Goat Conformation

Correct physical conformation is very important when introducing a breeding program intended to improve genetic traits. Genetic packages are just that, a complete package whose parts are inseparable once the package is defined. If it is your intent to improve the genetic package of the cashmere goats, you must manipulate three genetic characteristics: fiber diameter, fiber production and bodyweight. But in doing so, you must guard against introducing or propagating undesirable genetic traits that influence reproductivity and viability such as narrow birth canals, lower fecundity, bad teeth, bad feet and legs and a lowered vitality.

To do so, we must be able to identify deviations from what is called the “type evaluation” for goats. Type evaluation is nothing new for all livestock breeds and species have been developed through the centuries by breeders selecting their stock by looking at them. Fundamentally, type evaluation is the art of trained people, examining animals by eye to determine physical strengths and weaknesses. Bucks used for breeding programs should have the ability to sire high producing progeny but also should have the physical characteristics that make them valuable and viable overall.

Breeders are recognizing that the true worth of a good goat is not based on production alone, but on lifetime production at a relatively low feed cost with few health problems and while producing a large number of good offspring. These characteristics can be identified and measured. Invariably, superior animals have physical properties that a trained classifier will observe and point out in a program designed to develop durable, useful, long-lived goats.

It is recognized that the ideal program for goat improvement employs production testing and type evaluation. It is essential that a classifier be well trained so that accurate coding and scoring is done. As a goat is brought to the classifier, his trained eye will note length of bone, overall width, strength and power as well as the correlation of parts, e.g. how well the animal “fits together”. The ease of motion and leg action will be observed from the front, side and rear. Udder and teat size, shape and placement will be considered. Testes and external genitalia will be rated. Mouth and palate will be examined as well.

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