Performance Comes From Maintaining Records & Testing


From April 2001 to June 2004 I wrote a column for this publication that was geared towards commercial meat goat production. Then in June 2004 I started construction on a new home, and stopped writing it for what I thought would be a few months. Well, to make a very long story very short it is now 3 years later, and I am still trying to get the house finished. I don't know who I think I'm kidding. I doubt I will ever actually “finish” the house, since I am constantly thinking up new things to do to it.

We actually moved in well over a year ago, but then there were all the little things that weren't done quite how I wanted them that had to be corrected, minor problems that had to be fixed, of course the yard needed landscaping, and a pergola over that sunny and hot west facing patio would be really nice, etc.

It's all water under the bridge now, or at least enough of it is that I have time to start writing again. While building the house I have continued raising Boer goats and brokering commercial herds, and have learned a lot along the way that I will share in this column.

A major accomplishment for our herd was the production of a fullblood Boer buck that had the highest average daily gain and largest ribeye area at the 2004 Angelo State University Meat Goat Performance Test.

We have worked hard for years at identifying, purchasing and breeding genetics that produce not only good looking goats, but goats that grow rapidly and are heavily muscled, and as a result our animals have tested well for many years. For instance, last year our entire buck kid crop gained on average 0.626 lbs/day at the test versus the average of 0.566 lbs/day for all the animals on test.

Our animals comprise such a high percentage of the animals on test that they actually skew the average significantly. The average daily gain for the animals on test that were not ours was only 0.554 lbs/day, meaning our animals gained over 13% more than the average.

How do we obtain this level of performance on a consistent basis? We start by selecting sires from bloodlines that have performed well at one of the performance tests, and that demonstrate above average ribeye areas (REA), a measurement of muscling. Once we have narrowed the field based on the test results, we select only those animals that demonstrate outstanding conformation as herd sires.

Our does have been culled over the years based on their performance in our admittedly overstocked pasture. We have kept the does that produce the most pounds of kids every year in spite of the poor pasture, spotty worming schedule, and minimal assistance their owners provide them. Basically, if I have to spend some of my time helping a doe do her job, she is probably going to find herself at the local livestock auction in the near future.

The key to all of it is testing and maintaining records. If you don't have the data, you can't make sound herd management decisions and you can't improve what you've got. The 2007 Angelo State University Meat Goat Performance Test got under way recently, and once again most of the animals on test belong to a small group of breeders. This year there are 123 bucks on test, and three breeders combined to enter 101 of them. Not a single entry is from one of the big name breeders, and that has been the case for six years now.

Keep in mind that performance tests are the only way to measure the relative performance of genetics under identical conditions. The animals on test eat the same feed, live in the same facilities, experience the same climate, etc. In other words, all the factors that could influence their performance are controlled except genetics and health. As long as the animals stay healthy, when the test is over you have a good idea of how your genetics, or the genetics of the animals you are interested in purchasing, stack up against the other genetics available.

Why aren't more animals, and specifically, more bloodlines being tested? I guess when you can sell the sizzle you don't really need to worry about the quality of the steak. In other words, when buyers start demanding to see proof that the genetics they are purchasing are actually superior, instead of listening to all the hype, sellers will be forced to test.

Until then I can't say I blame the sellers for avoiding a test that would cost them money to enter and might prove that what they are selling is actually inferior, and thus worth maybe $100.00, instead of the several thousand dollars they routinely get now.

I suggest that buyers demand to see performance test results rather than being satisfied with an impressive pedigree and some show ribbons, and more importantly given the importance buyers place on “ennoblement” status, the boer goat associations should stop recognizing animals from bloodlines that have never been performance tested or that tested poorly.

For instance, an animal cannot become Ennobled by ABGA unless at least 3 of its progeny have passed visual inspection, but that same animal can become ennobled without ever being performance tested itself or having any of its offspring performance tested.

We can talk a good game in the Boer goat industry about genetic evaluation and performance improvement, but as long as animals can attain the highest level of recognition by buyers and the associations without ever proving their superiority in an objective and fair environment such as that provided by the various performance tests, all we are really doing is talking.

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This page updated 07/03/07