Conformation Type Evaluation


A. BODY CAPACITY – The classifier should observe the comparative length, width and depth of the animal, noting especially the length, depth and spring of rib and width of chest floor. A comparison should be made between the animal being classified and the ideal of that breed, sex and age. Young animals, yearlings, two- four- and six-tooth animals are not expected to be as large as a mature eight-tooth; nor does as large as bucks. Parts of the Goat are pictured in Figure 1.

B. STATURE – This term loosely defines overall size and length of bone. Cashmere goats should have:

  • Full spring of rib, deep chests and adequate heart girth.
  • The length of the cannon bone (from knee to pastern) should be correct for the overall height and general size. Very shortcannon bones or very long ones are to be avoided.
  • A straight back line or a slight increase in height at the withers, especially in bucks is desirable. In all breeds, bone must be of good size. These characteristics make animals “upstanding”.
  • C. HEAD AND NECK – Generally, cashmere goats have no defined shape or set of eyes, nose or ears. The practical considerations of length, width, strength, set of jaw and overall symmetry should balance the definition of a “good” head. It must also be a combination of strength and refinement. This balance of length, width and substance insures an ability to consume large amounts of forage with ease. The muzzle should be broad and square, encasing solid, straight teeth that mesh firmly against the hard upper palate. Does should have more refined “feminine” heads, while bucks should have heavier “masculine” heads.

    Characteristic cull defects are:

  • An unrefined or coarse head
  • A frail head with a narrow muzzle, a weak jaw, pinched nostril, narrow forehead or sunken eye. These say simply “weak”.
  • An overshot jaw is when the lower jaw is shorter than the upper jaw. This is also known as parrot-mouth and it often affects feeding ability. Undershot jaw is when the lower jaw is longer than the upper and can also affect feeding ability.
  • Cashmere goats can resemble any of the goat breeds with long, pendulous ears, or ears that stand straight up. Small ears are not desirable, as they do not protect the inner ear from insects, rain and sunshine.

    The eyes should be set well up and be bright and alert. They can be any color. General head shape should be balanced, without overshot or undershot jaws. Teeth must align with the upper palate to allow efficient browsing. Older animals will begin to spread and their teeth may not perfectly align, but younger animals must align perfectly.

    Horns should be placed at least 5 cms apart at the base to prevent injury to other animals and should sweep back and/or up gracefully and symmetrically. The horns should be firmly attached to the skull, and should be rounded and well formed. Any color or shape of horn is acceptable. Does should have horns that are shorter and more refined than bucks, but still well shaped and sturdy.

    Characteristic cull defects are:

  • Loose, narrow, Angora like horns
  • Narrow muzzles and
  • Under- or over-shot jaws
  • D. FRONT END – This is a combination of chest and shoulder features. The front end should have a wide chest floor and prominent brisket with a smooth blending of shoulder blade into the wither.

    Does should narrow slightly in the front end while bucks should maintain a strong, square front end. Such front ends ensure plenty of room for the heart and lungs todo their life-giving work and also is evidence of proper muscle and ligament strength in tight shoulders. Proper fleshing should fill out the wither and shoulder blade area.

    Characteristic cull defects are:

  • A narrow or weak condition with almost no chest floor, crowding the heart and lungs. In this case, the body cavity will be adversely affected and longevity reduced.
  • An open shoulder, or a winged-shoulder, is a condition resulting from loose ligaments holding the shoulder blade to the chest wall often makes it difficult and painful for the animal to move.
  • E. FRONT LEGS – Legs are very important as they must carry the animal every day for as long as it needs to move in order to eat, flee or rest (see Figure 4). Legs should be straight and perpendicular to the ground, sound in the knees, full at the point of elbow and should move with the feet pointing straight ahead. The pastern should have a flexibility and slight angle to allow freedom of movement.

    The legs should be well placed, being square under the body. Strong legs mean hardiness and strong constitution, which is absolutely essential in all breeds.

    Characteristic cull defects include:

  • Sound legs that are not quite straight and do not move correctly.
  • Forelegs that bow forward when viewed from the side or outward when viewed from the front should be avoided. This puts undue strain on the muscles and encourages the animal to lay down before it is done feeding leading to loss of condition.
  • Swollen knee joints are normally associated with an arthritic condition and can interfere with mobility. This condition is frequently associated with short cannon bones in the foreleg. Front legs which point outward as the animal walks result in a peculiar paddling action that make the points of the elbow dig into the side of the chest wall.
  • Knock-knees or bandy legs, legs, which are too thin or too fleshy, weak or broken pasterns, or hooves that point outward or inward are all cull defects.
  • Overly refined bone is an indication of frailty meaning the legs may be too weak to carry the body weight.
  • F. BACK – A straight, strong, wide, long, level back denotes a strong physiology indicative of the strength to gather and carry copious amount of feed, milk and offspring for many gestation and lactation cycles.

    An animal that is lower at the withers than at the rump is appropriately called “low in front”. This condition can be a serious detriment to the health and wellbeing of an otherwise sound animal for as parturition approaches, the digestive and reproductive tracts tend to follow the pull of gravity and fall forward on to the diaphragm. This compresses the heart and lungs, making it hard to breath and have proper circulation.

    A severely roached back that is very high through the loin is not especially dangerous in itself. It is frequently associated with a weak chine, steep rump and makes the back topline indicative of lack of overall strength and symmetry.

    G. RUMP – This area is of great importance because the rump affects leg set, kidding ease and potential udder attachment. The rump should be long, wide, level from thurl to thurl, cleanly fleshed and havethe correct slight slope from hips to pins.The buttocks should be well fleshed and not too flat and the thighs should be well fleshed.

    Characteristic cull defects are:

  • A narrow rump or a steep rump. A narrow rump is characterized by a rise in the dorsal processes of the spine, making the rump resemble a pyramid. The narrow rump affects kidding ease as the pelvis tends to also be narrow and the flexibility of the spine is decreased.
  • A very steep slope from hips to pins, when combined with a great width actually makes for easy kidding. But since it also lessens the area for large udder attachment and makes for an awkward rear leg set, it must be tempered towards what is termed the “proper” slope.
  • A perfectly level or a short rump is not desired either.
  • H. HIND LEGS – Rear legs should be very wide apart and straight when viewed from the rear, with clean hocks and the right combination of bone refinement, length and strength. Observed from the side, a plumb line originating at the pin bone would fall parallel to the leg bone from hock to pastern and touch the ground at the heel of the foot. The resulting angles produced at the hock and stifle joint will be the most ideal for an easy walk and a minimum of joint problems. These correct angles are seldom found in a leg beneath a severely sloping rump.

    Characteristic cull defects are:

  • Rear legs that turn in when viewed from the rear. In such as condition, a couple of things happen. A large udder will be battered from side to side as the doe walks. Secondly, the animal has the tendency to point the feet outward and paddle as she walks. This is not comfortable for the goat and result in less movement for feeding, especially if she is heavy with kid. An animal which has hind legs that are too close together can twist a large udder, making milking or feeding of the kid more difficult.
  • A leg that is too straight or posty is noticeable by the lack of angle at the hock and stifle joint, and this condition will worsen with age. It is of particular concern when an animal walks without flexing the hock as this probably causes more trouble than any other single leg ailment because mobility and ability to escape danger are threatened.
  • The opposite of posty leg is sickle leg. In this case, the animal has too much “set” or angle and this puts more strain on the on the leg structure.
  • I. FEET – A strong, well-formed foot with tight toes, a deep heel and level sole is ideal. Such a foot is highly resistant to injury or infection and will wear down naturally at the correct angle. The horny outside of the foot grows quite rapidly and in confined conditions, must be kept trimmed. Genetically strong feet are essential to commercial meat and fiber operations. Foot trimming may still be required if the pasture or range is soft. Goats with dark feet will require less care than goats with white or light colored hooves as these are softer and are less likely to wear down as they are to double over. Untrimmed and unworn hooves will result in damage to the pasterns and will decrease the mobility of the goat (see Figure 6).

    A common undesirable condition is the spreading of the toes. Often, this is a result of weak ligaments in the pastern area. It produces ill shaped toes that are hard to trim and also provides a place for manure and debris to build up, possibly causing infection.

    In a normal hoof, the hoof hairline should be parallel with the sole of the foot. In a “shallow” heel, there is less depth at the rear of the toe than the forward part and the animal is forced into rocking back on the pasterns, putting undue strain on them. Sometimes the toes turn under or over together, making them miserable to trim, hard to walk on and strain the pasterns.

    J. GENITAL ORGANS – The genital organs should be well formed, firmly attached and functional. Does should have fore udders which are strong and wide, extending well forward and blending smoothly into the abdomen. They should be well attached to the body, preventing excessive swinging from side to side as the animal moves. The rear udder should be of great width, tightness and height, beginning an inch or so below the vulva and blending smoothly into the escutcheon. The higher the attachment, the safer the udder from scratches or injury. The udder should be divided neatly in half by the medial suspensory ligament. This ligament must be strong to keep the teats in place and the udder tight against the body.

    Teats should be 2 to 3″ inches long, about 1″ in diameter and placed evenly and squarely on the udder, nearly plumb, but pointing slightly forward. This allows kids to access the teat more efficiently, and also make for easier hand milking in the dairy breeds. An overly large teat is difficult for the kids to grasp. Occasionally, does are found with abnormal teat structure, such as a double orifice (two openings for the milk to emerge in the same teat) or extra teats, some of which may actually give milk.

    The scrotum should be large and well formed. The testicles should be firm and well rounded, and approximately the same size. The scrotum should not be split more than one-third the length of the scrotum for cashmere goats. Splits longer than one-third the length indicate Angora goat influence and may indicate genes that, when passed to females, will result in incorrect udders.

    Characteristic cull defects include the presence of but a single testicle and inoperative or oversized teats.

    K. TEETH – Goats, being herbivores, obtain the greatest portion of their sustenance from plant materials which are of low or no nutritional value to man. Through mastication, regurgitation, and rumination of these materials with their teeth, especially the molars, the plant materials are reduced to small particle sizes, thus increasing their relative surface areas and making digestion easier. Much of the grinding action of the teeth is the direct result of their surface angles and rotary-like movements of the lower jaw. The combination of lateral and vertical movements is due to the fact that upper and lower jaws are not perfectly matched, with the lower jaw somewhat smaller than the upper. Food material can therefore be chewed only from one side of the mouth at a time through a lateral grinding action. Such action results in a pattern of wear that cause the teeth to develop points on the outer edges of the lower molars. Only after action of the teeth has reduced plant materials to a finely ground pulp can effective digestion begin. With goats as well as with other ruminants, complete chewing is not done at the actual time of grazing. Later, at the animal’s leisure, the materials are ruminated and re-chewed until the feed particles are small enough to be passed on in the digestive tract. Throughout the process of mastication, the tongue and cheeks are constantly in motion keeping the feed material moving between the teeth until it has been ground well enough to be formed into a bolus which can be moved back in the mouth and swallowed.

    Teeth are generally classified as being of two types according to their permanence:

    MILK TEETH – Milk teeth are present either at birth or shortly afterwards and will remain for about a year before a replacement with permanent teeth begins. Milk teeth are not as hard as adult teeth since adult teeth are expected to remain for a lifetime.

    ADULT TEETH – Permanent teeth undergo more progressive development. They press against the tissues of the milk teeth and cause the roots of the milk teeth to break down. This in turn releases the dental pulp from its anchorage in the gum. With tissues loosening and exerted pressure from the rising permanent teeth, the milk teeth are shed from the jaw.
    All ruminants including goats lack upper incisors. Instead there is a hard dental pad on the frontal part of the upper jaw that serves in place of teeth. The mature goat will have a total of 32 teeth, of which eight are lower incisors and the rest are arranged in four groups of six molars.

    As a goat’s age increases, the teeth are worn down from the rectangular cross sectional shape to a more rounded shape. Beyond this four-year period, age can be estimated by the amount of wear that has occurred on the teeth. Eventually, teeth will begin to fall out. Then the animal is referred to as a “broken mouth”. Older goats with more than two teeth missing are called “smooth mouth”.

    Copyright 1994 Capricorn Press. Not to be reproduced without express written consent of Capricorn Press.

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