Looking For Mr. Right
Maxine Kinne

I've known people who have never owned a buck. Most of them have asked, "Am I stupid not to buy a buck?" 

My response has always been that not having one is a whole lot smarter than keeping one! And that's not just because they don't have to contend with additional pens and upkeep. Without the convenience of a buck out on the back 40, you really have to do your homework on the bucks that are available to breed to, either by live service or artificial insemination. It compels you to be more observant and critical your does' structure and function. Buck keeper or no, anyone calling himself a breeder should be thorough in evaluating each breeding and making the best possible informed decisions on what their next generation is going to be. And that all depends on the sires they use now.

Ideally, each doe should be bred to the buck who shares her good traits, in order to consolidate them more firmly. It is just as easy to concentrate good genes as bad ones, and nobody wants bad ones. The sire should be very correct in areas where the doe needs improvment in the hopes that he will pass this correct trait, not an exaggerated one. Always choose a correct trait rather than an excessive one, because it is very likely you will get both extremes instead of the blending toward the middle you hoped for.

Before you decide on a sire for any breeding, think about the type of kids you want to have. In the early years, when a breeding program is being established, it is common for kids to resemble either the dam or sire. Over several or more years, an intelligent breeding program blends the genes to give you more dependable results. When you introduce a new bloodline to one that is firmly established, new kids can look different than what you have come to expect. It takes time to meld some bloodlines, especially when traits in the new one are quite different than the ones you have experience with. When you want to use an outcross bloodline, ask others who have used it what their results have been.

I've bought two outcross bucks. I was only able to see a few pictures of one of them. He looked great, but some of the traits he passed were not what I wanted. I kept what I liked and have bred "away" from him since.

I've only taken four does to two different outcross bucks. The first one was a bit nervous with a stranger in his pasture, so I had a great opportunity to see how he moved. From a distance his shoulder attachments looked good, rear leg angulation was superb and width fore and aft was more than adequate. Then the owner held him so I could confirm that his physique was all it appeared to be under his heavy hair coat. Nice thick neck. Good sternum extension. Well-attached shoulders. Wide, level loin and rump. Then I asked the owner if I could examine his feet. She looked surprised but said OK. I picked up a back foot first, then a front foot, observing the balance and levelness between the two claws and that the hooves had the proportions I wanted in my herd. I took two quite different does to him and got two quite different sets of twins, as is common in outcrosses. (One of the kids we got was our first permanent champion, and his sire went on to become a permanent and national champion.) Although this buck had been used very extensively by many people throughout the area, his owner said me that I was the only person who ever asked to lay a hand on him. Really!? Well, how did they know what they were breeding to?

Don't count on eyesight for your evaluations if it is possible to see a sire up close. Watch from a distance to see how he moves. Then get your hands on him to make sure you're getting what you want! Get a little more personally familiar with your does, too, with a hands-on examination to learn more about their structure.

About ten years after the first off-the-farm breeding, but not really thinking about another outcross, I spotted an extremely correct adult buck at a show. As his owner walked him around before his class, I sidled up to admire him. While I petted him, I felt his neck, shoulders, and top line. His feet were good, too. Wow! Had to have a piece of him. Between this up-close-and-personal scrutiny, and knowing his immediate ancestors, I decided that he would maintain my does' over-all structure, stature, angularity, size, and the type of head and feet I like. Plus, his loin had greater width and levelness than I had been able to get in my herd. Although he wasn't the champion that day, he was a PGCH and a National Champion before long. My reasoning was good - his bloodline and mine blended seamlessly. And now we have better loins to boot.

Maybe you've wondered about my foot fetish... There are easy-to-trim and hard-to-trim hooves. They can even occur on the same goat, because there are shape differences between the front and rear feet. Hoof trimming is quicker and easier if with well-conformed feet. Bad feet and legs can seriously interfere with the quality of life as a goat ages, so I'm stacking all the cards in my goats' favor.

Get a copy of the standard for your breed and study it thoroughly. Learn the names and locations of all the different goat parts. If you don't feel comfortable evaluating your goats using the breed standard as a yardstick, try to find someone with experience in your breed to help you. General breed type is important, but it has little impact on productivity. We can have excellent breed type, structure and productivity all rolled into one, but it takes a knowledgeable breeder and a good manager all rolled into one to get it. Shows are another way to get someone's opinion of how your goats stack up with a bunch of other goats.

If your breed or registry association supports production records, you may be ahead of the background checking gamefor the new sire you want to use. There are many good resources available for those complicated dairy traits. Fiber goats lack comprehensive industry-wide testing, although quality standards do exist for mohair and cashmere. Prolificacy and rate of gain are among the most important productive qualities in meat goats, but different factions in the industry have had their differences. In contrast to other types of goats, the only criteria for Pygmy goats in NPGA has been success at shows, based on a breed standard that emphasizes breed type and meat characteristics. This fails to address tangible productive qualities, but it is a good measure of breed type. In AGS, the Pygmy has value in a dairy capacity, and shows are also available.

As the old adage goes, the proof is in the pudding. When you study the background of a sire you want to use in your breeding program, pay the closest attention to the qualities of his parents and any offspring he may have produced. These animals are genetically the closest to the buck in question. You may find enough similarities amongst these related goats to make more informed decisions about him. Then look at all four grandparents, because they all contributed to his make-up. Evaluate the good and bad traits of all these related animals. Did any of the parents, grandparents or offspring have any serious faults? No buck can be blamed for everything that went wrong, nor can he take credit for everything that goes right. He contributes one half of his genes to each kid, and your doe supplies the other half. It can be very tempting to blame everything on a new sire.

A sire can carry and pass certain of his dam's and both granddam's traits without displaying them himself. One obvious example is milk production - he doesn't do that, but he carries the many genes that do. On the other hand, a dam carries her sire's and both grandsires' traits and passes them to her sons. Testicle size is an example of this. That's why it becomes so important to look at a sire's entire family to see that they have all produced what you think you want.

When we thoroughly investigate each potential breeding and make smart choices, our kids should excel their parents in conformation and productivity. And with continued wise breeding this new generation will, in turn, have a more positive impact on their own offspring.

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