The Pros & Cons of Offering Buck Service
Maxine Kinne (Pros) & Carol Raczykowski (Cons)
Why do breeders offer buck service? Money, mostly. With a very popular buck, an owner can often earn enough to buy his herd's feed all year long.
Breeders offering service can, and should, set health standards for visiting does. It is helpful to everyone concerned if these terms are set out in a written breeding agreement well before the doe shows up at your front door. Buck owners may require proof of one or more diagnostic tests, such as a negative fecal exam for internal parasites and negative results for certain diseases (CAE, caseous lympadenitis, Johne's disease, etc.). I was so often presented does with lice that I came to require several treatments for lice before the scheduled visit. Since we live in a selenium-deficient area, I also included information in my breeding agreement about the effects of selenium on optimal reproduction.
When the doe arrives, the buck owner should examine her for external parasites and obvious good health. A quick health exam of the doe will give you a lot of peace of mind.
Some breeders with well-devised breeding programs actually think beyond the money aspect and offer buck service in order to improve the genetics of the does in their local area or to broaden the local gene pool when new blood is needed. Outside breedings put more of your buck's offspring on the ground, and there are big advantages if you have a prepotent buck - one who improves on most of the does he's bred to. Unless you breed him to a variety of bloodlines, you won't know whether he is truly prepotent or if he just crosses well with your own does. This is how a buck actually "proves" himself. When he has sired a number of kid, you can realistically claim that he adds heart girth or improves hock angulation or widens the loin or imparts his pleasant personality to most of his kids. No buck does it all.
It's a good idea to get some offspring out of an untried or young buck before you hang a service price on him. His real test is when his offspring grow up and reproduce. Only then will you know that he passes to his daughters ample pelvic capacity, good mothering ability and plenty of milk in a correct mammary system. Well, let's hope so, anyway...
Why don't breeders offer buck service? Health, mostly. I offered outside buck service for 10 years and during that time, even with health checks and testing, have been exposed to and endured lice, pinkeye, pneumonia and who khows what ese - none of which had existed on my property before service was offered. None of these animals exhibited signs of health problems when they arrived at our ranch.
Stressed animals are more likely to shed latent organisms that can infect them, such as respiratory viruses or pinkeye. An animal coming to your ranch for outside breeding has just endured, at the very least, a drive to your home, and it has been left in an unfamiliar place. They are bound to be stressed. If they had a medical problem heating up, it is ready to boil over on your ranch. No one can guarantee 100% that an animal coming to visit will have no health problems, especially when considering diseases like Johne's or CL. Yes, I realize there are ways to be fairly certain of this and to reduce the possibility of health problems, such as a health check, testing, complete isolation and brief exposure. But this all requires special facilities, extra time, extra care (to feed an animal separately and a distance away from the others), and a great deal of patience. If you are low on any of these, outside service becomes more hassle that it is worth.
Yes, I feel badly when someone says they want to breed their doe to one of my bucks and I tell them my herd is closed. But, they could always purchase an animal out of that buck if they want that particular gene pool, and I always refer them to other people in the area who do offer outside buck service.
Another factor to think about is when someone breeds their doe to your buck, the resulting animals are registered in the doe owner's herd name. If you want to get more exposure, having your herdname attached to those nice kid your buck is producing is helpful. Take this train of thought further. If the breeding produces a really nice buck for the owner, this could lessen your sales of animals if the doe owner uses the new buck to produce genetically similar animals locally. Yeah, I know, this is really stretching it, and I have never used this as a reason for not providing buck service. But remember, I am supposed to be writing the "cons" here.
Another benefit of not offering buck service could be that because your herd is closed, your animals could eventually be sold for a premium because you can guarantee with a great amount of certainty that your animals are disease free. This is only if you test regularly for a whole list of diseases and have low and controlled exposure to outside forces. "Serious" breeders will appreciate this fact.
Several other "cons" fall into the category of time and money expense. For example, a doe comes for breeding and does not settle. You offer return service if the doe is not bred, so she returns for a second breeding. You finally figure out she is cystic a month later. Or, a bred doe is fed moldy hay two months later and aborts. "Hmmm", you say, "Too bad my buck did his job and impreganted your doe," and feel like a heel, or do you rebreed the doe for them or offer another service? I'd rebreed the doe, which means extra time and expense. Sure I can charge that person for the added breeding and extra days of boarding, but I always feel guilty doing that. So, I guess a prerequisite for doing outside service is also to have a good business sense and not to be a pushover. I typically do not fall into either of these categories.
Inherent in doing outside breeding service is the liability factor of being responsible for someone else's animal. Most people fill out contracts that alleviate this responsibility, but if a dog broke through my fencing and killed a doe that was here for breeding, I would feel real bad and would replace it in spite of a contract saying that I did not need to. So, even if you are not legally responsible for the animal, there is still a cloud of mental responsibility. I believe this falls into the "added stress" factor of outside breeding.
Another con of doing outside breeding is the "lip service" your poor buck can get as a reault if you do not screen the does good enough. If the resulting kids do not meet the doe owner's expectations in one way or another, of course, it is your buck's fault - the doe has "perfect" genes. If your buck doesn't correct any of her faults, the poor guy gets blasted. Blaming the buck first seems to be a recurring theme with many people. Of course it all comes out in the wash if he does well with other outside breedings. But as people know, the praise of millions does not deafen the loud voice of a complainer.
This brings up another potential con of outside breeding - dealing with "bad apples." I have been raising goats for around 12 years now and part of the reason I've been doing it so long is because of all of the wonderful people I have met. However, some people are also the reason I've thought about getting out of goats. It's that old saying about one bad apple... Expect to run into some bad apples when you are providing buck service.
If you have the appropriate set-up for offering buck service and manage it well, all of the above cons can be brought under control. I appreciate people who offer buck service because it can be so helpful to new people getting started who do not own a buck or who want to improve their herd.
Outside buck service is needed if we are to continue promoting our goats, but it is a personal choice whether you are a good candidate for offering it. If you offer service you will need a good set-up, not just for the protection of your herd but also to protect the does coming in to be bred.
Under no circumstances should a herd with an active case of disease - CL, CAE, Johne's disease or other communicable diseases that are not being managed properly - be offering outside buck service. But, if it is done correctly and for the right reasons (other than just the money), outside buck service is just that - an excellent service to goat enthusiasts in general.
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