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Presented to: Florida Goat Conference June 14, 1997 Linda S. Campbell
CULLING DAIRY GOATS
Culling within your herd is an ongoing process; it never ends. It should start the day you bring home your first goat. Before it can even begin, however, you have to decide upon the goals for your herd. If you have a commercial dairy, good production will be a major requirement. If you are selling fluid milk, then volume will be more important than fat percentages. If the majority of milk is used for cheese production, then fat and protein content will play important roles. Long and even lactations will also yield a higher return for your dairy. Excellent tools for those breeding dairy animals are available through the American Dairy Goat Association. These include the linear appraisal system, official testing (DHIR), sanctioned shows and blood typing (which may soon be replaced with DNA typing as technology changes).
∑ Is your herd on pasture and traveling many miles to forage? If this is the case, youíll want a strong emphasis on feet and legs.
∑ If you only want a family milk supply, youíll probably be much less demanding that conformation be quite the level required by someone with a breeding operation. Good temperament, however, will probably be an important criterion, especially if young children are spending time with the animals.
∑ If you are dam raising kids, then a strong mothering instinct will be essential in your selection process.
∑ Do you want to have a small hobby herd selling foundation stock to other breeders? If this is the case, youíll probably be inclined to spend more effort on selecting for good type as well as production. If itís important that you stand at the front of the class in the show ring, then strong mammaries will be a definite goal.
What is a cull in one herd might be perfectly acceptable in another. The longer we breed our dairy goats, the more demanding of perfection we can become. At the same time, our goals are likely to change to reflect our level of knowledge or the use of the animal. This experience factor will greatly influence the end result of our culling efforts. Talk with fellow breeders in your area and at shows and seek their opinions.
In order to determine patterns of problems within the herd, it can be very helpful to keep complete records of animals that have been removed from the herd. An easy summary and overall view of reasons for culling can be seen if a simple chart method of record keeping is used. The pieces of information can be varied according to personal choice, but some items could include:
∑ Tag or ID Number
∑ Registration Number
∑ Age when culled
Next we start identifying the reasons for removing the animal:
∑ Reproductive problems: This can range from infertile animals through difficulty in kidding.
∑ Production: By using more specific information, this could include low production, low butterfat, high somatic cell count, short lactation.
∑ Mastitis: If you have cultured the milk to try to determine the causative agent, this could be a very useful item to see if there is some pattern.
∑ Other Diseases: Specify the problem. Often when an animal goes down in condition from one major problem, stress situations can make the animal susceptible to illnesses such as pneumonia. Try to record primary and secondary causes. When deciding whether or not to cull for particular diseases, consider whether or not the animal will be able to fully recover. For example, soremouth is a nuisance disease, but once the animal recovers, it basically as no residual or ongoing problems. Caseous lymphadentis, however, is a disease that will cause lingering problems, infect others in the herd, and thereís no permanent cure. You have to decide what you will tolerate.
∑ Temperament: If the goat is too aggressive or just plain stubborn with an attitude problem, she may be just fine in a very small herd, but a real nuisance in a large herd.
∑ Structural problems: Using the linear appraisal method of looking at body components can be helpful in identifying specific problems. Maybe the front end assembly is consistently a problem, or perhaps weak pasterns, or postiness. Again, animals that must spend hours foraging will need good feet and legs to live a long and productive life. The animal that barely leaves her pen will not have as much dependence on that area of strength.
∑ Injury: Sometimes involuntary culling must occur due to accidents. This could range from dog attacks to falling gates or poor fences. If you are seeing consistent specific injuries, you should make management changes to reduce those injuries.
∑ Finally, take note of where your culls are going. Animals that are culled for poor health or disease should not be passed on to uninformed buyers, but rather sold for meat. When a goat goes through local stock sales, we have little control over how the animal will be used. It seems that the largest majority of goats sold through such operations are health culls. Goats that canít be a part of a strong show string can still find a good niche as a family milker, and most of those sales can be successfully done in a one on one arrangement.
So, if you can take some time to identify your goals for your dairy goat operation, you will have taken a major step in progressing towards those goals. Decide what is important to you in your own personal situation. Keep those complete records on the culls you make, and youíll find that you may be able to identify consistency of problems that you may have missed by relying upon memory or by only noting minimal information.
Remember that culling is necessary and ongoing, and by keeping your goals in mind, youíll soon find that youíve make progress in producing the dairy goat that suits your specific purposes and helps you achieve your goals.
Key word: CULL - (Think: Cut Your Losses! )