Photo Credit – Dandalee Park Dairy Goats
When adding a new doe or buck to your herd it’s important to look at factors that are independent, demonstrated and measurable when accessing the worth of the animal to you. This is commonly known as “proving”.
The Nigerian Dwarf Goat is a dairy breed and as such it’s important to assess conformation and dairy attributes equally as you need a structurally sound goat that will hold up over time under constant breeding and milking.
What does “proven” mean
A major goal of goat breeding is to improve the health, quality and production of your herd. To improve your herd you must first identify your herd’s strengths and weaknesses so you can measure and monitor your progress. Documenting the performance provides “proven” performance. “Proven” means demonstrated and measurable achievement that is assessed independently. Knowing your herd’s strengths and weaknesses is critical to improving.
There are a number of tools available to help you in your decision making and assist in compiling a statistical record of achievement. These tools include herd recording (measuring quantities and quality of milk produced), classification (an individual animal being given a score for their conformation) which is an excellent way to identify herd strengths and weaknesses and of course bloodlines which allow you to assess the qualities of lines and see how these translate in offspring and ancestors.
Due to the infancy of the breed in Australia, ‘proving’ methods such as Milk Testing and Classification are yet to be embraced by most Nigerian breeders. The NDGSA is implementing programs to assist its members to easily implement and benefit from these methods.
Assessing an animals worth
In general, the worth of any Nigerian Dwarf varies considerably. A higher percentage animal does not automatically mean it’s superior to a lower percentage animal. The NDGSA encourages the assessment of the “individual animal” and its attributes when you are selecting a Nigerian to add to your herd.
Things to consider
The percentage does influence the worth of a Nigerian doe or buck but most importantly it’s the individual animal and their genetics that should be your focus.
Whilst the “what to consider” points below are ideal, keep in mind that breeders are just now starting to work towards implementing things like milk testing and herd recording. We are hopeful the day will come when all significant breeders will be able to provide these details. It will take time.
It also pays to keep in mind that everyone has to start somewhere and in some instances that may be with an animal that is less than ideal but is available and affordable for you. The breeders that you are buying from now will have done just that in the past and in fact Nigerian breeding in Australia has a considerable way to go to be in the position where quality animals are readily available.
Remember, there is no such thing as a perfect goat! Each goat has its strengths and you will buy a particular goat to add their particular strengths to your herd.
Below are things to consider when evaluating a Nigerian Dwarf buck or doe and in determining its value to you.
Nigerian Dwarf Does
DNA TESTED: Can the breeder provide you with DNA verification?
BREED STANDARD: Does she meet the breed standard?
CONFORMATION: What is her conformation like? Ask for a classification score, if available.
UDDER CONFORMATION: If you are buying an older doe and she is in milk you can see what her udder is like but if not, ask the breeder if they have photographs of her filled udder.
MILK PRODUCTION: If you are buying a doe for milking, does the breeder milk test and do they have the records for you to see? If she is in milk, you can benefit from her milk production immediately.
MILK FAT & PROTEIN CONTENT: If you are buying a doe for milking, does the breeder milk test? Do they have milk and fat percentages of the milk for you to see? Has she been DNA tested for the Alpha S1 Casein gene?
BREEDING: Is her line proven?
BLOODLINES: Genetics are a factor when it comes to the price you will be asked to pay. With new, and sometimes superior, genetics being imported into Australia expect to pay the top of the price range for ‘quality’ animals from these new genetics. The same assessment should be applied to animals with imported genetics and local lines alike.
PERCENTAGE: Of course, the percentage will be a determining factor in price but a percentage doe can have better conformation, udder and milk production than a 100% doe. It’s important to understand that the percentage is not necessarily the determining factor of quality.
TEMPERAMENT: Is she easy to handle and milk? Not having to fight a goat onto the stand is invaluable.
AGE: Are you buying a young kid on a bottle? Buying young kids is a great choice for those wishing to minimise freight costs or wishing to bond with their goats, but it’s a labour-intensive commitment and big responsibility. If you are buying older does these can be cheaper and have the advantage of being proven in milk production, classification, show successes and through their offspring. Many breeders sell quality does once they have daughters to retain and breed with. This is particularly the case with percentage stock as breeders progress towards higher percentages.
DOES STATUS: Is the doe pregnant and if so to who? Buying a pregnant doe allows you to bring in additional stock and genetics without extra transport costs. It also saves on costs of buying and keeping bucks, paying service fees, or Artificial Insemination (AI) costs.
FAULTS: Ask the breeder if she has any faults that you should know about. Examples of faults include extra teats and parrot mouth.
HEALTH ISSUES: Ask the breeder if she has any health issues or reproduction issues.
Nigerian Dwarf Bucks
DNA TESTED: Can the breeder provide you with DNA verification?
BREED STANDARD: Does he meet the breed standard?
CONFORMATION: What is his conformation like? Ask for a classification score, if available.
BREEDING: Is his line proven?
BLOODLINES: Genetics are a factor when it comes to the price you will be asked to pay. With new, and possibly superior, genetics being imported into Australia expect to pay the top of the price range for “quality” animals from these new genetics. The same assessment should be applied to animals with imported genetics and local lines alike.
PERCENTAGE: The percentage of a buck will, of course, be a determining factor in price. But a good percentage buck that has all or most of the attributes you want to improve your herd should also be considered. Of course, the lower percentage will impact negatively on your herd percentages but you aim to buy a buck to improve certain things in your line, e.g. you may want longer bodies or wider rear arches or better udders, then look for the buck that will help you achieve your goals, regardless of the percentage.
TEMPERAMENT: Is he easy to handle and does he mix easily with other goats? Ease of handling is priceless when it comes to your time and effort.
AGE: Are you buying a young kid on a bottle? Buying young kids is a great choice for those wishing to minimise freight costs or wishing to bond with their goats but it’s a labour-intensive commitment and a considerable responsibility. When buying young buck kids you will not have a true understanding of his quality until he is around 2 years old.
STRENGTH AND STAMINA: Is he virile and enthusiastic with does? Does he have the number of kids on the ground relative to his age? Has his progeny improved breed characteristics and udders? Does the breeder have photos and classification scores of any of his progeny? If he is young and unmated, does he show signs of strength and enthusiasm?
FAULTS: Ask the breeder if he has any faults that you should know about.
HEALTH ISSUES: Ask the breeder if he has any health issues or reproduction issues.