Selecting A Herdsire, Part 1

| 2/16/2012 1:19:27 PM

February is such a fun month when it comes to goats… Half of us are watching goat kids being born, and the other half of us are still trying to get our does bred for the year! I’m afraid I’m on the latter half this year, as my does are still lounging around in the barn, neither pregnant nor milking. Whoops. Thankfully I was able to locate a nice Nubian buck, and he will be coming next week to do some work. Better late than never right? I’ll have July goat kids this year, but at least I’ll have kids!!

While perusing Craigslist this past week (oh what would we Americans do without Craigslist?!), I couldn’t help but notice the large number of ads for bucks for sale or for rent. It seems that everyone and their brother has a buck for sale, or has one that you can breed your does to. Shucks, getting the does bred couldn’t be easier, right? You could practically play ‘Spin the bottle’ with all the available male goats that are up for grabs. But wait, how does one pick a buck? Can you just go by looks, or is there something specific you should look for? Are those Craigslist ads really any good? How do you know which of your own bucklings (term for young male goat) you should castrate and which you should leave intact? These were questions that vied for my attention when I first started with goats, and I dearly wish I had known someone back then who could have taught me what to look for in a herdsire. It’s a tricky business choosing a mate for the does, and your decision will affect many future generations of goats to come.

So let’s get down to the nitty gritty, and not beat around the bush. What in the world are we looking for in a dairy buck, and why should we care? I’ll answer the latter question first. The buck is half your herd. He is the stamp for the next generation, and his kids will closely pattern him. Now, if you have just a couple dairy goats to supply you and your family with milk, you may not be all that interested in searching for a good buck; you just want your does bred so you can have milk! Am I seeing some nods of agreement from you readers? But ask yourself this: What are you going to do with the kids? If you have dairy goats, then two ideas have probably entered your head. One, you could keep the doelings for future milkers. Or, two, you could sell the doelings as milkers and get a small bit of profit. Either way, you have it on your head that these doelings should produce milk someday.

 And that’s where the buck comes in. He’s going to affect what sort of milkers your doelings are going to be. If he’s a good buck, with good milking genetics, then his daughters have a high chance of being good milkers as well. His conformation is going to show on his daughters too; if he has a steep rump, overbite, and is cow hocked then guess what? His daughters have a very high chance of having all of that too, which will affect and possibly impede their role as a useful asset to a dairy herd. A steep rump on a doe can cause kidding problems; an overbite can make eating difficult for her. Cow hocks will mess up her gait and may eventually cause more severe leg problems. It’s all in the buck. That is what I want to stress here. You can breed for a good herd, or you can breed for a bad herd. In the beef cattle industry, you don’t see cattlemen choosing a bull simply because he is available or cheap. They look for the biggest, heaviest, most productive bull they can find, and their efforts are clearly seen in the resulting offspring.

 So, what is a dairy buck supposed to look like? In short, he should look like this:

 buck drawing 

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