Producers Should Focus On Rate Of Growth

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It has become more and more apparent lately that many people in the industry are unaware of the importance of fast growth to the success of a commercial meat goat operation. Whether it is the poor participation in the various performance tests conducted, the reluctance of some producers to pay a little extra for bucks from proven fast gaining lines, or the marketing of slow growing breeds to commercial meat goat producers; it is obvious that many have given little or no thought to this important aspect of the genetic make-up of their herd.

Yet at sale time what determines the price a commercial producer receives for his crop? There are three factors related to the individual animal(s) being sold that primarily determine the price a producer will receive relative to the market as a whole.

The first is the age of the animals. Prices for kids in the slaughter market are generally much higher than for older animals.

Second is the weight of the animal. Even at auctions where prices are reported per head, instead of per cwt., you will notice that different size animals bring different amounts. I haven't seen a sale yet where producers received the same amount for 30 lb kids as they do for 80 lb kids. If producers are receiving $33.00 per head for 30 lb kids and $80.00 per head for 80 lb kids, that is the same as $110.00 per cwt. for the 30 lb kids and $100.00 per cwt. for the 80 lb kids. The prices are still in part determined by weight even if they are reported on a per head basis.

Third is the condition of the animals. Buyers will pay as much as 50% more for a properly conditioned animal than they will pay for a poorly or over conditioned one.

What does that have to do with the growth rate of the kids? Everything! To get the most for your kid crop you need to sell your crop while they are still kids. Preferably when they are large kids. If your kids grow too slowly you will get less for them. Let's say you are going to sell your crop at weaning age.

Producer A uses a Boer buck from a line proven to produce kids that average .602 lbs/day of gain. Producer B uses a Myotonic buck that according to Dr. Nuti's article last month will produce kids that average about .285 lbs/day of gain. Producer C uses a Spanish buck whose kids gain .473 lbs/day (2002 ASU Performance Test ADG for Spanish kids). Producer D uses a Kiko buck whose kids gain .419 lbs/day (2002 ASU Performance Test ADG for Kiko kids). Finally, Producer E uses a Boer buck from a slower growing line that produces kids that average .435 lbs/day of gain.

All producers weaned and sold their kids on September 3, 2002 at 90 days of age through Producers Livestock Auction in San Angelo, TX. The Boer kids were born weighing 7.6 lbs, The Myotonic kids 6.1 lbs, the Spanish kids 6.6 lbs, and the Kiko kids 6.6 lbs. All kids grade out Selection 1 and bring the top price per cwt. for that size kid which were $94.00 per cwt. for the 25-40 lb kids, $90.00 per cwt. for the 40-60 lb kids, and $89.00 per cwt. for the 60-80 lb kids.

Producer A's fast growing Boer kids average 61.78 lbs and sell for $54.98 each. Producer B's Myotonic kids average 31.75 lbs and bring $29.85 each. Producer C's Spanish kids wean averaging 49.17 lbs and sell for $44.25 each. Producer D's Kiko kids average 44.31 lbs and sell for $39.88 each. Producer E's slow growing Boer kids average 46.75 lbs and sell for $42.08 each.

Let's assume that all producers bred their bucks to 50 does and weaned a 150% kid crop or 75 kids per buck. The fast growing Boer buck produced $4,123.50 worth of kids, the Myotonic buck produced $2,238.75 worth of kids, the Spanish buck produced $3,318.75 worth of kids, the Kiko buck produced $2,991.00 worth of kids, and the slow growing Boer buck produced $3,156.00 worth of kids.

Believe it or not I didn't go back and tweak those numbers to try to make a point, the numbers above were my first shot at it and are actual data from performance tests, sale results, etc. Nevertheless, the results demonstrate several interesting things.

First, the proven fast gaining Boer bloodline pays for itself the first year. That buck out produced all the others by $804.75 or more. I am selling bucks from bloodlines that are capable of producing those types of gains or better for $500.00 to $750.00 each. When you consider that you will still have to pay for a slower growing buck (sometimes more than the proven fast gaining buck would cost you) the advantage of the proven line is even greater.

Not only that but I used early September 2002 prices in the example above, which were the lowest prices since August 2001. The difference is even more dramatic if you use prices from earlier in the year, which were as high as $128.00 per cwt. Using those prices the fast gaining buck produces an extra $1,210.56 every kid crop.

Second, just because its a Boer doesn't mean that its going to improve your bottomline. The slower growing Boer was actually out produced by the Spanish buck. Wouldn't it be a downer to spend a big pile of cash on some high dollar show goat line that has never been tested, only to find out the hard way that the kids from that buck grow more slowly than those from a Spanish buck.

The important thing is not the breed of goat, but the performance of the bloodline you are buying. The best bloodlines of a breed can outgain the worst bloodlines of that same breed by 50%, and the best bloodlines of any breed will outgain the worst bloodlines of any other breed.

I will note, however, that the only bloodlines that I am aware of that have produced gains of over .6 lbs per day on average for large groups of kids at any of the performance tests were all fullblood Boers. Whether that is because so many more Boer bloodlines have been tested than any other breed, or because the Boers are the only breed with the genetic potential for those types of gains is impossible to say.

Finally, although the price per cwt. is higher for the smaller kids, the total amount received is much higher for the larger kids. Why any producer would intentionally sell 30-40 lb kids instead of 60-80 lb kids escapes me. I understand the producers in my area doing it. They have no choice because of the drought here, which makes it almost impossible to keep the kids long enough for them to grow larger. Why producers in other areas would sell such small kids is a mystery.

The example above demonstrated the advantages to a producer who sells his kids at a certain age, but fast growing kids also have their advantages for those who sell their kids at a certain weight.

My own preference is to market kids at or slightly below 80 lbs. The 80 lb kids will usually bring the same amount or slightly less per cwt. than the 40-60 lb kids and on average about $4.00 per cwt. less than the 30-40 lb kids. Again, although the price per cwt. is slightly lower for the 80 lb kids, the total received per head will be much higher for the 80 lb kids than for the smaller ones. Once the kids get larger than 80 lbs, generally the price per cwt. drops so dramatically that it would not be unusual for you to actually receive less for a 100 lb kid than you would have for that same kid when he weighed 80 lbs. In general, an 80 lb kid is the most profitable.

Assuming we want to sell 80 lb kids, and using the bucks from the example above, the kids from the fast gaining Boer buck are ready for market at 120 days, the Myotonic kids at 259 days, the Spanish kids at 155 days, the Kiko kids at 175 days, and the slow growing Boer kids at 166 days.

The fast gaining Boer kids can be weaned at 120 days weighing 80 lbs, and be shipped. All the other kids will be weaned at lower weights, and then must be separated from their mothers to prevent them from continuing to nurse and to prevent the little bucks from breeding their mothers and sisters. This creates added expense and headaches for the producer, and requires more land and fence.

Alternatively, the producer can castrate the little buck kids and put them back in the pasture with their mothers and sisters and let the does wean the kids. The result, however, will be even slower gains, less muscling and more fat on the kids (which will probably translate to a lower price per cwt. at sale time), and added labor expense to castrate the kids.

In addition, the longer the producer has the kids the more time and expense that will be expended to worm them on a regular basis in areas where worms are a significant problem, and the higher the likelihood that some or many will die. Everyday those kids spend in your pasture is an extra day they are exposed and vulnerable to predators, disease, parasites, weather, etc. that can cause significant and rapid losses.

I know someone that had about 100 (the exact number escapes me at the moment) young does that he was trying to sell for replacements. Before he could sell them a severe thunderstorm rumbled through one night, and all the young does were standing under a large tree when a lightning bolt struck that tree. Something like 80% of the young does died as a result of their poor choice of shelter. Needless to say he didn't make very much money off of them.

I've heard of similar disasters caused by stray dogs, coccidia, worms, hail, thieves, etc. The quicker you can get your kids to market size and get them sold, the better off you will be. Your expenses will be lower, and you will likely have more kids to sell. There are several other advantages to fast growing kids that may apply to your situation.

Many producers try to produce 3 kid crops in 2 years. That means the does are pregnant for 5 months, nurse their kids for 3 months, then are rebred. The next kid crop hits the ground when the previous ones are only 8 months old. Needless to say things can get pretty crowded and complicated if the first kid crop is still around when the second one hits the ground. The faster the kids grow, the faster they reach the desired size for sale, and the sooner the producer can get rid of them, making it more likely that the producer will be able to successfully raise 3 kid crops in 2 years.

If you are keeping weaned kids around because they are not large enough to sell, depending on the time of year and conditions, you may be significantly reducing the number of does you can keep, and your income.

Also, producers in northern areas frequently have to feed their herd during the coldest months, and really need to have any animals that are not part of their breeding herd sold before they have to start feeding to maximize profits. The cold weather also necessitates a later kidding date, and as a result a shorter period of time for the kids to grow. In short, northern producers don't have the luxury of letting slow growing kids hang around until they get bigger. If the kids only weigh 40 lbs when the cold weather sets in, then the producer will be selling 40 lb kids. Much better to have fast growing kids that will reach 80 lbs before the cold weather arrives.

The most important trait commercial producers need to look for in the sires they are purchasing is fast growth because that trait will have the most pronounced impact on the producer's bottomline. When slaughter kids are sold the buyers aren't looking for wide chests, or length, or most of the other traits that show goat breeders focus on. They want to know how old the kids are, how much they weigh, and what condition they are in. If you have fast growing kids, than the animals you are selling will be the right age and condition when they reach the optimum weight, and will have cost you less to raise to that size, thus maximizing your profit.

Finally, the last two months I wrote about supplementing because it doesn't matter how great your genetics are, if your goats aren't getting enough protein to support rapid gains, then your results will be poor. The other side of that is, it doesn't matter how much you supplement your goats or how great your pastures are, if your kids don't have the genetic potential to grow quickly, then they will not. Your goats must have both good genetics and good nutrition to maximize their growth rate and your profits. The best investments a producer can make are in superior sires (defined as sires from fast gaining bloodlines), and a good protein supplement program.

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This page updated 11/17/02

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