This blog assumes that you are looking for a goat with specific genetics/pedigree & not simply a pet goat with a flashy coat and blue eyes. You are looking for things like everything in Red for Yvonne’s info in the pic on the right. If you’re like me & want to know all this dry & sometimes boring stuff about pedigrees and tales from the trenches…. Read on :-).
When I first started out acquiring Nigerian Dwarf goats I wanted them to be registered with the top registries. With having AGS (American Goat Society) and ADGA (American Dairy Goat Association) goats, my head was swirling try to find out what a +*B and a +*S meant. I’d find out about +*B & then have to go searching for the +*S. It turned out they were for the 2 different registries. I started compiling a list that not only details what all the designations mean, but a cross reference between these two registries. I have posted this list on a web page that can be accessed here. Hopefully it will save someone the pain and agony I went through LOL. If you know of anything that is missing that would be helpful for others to know, please let me know and I’ll add it.
The Pedigree designations are basically things a registered Goat is “awarded” through the registries throughout their lifetimes. There are so many other dairy goat terms and abbreviations that get thrown around so often that someone who isn’t immersed in goats walks away saying “HUH”? I have a treasure trove of lists that detail these terms and acronyms surrounding registered (and unregistered) goats I will be posting in future blogs. An example would be: What is a FF?! Answer: First Freshener. These were compiled for myself, our employees and our friends with goats to help keep our sanity. Stay tuned for those lists!
Words of caution to anyone evaluating goats: many breeders do not participate in the programs that generate all these Pedigree letters and numbers surrounding a goat’s name. It is very expensive and a huge time commitment. These programs include the governmental USDA DHIR (Dairy Herd Improvement Registry) which is a lot of red tape and is a cow and goat milk testing program, Linear Appraisals (LAs) and Classifications, and registry-sanctioned Showing.
Showing is not only a large time and expense commitment, but special precautions must be done to insulate and protect your show goats from other goats from a disease and sickness (colds, pink eye, etc.) perspective. In our case, it also involves retesting the herd for diseases like CAE which we did not need to do when we had a closed herd. Full testing via vet-drawn blood costs around $100 PER GOAT.
More words of caution: just because a goat you are evaluating has a lot of “bling” in their name – their parents do – does not mean the offspring of these blinged-out goats will be as exceptional as their parents are. It happens, and there are no guarantees in goat life. It is a great indicator, though, that you are getting a top quality goat with excellent potential.
Tales from the Trenches…..
Since many breeders do not participate in the above programs but still have extremely fine animals with great genetics and potential, you will need to familiarize yourself with what to look for when evaluating goats for your herd. Future blogs will attempt to help you out with this. Many of our herd have tremendous udders and conformation, but neither they (just yet) or their parents and grandparents were put through these programs. I spent 2 years before starting my herd researching what to look for, and went out finally and slowly and patiently found it. In addition to acquiring does & bucks from highly decorated parents this year, I am also acquiring the best of the best without all the swag around their names, but with outstanding potential for me to put through these programs as well as for elevating my breeding for herd improvements.
We recently attended our very first show: the SMDGA “Strut the Rut” Buck-only show in Southwest Missouri. It is the largest Buck show in the country! But I have no fear :-). Two of our bucks that are the third generation of our original foundation herd won 2nd and 3rd places in their large classes. We were thrilled beyond belief.
One of our new bucks without the bling in his name won “Best in Class” 4 times! I certainly had chosen carefully and cautiously from an exceptional breeder (who is also an ADGA judge), and took a leap of faith in my new buck that paid off! Of course, that won’t get him a “leg” towards his “CH” status – he would have had to win Best of Breed and then Best of Show for that, but we are happy just the same. Most of the bucks who go on to win their “leg” are the 2 or 3 year olds, and our buck is 5 and has never been shown before now. We are not going for the “CH” status for him so he will be “retired” from showing now with us secure and happy in what the 4 different judges said about his conformation in giving him the class wins! This is an example of looking beyond the pedigree “awards” on an exceptional buck who simply hadn’t been shown and never had any progeny milk tested or shown. Most important is that he was sired by one the most well known and desired bucks in ND history so the superior genetics are there, just not proven (yet) in this line.
I spoke with a gentleman at the SMDGA show who drove all the way from Colorado… as his buck had just scored the highest possible LA (Linear Appraisal) for a buck and he wanted to “Finish” his Grand Champion status. The poor guy left in disgust as not only did he not win many Best of Class awards across the 6 shows, he could not win Best in Breed to save his life (he won once) or the Best in Show which would have finished his buck. I felt really bad for him, but this just proves out that Linear Appraisals are very different from having a judge comparing your goat to others that are in the ring that particular day. And it proves how hard it is to get that “CH” and/or “MCH” bling in his buck’s name.
We also had no fear (ha!) and made our very first doe show appearance at NAILE (North American International Livestock Exhibition) in Louisville, KY. NAILE is the largest purebred all breed livestock event in the world. Over 650 dairy goats competed, with the competition involving many national champions and grand champions. The Nigerian Dwarfs compete against the large breed Sables (awful, but true). Our highest winning/placing doe is a second generation from our original foundation stock!!!! And one of our other highest placing does just came to us from a herd that does not participate in milk testing or showing! She actually beat out a SG (Superior Genetics) doe from a herd that participates in all performance/ production programs… and funny enough the SG doe ours beat out is the mom of one of our new doelings. Geesh. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at that, but was still jumping for total joy our doe placed so high in a very large class against stiff competition. Hopefully she will be able to win Best in Show in smaller competitions to get her 3 “legs” towards her Champion status.
It is really, really hard to get that Champion “bling” on the pedigrees, but ya have to start somewhere! And try to have fun doing it or it’s not worth doing :-).
In summary…. and other notes to go forward
- Know what the pedigree designations are for, but don’t rely on them solely for your breeding planning, nor expect their offspring to be as great as they are.
- Know that many top breeders don’t necessarily participate in programs that require a huge time sink and great expense. You may be overlooking a fantastic doe or buck that will improve your herd.
- Pick what you need for temperament, milking, showing, or even top-of-the-line pet quality.
- Try and acquire your goats from healthy, disease tested herds to minimize large vet bills after buying. I can share some horror stories from some of my buyers if you want to drop me a line.
- Buy from reputable breeders that are willing to mentor you if you are first starting out (or even if you are seasoned – believe me I interact with all the breeders my girls and boys come from as there is always something to learn).
- If you are participating in DHIR or showing, try to select buyers – for your non-pet quality babies – you think will also participate in programs. Stars and production evaluations flow up and down and can add more “bling” to your boys and girls depending on what your buyers do.
- When you go to sell your babies…. Please pay it forward and help others that are just starting out! Some of my best friendships are with our buyers and we email and talk quite a bit about goat life and goals for our herds.