so there were no other variables to consider.
That is why I must say, if you have a buck that has all the characteristics you are looking for but the first year his offspring are mediocre, then hold on to that buck and give him a second chance; you may be pleasantly surprised!
Robert Spencer is Agribition Center Facilities Manager at Alabama A&M University.