How Do Kids Perform Before Performance Test?

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The 2003 Angelo State University Meat Goat Performance Test has begun, and once again I have entered a number of our bucks in the test. In fact, this year I entered 39 bucks. There are only 93 bucks on test this year, so almost 42% of the animals this year are mine.

One of the added benefits of entering the test is that not only do you get to see how your animals perform at the test, but you can also see how your animals performed prior to the test.

In many ways that performance is even more critical then their performance at the test, because most commercial producers sell their animals before they reach the size that the animals starting the test are.

For instance, the average initial weight at the test this year is 62.6 lbs. By the next weighing the average buck on test will weigh more than the maximum desired weight for slaughter kids, 80 lbs, and by the end of the test they will weigh around 110 lbs on average.

In the past, when selecting our sires I have looked not only at their performance on test, but also at their performance prior to the test, and I haven't been disappointed with the results as you will see below.

Of course, you don't have to go to the trouble of entering a performance test to see how well your kids are performing prior to weaning, all you need to do is purchase a livestock scale.

The main purpose of the performance test is to see how your animals stack up against other breeders' genetics under controlled conditions. Since I have never gotten around to purchasing a livestock scale, though, even the data from the initial weigh-in is valuable to me.

Now that I have received that data, I can use it to illustrate some points and dispel some myths that until now I didn't have sufficient data to dispute.

Unlike many producers of breeding stock I do not raise my animals on full feed in a pen or heavily supplement them in the pasture. Normally I let the does and kids out in the pasture 2-3 weeks after kidding, but this year I had a contractor out doing some major soil conservation and road repair work.

The goats had to stay in the pens until the project was done, and of course the project took three times as long as planned because of equipment breakdowns and bad weather. By the time the project was complete and I could let the goats on the pasture, it hadn't rained in a month and was so hot all the cool weather plants were dying.

As a result, this year's kid crop spent their first 47 days on average in the kidding pens with their mothers. I'm not a big believer in over-feeding goats, so I go out everyday when the goats are in the pens and deliver their daily ration to them.

The quantity of feed I give them is calculated to barely meet their nutritional requirements. I'm not trying to fatten these girls up, but I also don't want to starve them.

The does go nuts at feeding time, and there is not enough room at the feeders for the kids, so most of the kids couldn't get any feed before the does ate it all. The end result was that this year's kid crop survived on a milk-only diet until they were almost 7 weeks old.

Kids on pasture will start to supplement the milk they get from their mother with vegetation by the time they are a couple of weeks old, so it would have been understandable if this year's kid crop had been a little on the puny side.

Not only that, but from the time the goats were put back out on the pasture until weaning we had no significant rainfall. All the goats had to eat once they got in the pasture were the dead, dried up remains of the oats, grasses, and clovers I planted in the fall. I provided them with no supplement or creep feed until a couple of weeks before weaning, and then I just put out about .2 lbs/kid of a 17% pellet in a creep feeder to get the buck kids used to eating pellets before they went to the performance test.

Despite all of that, when we weaned the buck kids at 102 days old on average their average weight was almost 63 lbs! I track the birth weights of my kids, so I can accurately calculate their rate of gain, and the average daily gain for our buck kids from birth to weaning was 0.532 lbs/day!

After receiving the initial weigh-in data from ASU I analyzed it several ways. I looked at performance by sire Table 1 and Table 2, and performance by age of dam Table 3 and Table 4.

After evaluating the data for all the buck kids, Table 1 and Table 3, I decided that since these were birth to weaning weights that the number of kids a doe was raising might skew the data, so I decided to do another analysis using the data only from the kids that had been raised as twins, Table 2 and Table 4.

For the twin analysis I deleted any kids that were the result of a single birth, or who were born as a twin, triplet, or quadruplet, but whose other siblings had died leaving the kid to be raised as a single. I included kids that were born triplets or quadruplets, but wound up being raised as a twin because of the death of 1 or 2 of their siblings respectively. In total I deleted the data for 7 animals for the twin analysis, 4 singles and 3 triplets or quads.

The data for my sire Limo and the yearling does is hard to draw conclusions from because Limo was the only buck bred to the yearling does. Were the low birth weights and slow growth rate for their twins caused by Limo's genetics or the young age of the does who were in some cases not even yearlings yet when they gave birth?

Looking at the rest of the data it seems clear that sire selection has little if anything to do with birth weight contrary to the claims of some. In Table 2 the birth weights of the twins from our other sires are nearly identical. Those sires were all bred to mature does (yearlings or older at the time of breeding) receiving the same quantity of feed as each other.

The birth weights this year are somewhat higher than obtained in the past, but that was expected because during pregnancy the does had better nutrition this year.

Birth weights are most dependent on the nutrition provided to the does during pregnancy, the number of kids being carried (singles will usually weigh more than twins, and twins more than triplets all other things being equal), and whether the kids are born to a yearling or a more mature doe (yearlings tend to have smaller kids than mature does). The sire appears to have nothing to do with birth weight.

Was the slow growth rate of those Limo kids his fault or the does' fault? Comparing the data from Table 1, which included all of Limo's kids, including the singles, with that from Table 2, which were the twins only, I would conclude that the slow growth rate had more to do with the does.

Limo was the #4 buck on test last year and comes from a long line of fast growing animals. When you look at Table 1 Limo's kids were outgained only by Fat Bastard's kids. Of course, 2 of Limo's 5 kids were singles. When you remove those 2 kids (Table 2), Limo slips to last in ADG of his twin kids.

The problem with young does is they do not produce very much milk. A young doe trying to raise twins does not produce enough milk to support the fast growth of two kids, but that same doe produces plenty for a single kid.

I theorize that Limo gave the kids the genetic potential to grow quickly, but that potential was not realized in his twins because of the poor milk production of their young mothers. His single kids gained 0.637 lbs/day on average. It will not surprise me to find Limo among the top sires this year at the test even though his kid's weight gains prior to weaning were less than impressive.

Fat Bastard's kids on the other hand grew like weeds. This might seem surprising, because when Fat Bastard was on test back in 2000 he ranked 50th out of 69 bucks with an ADG of 0.506 versus the average of 0.601 that year.

This is why I use extreme caution when selecting sires using the performance test data. The poorer testing bucks are not always inferior animals. In the case of Fat Bastard I knew that during part of the 2000 test the feeder in his pen was clogged for several weeks and all the animals in that pen wound up testing poorly.

In other cases animals have gotten sick during the test, started rutting, etc. causing the test results of otherwise superb animals to be mediocre or poor. That is one of the main reasons we test so many of our animals. I don't want to get rid of a great sire because we only tested one or two of his sons, and by chance something bad happened to that animal(s) misleading me into thinking that there is something genetically wrong with that sire.

Before selecting Fat Bastard I did some research, and found that his brother went to the Langston, OK test and was the #2 buck there in 2000. I also noticed that Fat Bastard arrived at the ASU test weighing 82 lbs at 118 days old (that's about 0.627 lbs/day of gain prior to the test), and during the portions of the test where his feeder wasn't clogged his weight gains were outstanding.

Based on that knowledge I took a chance on him even though his final test numbers were not that great. So far I am not disappointed, but had I just looked at the final performance test results I might have passed on a sire that may be the best to set foot on our ranch to date.

Another example of this is Limo's sire. Limo's sire is DOW N68. He was tested in 2001 and came in a respectable 26th out of 116. There were obviously many other better testing bucks, some of them his brothers (8 out of 25 to be exact). Even though N68 himself wasn't even in the top 20% when he was tested, his offspring the next year took 6 of the top 10 spots in the 2002 test, and 3 of the top 4!

That is why when I am selecting a sire I look first at the sire results, then pick a buck from one of the top testing sires even if the buck we ultimately choose is not the top gaining buck. The top gaining bucks may have cull defects or other less serious imperfections, while one of the better conformed but lower ranked performance test bucks from that same sire may produce equal or superior performing offspring.

Almost 72% of our buck production this year came from 3 of our seasoned sires Mbwa Fahali (now deceased, so this will be his last kid crop), his son Mbwa Fahali ME, and Tarzan. Mbwa Fahali and Tarzan both gained in excess of .762 lbs/day as kids, and their own offspring have consistently tested above average.

It was no surprise to find that their kids gained at almost the same rate in my analysis of birth to weaning performance this year, because that was also the case last year at the performance test where Tarzan's kids gained 0.602 lbs/day followed closely by Mbwa Fahali's kids at 0.587 lbs/day (the average was only 0.522 lbs/day).

Mbwa Fahali ME's kids gained at lower rates because a couple of his offspring had mothers that did not want to feed them. I wasn't about to bottle feed kids that had perfectly good mothers, so I went out twice a day, put halters on the offending mothers, and then tied the halter's lead to the fence so the kids could eat until the mothers got the message. Unfortunately, the does were slow learners, and the kids' growth suffered.

Several of the does I bred to Mbwa Fahali ME were also first-time fresheners even though they were almost 2-year olds, because they were too young to breed the year before. The kids out of those 2-year old first-timers performed only slightly better than the younger first-timers. The ADG of their kids was .488 lbs/day, but their average birth weight was 8.6 lbs.

Apparently the extra year of maturity and growth allowed the does to deliver average size kids, but their udders still lacked the development to produce adequate amounts of milk for twin kids. This was apparent looking at the does' udders, as well as, in the lower weaning weights for their kids. Whether you breed your does at 7 months or wait longer, in most cases you can expect their first batch of kids to be inferior to the kids produced by your more experienced and better developed does.

The twin kids Mbwa Fahali ME produced out of non-psychotic, mature does had an ADG of 0.520 lbs/day, slightly better than average and good enough for second overall according to Table 2.

Finally, I was curious what effect the age of the dam had on the performance of the kids, if any. As you can see from the data in Table 4 the yearling does tended to produce smaller twin kids both at birth and at weaning.

There does not seem to be much difference between does of different ages as they get older. The data for the 3-year olds is somewhat inflated because almost all of them were bred to Fat Bastard who produced the fastest growing kids. If you ignore them, the data for the other age groups of mature does are pretty comparable indicating that most does will reach their full productive potential after raising their first kid(s), and will retain that productivity level for several years.

Analyzing the birth to weaning performance of a kid crop provides valuable insight and guidance to producers. It can help confirm that first-time fresheners are less productive than more experienced does, dispel myths like that birth weight is related to sire, and identify superior sires and dams when combined with post-weaning performance test data of that same kid crop.

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This page updated 07/08/03

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