Fastest Growing Kids Are Usually Most Muscled

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In last month's issue a letter ran from Mike Kearby in response to my November column about the importance of fast growth. In his letter Mr. Kearby noted that there are two other factors that are important to a commercial breeder, carcass quality and when you sell your animals.

In my column I noted three factors that related to the individual animal(s) being sold that primarily determine the price a producer will receive relative to the market as a whole. They were age, weight, and condition of the animals.

By condition of the animals I meant those factors that determine the carcass quality. Having raised hundreds of kids, my own observation is that the fastest growing kids almost invariably grade out equal to or better than the slower growing ones raised under identical conditions.

I don't believe I have ever seen a poorly muscled kid that was gaining weight at a rapid rate. I have, however, seen plenty of slow growing kids that exhibited little or no muscle. Within a breed the fastest growing kids wind up Selection 1 and the slowest growing kids frequently, but not always, wind up Selection 2 or 3. The best Selection 1 kids frequently bring 50% more than the worst Selection 3 kids of the same weight at sale time.

Properly conditioned animals of any of the breeds or bloodlines will grade out at Selection 1, which is the highest grade, so I see no advantage to selecting the slower growing breeds or show bloodlines that supposedly offer better carcass characteristics or better muscling. As things currently stand the commercial market is not paying a premium for those breeds or bloodlines, so there is no reason to select them over other faster growing breeds or bloodlines.

The criteria for a Selection 1 grade is not that hard to satisfy that you need special genetics, you just need to properly condition the kids so that they are not too thin when you sell them.

I have written columns in the past addressing the timing of marketing your production. That was not the purpose of November's column.

Producers must know when they plan to sell their kids, at what size they will sell them, and how long it will take the kids to attain that size so that they can manage their operation. If you want to sell 80 lb kids for the Ramadan market, and it will take 4 months for them to grow to that size, then you need to plan your kidding date appropriately. Similarly, if you wish to sell 18 pound milk fed kids for Cabrito at Easter, then you need to plan your kidding dates so that you will have 18 pound kids available at that time.

I care not at all how much per lb you receive for your kids. I have sold small kids for $45.00 per head or $2.50 per lb at Easter. Those sales were all to individual buyers direct off the ranch, and if anybody called me next spring wanting to pay $2.50 per lb for those young kids, I would tell them I wasn't interested in selling.

Your profit is what matters, not bragging rights at the coffee shop. If you have the pasture to raise kids to 80 lbs in 120 days, then can haul the whole lot to the auction and sell them for $80.00 per head (which is only $1.00 per lb), I'd take the $1.00 per lb for the 80 lb kids every time over the $2.50 per lb for the 18 lb kids.

First, I just generated an additional $35.00 per kid in nearly pure profit if I'm not feeding them. In a goat operation the overhead costs are frequently very large in relation to the variable costs. Fixed costs include interest payments; taxes; feed, medicine and other costs for your breeding herd; repairs and maintenance; etc. (all those expenses you will have to pay whether you sell the kid crop or not).

If your fixed costs are $75.00 per breeding doe, and you sell 1.5 kids from each doe at $45.00 per head, that is $67.50 per doe in gross revenue and a $7.50 per doe loss before you even subtract your variable costs. Sell the same 1.5 kids at $80.00 per head, and you generate $120.00 per doe in gross revenue and $45.00 per doe in profit before subtracting variable costs. You need to run the numbers for your own operation, but in most cases the larger kids are going to be much more profitable.

Second, I didn't have to waste a bunch of my time selling every individual kid. My experience has been that the premium you receive doesn't come close to compensating you for your time unless your idea of a high paying job is flipping burgers for minimum wage. When deciding on your market don't forget to include the value of your time.

If selling individual animals will take an extra two hours of your time for each sale, ask yourself if the extra revenue you will generate is worth it. In other words, if you can sell 18 lb kids through the auction for $27.00 per head, or can sell them for $45.00 each to individuals at the farm but will have to spend an additional two hours on average with each buyer, are you willing to work for $9.00 per hour? Don't forget to deduct the additional advertising and other costs in terms of time and money you will incur attracting buyers and selling from the ranch before figuring how much extra you will be making. Again you need to run the numbers for your own situation.

Third, the number of animals you can sell this way is limited. If you are a backyard breeder with 20 goats, then this may be the way to go for you. However, if you are a producer running 600 head of does that needs to move 900 plus kids every year, I seriously doubt that trying to market 18 lb milk fed kids for cabrito locally at $2.50 per lb is going to be possible for you. There are not enough hours in a day to deal with that many buyers, and probably not enough buyers in your area to pull it off anyway.

I will undoubtedly discuss the timing of marketing your kids and the different markets available again in future columns, but those topics have little if anything to do with the importance of fast growth. No matter when you want to market your production or what market you intend to target, fast growing genetics will be beneficial to your herd.

Mr. Kearby concluded his letter by noting that focusing simply on rate of growth will inevitably cost a producer dollars to the bottom line. I don't disagree, hence the reason I have written about a number of other topics in my column, and the reason that I look at other traits besides growth rate when selecting sires for my own herd. However, ignoring growth rates, which seems to be the norm in the goat industry today, will also inevitably cost producers money.

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This page updated 01/21/03

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