New Columnist To Cover Commercial Production

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To start I just wanted to thank everybody who wrote or called in response to my "Commercial Seedstock" article in the February 2001 Goat Rancher. The response was overwhelmingly positive, and many wanted to see me contribute on a regular basis. To those of you who asked me to write more I say, "be careful what you wish for, you might get it."

I plan on contributing monthly, and the purpose of my column is to present information that will hopefully be of value to commercial meat goat producers. I encourage you to send questions or requests for information, since the hardest part of writing a column like this is deciding what to write about. The column will not address medical topics since I am not a vet, but will focus on herd management issues. My educational and professional background is in the fields of engineering and financial planning, so expect my columns to include lots of data, statistical, and financial analysis.

This first column will address questions I received from a reader near Waco, TX that I felt other readers might be interested in. The questions were:

"Did I understand you to say that in general kids will put on weight at about the same rate as their sire? Does this apply from kidding to weaning also?"

My response: Under test conditions I have found that the sons seem to gain at about the same rate as their sire. This indicates that average daily gain is a highly heritable trait. Keep in mind that on test the goats are given full feed. I would not compare the gains of the sire on full feed with the gains of the kids on drought stricken summer range. They will not be comparable. If there is nothing for your animals to eat you will be wasting your money buying better sires.

Our sire Mbwa Fahali gained .762 lbs/day on test and gained .724 lbs/day from birth through weaning, so it is possible to obtain those types of gains from birth through weaning. Keep in mind that there are other factors that influence the rate of gain besides genetics though.

From birth through weaning the amount of milk the mother produces and amount of time she allows the kid to nurse greatly impacts the rate of gain. Pasture conditions will also have a significant impact on the weaning weight of the kid since after a few weeks they eat quite a bit of vegetation in addition to milk. This is the main reason I suggest selecting does based primarily on the kids they produce, the weaning size of the kids is a good indication of mothering ability. Puny kids = poor mother = cull doe, big kids = good mother = breeding doe. This assumes you are using quality sires.

Obviously you would also want to take range conditions into account before culling any does, since no doe can produce good kids if there is nothing to eat. You also shouldn't compare twins to singles, because the singles almost always wind up bigger than the twins. Triplets are usually smaller yet at weaning. If you did that you would wind up selecting your least productive does.

Rather than looking at the individual kids produced, the doe should be evaluated on the total pounds of kids weaned. Additionally, the total pounds of kids weaned should be compared to the weight of the doe. Therefore, a 110 lb doe that weans 140 lbs of kids (1.27 lbs of kids per lb of doe) should be retained over a 200 lb doe that weans 140 lbs of kids (only .7 lbs of kids per lb of doe). Unfortunately, most producers today would do exactly the opposite and keep the 200 lb doe since many have the mistaken belief that bigger is better.

Generally, I consider the weaning weight of the kids to be primarily influenced by the mothering ability of the doe with the genetics of the sire and range conditions playing important but secondary roles, and the post weaning rate of gain to be primarily influenced by genetics and range conditions. However, if any piece of the puzzle is missing you will not obtain the desired results, and you must then determine which piece or pieces are missing to rectify the situation.

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This page updated 07/27/01

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