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Topics - mikey

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31
Small ruminant (sheep and goat) / News in brief:
« on: November 02, 2009, 01:26:09 AM »
I have been getting emails all week from our contacts in the Philippines telling me that the prices of boer bucks have been lowered and what does this really mean and what does  a "commercial breeding buck" really mean.

In all honestly I believe I am correct when I say if we look at all the bucks being produced from the boer breed,there appears to be an oversupply.In business its all about supply and demand.When there is an over supply and a lower demand, stocks are not moving.This translates into the business owner lowering his/her prices in order to move their stock(s) as breeders over selling them to the meat industry which brings in lower values.Strategic business move first and a good will gesture second.This is good news for those wishing to buy boer buck(s) to improve their own herds as the next wave in this industry is fattening,heavier goats bring in more pesos.The native has a higher bone to meat ratio but the boer has a higher meat to bone ratio.If one can improve their native stocks with the infusion of boer blood then the offspring has better value for the meat industry.In truth what we are talking about is ADG (average daily gain).In our research we have found at the F2 level (75%) boer blood one can realize a decent meat goat for the meat industry.

What does COMMERCIAL BOER BUCK mean.I am not sure as to what it really means,to me in english maybe different what what it means in the Philippines,so I will not comment.Talk with any breeder worldwide and they will tell you only a small percentage of bucks born on any given farm have the qualities it takes to enter a breeding program,1 in 10,1 in 20.Not all bucks are created equal.Again we are taking about genetics and ADG.At Mustang Sally Agri Farm we use only a few selected sires for our breeding program as most all of our males are shipped to Negros Occ. or Cebu for the meat trade.The golden rule here is buy the best genetics one can afford and start from there.Remember alot of the finest breeding animals worldwide have line- breeding in their pedigrees at some point in their life time.

Overall,good news for the goat industry as a whole to see prices lowered on boer bucks.I am hopeful this will add more boer bucks into the hands of those who were excluded before.This will benefit the industry for years to come.Welcome news indeed.

I was talking with one of my contacts in New Zealand about dairy New Zealand as I was told they also imported their anglo nubians from Australia and also face the same problem of lower milk yields and shorter lactation periods compared to their saanens.They have been breeding snubians also to help produce better milking goats but agree with me that the anglo nubians have better quality milk compared to the saanens and the anglo nubians are the only dairy breed which has a longer breeding cycle which allows for more kiddings.They have been selecting better quality anglo bucks to help increase their milk yields and such and have been making modest gains and believe over time with selective breeding they will be able to increase their anglo yields and lactation periods.There is hope for us all but it will take time and resources to see the project completed.

Note:an anglo nubian is called an anglo nubian because its bloodlines have english blood in its pedigree but once bred to lets say a Philippine native it now becomes known as a Nubian not ANGLO NUBIAN.

Mustang Sally Agri Farm:
Region#7

32
Small ruminant (sheep and goat) / Meat Goat Standards USDA
« on: October 11, 2009, 07:56:06 AM »
http://www.goatrancher.com/guide.pdf     

this site may help one understand grades and cuts for goats taken from the USDA

33
AGRI-NEWS / China Hog Industry News
« on: September 24, 2009, 09:29:08 AM »
China Restricts EU Pork Due to H1N1 Fears
GLOBAL - The European Union's health chief said today that China had slapped restrictions on pork imports from four member states over swine flu concerns - a move she slammed as protectionist.



"We've had restrictions by China on the import of pork from several European Union member states because of H1N1 found in two farms in Northern Ireland," Androulla Vassiliou, EU health and food safety commissioner, told reporters.

"This will be of great concern to the EU because it's interpreted as being protectionism," she said on the second day of a visit to Beijing.

China announced the measure - which affects Denmark, France, Italy and Spain - on Friday, she added.

Yahoo! Finance reports that Beijing has required additional testing on all pork meat from these countries, and the disinfection of all containers, which means additional costs for exporters.

Pork imports from Northern Ireland are already subject to Chinese restrictions, officials said.

Officials at the Chinese commerce and agriculture ministries, as well as the food safety watchdog AQSIQ, were not immediately available for comment.

"Last May we had a joint declaration by the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organisation... saying very clearly that consumption of pork does not transmit the H1N1 virus," Ms Vassiliou said.

"So there is no point in restricting trade in pork."

Ms Vassiliou said she had conveyed the European Union's concerns on Tuesday to China's vice-minister of agriculture.

She said she would also ask the head of AQSIQ - the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine - to lift the restrictions.

Nations around the world have warned against trade protectionism, especially as the global financial crisis takes its toll.

China and the United States have recently been involved in a dispute after Washington imposed tariffs on Chinese-made tyre imports -- a move that prompted Beijing to lodge a complaint with the World Trade Organization.

Beijing has labelled the US action a "clear trade protectionist move."


 


34
Marketing and Economics / The Philippines 40th Richest:
« on: September 14, 2009, 09:57:06 AM »
The Philippines' 40 Richest
08.25.09, 11:00 PM EDT 


Rank Name Net Worth ($mil) Age
1  Henry Sy 3,800  84 
2  Lucio Tan 1,700  75 
3  Jaime Zobel de Ayala 1,200  75 
4  Andrew Tan 850  57 
5  John Gokongwei 720  82 
6  Tony Tan Caktiong 710  59 
7  Eduardo Cojuangco Jr. 660  74 
8  Enrique Razon Jr. 620  49 
9  Manuel Villar 530  59 
10  George Ty 515  76 
11  Emilio Yap 510  83 
12  Inigo & Mercedes Zobel 440  NA 
13  Beatrice Campos 410  NA 
14  Vivian Que Azcona 390  NA 
15  Oscar Lopez 350  79 
16  Andrew Gotianun 310  81 
17  David Consunji 300  88 
18  Robert Coyiuto Jr. 290  56 
19  Alfonso Yuchengco 230  86 
20  Mariano Tan 180  NA 
21  Menardo Jimenez 160  77 
22  Gilberto M. Duavit 159  74 
23  Felipe Gozon 135  69 
24  Jon Ramon Aboitiz 125  60 
25  Betty Ang 120  NA 
26  Alfredo Ramos 115  65 
27  Manuel Zamora Jr. 110  69 
28  Bienvenido R. Tantoco Sr. 90  88 
29  Tomas Alcantara 75  63 
30  Benjamin Romualdez 70  79 
31  Wilfred Uytengsu Sr. 65  81 
32  Lourdes Montinola 60  81 
33  Luis Virata 56  55 
34  Eugenio Lopez III 55  57 
35  Enrique Aboitiz 53  87 
36  Philip Ang 50  68 
37  Jesus Tambunting 45  72 
38  Frederick Dy 40  54 
39  Rolando & Rosalinda Hortaleza 39  50/52 
40  Marian Rosario Fong 38  NA

"the one thing I have noticed about these people is this,alot connected with food and beverages,retail outlets,interesting.Food and beverages and retail outlets are big business." Money remittances are reported at an all time high,hummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.



 

35
DISEASES / Porcine Intestinal Adenomatosus
« on: August 27, 2009, 12:08:10 PM »
Porcine Intestinal Adenomatosus (Pig Ileitis)
The causes, different clinical forms and control/treatment of ileitis are covered in this article from Meriden Animal Health.


Porcine intestinal adenomatosus (PIA), or more commonly known as pig ileitis, comprises a disease complex with a group of conditions involving pathological changes in the small intestine associated with the intracellular bacterium Lawsonia intracellularis. The organism affects the mucosal epithelium of the small intestine, mostly the ileum and sometimes even the colon, causing hypertrophy, with or without haemorrhage.

The disease affects grower and finisher pigs of aged six to 20 weeks or older. It usually occurs as a mild, chronic infection with diarrhoea and weight loss or retarded growth due to poor feed efficiency. The acute haemorrhagic form is less frequent with bloody scours and sudden death.

Ileitis exists on most, if not all, farms. The disease takes on four different forms:

Porcine intestinal adenomatosus (PIA) – an abnormal proliferation of the cells that line the intestines, resulting in a thickening of the intestines.


Necrotic enteritis (NE) – besides the gross thickening of the small intestine, the proliferated cells die and slough off, resulting in necrotic or ulcerative lesions.


Regional Ileitis (RI) or Terminal Ileitis (TI) – inflammation of the terminal part of the small intestine, and


Proliferative haemorrhagic enteropathy (PHE) – massive bleeding into the small intestine, hence the common name ‘bloody gut’ and this is the most common form in grower and finisher pigs.


PIA: The intestinal wall thickens often with oedema to varying degrees. The mucosae are thrown into folds and may result in sharply defined plaques or marked multiple polyp formation.


NE: There is necrosis of the underlying PIA lesion resulting in yellow/grey cheesy masses that adhere tightly to the wall.


RI: The lower intestine becomes thickened and ridged. Often referred to as hosepipe gut. Ulceration can be often be seen in the mucosa.


PHE: The small and large intestines are dilated and filled with a blood clot. The colon contains black tarry faeces. The intestinal contents are rarely liquid. The intestines bulge out of the abdomen once opened.The aetiological agent is Lawsonia intracellularis, a Gram-negative, obligate intracellular bacterium and member of the Desufovibrionaceae family. The incubation period after infection is around two to three weeks. The organism lives inside the epithelial cells lining the intestine (enterocytes), which leads to active cell proliferation and a thickening of the gut wall. This reduces the absorptive efficiency of the gut leading to depression of growth and feed efficiency by about 10 to 20 per cent.

Lawsonia intracellularis is transmitted from pig to pig by an oral–faecal route. Nursing piglets may be first exposed to the disease via the sow’s faecal material. After weaning, the disease may be spread from older, infected pigs to young, susceptible pigs. Once infected by the organism, clinical signs may appear within 10 to 14 days and the organism is shed in the faeces for weeks. The presence of carrier animals in populations of pigs has been suspected to be a source of infection, but this has not been substantiated or characterised. Birds, rodents and contaminated equipment can also spread the disease.

Disease Forms
Chronic form (weaners, growers)
Pigs usually appear clinically normal, and still eat well during the initial stages. There is chronic watery diarrhoea, followed by gradual wasting and loss of body condition

 
In some cases, there may be a pot-bellied, bloated appearance. Pigs with the chronic form of ileitis may sometimes recover over a period of four to six weeks, however, there can be considerable losses in feed efficiency and daily gain of up to 0.3 and 80g per day respectively. As a consequence, there can be marked variations in sizes of pigs and poor uniformity in the herd. NI or RI may follow from it with similar signs, with necrosis in the distal portion of the small intestines and proliferation of the small intestinal cells, which die and are sloughed off with a gross thickening of the small intestine or ‘hosepipe gut.’ In the chronic form of the disease, the symptoms may be masked by other conditions, such as respiratory problems.

Acute haemorrhagic form (fattening pigs; sows, gilts in breeding stock)
This form usually affects pigs between the ages of four to 12 months. It normally affects gilts, especially those that are newly bought, seven to 10 days after being transferred to a commercial farm, during the stress period. Gilts in both commercial and genetic farms are affected, and many die from the disease.

In the case of fattening pigs, ileitis can affect growers as well as finishers right up to seven to 10 days before slaughter. Many of the affected pigs die from haemorrhagic ileitis. This is because very little attention is usually given to these fatteners, as most focus on the sows on heat, gestating sows and lactating sows. Because the disease is acute, in no time, the pig farmers start to realise that they are losing their pigs to ileitis, and by then, it is usually too late.

 
Usually the finishers that are affected are those of top quality and the heaviest of the herd. Death is sudden, with blood from the anus, similar to that of swine dysentery but without the mucous and there is usually mucosal and cutaneous pallor.




Treatment and Control
In clinical and laboratory testing, a series of antibiotics such as tylosin, tiamulin, valnemulin, lincomycin and other tetracyclines are potentially effective. However, disease eradication seems impossible commercially, as reports have indicated disease recurrence upon cessation of the antibiotic treatment period, or at least Lawsonia shedding some weeks post-treatment.

Another problem faced with the medications used to treat ileitis is that there is always a withdrawal period, so pig farmers would have to keep their animals for a longer period of time before they can be sold and this usually disrupts their schedule or turnover cycle. In-feed antibiotics such as tiamulin and tylosin have been shown to be not very effective and treatment response to these drugs has been poor of the late, probably due to resistance.

Even if injectables are used, 20 per cent of the best pigs of those affected will still die from ileitis, and only 50 to 60 per cent will survive. These injectables have to be given two or three times, 12 hours apart. In the process of separating and injecting the animals, stress will usually kill some of the affected pigs. The cost and extent of labour is also extensive in injecting affected pigs. Thus it is a well-known fact that ileitis causes significant economic losses to the pig producer.

Orego-Stim and Pig Ileitis
Orego-Stim is very effective for the treatment and control of ileitis. In many herds with ileitis history, its application as a growth enhancer contributed significantly to reduce or even eliminate subclinical and chronic forms of the disease, without need for treatment. The absence of Lawsonia infection and intestinal lesions has been demonstrated using PCR and histopathology.

For effective ileitis prevention, Orego-Stim Powder is typically included at 1kg per tonne for the first two weeks postweaning or up to 15kg bodyweight, followed by 500g per tonne up to the start of the growing period or 25kg bodyweight, and finally 250g per tonne throughout the grower-finisher period up to slaughter. In cases of severe acute haemorrhagic ileitis, it is recommended to include Orego-Stim Liquid at 500ml per 1000 litres of drinking water during the first two days of treatment, followed by Orego-Stim Powder at 500g per tonne for the next five days, and finally Orego-Stim Powder at 250g per tonne for another week. Results are usually seen within 12 to 18 hours, where affected animals regain their appetite and start eating again. Producers affected by the haemorrhagic form are encouraged to conduct trials using the above recommendations in comparison to their current ileitis treatment regime, as soon as ileitis is suspected in a herd. The farmer should be able to note a reduction in death losses.

For chronic ileitis, treatment should be started one month before the usual onset of clinical signs. To prevent ileitis from spreading to a healthy group, start treatment before the observation of first clinical signs of ileitis in the diseased group. For both the diseased group and preventive group, double inclusion rate of Orego-Stim during the first week of treatment. For short-term treatment, Orego-Stim Liquid may be used, at half the inclusion rate of Orego-Stim Powder.



36
POULTRY / Forced Molting As Egg Strategy:
« on: August 21, 2009, 09:08:30 AM »
Forced molting as egg strategy

Forced molting is a time-tested strategy in egg production.This technique forces the chickens to change their feathers. In the process, the birds stop laying eggs for about a month in preparation for a  heavier egg production.

This technique is what the biggest poultry farm in Mindanao, Davao Farm, has been doing when we  visited it recently. Davao Farm usually produces 300,000 to 400,000 eggs a day but in late February, many of the birds were on forced molting to lower egg production to just over 200,000 a day.

The owners have to lower their production in March to April because the demand for eggs dips. That’s because the students are on vacation. It is well known that students comprise the bulk of egg consumers. By forced-molting the chickens, heavy egg production will start one month later. Eighty percent of the chickens or even more could be laying eggs every day. And that will continue for many months.

How is forced-molting done? Darrell Coloscos, general supervisor of Davao Farm, says that it is very simple to do. Those that have to undergo forced molting should be 9 to 11 months old. If they are older, they might not be able to endure the torture that they have to undergo. Darrell said that for 12 days the birds are not given any commercial feed. They are only given water to drink.

On the 13th day, the birds are given 10 grams each of feed. This is very small since the normal diet of a layer is 110 grams per day. On Day 14, the birds are given 20 grams of feed, increased to 40 grams the next day. On the 16th day from the start of forced molting, the birds are given 80 grams and on the 17th day, full feed of 110 grams is given.

After molting, the feathers become shiny. The eggs also have thicker shells.

Written by Zac Sarian

Source: Manila Bulletin


37
First I would like to say that I have a great respect for Alaminos Goat Farm.I have waited for 2 years now for them to explain the differences between the 2 breeds.They have not so I will make it as simple to understand as possible.The SAANEN GOAT is a true dairy breed,meaning its genetic makeup to gearded towards milk production,good milk yields and 305 day lacation.Milk is its main function in life.The ANGLO GOAT is a dual purpose goat,meat/milk,its genetic makeup is split between 2 lines,one for milk and 1 for meat.In truth you will get milk and a meatier carcass,milk yields may be lower than a Saanen and most times with a shorter lactation period than the Saanen.The body structure of the Anglo is geared more towards meat production.Put both goats side by side and study their body structure,you will see some differences between the 2 breeds.Of all the dairy breeds its the Anglo that is known to have a nicer flavor of meat.I have seen many Anglos in N.America milk as well as a Saanen and sometimes better but selective breeding over many many years takes resources for all the R/D that is needed.

Alaminos Goat Farm is correct when they state that a dairy goat for dairy is better suited with the Saanen breed but if someone like ourselves who want both meat/dairy the Anglo is still a good choice to make.Depends on your management system and your goals for your operation.

It is also true that some very great milking goats have come from crossbreeding 2 breeds,out milking purebreeds at times.Crossbreeds at the f2 level we have found can make a decent milking goat,again selective breeding.Crossbreeds should not be overlooked as this makes more sense to increase the Philippine national herd.The main problem with crossbreeds in N.America is that the offspring from crossbreeds only have a value for meat production both male/female.The greatest number of commercial dairy operations only use purebreeds for milking.The value of the offspring from purebreeds have value for breeding stock.

Both have value but its your goals for your operation and the management practice you adopt that will be the deciding factor.

Goat-the other red meat:


What do I look for in a good milk goat,breed no importance:
-a doe with a long neck
-a doe with a long body
-a doe with long cannon bones in her front legs
-a doe without a high rump-high rumps can cause kidding problems down the road and a high rump gives a doe more fore utter making milking from behind more difficult.

38
SWINE / Boar Taint Vaccine
« on: August 03, 2009, 12:23:06 PM »
Boar Taint Vaccine Improves More Than Welfare
A new vaccination that inhibits boar taint in meat has also been found to have other benefits for the pig producer by improving feed efficiency and delivering a leaner carcass with better meat quality, writes senior editor, Chris Harris.


The Improvac vaccine, developed in Australia and having been on the Asia Pacific market for several years, was launched onto the European market earlier this year. The vaccine developed by pharmaceutical company, Pfizer Animal Health, has yet to be authorised for the US market.

The vaccine was brought on to the market as a means of reducing the possibilities of boar taint without castration.

Boar taint - the offensive smell and taste in pig meat - is caused by compounds that accumulate in the fat as male pigs become sexually mature.

The two main taint compounds are androstenone, which is produced in the testicles and skatole, a by-product of bacterial activity in the gut.

The level of androstenone is directly controlled by the activity of the testicles and increases dramatically as the pig reaches puberty.

The breakdown of skatole, which is produced by both male and female pigs, is inhibited by testicular function and tends to accumulate in male pigs.

Across Europe there are specific levels of the two that are allowed in pig meat – 1mg of androstenone per gram belly fat and 2mg of skatole per gram of belly fat.

Traditionally, castration has been used to prevent the build-up of these compounds and in Europe, about 100 million male piglets are castrated. In some cases, boar taint is avoided by early slaughter, as in the UK, but for processing systems and country tastes that require a heavier pig, castration has been essential.

However, the experts at Pfizer say that early slaughter still runs the risk of boar taint and as the pigs are intact, there is also a greater risk of undesirable behaviour such as mounting and aggression.

While in some countries the piglets are anaesthetised, there are still welfare issues to be considered as well as the financial costs to the farmer for the castration.

The vaccine, Improvac, blocks testicular function and reduces testosterone levels, so that the boars demonstrate much less behaviour such as mounting and fighting later in thr finishing phase.

The pigs become easier to manage and show both physical and behavioural changes.

Pfizer says that with the vaccination, it is possible to maintain quality assurance in the production unit.

Improvac has a zero day withholding time before slaughter, so there are no concerns about affecting human health.

The treatment requires two vaccinations. The first comes at eight weeks of age and the second vaccination four to six weeks before slaughter. With the treatment, androstenone and skatole fall to negligible levels.


In consumer tests, the meat quality improves and it is shown to be at least equivalent to that of castrated pigs or female pigs, and it is significantly better than non-vaccinated boars.

Market research among consumers shows that the majority prefer to see the use of the vaccine rather than castration - 71 per cent in France, 61 per cent in Germany and 74 per cent in the Netherlands.

However for the producer one of the major benefits is that vaccinated pigs also show better feed conversion rates.

Dr Michael Pearce from Pfizer said: "Studies have shown an improvement in feed conversion with the pigs eating 10 per cent less feed.

"The lean meat content of the pigs is also one to three per cent higher in whole vaccinated pigs rather than castrated pigs.

"The backfat is 10 to 15 per cent less than in castrated pigs."

Dr Pearce added that a high protein and high energy diet appears to work best and give the best feed conversion rates.

The vaccinated pigs grow in the same way as entire male pigs, giving an advantage at the abattoir.

Part of the reason for better feed conversion is the changes that are seen in the behaviour of the vaccinated pigs and the better carcass quality is because there is less stress and aggression and this means better meat quality and fewer skin lesions. It also has the effect of producing less PSE (pale soft exudative) and DFD (dry firm dark) pig meat.

With the better feed conversion rates, there are also environmental benefits as less slurry is produced.




July 2009

39
Small ruminant (sheep and goat) / Coppers Role in Goat Health
« on: August 02, 2009, 12:48:29 PM »
Copper's Role in Goat Health

By John Hibma 


Copper is one of a number of micro-minerals required by dairy goats. Even though copper is required in very small amounts in a goat’s diet, both copper deficiency and copper toxicity can occur, often in the presence or non-presence of other minerals. Several key functions of copper are:

Proper iron metabolism and production of hemoglobin in the blood
Numerous enzymes needed for growth, reproduction, immunity and the nervous system
Pigmentation of skin and hair
Proper hoof growth
It is a structural component of certain proteins
Is required by rumen micro-organisms
There are a host of problems that can occur as a result of copper deficiency, some of which are:

Anemia as a result of reduced iron mobilization
Spontaneous bone fractures
Poor hair pigmentation
Reduced growth
Reduced Fertility
Copper toxicity can indicated by these symptoms:

Weight loss
Depression, weakness, lethargy
Jaundice
Dehydration
To understand the function and availability of copper in goat diets requires an understanding of how elements interact with each other. Since an in-depth study of elemental chemistry is beyond the scope of this article, suffice it to say that all elements are unique in the way they interact or don’t interact with other elements. A well-known elemental combination is salt. Salt is made up of two very reactive elements, sodium and chlorine, both of which are dangerous and poisonous by themselves but, when combined, form a very necessary nutrient. Not all elements, however, combine to form favorable compounds. Cyanide gas is an example of a very bad combination.

Due to similarities in their atomic properties, many elements can compete with other elements in the body. A binding site in an enzyme, for instance, may be fooled into thinking that it’s getting a copper ion when it may really be getting a sulfur ion thus keeping the copper from doing its thing.

Molybdenum reduces copper uptake in a goat’s diet, increases copper excretion and forms an insoluble, useless compound. Low dietary zinc and iron levels and high calcium levels accentuate copper toxicity. Conversely if zinc, iron or sulfur are excessive in a diet, copper will bind to them. Iron and zinc compete with copper for binding sites during absorption in the body. A major key to diagnosing copper deficiencies or toxicities requires knowing what the rest of the diet consists of. A goat owner may be blaming a problem on too little copper, when the real problem might be high molybdenum in a forage or high iron or sulfur in a goat’s water source.

Unfortunately current data on copper requirements for goats is not available. Goats do not exhibit the intolerance to copper like sheep do. Sheep are very susceptible to copper toxicity when dietary copper levels approach or exceed 20 ppm (parts-per-million or milligrams per kilogram). Mineral and vitamin pre-mixes or complete feeds formulated for sheep have no added copper. A feed intended specifically for sheep should not be fed to goats—unless an additional source of copper is supplied to the goat. Most dairy goat breeds weigh about 1/10th of a large-breed dairy cow. Extrapolation of copper requirements for dairy cows places copper requirements at 15 to 20 milligrams per day for goats. Dairy cows have been found to tolerate copper levels of 100 ppm in the diet with no ill effects and even higher levels for short periods of time. Copper accumulates in the liver for a time, and then large quantities are released into the blood-stream, causing a hemolytic crisis associated with jaundice and liver necrosis and, eventually, death. If copper toxicity is suspected, a necropsy of the liver is the best means of finding out. Unless a goat owner is very sure that there are issues with antagonistic elements in the goat’s diet, attempting to put a diet together with excessive levels of copper is irresponsible and would be ill-advised considering the current expense of copper products in recent years. Attempts should be made to correct the other issues before adding copper to a diet.

Forage, which is the foundation for all ruminant diets, is usually very low in copper content. Grass and alfalfa will test from 4 to 10 ppm—a fairly large range. Grasses test lower in copper and alfalfa tests higher. Leaves have more copper than stems so if goats must eat a lot of stemmy grass or hay they will be consuming less copper. A goat whose diet consists solely of forage and eats 3 kilograms (dry matter) per day will be consuming between 12 and 30 milligrams of copper. This may be acceptable depending on the expectations of the goat and how much of any other antagonistic elements may be consumed in that same forage. Iron and sulfur levels are usually low in forages as well. But it’s common for water sources to have high levels of both iron and sulfur which will bind with the copper. Any amount of molybdenum found beyond trace amounts in forages should be cause for concern and the diet should be examined by a nutritional expert. (Note: If a forage analysis comes back with high iron or manganese it means there was a lot of dirt in the sample.)

Goat owners should have their forages tested, especially when making significant changes from one forage to another—for instance changing pastures or a different cutting of hay. They should also have a very good idea of how much dry matter their goats consume in order to know how much copper is being consumed. Dairy goat diets often include a grain mix fortified with vitamins and minerals which nearly always includes added copper.

Copper nutrition is needed for a healthy immune system—but again it doesn’t take much. Copper is needed for proper development of antibodies and white blood cells as well as antioxidant enzyme production. Since goats seem to tolerate copper well, it’s prudent to keep copper levels in breeding, pregnant and lactating does perhaps as high as 40 to 50 ppm. Work closely with a nutritionist when considering elevated levels of dietary copper since there are so many variables that may affect how much should be fed.

When trying to diagnose a copper deficiency, one of the first areas to look at is whether the goat is anemic. Copper works as a catalyst necessary for the absorption of iron into hemoglobin. Since anemia in goats can also be caused by parasites, careful diagnosis is necessary before adding more copper to a diet.

Copper sulfate and copper chloride are the most common sources of added copper in diets. Copper oxide should be avoided since its bio-availability is near zero. There are now several companies marketing chelated (also known as proteinates) forms of copper. These products chemically bind a protein or amino acid to the copper ion which makes the copper more bio-available. (The products can also be known as organic trace minerals.) Some copper chelates are marketed in combination with zinc, manganese and cobalt chelates to ensure a proper balance of all four of these essential minerals. Since copper plays a role in immune function there may be some advantage to including selenium and vitamin-E in diets as well since selenium is deficient in many regions of the U.S. Research on all mineral and vitamin requirements for goats is something that is sorely needed. Copper along with all mineral metabolism in goats is complex. A full understanding of the entire mineral profile in a diet is essential when diagnosing a copper deficiency or toxicity.
 

40
Small ruminant (sheep and goat) / Mycoplasma
« on: August 02, 2009, 12:41:19 PM »
Mycoplasma
Knowledge is Power to Fight This Deadly Goat Disease!

By Gianaclis Caldwell 


Author's note: I am not a veterinarian. All references to medications used in this article are for reference only as they relate to my personal experience. Please consult a licensed veterinarian when dealing with this or any other medical problem.


Mycoplasma is one of those diseases that most goat owners have heard of, but may not be able to tell you much about. Like so many problems, until it threatens your own animals, it remains a word in a book, a definition waiting to be looked up. Unfortunately, I know a lot more about mycoplasma than I would like to know thanks to the pathogen calling on our herd in the spring of 2005.

Before I tell the story of our own loss and learning, let me give you a short course on mycoplasma. I would first like to reassure you that mycoplasma is not the killer that it once was. The microorganism has apparently lost much of its virulence. So please read on without too much trepidation!

Mycoplasma—In a Nut-Shell
Mycoplasmas are simple microbial organisms (not true bacteria or viruses) that lack a true cell wall. While this makes it sound as if they should be easy to be rid of, unfortunately they are not. Most antibiotics work by attacking the cell wall, thus destroying the microorganism. Since mycoplasmas do not have a cell wall, not as many antibiotics are effective against them.

There are many members in the mycoplasma family. The most common typically cause mastitis and respiratory problems. Many animals never sicken after exposure, but remain capable of passing the pathogen to their offspring in their milk (the most common route of transmission). While many adults can remain asymptomatic, kids, especially those under stress, are the most susceptible to becoming ill after exposure.

Another problematic aspect is that there are no laboratory tests that guarantee your animals are mycoplasma-free. The pathogen is capable of lurking undetected within an a-symptomatic host. Unless an animal is "shedding" during the test your results will be negative. So while you may never have had any animals ill or with symptoms of mycoplasma, you cannot know for sure that your herd is mycoplasma free. Only when symptoms appear and tests are done specifically for mycoplasma will you know. Not a very cooperative little pathogen, is it?

The Stealth Killer
Even when an animal has symptoms that might be indicative of mycoplasma, it could easily be a bacterial or viral problem—and more often than not it will be. So you might treat the animal for what you think is pneumonia, joint-ill, or bacterial mastitis. The animal recovers and you never know that it might have been mycoplasma. Here's an example using one kid with three different treatment approaches:

Scenario 1: A six-week-old wether kid goes off his feed. You watch him, he looks okay so you wait until the next morning. You take his temp. It is 105.3°F. You give him a little Banamine (a pain killer and fever reducer) and check your antibiotic stock. If you are like most of us, you have LA 200 or Biomycin (both are oxytetracyline) on hand. You double check the dosage for this age and weight and start him on a course of treatment.

He is still taking his bottle, although with less than a kid's usual vigor, and his temperature is dropping. He doesn't like to stand up, but you figure he is just feeling poorly. By the next day, the antibiotics and Banamine seem to be helping. His temp is down and he is back to eating well. You figure he had a touch of pneumonia. You continue with the oxytetracycline and he recovers completely, never having any more problems.

Scenario 2: Your six-week-old wether goes off his feed. You watch him and he looks okay, but the next morning he looks a little listless. You take his temp, it is 105.3°F. You give him a little Banamine and call your vet. You also notice that he doesn't seem to want to stand up. After closer inspection, you see that his knees are a bit swollen—or is it your imagination? They are not soft and squishy, and he is very fuzzy. You mention all of this to your vet who suspects joint-ill (an infection that enters through the newborn's umbilical cord). Even though you dipped his cord right after birth the vet says that it can still happen. So he starts the kid on Naxcel (a newer, powerful antibiotic) and has you continue the Banamine. You have the little guy in your house to watch him closely and keep him taking fluids. By the next day, you think he is getting better, as his temp is within normal range at 103.2°F. But he isn't eating and seems so uncomfortable. You keep up the antibiotics. He won't stand at all by the end of the day and it is obvious the joints are tender. If you bend his knees for him, he cries out in horrible pain. That night, his temperature plummets, and he dies in your arms.

You are horribly sad, but know you have done all you can. You let your vet know. He suggests a post-mortem joint fluid culture taken to rule out other possibilities. He asks if the dam has had mastitis. She hasn't, so he suspects a bacterial infection which led to polyarthritis. The cost for the culture is high, you don't want to haul this dead kid to the vet, you have no other symptoms in your herd, so while you feel bad, your budget dictates that you pass on the cultures and bury him.

Scenario 3: A six-week-old wether kid goes off his feed a bit. By morning he looks worse, so you take his temperature. It is an elevated at 105.3°F. He also seems a bit stiff when he moves. You decide to take him to the vet. The vet gives you the possible causes after she notices that his knee joints are tender. One possibility is bacterial polyarthritis (also known as joint-ill), which she thinks is the most likely cause, even though his cord was properly dipped at birth. Since you have no mastitis in your herd, mycoplasma is not her first suspect. But just to be sure, you decide to go ahead and have a joint fluid sample taken. It is painful for the kid and you feel badly about the potential cost. The vet shows you the fluid under the microscope. It is obviously filled with pus, as it would be for bacterial polyarthritis. You and the vet decide that a sample should be sent to a lab for culture, just to be sure. The vet starts the baby on oxytetracyline (which is effective against mycoplasma) and sends you home with some Naxcel as well to switch to if he doesn't improve. The culture will take 7-10 days. Fortunately the kid improves within a day or two. The bill is $250.

Then the culture comes back positive for mycoplasma.

Our Story
Our story is similar to both Scenario 2 and 3. Our first kid to get sick was treated as was the kid in example two. He was a little buckling that we were keeping intact and were quite impressed with. When he died it was very difficult, both from the standpoint of the loss of the potential as well as watching a creature suffer. I know now that we didn't have to lose him or let him suffer. At the time I was convinced it was "joint-ill" as everything I read seemed to indicate that diagnosis and our vet thought so too. It was only when a few weeks later that another kid, a little wether, developed the same symptoms that I felt there must be something else going on. Even then, I was very doubtful of it being mycoplasma. We had never had a clinical case of mastitis. We milk all of our does twice a day, even when they have kids on them part time, so we are quite aware of their udder health. Everything I read and the vets that I talked to at the time, confirmed these feelings. Then the test came back positive for mycoplasma.

At first I felt like quitting the business. We had thought our herd was so healthy. We had thought we were free of any contagious pathogens. We did annual CAE and Johnes testing, put tarps up at shows, hadn't bought any new stock in some time, all of it. I was humbled.

We decided to have the sample cultured further to determine what exact mycoplasma we were dealing with. This took another few weeks and more funds. We also took milk samples from all our does and had them cultured for mycoplasma as well. Although, by this time we knew that the shedding of the microorganism can be intermittent and asymptomatic. We also knew that there was a possibility that we had spread it to other does via the milking machine. I felt so dismayed. I wondered how we could deal with this and still enjoy the farm.

The milk samples all came back negative. Nice in one way, not in another—at least a positive sample would have told us who our culprit was and given us something to act upon.

The joint fluid sample came back positive for Mycoplasma mycoides mycoides Large Colony (or MmmLC). This is the one that I had come to suspect after spending the intervening weeks reading everything I could find on mycoplasmas. It is also the one I hoped for (if you could hope for such a thing) as it seemed to be the least pathogenic of all of them.

Changes. We had to make them. We had to for our own assurance as well as for our buyers. We started pulling kids at birth and feeding heat treated colostrum and pasteurized milk. For the does in the milking string, we implemented a manual "back-flushing" regimen to sanitize the inflations between animals. We had more samples of milk taken and cultured after all of the fall fresheners were milking. All samples are negative and none of the other spring kids that received mixed milk have ever sickened.

Our two kids that sickened, received commingled (mixed from the whole herd) raw milk. One of the does had to be an asymptomatic carrier. She may never shed again, or she might. Had she passed it to other kids who never sickened, but are now carriers as well? We were suspicious of one doe whose SCC (somatic cell count) was higher than normal during the time the kids would have received her milk. Her tests all came back negative, but we placed her in a pet home anyway. We are now (at the time of writing) over three years out from our experience. None of the other goats, that received the mixed milk at the same time as the ones that were ill, have ever had any problems. We continue to not allow their kids to nurse and if we feed commingled milk, it is always pasteurized.

Mycoplasma Arthritis - How it Happens
When a kid receives milk with the MmmLC in it, the mycoplasma most often attacks the joints first. When this happens the kid's temperature spikes (a spike means a sudden increase followed by a rapid decrease). The front knee joints are often the first to be affected, with firm swelling, and seem painful when touched. Their gait becomes tentative and stiff. Very rapidly they become septic (a body-wide infection) and their temperature begins to drop (this is why you do not see extremely high temperatures with mycoplasma, it attacks so rapidly that their systems begin failing before their body can attack it with extended fever). For the less observant herdkeeper, the kid can even look as though it has enterotoxemia, with its hunched posture and painful cries.

For all animals with mycoplasma in their system, including the asymptomatic ones, stress can cause an active, symptomatic case. An unstressed animal can remain asymptomatic and healthy, but still shed the pathogen.

For our two kids, one developed it after a long transport (when you would also suspect "shipping fever" and might treat for that instead) and the other sickened just shortly after castration. All others (seven kids in addition to these two) that received the same milk at the same time, have never showed signs. But we will suspect them as carriers and not ever feed their raw milk to their kids.

Other Stories
In doing the research for this article, I called upon other breeders who had experienced mycoplasma in their herds. I received several private communications from breeders who have had proven cases of mycoplasma.

In all of the stories there was a common theme of unpredictability. For example, one doe had two kids with only one that sickened and died. The other kid never showed symptoms and never passed it on to her kids, nor did that dam ever have any kids sicken from it. In another small herd, one doe spiked a high SCC then died a few months later. Her necropsy cultures were positive for mycoplasma. She apparently never passed it on to her adult herd-mates or to her kids. These breeders felt strongly that mycoplasma is very opportunistic. It may be out there in many herds, but only strike the occasional animal that becomes stressed or is immune suppressed for some reason.

All of the breeders who kindly shared their experiences with me asked that they remain anonymous. Due to the past virulence of the disease and the stigma associated with mycoplasma positive animals, they are hesitant to openly share their experiences. Understandably so.

Conclusion
We live in a world where disease can spread rapidly and cause great financial loss to farmers and breeders. This fear of both the disease and the potential financial loss can lead to the lack of open information and therefore education for breeders. By sharing our experience openly I knew that we might lose sales. But I feel strongly that sharing information will lead to a healthier population of animals and a more informed buyer or breeder.

Given the fact that we had a "closed herd" that appeared vigorous and healthy yet one of the animals was a carrier, you can draw the conclusion that there must be many undocumented carriers of mycoplasma. Therefore, learning to identify the symptoms, prevent further spread, and gain knowledge of the organism is critical. Even if it is never eliminated, suffering can be alleviated and losses cut if we know what we are dealing with.

Once you come to terms with the likelihood that many herds could have undetected mycoplasma carriers; that these carriers might never spread the disease; that if spread the disease is not the death sentence; and that you can implement a highly effective preventative program if you choose, then the fear changes to knowledge and power. We owe it to our animals and to our fellow human-herdmates to share our experience.

 

41
Small ruminant (sheep and goat) / Mastits
« on: August 02, 2009, 12:37:25 PM »
Prevention of Mastitis
in Dairy Goats

By Nancy Nickel 


Prevention of mastitis (inflammation of the udder which can result in abnormal milk) in dairy goats begins long before a producer of milk even considers it to be a problem. Feeding caprine kids milk, without the benefit of pasteurization, from does who are infected can spread mastitis to doelings months before they are mature enough to breed and develop a functioning mammary system of their own. Allowing kids to nurse dams, or to steal milk from their mother's affected herd mates, presents vectors for transmission that a herdsman may be unaware of in sub-clinical cases-long before the diseased udder becomes acute and is presented for treatment. Spread of infectious bacteria from dam to daughter and laterally by kids nursing multiple milkers is a high consideration in determination of heard health practices. In addition to the spread of mastitis causing bacteria by these methods, examination of milking practices in the parlor causes us at Nickel's Dairy Goats, Clark, Missouri, to be very careful in the procedures and products we use to safeguard the udders of does in our herd.

The teat is designed to be wonderfully effective in prevention of the entry into the udder of bacteria from the environment. It has a small opening in the end, which is supple enough to allow the passage of milk out while closing small enough to prevent dirt from coming in. The skin of the teat remains elastic and smooth under most conditions, presenting a surface that is resistant to bacteria. The waxy plug at the end, and waxy canal lining is somewhat germicidal, so after an hour or so from milking it has reformed an impenetrable barrier to most pathogens. That this is true, and that it creates a system that works well, is evident in the number of mammaries that are milked and the number of days that we milk them in comparison with the few cases of mastitis needing treatment over time.

Preserving the elasticity and smoothness of the teat skin is considered when man-made products are used to prevent chapping and sunburn. Bag Balm is useful and easily applied when needed after milking in times of adverse weather. Cracked and flaking skin on teats and udder harbors bacteria and dirt which may be introduced during the milking process. Prewashing when milking lowers the bacteria gathered from the environment. We like to use a germicidal wash in warm water applied with a single use paper towel. Nolvasan is gentle on the skin and effective against bacterial agents as well. The thought of the udder as a large reservoir which is kept at a perfect temperature to grow bacteria, helps us see that it is essential to prevent contamination.

The waxy surface on teat ends and in the teat canal must be undisturbed if it is to do its job. Nolvasan is an effective cleaning agent that does not disturb the continuity of this barrier. Over the years we have had people tell us that they make their own prewash usually incorporating bleach or iodine as the germicidal. While I have no doubt that these chemical agents are germicidal, I also know that they are caustic to skin and the wax of the teat plug. In the vigorous manner in which bleach and iodine destroy cells they are likely to destroy the doe's natural defenses against environmental bacteria as well. The end result is often a case of mastitis instead of the prevention one is hoping for.

The careful dairy goat manager should draw milk only from clean udders. Likewise, only sanitized udders should be milked. Milk only with clean, sanitized hands. Using single-use paper towels for washing and drying udders prior to milking, minimizes the lateral spread of bacteria in the milk room. The milker not only dips the paper towel into the udder wash to prepare each doe but dips his or her hands as well. Human skin is porous and a good vector of disease if not properly disinfected. Each doe should be dried completely before she is milked by machine or by hand. Milking only until the flow of milk stops is also an important part of udder health.

When the udder is empty, a final massage by hand helps to prevent growth of any bacteria introduced. Over-milking can be a factor in destroying the waxy layer of the teat canal or teat end and create stress on the skin which might allow bacteria to enter. Even when letting a machine do the work the milker must be aware of when the udder is empty. Paying strict attention to the amount of vacuum actually delivered to the inflation is an essential part of machine maintenance for mastitis prevention.

Following milking, an application of uncontaminated teat sealant is suggested. The process of using a teat spray is superior to using a dip cup. It has been found in University study that some teat dips are actually able to grow bacteria and that the dip cup is capable of spreading these bacteria from one doe to the next. The product chosen to spray must have the ability to coat the teat orifice and encourage the teat skin to remain smooth and supple. At Nickel's Dairy Goats, we like to use a spray that contains glycerin for this purpose. Glycerin can seal the teat orifice temporarily until the wax can be recreated and the natural seal formed.

We make sure we clean all equipment between each milking, using chemicals and soaps specifically designed for the cleaning of dairy equipment. Milk stone build up can provide a place for bacteria to grow. The dairy industry in general based on cow production, has benefited the goat keeper who has the ability to share the research and knowledge accumulated over many years. It is far more economical to make use of this information than it is to risk experimentation and perhaps develop mastitis in even one doe.

Cattle research shows that the younger members of the milking string have come in contact with less bacteria than the older individuals. Therefore, it is beneficial to milk in the same order, youngest to oldest based on number of lactations, every milking. The does should be milked in the same stanchion day after day. We visited a cow dairy in which ten rounds of cows came into a 12-stall parlor. Stanchion number four on the right had four cows with uneven mammaries, the result of bacteria picked up during milking and spread to the cows who used that milker. The infection of only four cows of over a hundred herd mates was due to the fact that the cows did not share equipment within the herd. The uneven cows were then marked and milked last, from that day until culture showed that the mastitis had been cured and bacteria was no longer being shed.

It is important to keep the environment for dairy animals dry and clean. The natural inclination of the goat to remain dry and avoid dirty surroundings is a great aid in achieving this goal. At shows, bed pens deep and always choose pens on the outside rows of the barn. Avoid high traffic areas to prevent does from walking where others may have spilled milk. At home keep lounging areas clean and dry. The use of lime screenings as a base is a good idea. Here in Missouri the quarry sometimes calls this "chat" as well. Lime from this source is not anti-bacterial, in that it will not kill bacteria as Barn Lime or caustic lime can. However lime screenings as a base will not harm skin and is effective in that it does not present a medium where bacteria will grow. Keeping areas around feeders and waterers free of build up or mud is a good step in prevention of bacteria as well.

Natural sunlight disinfects without adding chemicals to the environment. Choosing to pen at shows and at home where the sun can shine on the ground or floor is a very good strategy. Ultraviolet light does kill bacteria and the drying effect of the sun prevents moisture conducive to bacterial growth as well.

When the lactation is over, we always dry treat all does. To dry treat helps to reduce the production of milk. It is done with the hope that the addition of antibiotics into the mammary will be effective against the growth of bacteria during a time when milk is allowed to sit in the udder. Dry treating always twice, a week apart, has proven to be effective for us. However in cases where the doe was difficult to dry off a third treatment might be needed.

In choosing replacement does for any dairy goat herd, take care not to buy into trouble. Personally assess the udders of any prospects for lumps, unevenness, or skin abnormalities.

Milk all new additions last and separately, until convinced they are indeed as healthy as the home team. In purchasing dry stock and kids we are sure to ask how they were raised and what the source of milk and colostrum was. When assessing the risks of exposure to harmful bacteria, keep in mind the possibility that pathogens in the milk fed to kids can live in the forming mammary tissue of that kid and come to life as a full blown case of mastitis when she freshens or even before.

Over the years we have managed a dairy goat herd our goal has been high production as well as longevity in the show ring. While a case of mastitis may not always be life threatening, it would signal the end of usefulness to our breeding program. To ensure the continuity of the genetics in our herd, prevention is not the best choice-it is the only choice, economically as well as for the health of our does.
 


42
Small ruminant (sheep and goat) / Herd Sires
« on: August 02, 2009, 12:31:29 PM »
Choosing a Herd Sire
Form Follows Function

By Nancy Nickel 


The purchase of a herd sire is the manifestation of a vision for every dairy goat owner. It is a concrete and positive step in the direction of a herd's future, and the continued enjoyment of one's goat keeping endeavors. More than "half a herd," he is the future.

The decision to purchase a herd sire is carefully considered at Nickel's Dairy Goats, Clark, Missouri. We first list the traits we believe our herd exemplifies and consider only genetics that will enable us to maintain our genetic advantage. Just as corporations and businesses maintain a mission statement for guidelines and direction, a herdsman will profit from keeping a clear view of attainable goals. All team members involved in our goat project participate in the planning stages as well as in the daily work; the "hands-on" experience is the basis for the decisions to be made.

Our second consideration in selection is the list of qualities that we believe will move us ahead. When deciding, we always remember the advice we have been given by prominent breeders who we revere as our elders in goat keeping. When faced with the decision of a new herd sire in 1993 we questioned Evin Evans of Split Creek Dairy in North Carolina for some good advice. We felt fortunate that a person such as Evans would take the time to talk to us, for in addition to her success as a commercial dairyperson; she is an ADGA judge and has placed well when exhibiting at the National Show level. Evans told us that in her years of goat breeding she had found that "form follows function." She explained that when making choices about what does to keep or what bucks to use she always made her choice in favor of milk. She found that to choose the milkiest animals also brought conformation and longevity into the herd.

We look to a buck's mother and grandmothers to assess our chances of getting the production and conformation we desire. Seeing uniform udder form and shape on these three does has proven to give a good indication of the type of udders a buck will produce.

We use a method of "guestimation" in an attempt to hedge our bets in favor of receiving the actual genes that will give us what we observe visually. The first rule of thumb is "have it in hand to pass it on." Simply stated, a doe with a lovely udder is more likely to pass it on than her full sister who is average in that area. A buck from an excellent dam and granddam is more likely to pass on this trait than a buck that comes from an average mother.

Once the lineage shows that a trait is not passed on to the next generation, we treat it as lost and consider it to be a nonentity in those genetics. Certainly, there are desirable recessive traits that will not be apparent and can resurface in the following generation. However, this is a risk that we have chosen not to take in our breeding program. Recessive traits are actually the easiest to breed for, if one considers that in order to exhibit a recessive trait, an animal must be genetically "loaded" for that trait. By loaded, I mean he has that potential on both gene sides, and has no other choice but to produce what is seen.

All breeders of livestock must play the genetics gambling game in order to succeed in the animal world. Basic rules indicate that if there are two traits of equal strength, there is a 50/50 chance of receiving either one. In life we find this not to be exactly true. It seems that some traits will be transmitted in bundles. To add to the confusion, some families pass these bundles more freely than others. In the line of LaManchas we have worked with we see this with the color genetics for black and white in contrast with the genetics that produce orange and cream. The orange ones were better milkers by volume and the black ones were the high butterfat does. Given a pair of full sisters, this would inevitably be true. In the LaMancha world in general, the does that fit the official American Dairy Goat Score Card would out-milk and out-live the ones who did not. We consider the effects of longevity balanced against the ability to withstand the rigors of production over extended time important in sire selection as well.

Milk production records are also very useful. Our goal has always been superior production. And more importantly, we look for long level lactation curves that provide us with an appropriate volume of milk over an extended period of time. Like stated earlier, we believe traits are passed most usually in groups, or bundles, and not as individual entities. So when looking for a herd sire, it's important to consider what traits have been passed consistently in his family and be sure to look at all four corners of his pedigree to see that there is a consistency of breeding in each corner indicating that these traits have come from a single and continuing source.

Line breeding using the four-corner method is just another way of saying look at the grandmothers. To make this visual, we place the buck's name in the center of a 4" x 6" card and write his mother's name on one side and his sire's name on the other. Then we write the parents' parents in their respective corners. The goal is to have each animal on the card be an individual that exhibits the qualities you wish to incorporate in your herd. If this is not the case you have opened yourself to the possibility that you are bringing in dominant and unwanted characteristics that will manifest in the kids produced. To add to the surety that we will get what we are seeking, in addition to the consideration of "where" these traits will come from we believe it is a plus to know "who" the traits will come from. We hope to see that the four corners of the pedigree card have a single ancestor exhibiting the proper trait, either in two corners of our card coming from each side, or as a parent of each of the four corners which would then come from all corners on both sides.

The more different the bloodline in the corners of this card, the more likely one is to miss the mark in adding the desired trait to the genetics one is breeding. For simplicity's sake, we would call this a "1" corner and view the possibilities of receiving genetic benefit to be rather random. When bucks like this are used, we have always had to cull the offspring heavily for the traits we needed—an expensive proposition in both time and labor. Then those doe offspring would need to be bred back into the buck's lineage exhibiting the new trait, or to the sire himself and the culling process proceeds another year. Although it is truly only three generations from the sale barn doe to Best in Show, the time and expense of this journey is prohibitive. What must be done in traveling on this journey is to build a "3" or "4" corner animal as described in the preceding paragraph.

To save both time and money, we like to buy a four cornered herd sire already composed by a thoughtful breeder. If this is not likely to be available we purchase a "3" cornered buck and a doe who will compliment the missing corner and in a year or two we will have bred our own "4" cornered sire. In Nubians back in the 1980s it was a simple thing to do—most of the big milking Nubians were line bred on GCH++*B Hallcienda Frosty Marvin. We purchased GCH ++*B Winterberry Shawn's Caviar who was "Marvin bred" on all four corners; in fact, he traced back to Marvin 32 times if the pedigree was taken to the limits. No matter what this buck was bred to he provided improvement in milk, mammary, stature, and topline. As a four-corner buck, he had no choice but to give us what he had been bred on. It was a bonus that three of his four corners were animals that would have been considered "4"s as well.

In addition to using the four corners to choose new herd members, the cards are used to select what breeding we will look to for herd replacements. The four corner cards made for every member of the herd include the milking records indicating length of lactation, total poundage and butterfat percentage. These have proven to be an invaluable tool in looking at the composition of our herd. We are able to predict with some accuracy what kids will look like and what production might be.

Always a consideration is the awareness that an animal who does not pass on the traits that the card indicates is culled as are the offspring produced. While this may seem like a drastic measure, we consider that to be able to manifest a herd vision and project it into the future is a goal to be met in the most expedient manner. We consider the pedigrees and the examples of the genetics we see in the flesh as signposts pointing the way to shape the herd of the future. A buck that is solidly bred to produce the traits he exhibits is the most economical way for us to proceed.
 

43
Small ruminant (sheep and goat) / Saanens
« on: August 02, 2009, 12:28:56 PM »
Good Genetics and Milk Production Records Are Key to Caprikorn Farm's Success in Producing Top Milking Saanens

By Tim King 


Saanen dairy goats are known by many as the top milk producing breed in dairy situations. Scott Hoyman, Caprikorn Farms near Gapland, Maryland would like the world to know that Caprikorn Saanens milk more than any other Saanens, a claim he can back up with proof! According to DHIR data released recently by the American Dairy Goat Association the top milk producer for 2007 was Caprikorn Krug's Stargate, who produced 5,140 pounds or 44,393 gallons of milk in 305 days between March 2006 and March 2007.

"For our foundation stock we used mega milkers and sons of mega milkers," Hoyman said. "Then we spent 30 years DHI (dairy herd improvement) testing and culling. Any Caprikorn bred kid will grow up to radically out-milk any other kid bought."

As Hoyman stated, the two essential parts of Caprikorn Farm's breeding program which led to success in milk production records, are to use extraordinary animals for the genetic basis of their herd and DHI records to select generation after generation. Caprikorn Farms has consistently placed does in the top ten milk rankings for ADGA during the last two decades. The three-year-old getting all the attention this year has a granddam that was number one in 1994.

"We succeeded in having top producers because both my wife and I were willing to turn our back on show ring glory," Hoyman said. "But the principles we've used can be used for breeding top quality show goats as well. The principles are the same."

Show breeders use show ring results in place of DHI. Anyone who wants to be successful in breeding top quality dairy goats, whether it be for show or milk production emphasis, just needs to make use of the programs and information already available, Hoyman said.
Caprikorn Krug’s Stargate was named the 2006 Top Producing Dairy Goat in the U. S. by the American Dairy Goat Association, based on DHIR test data facilitated by her owners/breeders, Scott Hoyman and Alice Orzechowski, Maryland. 
 

"We got our first truly extraordinary animal right out of Dairy Goat Journal," Hoyman said. "Pat Hendrickson, who is one of the very key long term Saanen breeders, ran the ad and it said, ‘There's a new All Time All Breed production record holder.' That caught my eye."

The doe Pat Hendrickson was justly proud of was a Saanen, Rebel Valley's Southern Bonus, born in 1979. According to ADGA verified production records, Bonus milked 6,850 pounds in 304 days.

"We were able to get Bonus' only living son and he kicked our production up hugely," Hoyman said.

The next great Saanen to catch Hoyman's eye was a California bred buck, Companeros Voice of Reason.

"Steven Schack, a great Saanen breeder no longer with us, had the courage to start with a grade Saanen doe named Beulah at a time when purebred Saanens were greatly favored," Hoyman said. "Today four out of five registered Saanens are Americans. From Beulah, Schack and Ray Viera (the well-known Clovertop herd) were able to breed Companeros Voice of Reason. At the time, the USDA computer was just starting to do sire summaries and they rated Reason the number one Saanen buck. Time has proven that data to be correct and Reason is now the most important Saanen in the history of the breed."

Hoyman said the success of Caprikorn Farms award winning Saanen dairy goats, must be attributed to great breeders like Pat Hendricks (Rocky Run) and Steven Schack (Companeros/Redwood Hills) for their efforts to make the best better.

"No Saanen breeder stands by themselves," he said. "We are all building on what the other people have done."

Hoyman also said the National Saanen Breeders Association has always been a great help in maintaining records and promoting the Saanen breed club winners.

Thanks to Penny Nealigh, of the NSBA, Hoyman, and his wife Alice Orzechowski, were able to obtain a buck that had Reason as both of his grandfathers.

"We didn't know that Reason would be so important at the time but we were able to get our next extraordinary animal with that purchase. That was our second big move. At the time we were not a producing dairy and had no market. We went 25 years without selling a drop of milk. It's illegal to sell off the farm in Maryland," Hoyman said.

Suprisingly, Hoyman and Orzechowski did not choose Saanens as Caprikorn's main breed at the beginning of their dairy goat journey. They tried all the recognized dairy breeds, except Toggenbergs. But when it came down to it, Saanens just seemed to work better for them.

"We have found our market is to breed for dairymen and Saanens make more milk than the other breeds," Hoyman said. "At that time some of the other breeds were running very close, but it just turned out Saanens worked better for us. I greatly respect Alpines and Toggenburgs and I'm not going to say anything negative about the other breeds but every dairy has a certain number of slots. My experience has been that you can get more Saanens in the same size living space than you can get Alpines. Alpines like to fight more than Saanens like to fight. Milking Saanens still need 30 square feet of interior space. At one time we tried to cram more milkers into the same sized barn and our total milk didn't go up at all. Space requirements are an important part of managing top end milk producers."

As Hoyman and Orzechowski committed to breeding and raising Saanens, they acquired two more key extraordinary animals, in their quest for top milk production.

"We got on board with the bloodlines of Mari-Willow Pride's Sharmin, the only Saanen to make number one on the ADGA Top Ten list three different years," Hoyman said. "Sharmin produced 32,300 pounds of milk in her life."

To get those bloodlines in his herd, the first year Hoyman took his two best milkers to breed to Sharmin's son, Legend West Atlas. The following year he and Orzechowski leased him. The third year Caprikorn Farms bought Atlas.

"The fourth animal we credit with genetic distinction is Gold Banner NCJC Messenger B bred by Peggy Sanford," Hoyman said. "The B was stuck on there because Alice and I name our goats using the American Dairy Goat Association recommended tattoo letter. It was the B year for tattoos. This year all our goats have a X. Messenger's dam was GCH Gold Banner Betsie Lee, LA-90 and she did 5,020 pounds in 305 days."

It was the selection and use of those four killer animals that formed the base of Caprikorn Farms Saanen herd, although later on the farm was able to buy a buck that descended from Bonus, Voice of Reason, and Sharmin's key ancestor.

"I call that three way line breeding," Hoyman said.

It is because of his well-documented genetic base of high milk producing Saanens that Hoyman is comfortable making the claim that Caprikorn Saanens will produce a lot of milk, guaranteed.

"All our mature Saanens should exceed 3,500 pounds in 305 days," he said. "This is because for our foundation stock we used mega milkers only and the sons of mega milkers. Then we spent years testing and discarding. We also breed for strong back pasterns and ease of kidding. Most of our goats cross immediately on both sides to Top Ten does."

Hoyman said he is certain his Saanen bucks will sire fewer duds—that's his word "duds"—than other bucks because the ancestors of his kids have DHI records which establish the historical and genetic basis for making the claim.

He also said he places much more emphasis on pedigrees and production information than just on looks and visual images.

"Looking at a kid won't tell you much," Hoyman said. "I can't tell if one of my doelings is a top producer by looking at her. By showring standards she may even be ugly. However, I can predict that she will be productive by looking at her ancestor's records. But to be 100 percent certain you will have to wait until she's finished a lactation or two."

Hoyman quotes Helen Proulx, past President of the National Saanen Breeders Association, who said, "Big milk doesn't look like anything. It comes in all shapes and sizes."
Another top producer in the Caprikorn herd is two-year-old SGCH Caprikorn Meadow Romance 9*M.
 

When it comes to selecting goats for production or show, there are a lot of questions to be asked, especially if the information data isn't available.

"When I started this and was searching for extraordinary numbers I had to ask a huge number of questions," Hoyman said. "With Bonus, that first extraordinary animal, there were no DHI records or USDA computerized data base to guide our decision. I needed to know how much her mother milked. The next question is her sire's dam, and her sisters, and what their sire's dam milked. The questions go on and on. There are these Saanen does that Todd Biddle and I call flukes. He's a great show breeder but the same principles that apply for milk apply to breeding for show. In the show world maybe there is a doe who appraises 92 but if all of her sisters and her dam are in the low 80's, we're not interested. She's a fluke. Bonus' mother milked 4,870 pounds. But what if she hadn't or what if she only had one lactation like that. DHI records help avoid flukes and help build your herd."

Hoyman said raw DHI production numbers are not as useful however as a computer program developed by Dr. George Wiggins of the USDA in Beltsville, Maryland.

"The miracle of Dr. Wiggins program is that it takes into account every known ancestor that's been on test," Hoyman said. "The program has linked all the ancestors that are on official test. You don't have to ask any questions. It's all tied to one figure which he calls Percentile."

The percentile for Caprikorn Majestic Prince, a Caprikorn Saanen from the 2006 Top 15%, for example, is 93. The top percentile on that list, Heavenly Poor-FRM Prime Rate, is 99.

"There is no substitute for DHI testing," Hoyman said. "I once had a lady from Tennessee tell me she had a goat that gave three gallons of milk every day for a year. Three gallons times 8.6 pounds times 305 days is 7,800 pounds. It would be the world record by a long way. I asked her if she was on test and she said no. There was no proof of her claim. Trying to remember how much your doe gave and how much her mother and grandmother gave is futile. Also, you have to measure averages and not just one lactation."

Good record keeping and an insistence on the best genetics are the way to improve any herd, Hoyman said. Management and environment are also critical. He credits Steve Considine for the proven statement, "production is 80 percent management" and said Caprikorn Farms has been working on improving management in recent years.

"We've become increasingly careful about barn cleanliness and fly control," he said. We've also moved away from water based teat washes and have gone to a pre-dip. Even if you're hand milking and doing nothing before you milk you ought to end every milking with a squirt of something like Fight Bac. A high somatic cell count cuts down your production and bad mastitis can kill a doe."

Despite their emphasis on milk production genetics, Caprikorn Farms has also had several show winners, designated by GCH, SG, SGCH markings in their herd sales book. The numbers and prefixes that are important to them however, are Percentiles and PTAM (Predicted Transmitting Alibilty Milk) developed by the USDA and used by serious dairymen. PTAM's measure only milk, but Percentiles include milk and butterfat percentages produced. Percentiles also include the lactations of every known relative. For the commercial dairyman, a goat's percintile is even more connected to dollars for the dairyman than PTAM's.

Caprikorn Farms is dedicated to providing serious goat dairy operations with quality animals that will produce milk. They have shipped stock all over the United States and to several other countries. They admit that their dairy goats are expensive, but they can guarantee the buyer will get what they pay for, top milk production.
 


44
Small ruminant (sheep and goat) / Breeding Older Does
« on: August 02, 2009, 12:22:57 PM »
Breeding Older Does
Age is Not the Determining Factor

By Nancy Nickel 


Age alone is not the determining factor when considering does for breeding. Difficulties due to metabolic factors in carrying kids to term, delivery complications in kidding, and maintaining condition during lactation are important considerations when determining whether or not to breed any doe, especially one over the age of eight. The chance of kidding and health problems does seem to increase with the onset of advanced age in the average dairy goat.

Maintaining the aged doe in optimum condition stands her in good stead for an uncomplicated pregnancy and delivery. Being too thin, having a lack of reserves for carrying multiple babies, can be dangerous for the matron in addition to preventing the proper development of healthy, quality kids. She might be examined to see if she should be dried off prior to breeding which will lessen the strain of milk production and make it more feasible to properly condition her.

All bodily systems must be considered. We like to fecal check this portion of our herd to be sure they are not carrying a worm or coccidian load that would prevent them from being in prime condition on breeding day. These parasites are opportunists and just as they are a prime concern for the younger members of a herd, who are being challenged by body growth, so are they factors in maintaining the older does who might find the stress of lactation to be a larger problem than they did in their prime.

Careful examination of the aged doe's molars for sharp or broken edges can reveal a cause of poor thrift. Older does sometimes suffer from teeth that have come out of alignment, or been damaged through years of use. This will make cudding inefficient or even painful and limit the amount of time cud is chewed. The direct result of this is that hollowed in the loin look that is seen in many of our senior citizens. I was not aware that teeth could be floated in goats until I met Doug Curle. Doug had made it a long time practice of collecting old and retired does and was well versed in their care. He showed me how to feel along the outside of the cheeks and look for signs that this was a tender area. We had an eight-year-old in our show string at that time who was at her last show, due to her aged appearance and condition. After floating her teeth with a pony float, she not only revived her youthful appearance, but went on to go Best Doe in Show at 10 years of age and as a bonus, kid the last time at age 12.

Foot care is also an area that the herd manager can manipulate to maintain the desired body condition in older does. Feet that are allowed to become too long cause more difficulty to older does than to younger herd mates due to the additional possibility of arthritic joints. The older doe that has a tendency to become more sedentary is in risk of not making her way to graze or to fight as hard at the feed bunk. When trimming feet, take time to monitor body condition to be sure that the addition of winter coat is not making her appear in better flesh than in truth she is. Hands-on awareness indicates how she is holding weight or gaining as she makes her way into fall. We like to feel a little bone, but nothing as sharp as one feels when running one hand over the knuckles of the other. Neither too thin nor too heavy is the desired condition of the aged doe.

Older does may profit from separation into groups where competition is less vigorous. By the same token, sedentary habits can cause the older gals to lie by the hay bunk and not receive the exercise needed to promote a healthy life style. Does that are bred to begin pregnancy too heavy can experience metabolic problems, such as ketosis, toxemia, or hypocalcemia. Separation from herd mates into age-grouped living may be the answer for these does as well. Their caloric intake can be monitored and the possibilities for exercise increased. Moving the hay away from the lounging area and away from the water are two managemental concepts that will necessitate does spending more time walking to meet their daily needs.

We like to be certain that every older doe bred is actually carrying kids. It is wasteful of feed, worry, and manpower to coddle the matron along in hopes of kids and discover on day 162 that she was not pregnant after all, but in reality getting fat from her extra care. The most reliable method of determining pregnancy we have found has been to draw blood, sending it to Bio Tracking (see their ad on page 52) in Moscow, Idaho. These fine folk offer a very user-friendly service and are willing to correspond by e-mail as well as by mail.

For the last month of gestation our does are each housed in solitary pens and the feed individually planned and rationed as a supplement to free choice hay. At this time each doe is carefully monitored for lack of mobility, edema, appetite and condition. Older does are walked in the barnyard daily or turned out individually into runs for observed exercise.

For the best results when breeding older does it is very important to be able to focus on her as an individual. This is the portion of the herd where there are most likely to be difficulties in kidding due to metabolic inability to meet the stress of the job at hand. It seems that older does often benefit from additional calcium as they go into labor. If labor is slow or contractions light, giving some extra calcium with a veterinarian's consent can be a needed boost. Just as a complete mineral program is important for the total herd, an aged doe may benefit from additional selenium as well.

Many prior kiddings sometimes leave the older doe with poor uterine tone. These does are often large, deep bodied, does who have a difficult time presenting kids. It has seemed to us here that the possibilities for mal-presentations increase with the number of times a doe has kidded. To be aware of her breeding date and expected due date is a must if she needs assistance. Older does also may tire and in addition to slow presentation of kids there is a possibility that she may cease to labor before the last kid is delivered.

It is very helpful to be able to "bump" a doe and determine if the uterus is empty of kids. To do this one stands next to the side of the doe, reaching around and under her the hands are interlocked grasping her right in front of her udder. Sharply lift up and allow the belly of the doe to fall down abruptly into your hands, which are still clasped underneath her. A rock like thud indicates a kid retained. A soft ball of dough-like material signals the placentas that have not passed. If the muscles feel soft and flaccid, and no kids are felt she is most likely finished. If the muscles of the belly are tight and hard, consider that they have not finished with the work they have set out to do.

(It is important to note that a helper can hold a doe's belly up, maneuvering it in such a way that kids can be more easily reached if it is necessary to intervene, as in the case of uterine inertia.)

The desired end is a doe who, in spite of her advanced years and numerous kiddings, can deliver kids and also enter the milk string with no difficulty. It must be considered, however, that with each year the risks older does face in carrying out these duties seem to increase. It might be possible to extend the number of kiddings by drying her up after kidding, if kids are the desired commodity.

If production is the main goal, it might be a consideration to milk the aged doe through and not breed her annually. For example, we started our dairy experience 25 years ago with a $25 doe. She was 13 years old and milked a half-gallon a day-every day-for two more years. We fed her rolled oats and the best hay we could find. Looking back, this doe was probably the best return in milk-for- money paid we have ever experienced. Her production was perfect for our homestead needs.

It is up to each herdsman to weigh the balance between the risk to health and life against the contribution made to the herd. This is an individual equation which comes into play for some does at eight years of age and others at maybe 10 or 12. Certainly to enjoy these older individuals is one of the continuing joys of goat keeping.
 

45
Small ruminant (sheep and goat) / Body Scoring-Condition of Dairy Goats
« on: August 02, 2009, 12:20:40 PM »
Body Scoring Helps Breeders Evaluate Condition of Dairy Goats

By Donna Meyers-Raybon 


Keeping animals in top condi-tion can sometimes be a challenge. To begin with, how do you know what "top condition" really is? That ideal can vary according to sex and age of the animal. For example, when discussing bucks, being in or out of rut is going to have a lot to do with his condition. And with a doe, stage of gestation and lactation will greatly influence how she appears. Finally, you have to take into account individual differences! Goats are just like people; they come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some can be very long bodied and others can be very wide but shorter coupled. Even with this variety of parameters, there are certain guidelines or "rules of thumb" which can help any breeder evaluate his or her own goats.

Like anything else, learning the system of body scoring takes a bit of practice and honest effort to make it second nature. Nothing can substitute for getting out there and laying your hands on a lot of goats and practicing. Though a bit confusing at first, nothing I have to share about body scoring is really new or original, it is simply revisiting and reviewing a helpful herd management tool that often gets overlooked.

Two things that certainly help me assess an animal's condition are an accurate weight tape and basic body condition scoring techniques. Both have been around for a long time and have proven themselves again and again in use on the farm.

A weight tape is nothing more than a flexible measuring tape that is marked off in both inches and in pounds to give you a fairly accurate conversion of the animal's heart girth in inches into pounds of weight. Studies done to develop these scales show that they are accurate to plus/minus five pounds if used properly. These tapes are widely available through livestock supply catalogs.

Three things are vital to ensure accuracy using a tape. First make certain you use the correct style of tape for your breed of goat. For instance if you raise Alpines and use a Pygmy weigh tape, you will not get accurate results! Second, ensure you are measuring at the heart girth, just behind but not including the shoulder blades. By placing your hand at the top of the shoulders (the withers) and tracing the bones backward towards the chine you can determine just where the rear of the shoulder bones are and place your tape correctly. And, finally, be consistent with your technique. By that I mean try to pull the tape just as snug on the first goat you tape as the last goat you tape.

It is a good management practice to tape each goat once a month and record that information to readily see a pattern as it emerges. I fail miserably on my older animals, but I do try to be consistent with my young stock. My doelings are bred at about seven to eight months of age. In order for them to be large enough I want them to be gaining 10 pounds a month throughout that first year of life. I find that taping them once a month is the best way for me to spot trends and to respond by tweaking the ration to ensure that rate of gain.

I have found a weight tape to work great on my animals under a year old. Once they kid and begin production, adding body condition scoring on a monthly basis along with taping presents me with a better picture of what is really going on.

Body condition scoring has been around a long time on commercial dairy cow and beef cow operations. The first reference I found for body condition scoring dairy goats was in Goat Husbandry by David MacKenzie. This is a classic work that every goatkeeper should have in their library. While the weight tape gets used a lot on my young stock, it is the body condition scoring that benefits my older animals.

This technique is very simple, straightforward and easy to use, though it does require some practice to get consistent results. So, every time you are around a goat, open your eyes, reach out and practice! That is all you need to do-reach out and put your hands on the goat and think about what you are feeling.

To begin with, just step back and look at the overall condition of the animal. Can you see any ribs showing? Notice the backbone, hips, and tail head, are they extremely well defined? Note that any doe just prior to and just after kidding will often have a very "boney" appearance about the hips and tail head due to labor and delivery. But, ribs and backbone should not be boney looking.

Also, understand that a big belly doesn't mean a fat goat! A goat is a ruminant and needs a huge body capacity to house all her digestive system. Goats also tend to not store body fat evenly all over their body. Instead they concentrate body fat in specific areas internally first, where you can't see it, and then externally later, where you can see it. So, by the time you see signs of fat visible externally, you can have a really, really, really fat goat!

Next you have got to get your handson that goat. Run your fingers lightly along the ribs and note how that feels. Find the last rib and follow it up to the spine and feel that section of spine just behind that last rib. You will also notice that is over the area where rumen fullness and motion can be detected. I will refer to this region of the spine as the lumbar region. Next, bend over and feel the bottom of the brisket, between the goat's front legs. I will refer to this region as the sternal region and the covering of the sternum bone as the sternal fat pad.

Too many times, especially in bucks, a long hair coat can hide a very skinny animal's condition until too late and health is impacted seriously. I heard an extension agent one time describe a management technique of "manage by walking around and touching." You have got to lay your hands on your animals on a regular basis to ensure they are not a rack of bones under all that hair.

 
Grade 1: This animal is truly emaciated and close to death. The ribs, backbone, and tailhead are very sharp and very visible. You can easily feel the spinal processes along the side of the backbone as being very sharp. You can literally put your fingers almost all the way around the lumbar region. The flanks will be quite hollow. When you put your hand between the goat's front legs to feel the sternal region, the end of the sternum will feel like a sharp pencil point with almost no fat covering the bone. Running your hand further back along side the sternum, you can very easily feel the ribs coming off the sternum at each joint. Up along the animal's side the ribs can be seen with very clear definition between them due to being sunken in between each rib.

Grade 2: The backbone is still going to be quite well defined, but won't have quite as sharp a feel to it due to having some fat covering. You can still put your fingers around the lumbar region but your fingers won't be as near to meeting under spine. When you put your hand between the goat's front legs to feel the sternal region, the underside of the sternum will have an actual fat pad attached, but easily moved when you grasp it. The point of the sternum will feel more like the eraser end of the pencil rather than the pointed end. Down at sides of the sternum you can't quite feel each rib joint as it comes off the sternum. Up on the animal's side, the ribs will still show, but you won't have the sunken-in appearance between each rib.

Grade 3: The backbone is no longer prominent. When you touch the backbone it is well covered with fat and you won't feel any sharpness at all of spinal processes. Grasping the lumbar region will be difficult, as your fingers won't be anywhere meeting underneath the spine. When you reach down between the goat's front legs to feel the sternal region, the sternum is well covered with a fat pad that is not going to move much at all. You can't feel the ribs coming off the sides of the sternum without really pressing hard and searching for them. Up on the goat's side, the ribs are only barely visible, but can still be felt with a light touch.

Grade 4: Backbone is no longer visible as separate joints and is very well covered with fat. You can't feel any of the spinal process at all, no sharp boney projections. You can't get your fingers under the lumbar region at all. When you reach down between the goat's front legs check the sternal region the fat pad covering the sternum it is very thick and nearly unmovable when you try to shake it. Along side the sternum, you can't feel any rib bone at all. The ribs where they come off the sternum are much too thickly covered to be felt. Up on the goat's side, you have to really search for the ribs with your fingers and you can't see them at all.

Grade 5: There are dimples in the rump and a channel along top of the backbone as the fat covering it is so thick! You can't even begin to get your fingers around the lumbar region. Up on the goat's side, even with heavy pressure you can't find a rib. When you reach between the goat's front legs to feel the sternal region, fat pad is huge and massive and you can't move it. Where the ribs leave the sternum will be fat pads covering them. Animal may look like it has "saddlebags" hanging at sides near the elbow where sternal fat pad is so large.

Here are some suggested general benchmarks to use to guide you. Animals who grade less than 2.0 are in need of immediate medical intervention as they are at great risk of chilling and dying quickly. And likewise, animals that are a 5.0 risk all sorts of metabolic problems due to being so obese. A doe should be in the 2.25 to a 3.5 range at dry off. She should be about a 2.75 to a 3.5 at kidding. And, she needs to be at least a 2.0 or more at 45 days into lactation. This is the bare minimum and really she needs to be closer to 3.0 in order to maintain proper condition through a 305 day lactation. A buck should be at least a 3.0 at the beginning of rut in order to carry any condition at all throughout the breeding season. Be especially vigilant about laying your hands upon your bucks on a regular basis. A buck tends to have a thicker, coarser hair coat that can really hide extreme weight loss until too late and they end up sick or dead.

Now, get out there and start practicing on every goat you can lay your hands upon. You will, in short order, find yourself a much better manager and getting better results for the amount of feed you put into your animals. And, it is always nice to be able to tell those non-farming types who pass through the barns during fair season that dairy goats are NOT too skinny, they are supposed to look that way, and here is how to judge an animal's body condition!
 

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