Recap of 2014 Buck Test
2014 was the 9th year of the Western Maryland Pasture-Based Meat Goat Performance Test, which is conducted at the University of Maryland's Western Maryland Research & Education Center in Keedysville. The purpose of the test is to evaluate the post-weaning performance of meat goat bucklings consuming a pasture diet, with natural exposure to internal parasites, primarily the barber pole worm.
One hundred and one (101) bucklings were consigned to this year's test. Consignments were cut to 79 to reduce stocking rates and lessen parasite burdens. Seventy-seven (77) bucks started the test on June 5. Seventy-one (71) finished the test on August 29. The test spanned 84 days.
Bucks were consigned by 23 breeders from 11 states, including Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia. Almost all of the bucks in the test were Kiko: a mixture of purebred and New Zealand genetics, along with some crosses. There was one Boer buck in the test.
Upon arrival, the bucks were sequentially dosed with anthelmintics from all three anthelmintic classes: albendazole (Valbazen® @ 2 ml/11 lbs), moxidectin (Cydectin® @ 2 ml/11 lbs.) and levamisole (Prohibit® @ 3 ml/50 lbs.). The reason for the sequential deworming was to make sure all the bucks started the test equally and "free" from worms. Among the 15 goats that had initial fecal counts above 350 epg, deworming reduced egg counts by 99 percent. For the first five days of the test, sulfadimethoxine (Di-methox®) was added to the drinking water (2 oz/25 gal), as a preventative for coccidiosis.
While on test, the bucks were managed as a single group. An additional 15 bucks from another study were added to the herd. The bucks were rotationally grazed among six paddocks, with continous access to a central laneway, containing port-a-hut shelters, mineral feeders, a water trough, and a handling system covered by a ClearSpan® hoop structure. The pasture resource consists of five, 2-acre paddocks, along with a 2.5 acre silvopasture (walnut and mixed hardwood trees). Half of the pasture is planted in perennial cool season grasses: MaxQ™ tall fescue and orchardgrass. Half of the pasture is planted annually in warm season grasses and legumes. This year's annual plantings included dwarf pearl millet, cow peas, and Sunn Hemp.
This year, the first half of the test served as a "parasite challenge." The goats grazed the cool season grass paddocks that had been pre-contaminated with infective (but anthelmintic-susceptible) worm larvae by grazing sheep. The second half of the test served as a "growth challenge." The goats grazed the warm season annual grass and legumes that had been planted in mid-June. At the end of the parasite challenge, all of the bucks were given a gel cap containing ~0.5 g of copper oxide wire particles (COWPs). Research has shown that COWPs can reduce barber pole worm burdens in kids and lambs.
After a short 6-day adjustment period, starting weights were determined by weighing the goats on consecutive days (June 5 and 6) and averaging the two weights. Final weights were determined by weighing the goats on consecutive days (August 28 and 29) and averaging the two weights.
While on test, the bucks were handled every two weeks to determine body weights, FAMACHA©, body condition, coat condition, dag, and fecal consistency scores. Goats with FAMACHA© scores of 1 or 2 were not dewormed. Goats with FAMACHA© scores of 4 or 5 were dewormed with either levamisole or moxidectin. Some goats with FAMACHA© scores of 3 were dewormed; some were not. The decision to deworm goats with FAMACHA© scores of 3 was based on the criteria of the Five Point Check© (FAMACHA© score, bottle jaw, body condition, coat condition, and dag score), as well as weight gain (or loss) and fecal egg count (two weeks prior).
Fecal samples were collected every 14 days from individual bucks for fecal egg count determination. Pooled fecal samples were collected every 28 days (from random goats) for larvae ID. Fecal analysis for the test was done by Dr. Dahlia O'Brien's lab at Virginia State University (Petersburg, Virginia).
For the first time, pooled fecal samples were analyzed to determine the nutrient content of the diet the goats were consuming. Three samples were collected while the goats were grazing the cool season grass paddocks. Three samples were collected while the goats were grazing the warm season annual grasses and legumes. The samples were analyzed by the Grazingland Animal Nutrition (GAN) Lab in Temple, Texas. The GAN Lab analyzes the fecal sample using near infrared reflectance spectroscopy (NIRS) to determine the quality of the forage the animals were consuming 36 hours prior to defecating.
Results from the GAN lab show that the goats' diet was inadequate in energy, as is typical of pasture diets in the Mid-Atlantic. During the second half of the test, the goats were supplemented with pelleted soybean hulls. Soybean hulls are a by-product of soybean processing. They are the outer part of the bean. As a roughage feed, soy hulls can be fed to livestock without jeopardizing the USDA certified grass-fed label. The bucks were fed 0.75 lbs. of soy hulls per head per day or about 1.5 percent of their body weight.
Starting weights ranged from 35.2 to 69.4 lbs. and averaged 47.6 ± 7.5 lbs. The median starting weight was 46.0 lbs. Ending weights ranged from 35.0 to 73.8 lbs. and averaged 52.3 ± 8.2 lbs. The median ending weight was 51.9 lbs. During the first half of the test, the goats gained very little weight, though individual growth rates were quite variable, with the standard deviations being larger than the means.
For the first half of the test (day 0-42), ADG ranged from -0.243 to 0.229 lbs. per day and averaged 0.011 ± 0.086 lbs. per day. The median ADG was 0.012 lbs. per day. During the parasite challenge phase of the test, the top-gaining buck was a Purebred Kiko consigned by Jill Zink (IN).
During the second half of the test (day 42-84), ADG ranged from -0.171 to 0.340 lbs. per day and averaged 0.100 ± 0.130 lbs. per day. The median ADG was 0.09 lbs. per day. During the growth challenge phase of the test, the top-gaining buck was a Purebred Kiko consigned by Jodie & Randy Majanscik (KY). For the 84 day test period, ADG ranged from -0.119 to 0.220 lbs. per day and averaged 0.057 ± 0.077 lbs. per day. The median gain was 0.064 lbs. per day. The top-gaining buck was the Majanscik buck.
Most of the bucks started the test with very low fecal egg counts. While the average was 830 ± 2567 epg, the median was only 50 epg. In fact, if the three (very) high egg counts are removed from the data set, the average is reduced to 326 ± 788 epg. As with weight gains, the fecal egg count data was always quite variable, with the standard deviations being higher than the means.
At the start of the test, the barber pole worm (Haemonchus contortus) comprised 49 percent of the worm load, whereas the sample analyzed on July 3rd was 87 percent Haemonchus. Results of the July 31 sample are pending.
After the initial dewormings reduced fecal egg counts to near zero, fecal egg counts gradually increased, averaging 2727 ± 2526 epg on day 42 (July 17). On July 17, all of the bucks were given a gel cap containing ~0.5 g of copper oxide wire particles. While the COWPs were not effective in 8 goats, fecal egg counts were reduced by 81.7 percent in 53 treated goats, as compared to the 15 goats that were not administered COWPs. It is possible that some goats spit the gel cap out, as it is difficult to administer.
During the last 4 weeks of the test, fecal egg counts increased substantially. This cannot be completely explained, as the goats were grazing cleaner, taller pastures, which presumably should have resulted in lower egg counts. However, the central laneway was always a significant source of re-infection, as the goats had continuous access. The COWPs also did not appear to have a very long lasting effect, which would be consistent with research findings.
Clinical parasitism (FAMACHA© 4s and 5s and some 3s) was less of a problem this year as compared to 2013, though the COWP treatment may have been responsible for this, as all goats were effectively dewormed mid-way through the test. Excluding the initial dewormings, 40 anthelmintic treatments were administered to the goats in the test: an average of 0.5 treatments per goat. Most goats did not require deworming; however, a few goats required more than one treatment.
On August 20, the goats were scanned to determine their rib eye area, loin depth, and rib fat. Ultrasound scanning was done by Jim Pritchard from West Virginia University. Since rib eye area tends to increase with size (weight), the data were compared among bucks in the same weight range, e.g. 40-50 lbs. Two bucks tied for having the biggest rib eye area (1.19 square inches): a Kiko cross consigned by Linda Heise and the Majanscik's top-performing Purebred Kiko buck. A Purebred Kiko consigned by Patrica Larr (IN) had the highest ratio for rib eye area (145 percent). The 49-lb. buck had a rib eye that measured 1.1 square inches.
On the last day of the test, the bucks were evaluated for reproductive soundness and structural correctness. Scrotal circumference was measured. Data were compared among bucks in the same weight group. Teats were counted and characterized. Two-teated bucks, with no teat abnormalities, are preferred. Few bucks had supernumerary teats and teat defects. The bite of each buck was checked. No buck displayed a significant over- or underbite. The bucks were evaluated for structure and movement. No abnormalities were noted. Hooves were examined for growth and abnormalities. A few bucks had abnormal hoof growth, mostly abnormal heel growth, a few pockets.
End of Test
Five bucks met the Gold, Silver, or Bronze standards of performance for growth, parasite resistance, and parasite resilience and were selected for the sale. Using the same criteria, an additional five bucks were selected for the sale. The top-performing bucks were sold at the Bluegrass Performance Invitational in Frankfort, Kentucky.
The top-performing buck in the 2014 test was a Purebred Kiko consigned by Jodie and Randy Majanscik from Kentucky. This the third year in which the Mazansciks have participated in the test. The second top-performing buck was a Boer x Kiko buck consigned by Linda Heise. Linda is a first-time consigner from Pennsylvania. She had two bucks in the top-ten. Both of the top-performing bucks were sired by top-performing bucks from previous tests. Both of the top-performing bucks sold to a farm in California.
An award is also given to the consigner with the three top-performing bucks. This year's award was shared by Jodie & Randy Majanscik and Brent Ballenger. The Majansciks were also the top consigner in 2012. Brent was a first-time consigner from Kentucky. He had two bucks in the top-ten.
The Top Maryland Buck was consigned by Waldo Nelson from Quantico, Maryland. Waldo' s consignment of three bucks grew particularly well during the last 4 weeks of the test. He had one of the most resistant bucks in the 2012 test.
The progress reports and summary reports from this year's test can be downloaded from the blog or http://www.sheepandgoat.com/programs/GoatTest/main.html. Reports from previous tests are also available at the aforementioned web site.
Anyone who does not think the bucks performed well in this year's test does not understand performance testing. In years in which environmental conditions limit growth (ADG), the test probably does a better job identifying superior genetics. Challenge is necessary to get data separation. To find bucks that shed low numbers of worm eggs, you need to have a lot of high egg shedders. To find bucks that can gain weight on pasture, you need to sort through a lot that won't perform well on pasture. Most bucks will excel when they are kept in a pen and given all the feed they want; their performance is the result of environment, not genetics.
It's important to understand that the bucks in this year's test cannot be compared to the bucks in last year's test (or another year). Nor can the bucks in this test be compared to bucks in other performance tests. They certainly cannot be compared to bucks that are still the farm or on someone else's farm. Livestock producers need to learn how to separate phenotype from genotype, environment from genetics. Most bucks will look good when they are kept in a pen and/or fed well. This is not genetics. The goal of a central performance test is to equalize the environment.
Many people are reluctant to purchase performance tested livestock that have been fed on pasture. This is because pasture-raised livestock usually do not grow as fast or get as fat (fleshy). Unfortunately, when you buy livestock that look better, you are buying someone else's feed and management, probably not superior genetics. If you're interested in making genetic improvement in your meat goat herd, you need to look at data from on-farm performance recording, such as Kentucky State University's Goat Herd Improvement Program; central performance tests, like this one; or the National Sheep Improvement Program (NSIP), which calculates EBVs (estimated breeding values). What an animal looks like is not unimportant, but you need to know whether it is the result of genes or whether it is the result of environment (feed + management).
Susan Schoenian, September 11, 2014