Commercial Seedstock, Producing Goats For The Real World

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Producers of Boer Goats have four primary markets for their product. These markets are:
1. Show Quality Breeding Stock;
2. Market Wether Show Stock; 
3. Slaughter Animal; and
4. Commercial Seed Stock.

Each of these markets has its own requirements and quirks that the breeder must be familiar with to be successful in that market. The producer may have an animal that meets the requirements of all four markets, but if that animal is not properly marketed there will be no demand for that animal and it will not be sold for the best price. 

In all too many cases breeders today don't give the commercial seed stock market the respect it deserves as reflected in the lack of appropriate marketing aimed at commercial raisers and the poor quality animals made available as commercial animals.  Many breeders don't view commercial seed stock as a profitable market so they don't focus on it, and that lack of focus becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy for them.  However, if managed and marketed correctly a commercial seed stock operation can be successful and enjoyable for the producer. 

Briefly, the minimum requirements for each of the first three markets are as follows:

Show Quality Breeding Stock Requirements
At their most basic, the requirements for this type of animal can be found in the Breed Standards established by the various breed associations. Animals with defects should not be sold as show quality animals, and especially not as breeding stock.  Past that, each individual buyer has his own requirements for the "style" of goat they want to breed and show. One buyer may turn his nose up at a particular animal, while the next buyer simply must have the animal for his breeding program.

Generally, the quantity of animals sold to any one individual buyer is comparatively small, and the amount of time and effort required to accomplish that sale is high.  This is true whether the animals are sold at a production sale in an auction format or periodically throughout the year.

To be successful in this market one must show their animals, and develop a reputation as a breeder of animals that can and do win shows.  Needless to say this is time-consuming and expensive. As with any business venture there is no guarantee that a return will be obtained on the time and money invested.  It is entirely possible to spend years and tens of thousands of dollars acquiring, breeding and showing your animals and never win. 

Once the breeder is successful in the showring, the task and expense of telling the world about it still remains.  We will never know the answer to the philosophical question; when a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound if no one is there to hear it?  However, I can assure you that no one will hear about how great your animals are if you don't tell them about it.  That requires advertising, and more importantly an advertising budget.

In return for the huge risk taken and investment of time and money made, the successful breeder of show quality animals can look forward to selling his animals for a large premium. Of course, due to the high overhead expense involved (advertising, travel, and other expenses that are the same whether you have one goat or 100 goats), to be financially successful in this market you must sell a large number of animals at a premium to turn a profit. 

Finally, the market for this type of animal is somewhat limited and competition is fierce.  There are only so many people who want to show goats, but it seems almost everybody wants to sell show stock. 

The combination of all these factors dictate that few breeders can be successful in this market, because to do so requires that the breeder:
1. have a large number of quality animals to sell;
2. consistently win shows;
3. produce offspring that consistently win shows for customers; and
4. effectively market all of the above to generate customers.
Thus the vast majority of breeders in this market will fail, and wind up selling their animals in a different market. I tend to avoid this market because I don't view it as a profitable outlet for my animals or a good use of my time.

Market Wether Show Stock Requirements
The requirements for these types of animals are about the same as for beauty, they lie in the eye of the beholder.  Buyers in this group fall into two categories: the ones who are primarily focused on winning, and the ones who are focused primarily on their child getting to participate and have a quality experience. 

The first group will tend to buy breeding quality animals and pay the breeding animal price.  The latter group is content to buy meat quality animals, and pay a small premium over the animal's value as a slaughter animal. 

To be successful with the first group requires the same elements of success as are required for the show quality breeding stock market.  Thus, most of the breeders that are currently successful with this market are the ones that are also successful in the show quality breeding stock market.

Success with the second group can be obtained for the cost of a few calls to local FFA/4H instructors and/or a small ad in the local newspaper/Thrifty Nickle/Penny Pincher/etc. letting potential customers know you have animals available. 

The primary consideration for the breeder in deciding whether to pursue this market is whether the small premium is worth the additional time one must spend assisting customers in picking out animals.  In this market the quantity of animals sold to any one individual buyer is comparatively small, and the amount of time and effort required to accomplish that sale is high.  I actively pursue this market, and generally am able to sell the majority of the animals that I would otherwise sell for slaughter to the latter type of buyer.  Ironically, many of these animals have gone on to earn healthy premiums at shows that more than covered the original purchase price and other costs.

Slaughter Animal Requirements
The market for slaughter animals is varied and large with certain segments demanding different characteristics. One market may demand a 35 lb kid, while another market wants an 80 lb kid.  Some markets demand that the animal be unaltered, while others don't care if the animal has been castrated, disbudded, etc. 

Prices vary between markets, size of the goat, time of the year, location, etc. The producer can sell just about any animal for slaughter; the question becomes will the price obtained be sufficient to cover the cost of producing the animal? 

For larger producers there is an additional issue of the timing of sales.  If a producer tries to sell his entire production of 3,000 head at an auction that normally handles 500 head per week, that producer will find that by flooding the market he has depressed the price. A smaller producer could sell his entire production of 50 head at that same auction and have no adverse effect on the market at all.

I have just scratched the surface on this topic, to really do it justice would require a dedicated article, but the real purpose of this article is to discuss the market for commercial seed stock. A market that I feel few understand, and even fewer give the respect it deserves.

COMMERCIAL SEED STOCK REQUIREMENTS

Many breeders, especially in Texas where there are a large number of commercial meat goat herds, view the commercial seed stock market as a great place to unload any poor quality animals they can't sell as show goats.  THIS IS WRONG! 

I primarily sell commercial seed stock.  The demand for quality animals is much higher than I can supply, therefore, I frequently have to purchase animals from other breeders to fill the orders I receive. When I inspect the animals other breeders are offering, I am frequently dismayed to find that they are trying to sell animals with obvious cull defects as commercial breeding stock (make no mistake, not all breeders are guilty of this).  Animals with cull defects need to be sent to slaughter, not to breed dozens of commercial does.

I also frequently hear concerns from potential customers that "we used to have some fullblood Boer billies with our Spanish goats, but they just hung around the water trough and waited for us to feed them."  Upon further inquiry it inevitably turns out that the animals in question were pen-raised by a show goat breeder, and had never seen a blade of grass or weed before being turned out at the commercial ranch.

Finally, it is apparent from the ads in industry magazines that most breeders don't have a clue about the requirements to be successful in the commercial seed stock market.  Hence, the reason I have written this article. There is a large demand for the product, and in my opinion few animals that fully meet the requirements. This is not because the animals do not exist, but rather because breeders are not managing their herds to meet the requirements.  When I assemble a herd for a client, here are the things I look for when selecting animals and the factors I must take into consideration:

Who Is The Client?
At the outset it is important to understand who is purchasing commercial meat goat herds and how the animals will be raised. Generally, the clients I work with are not new to agriculture or livestock.  They are usually inexperienced with goats, though.  The typical client either raises or raised cattle and/or sheep, and wants to diversify or move on to something else altogether.  They have numerous intelligent questions regarding management and marketing issues, and are capable of understanding the answers.  They can also detect when the answers they are getting don't make sense.  In fact, most of my clients have talked to show breeders prior to contacting me, and were very frustrated with the information received.

That frustration can generally be traced back to a lack of understanding by most show breeders about the differences between how a profitable commercial meat goat operation is run, and how a show goat operation is run.  The information provided was completely accurate, but not applicable to the customer's situation.  Someone who sells show goats for $1,000.00 plus each can and must do some things that someone who sells meat goats for $75.00 each cannot and should not do if he wants to turn a profit. 

How Will The Animals Be Managed?
The typical commercial meat goat operation is fairly basic. It consists primarily of fenced pasture or rangeland, and an area to work the goats. Depending on the climate and available cover the pasture may have shelters.  For the most part the goats will be expected to make their own living, and may not see a human for days, weeks or months.  Under normal conditions the goats will not be given supplemental feed or minerals. The goats will be wormed when necessary, and may be vaccinated for CD/T a couple of weeks prior to kidding. 

Bucks will be turned out (at a ratio of one buck to 25-50 does depending on the age and experience of the bucks) for about six weeks every eight months so that three kid crops are obtained every two years. The male offspring will be sold for meat when they reach market size, which should be at or before weaning, and the better quality female kids will be sold or retained for replacement stock with the lower quality ones sold for slaughter.

Marketing
The reasons I enjoy selling to this market are several. First, the vast majority of the customers are intelligent and easy to work with.  Second, you can frequently sell a large quantity of animals to one buyer.  This year I have sold nearly 1,500 animals to just four different commercial buyers.  Third, the transactions are relatively quick.  Generally, the customer arrives with a trailer, gives the animals a quick once over, loads them in the trailer, pays for them, than drives off.  Fourth, this type of customer usually has realistic expectations, so complaints are few.  That isn't to say you won't hear from them again, they will call with questions and they will refer other people to you, but they generally don't call to complain about things that one should expect after purchasing a live animal.  Finally, marketing to them is inexpensive.  A simple ad stating the fact that you have animals available generally draws more responses than you have animals to satisfy, or you can contact someone like myself who is actively assembling herds and sell them without the time and expense of advertising and selling the animals yourself

Profitability
Commercial seed stock can be a profitable market. There is no need for show wins to sell your animals and the expense that goes with showing. You need quality sires, but don't need to spend $5,000.00 each on them. Excellent quality sires can be bought for as little as $400.00 with papers. If you are producing commercial does you can start out with relatively inexpensive Spanish or other breeds.  To produce commercial herd sires requires fullblood does since most commercial raisers demand fullblood sires.  The animals can and should be raised on pasture, and don't need to be in "show" condition, drastically reducing the amount of feed and money required to raise them.  You won't sell the does for over $500.00 each, but you also won't have to to turn a profit.  The key in this market is volume for two reasons.  First the profit per animal is small, and second the demand is usually for hundreds of animals at a time.  If you only have 20 animals for sale someone who needs 500 animals isn't going to waste their time coming to look at them.

COMMERCIAL DOES

Selecting does for commercial herds is usually not very complicated. Keep in mind when you read this that when I put a herd together we are talking about hundreds or thousands of animals that are destined for a pasture and minimal attention on a daily basis.  These are not pets or show goats.

Breed
The first question that needs to be answered by the customer is what breed of goat do you want?  I then go over the options and the pros and cons of each.

Boer does are still far too expensive to be a commercially viable option in the US.  Consideration of them generally ends there, but that should change in the future.

Spanish does are readily available and inexpensive.  They generally require little attention because most have been raised under conditions that have eliminated the weaker genetics from the herd.  The fact that they need little attention is a major plus because most are also pretty wild, and can be a challenge to work.  When crossed with a Boer the offspring are quick growing and meaty.

Angora does are also readily available and very inexpensive.  They require more care because of the fiber they produce, and inevitably right after you shear them it will turn cold and wet resulting in a large number of dead goats.  Definitely not recommended for northern areas.  Some of the best does in my herd, however, are Boer x Angora, and the crosses require no more care than a Boer x Spanish goat.

Kiko does are still not very common and are too expensive to be a viable option for the commercial meat goat producer in the US.  In my experience, Kikos are comparable to Spanish does from a management standpoint, and the Boer x Kiko kids are similar in quality to the Boer x Spanish kids.

Dairy does are difficult to acquire in large numbers, and generally have such high nutritional requirements during lactation that they are not a good option for a large commercial meat goat operation.  When crossed with a Boer the offspring can be excellent meat goats.

Boer cross does are widely available at prices only slightly higher (unregistered) than for comparable quality Spanish does.  These does are generally calmer and easier to work, but require little attention from the producer like a Spanish doe.  In many cases they are better more attentive mothers.  The offspring are meaty and quick growing.

Thus far all of my clients have opted to start with Boer cross does.

Age
The next question that needs to be answered is what age doe is desired? Producers can start with kids or select older does. Generally I recommend against buying does over 4 years of age.

Kids have the advantage of usually being lower-priced and readily available. Since they are smaller, more can be shipped on a truck at once. The downside to starting with kids is that they will frequently only produce one offspring their first year, especially under range conditions. To compound the problem many of these inexperienced new mothers will then proceed to abandon their kid(s).

Mature does generally cost a little more and are not as easy to find as kids. Fewer can be shipped on a truck at one time since they are larger, and since they are older they have had more opportunities to pick up diseases and/or injuries.  On the plus side most will deliver twins, and will know how to raise their kids resulting in a higher weaning percentage.

Thus far all of my clients have opted to start with mature does, which is not what they started out looking for.

Selection Criteria
After establishing the breed and age of doe desired, the real work begins. The task of finding the quantity and quality of does desired at a price that will allow the buyer to receive a positive return on his investment is the most challenging part. 

I try to get all of the does from one herd if possible, and avoid purchasing the animals at the sale barn.  Purchasing the animals from one herd is usually preferable because if there is a problem in the future you know who to call, and the does already know each other and their place in the herd leading to less stress when they reach their new home.  Buying direct from the previous owner means less handling and stress on the animals, and they will not be exposed to the diseases of every other animal that has been through the sale barn before them.

Unlike purchasing show animals, when assembling a commercial herd you typically don't have the luxury of sifting the herd for the best animals. The seller is generally happy to remove any animals that are not in marketable condition (broken limbs, bad bags, etc.), but is not going to allow someone to go through and take only the best conformed animals and leave everything else.  If the seller does allow a cut, the buyer can expect to pay more per animal and the premium will increase as more animals are cut out. In the end it is usually less expensive to buy all of the animals and sell the ones you don't want for slaughter or retain them for a breeding and see what they produce.

In the case of commercial does, the decision to purchase is made based on the overall quality of the group of animals.  Ideally, the does are preparing to wean their last kid crop so the decision to purchase can be made on what the kids look like, not the does themselves.

I cannot stress this point enough.  When selecting mature does the process is to first cull all of the does that have bad bags, broken limbs, etc. that would make it difficult for them to conceive and raise another set of kids, then select primarily based on the quality of the last crop of kids produced.

Not too long ago I was giving a tour of my ranch to some people considering raising commercial meat goats.  At the time I had recently sold a large number of Boer cross does, but the buyer had not picked them up yet so they were out in the pasture.  I had my breeders in the pens with the bucks, and we were standing in one of the pens when one of the gentlemen asked why I had retained these does and sold the other ones.  The question was prompted by the fact that most of the does I retained looked far less impressive than the does I had sold.

I asked them to look at the adjacent pen where I had a large number of doelings that I retained as replacements for the does that were sold.  I told them that the mothers of those replacements were the does that I had retained as breeders.  If I kept the kids, then I also kept the doe that produced them.  Many of the does didn't look too good because they had weaned those kids a few weeks earlier after spending the summer with them on a pasture that had received almost no rain in the previous 15 months.

The does I sold in many cases looked really great because they had not produced kids at all under the drought conditions, so were in much better condition.  The does that had produced kids were sold because I didn't like the kids they had produced (which were sold with them).  Keep in mind these were sound does that under different conditions with a different buck might produce great kids, I sold all of my unsound and diseased does through the sale barn, another reason not to purchase your breeding stock there. 

In many cases I had sold entire lines based on the fact that even at the 7/8 Boer level I was still getting solid white goats (some Angora and Kiko lines just will not produce a red head) and/or poor pigmentation.  For my market I need good color and especially good pigmentation.  The person who bought those does raised Boer x Kiko for meat, and didn't care if the offspring were solid white with pink skin. 

If the kids are not present you will have to decide whether to purchase the does on other factors.

Size
This is one of my favorite topics. I love to go through the magazines and read all of the ads bragging about 250 lb does and 300 lb plus bucks.  When I see those ads I know I'm going to have little competition for a long time to come.  These ads tell me that the breeder running them either isn't interested in the commercial seed stock market or hasn't got any idea what is important in a commercial animal. 

To be profitable in any business you must maximize the amount of output generated from your resources.  Translated to the meat goat business, this means that you must produce the maximum number of marketable kids per acre of land (if raising on pasture) or quantity of feed (if raising in a feedlot) utilized.

To accomplish this requires a medium size doe, not a jumbo size one.  The ideal commercial doe is just large enough to produce and raise twins that will weigh 60-80 lbs at weaning age (90 days) on pasture. In my experience a 100 lb doe is more than adequate for the task, and some smaller does can also easily pull it off.  The key is frame size not weight.

The reason to avoid the heavier does is that they will on average produce the same number of kids as the lighter does, but will require twice the feed or pasture to do so.  In fact, the first part of that statement is inaccurate because in many cases the heavier does have more difficulty conceiving and delivering, so on average the heavier does may produce fewer kids on twice the feed or pasture.

Stocking rates are frequently stated in head/acre (or in west Texas acres/head) but it is far more accurate to state the stocking rate in terms of pounds of stock/acre.  You cannot say that a property can support 1 cow/acre or 7 goats/acre if the goats are the size of cows!

The other argument against these jumbo goats is that there is virtually no demand in the slaughter market for goats that large.  The primary market for slaughter goats is a 35-80 lb kid.  That isn't to say that you can't sell a 250 lb goat at the sale barn, but the price per pound is so low that the sale probably would not be profitable, and if everybody started trying to sell goats that size the price would plummet because there is so little demand for them. 

From a commercial standpoint there is absolutely no truth to the philosophy that "bigger is better."  When selecting commercial seed stock the key is moderation when it comes to size.  Pick goats that are too large or too small and your profitability will be less than optimal.

Conformation
As I mentioned previously you generally don't get to do a lot of individual animal selection when purchasing commercial does, but you should still check a few key areas to make sure there are not widespread problems in a herd before purchasing it.

The first area of concern is the hooves and legs.  Commercial goats spend a lot of time on the move, and need to be sound in this area.  A large number of the herds I am putting together currently are headed to areas where the soil is soft and not very rocky.  Goats with weak pasterns will require hoof trimming more frequently, and I cannot think of a less pleasant task than spending the day (or days) trimming a couple of thousand hooves.

The second area of concern is the mammary system. In addition to insisting that the seller cull any animals with bad bags, you should check the remaining animals for good attachment of the udder.

If a large percentage of the does are weak in these areas than you should look elsewhere for your does.  If most of the does in the herd meet all of the above criteria you are ready to find the bucks.

COMMERCIAL BUCKS

Selecting the bucks for a commercial meat goat operation is the most critical part of the process.  By selecting superior bucks you can make up for a lot of deficiencies in the does composing the herd.  Unfortunately, in all too many cases producers botch this part of the process, and adversely impact their herds for years. 

The buck selection process is not the time to get tight with your wallet or buy into the show goat industry hype.  A good commercial herd sire will generate a positive return on the additional investment it takes to purchase him.  More importantly just because a buck's pedigree is loaded with show winning animals and he is being sold for $5,000.00, doesn't mean that buck will be worth a flip as a commercial herd sire as past performance tests have shown.  The process I use to select herd sires begins with a review of performance test results to determine the lines that have potential as commercial herd sires, then I evaluate the conformation of each individual animal to select those that are suitable herd sires.

Performance Test Results
This is where the rubber meets the road for a commercial meat goat operation.  When the kids are sent to market no one cares how many ennobled or permanent grand champion goats they are related to.  The price received is based on the weight of the animal and its condition.  On a weaning age kid the condition of the animal will be primarily related to the mothering abilities of its dam (this is why I recommend selecting does based on the quality of their offspring) and the condition of the pasture it was raised on.  Assuming the dam does a good job and pasture conditions are acceptable, the final weight of the kid can be dramatically influenced by the sire's genetics.

My own herd is an ideal example of the impact using quality performance tested sires can have.  In 1998 I performance tested some of the kids from my herd for the first time.  What an eye-opener.  My kids averaged .423 lbs/day of weight gain.  The average for all of the goats on test that year was .48 lbs/day, and the best animals were gaining over .8 lbs/day.  This was unacceptable to me so I promptly went out and purchased one of the top 10% test bucks.

The next year I took five of my new sire's offspring back to the test, two of them placed in the top 20% and one placed in the top 10%.  The group as a whole gained .612 lbs/day compared to .575 lbs/day for all of the animals on test.  One of my animals was sick the last four weeks of the test, and if you ignored his results the average daily gain for my group was .658 lbs/day.  Not a bad improvement considering the only change I made was in sires. 

In fact, I had kids from the same dam at both tests.  In 1998 that dam's kid gained only .33 lbs/day, the next year her kids averaged .71 lbs/day and one was a top 10% buck while his brother was a top 20% buck.  Same dam, different sire, huge improvement in result.

Not satisfied I purchased a top 5% buck from the 1999 test, and sent his kids to the 2000 test.  His four sons gained an average of .712 lbs/day compared to the average of .601 lbs/day for all the goats on test with 2 kids ranking in the top 10%.  Again the only change I made was in the sire used.

In general it is my experience that the offspring of a sire will on average gain weight at about the same rate that the sire gained weight.  For instance, my sire Hakuna Matata gained .68 lbs/day on test as a kid and his sons have averaged .65 lbs/day (excluding animals that got sick during the test).  My other sire Mbwa Fahali gained .762 lbs/day on test as a kid and his sons have averaged .712 lbs/day. 

With that kind of personal experience it should be easy to see why I won't even contact a breeder for bucks unless his animals have been performance tested.

Does that mean you have to test all of your animals?  No, I personally test all of my fullblood buck kids that are eligible (born between January 1 and March 31), but if you test a reasonable sample (say 5 animals minimum from each sire) that gives me a pretty good idea of the weight gaining characteristics of that line.  If you take just one or two animals from a sire the results don't say much.  The larger the sample, the more accurate the result from a purely statistical standpoint. 

When deciding which sires I am interested in purchasing kids out of I look at two factors.  First, how did all of that sire's kids do on average, and second how consistent were the kids.  If a sire's offspring averaged .4 lbs/day and the average for all test animals was .6 lbs/day, I am not interested in that sire's offspring.  I would also not be interested if the sire's offspring are above average overall, but there is a wide spread between the best and worst animals (after accounting for any animals that had health problems during the test).

There is absolutely no connection between show success and performance test success.  For example, the most recent addition to my herd was the #2 buck at the 1999 performance test (he gained .833 lbs/day), and his sire, Scado (now deceased), was the #1 sire that year (four sons on test that averaged .741 lbs/day of weight gain with all ranking in the top 22.5% or higher).  I'm not sure if Scado was ever shown, but there is no way he should have been able to win a show because he was not the most physically attractive specimen of the breed.  Similarly, the son I purchased is probably not show goat material.  He has no real defects, or I wouldn't use him, but he just doesn't have the style and charisma necessary to succeed in the showring.  I fully expect that his offspring will grow like weeds though, and for a commercial herd sire that is the name of the game.

You can view complete 1999 and 2000 Angelo State University Performance Test results on my website at http://www.geocities.com/mjff/test.html.

Age
The age of the bucks selected is generally not of much concern. As a practical matter most of the bucks purchased are kids since few breeders keep many mature bucks on hand.  In my experience even a 6 month old buck will cover 25 or more does in a breeding season.

Selection Criteria
Unlike selecting does where it is more or less of a take all or none situation, commercial bucks can usually be bought individually.  After I have selected which sires I am interested in picking offspring from, it is time to select individual animals. 

The criteria used are similar to those used to select show stock, namely the breed standards, although there are a few standards that I ignore as being minimally important in a commercial sire such as head color.

The first area I want to look at is the buck's mouth.  Poor jaw alignment is not acceptable in a commercial herd sire.  These bucks and their offspring have to make a living out on pasture, and it is much more difficult to do that if the animal's jaws don't match up properly.  If you have an animal with a bad mouth it needs to be sold as a market wether show prospect or for slaughter, not as commercial seed stock.

The next areas I look at are the hooves, pasterns and legs. Again, these bucks and their offspring are destined for large pastures not a small pen. They need to be able to move around effectively.  If you have animals that are weak in this area, sell them for market wether show prospects or for slaughter.  I haven't heard of a market wether show yet where the judge penalized the animals for a bad mouth or bad wheels, and if they are they should stop.

Horns are an area that don't get near the attention they should in my opinion.  What I am looking for here is an animal whose horns will not eventually grow in such a manner that they wind up rubbing the hair off the animal's neck and/or restricting the movement of its head.  Bare skin on the animal's neck leaves it vulnerable year-round.  During winter in cold climates the animal is vulnerable to frost bite, and during warm months sunburn and insects become a problem.

Pigmentation is also important.  I generally look for an animal that is darkly and solidly pigmented. I tend to ignore hair color altogether.

The main purpose of a buck is to breed does, so any bucks selected must have two well formed equal size testes in a single scrotum.

The bucks that pass all of the above tests will get further consideration, with additional cuts being made if necessary based on the overall appearance or style of the buck.

Size
Size of the buck is generally not much of a factor since we are usually buying kids, but in my experience 300 lb plus bucks are not very effective at breeding 100 lb commercial does.  The good news is that few bucks will reach that size on pasture even if their sire was that large.

Management Practices
It is an absolute must that at some point each and every buck kid spend some time in a pasture environment with his dam so she can teach him how to survive out there.  It is very difficult for a buck to be effective if he is laying by the barn waiting for his chow to be brought to him while the does he is supposed to breed are wandering around the pasture a mile away.

How Much Is That Goat In The Window?
Many commercial meat goat operations have been content to buy the cheapest bucks they can find as long as they are fullblood Boers, failing to recognize the benefit that quality sires (defined as those proven to produce fast growing kids) can have to their bottom line.

For almost ten years I did consulting work for small mom and pop type businesses all the way up to large international corporations.  Part of every project involved performing an economic analysis to justify the purchase of new equipment.  The same techniques used in those projects are just as applicable to determining the maximum investment in a new herd sire that is justified.

To proceed I will assume that the purchase of an inexpensive herd sire is justified (an answer that will vary depending on the individual operation), then I will calculate the rate of return obtained on the additional investment in a quality herd sire.  I will assume for purposes of this analysis that your average herd sire can be purchased for $150.00 and on average his offspring gain .5 lbs/day.  I will also assume that both animals are used for 5 years, then die and have a salvage value of $0.00.  Both sires will be bred to 25 does every year, and will produce 40 kids that reach market size at 90 days and are sold for $.80/lb.  These are pretty conservative estimates.  Ideally, a 12% or greater return will be received on the additional investment.

Our first potential herdsire comes from a line that produces average daily gains of .6 lbs/day.  That is an extra .1 lb/day over the average and will produce an extra $288.00 per year in additional pre-tax profit or $162.29 after taxes (assuming 28% tax bracket plus Social Security and Medicare taxes). To generate a 12% return on investment what is the maximum pre-tax investment that can be made in this type of buck?  Surprisingly, one could pay an additional $1,037.00 or $1,187.00 total for a buck like this and receive a 12% after-tax return on the additional investment made.  Currently bucks like this can easily be obtained for $500.00, which translates to an incredible 77.63% return on the additional $350.00 investment!

What if we want to purchase even better sires whose kids gain on average .7 lbs/day? Bucks like this can be obtained for as little as $750.00 which translates to a 92.35% return on the additional $600.00 of investment.  Even if you paid a total of $2,225.00 though you would still receive at least a 12% return on your investment.

For the producer of commercial herd sires the benefit is clear.  Improve the weight gaining characteristics of your herd, and you can receive hundreds of dollars more for your animals.

Investing in quality performance tested herd sires is a financial no-brainer. Unfortunately, since so few breeders currently test their animals, and even fewer have the genetics present in their herds to provide these animals, doing so from a practical standpoint is difficult.  Boer goat producers should recognize that performance testing is the most underutilized, but potentially most beneficial tool available to them.  It provides an objective method of proving the value of a breeder's animals to his customers and helps to justify premium prices for those that have superior genetics.

CONCLUSION

The commercial seed stock market can be a profitable market both personally and financially for those who focus on it and provide the type of product desired.  This requires first performance testing animals and eliminating sires that produce slow-growing offspring.  Breeders must also recognize the importance of raising smaller more economical animals in a pasture environment.  Finally, producers should recognize that commercial herd sires must not only gain weight quickly, but must be sound animals with no cull defects.  The commercial seed stock market is not a dumping ground for poor quality animals.  The breeders who take heed of these recommendations and market their herds appropriately will be richly rewarded.

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This page updated 07/27/01

This page updated 07/27/01

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