Boer-cross Kids Often Outperform Fullbloods

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Last month I briefly addressed an issue in my response to a letter from Mike Kearby that I would like to discuss in more detail this month. That is, can commercial kids raised on pasture attain rapid gains, and if they can, why do so many producers have slow growing kids.

Most commercial producers are raising some type of Boer cross kids. The first question then is, are Boer cross kids capable of rapid weight gains or do only fullblood Boer kids possess this trait?

A review of the Angelo State University performance test data reveals that Boer cross kids can gain weight rapidly. At the 2002 test, the top testing animal with an average daily gain of .75 lbs/day was a Boer cross, and 5 of the top 10 animals were Boer crosses (I had to check with ASU to obtain the genetics of their entries since they were not listed). Only 1/3 of the animals on test were Boer crosses, so one would have expected that only 3 of the top 10 animals would be Boer crosses.

Most of those animals arrived at the test weighing between 60 and 70 lbs at about 3.5 months of age, and were raised on West Texas pasture prior to the test. Even more interesting is that many were triplets (including the top testing buck), which normally hinders the growth of all three kids.

Obviously, Boer crosses are capable of rapid weight gains if you have the right genetics. If you are a producer whose kids at 120 days old only weigh 42 lbs you might want to figure out why. The reason(s) is (are) going to be one or more of the following; genetics, nutrition, and/or poor mothering.

In West Texas commercial producers primarily select their sires one of two ways.

The first group heads over to the sale barn every year before breeding season and buys a bunch of bucks. They then turn the bucks in with the does for a few weeks. When breeding season is over they load the bucks up and take them back to the sale barn. Cost to get the does bred, somewhere around zero.

Of course, they have no idea what they just bred their does with. They don't know if the bucks were fullbloods or crosses, and they certainly don't know if the bucks were from fast growing bloodlines or not.

Although the bucks don't cost them anything, when it comes time to sell the kid crop these producers generally receive over $1,500.00 less per buck used to sire their kid crop than a producer using sires from fast gaining bloodlines will. Those cheap sale barn bucks can sure be expensive if you look at it that way.

The second group heads over to the show goat breeder's annual production sales and buys sires. In most cases these sires are also from untested bloodlines, and you have no idea whether the kids will grow quickly or not.

In fact, because many show goat breeders line breed their animals to emphasize certain appearance traits, many of the show goat lines can be counted on to grow more slowly. While line breeding is great for certain things, improving growth rates and vigor are not on that list.

I am conducting my own experiment with this. Last year I bred one of my sires to a group of does that was very closely related. I then tested the kids at ASU.

The results were far below what one would have expected given the genetic background of the buck and does used. Not only did the kids grow more slowly, but several of them died during the test. Previously I have never lost a kid at the test, and this was my fifth year participating. None of the kids from my other sires died at the same test.

The second part of the experiment is this year. Last September I bred the same buck to a different set of does that are not related to him. I will test those offspring, and discuss the results in a column this fall. If my theory is correct, this year's kid crop from that sire will perform much better than last year's did.

The show goat lines are more expensive to purchase, and may be slow growers as well. Is it any wonder that most commercial meat goat producers wind up with kids that are disappointing at best when they select their sires in the manner I described above? If the kids don't have the genetics to support fast growth, they almost certainly will not grow quickly.

Even if you go out and buy sires from fast growing bloodlines you will still not be guaranteed fast growing kids. There are two other things that are necessary for your kids to grow quickly. They are nutrition and the mothering ability of your does.

Prior to weaning the two are basically the same since a nursing kid gets most of its nutrition from its mother. A kid with the best genetics in the world will not gain weight quickly if its mother ignores it or has inadequate milk.

Producers need to keep track of which does are weaning the most pounds of kids every year, and get rid of the does that raise puny kids.

If weaning weights are low across the board the producer should suspect that range conditions are such that the does cannot obtain enough protein from their browse to make adequate milk for their kids (assuming that they are using sires from fast growing bloodlines). If that is the case then producers must use a high protein supplement to make up the difference.

Protein supplements can be a very cost effective way to increase the weight of your kid crop both before and after weaning. Before weaning you supplement the does so that they produce more and better quality milk. After weaning you supplement the kids to support faster gains. You can read more about this in my September and October 2002 columns.

If you are a commercial producer who has been excusing the poor performance of your kid crops because they are just Boer crosses being raised on pasture, you need to stop making excuses because with the right genetics and nutrition your commercial kids can perform as well as any pen-raised fullblood kid.

Herd Sires

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This page updated 03/31/03

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