Recap of the 2015 Buck Test


2015 was the 10th 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-based diet, with natural exposure to internal parasites, primarily the barber pole worm.

 

Eighty-four (84) mostly Kiko bucks were consigned to the 2015 test. They were consigned by 25 breeders from 12 states, including Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Vermont, and Virginia.  Ten were first-time consignors.
 

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 is to make sure all the bucks started the test equally and "free" from worms.  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 on pasture.  They 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. 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 in warm season annual grasses and legumes. This year's annual plantings included dwarf pearl millet and Sunn Hemp.


There was a 13-day adjustment period, followed by an 84-day test period. The first 42 days of the test served as a "growth challenge." The bucks grazed "clean" warm season forages. The second half of the test was intended to serve as a "parasite challenge." The bucks were to graze cool season grass paddocks that had been previously infected with worm larvae by grazing sheep. However, the lack of rainfall and forage regrowth altered the grazing plans. While the goats grazed the cool season paddocks, it became necessary for them to re-graze the warm season paddocks a second time.

 

During the test period, the goats were supplemented daily with pelleted soybean hulls. Previous data had shown the test goats' pasture-only diet to be deficient in energy.  Soyhulls were introduced to the diet slowly and gradually increased according to appetite. The maximum consumpion of soyhull pellets was 1 lb. per head per day. Depending upon the weight of the goats, this ranged from 1.25 to 2.5 percent of body weight.


Starting weights were determined by weighing the goats on consecutive days (July 9-10) and averaging the two weights. Final weights were determined by weighing the goats on consecutive days (October 1-2) 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), along with additional factors including weight loss, fecal egg counts, previous scores, and scores of other goats.
 

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). Pooled fecal samples were also collected to determine diet quality. 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. Forage samples were also collected to determine forage quality.

Results

Upon arrival to the test site, the goats ranged in weight from 32.6 to 71.8 lbs, and averaged 49.0 ± 8.4 lbs.  Starting weights ranged from 36.2 to 76.8 lbs. and averaged 53.7 ± 8.3 lbs. The median starting weight was 51.9 lbs.  During the 13-day adjustment period, the goats gained an average of 4.1 ± 3.4 lbs. The median gain was 4.4 lbs. ADG during the adjustment period ranged from -0.39 to 0.87 lbs. per day and averaged 0.32 ± 0.26 lbs. per day. The median ADG was 0.34 lbs. per day.

 

For the first 42 days, ADG ranged from -0.05 to 0.454 lbs. per day and averaged 0.206 ± 0.108 lbs. per day. The median ADG was 0.226 lbs. per day. During the first 42 days of the test, the top-gaining goat was a Kiko buck consigned by P.J. Murphy (New Jersey). Due to the parasite challenge and lack of rainfall and forage regrowth during the second half of the test (day 42-84), growth rates were signficantly lower as compared to the first half.  ADG ranged from -0.236 to 0.200 lbs. per day and averaged 0.017 ± 0.103 lbs. per day. The median ADG was 0.026 lbs. per day. During the second half of the test, the top-gaining goat was a commercial Kiko buck consigned by Randy & Majancsik (Kentucky).


For the 84-day duration of the test, ADG ranged from -0.092 to 0.255 lbs. per day and averaged 0.111 ± 0.073 lbs. per day. The median ADG was 0.115 lbs. per day.  The top-gainer was the Majacsik buck. Ending weights ranged from 42.8 to 89.3 lbs. and averaged 62.6 ± 8.0  lbs. The median ending weight was 62.5 lbs.


Initial egg counts were quite high and variable. They ranged from 0 to 11900 epg and averaged 2170 ± 2519 epg.   2012 was the only other test year in which the initial fecal egg counts were above 2000 epg.  The initial worm load carried by the goats was 70 percent Haemonchus contortus (barber pole worm). Midway through the test, the proportion of Haemonchus had increased to 90 percent. It was 75 percent when the test ended.

 

The initial sequential deworming reduced fecal egg counts by an average of 78 ± 63 percent. Fecal egg count reduction ranged from -345 to 100 percent. The median reduction was 96 percent. The sequential deworming was not effective in five goats. If their data is removed, fecal egg count reduction improves to 92 ± 13 percent, with a median reduction of 98 percent.


After the initial reduction in fecal egg counts, egg counts increase throughout the test. By day 84, egg counts had increased to an average of 6040 ± 7844 epg. Sever goats with really high egg counts, including one with an egg count of 59350 epg, skewed the data. At the same time, the pooled fecal egg count on October 1 was 5025 epg, indicating that the trend was definitley in favor of very high fecal egg counts at the end of the test. The average fecal egg count on October 1 was the highest ever recorded in the test.

 

Despite high egg counts, clinical parasitism was not a significant problem in the 2015 test.  Parasites did not account for the loss of any goats. No FAMACHA© scores of 5 were observed. Only six FAMACHA© scores of 4 were recorded during the test period. Excluding the initial sequential dewormings, only 25 anthelmintic treatments were administered to the goats. This was an average of 0.3 treatments per goat.

 

The lack of clinical parasitism was attributed to the supplemental feeding of soyhulls. On the other hand, sub-clincial parasitism was likely taking a toll on the goats, as evidenced by poor weight gains (on average) during the second half of the test. Sub-clinical parasitism is going to be addressed in the 2016 by deworming any FAMACHA© 3 goat that loses weight during the previous 2 weeks.

 

On September 24, 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. The data was processed by the Iowa Centralized Ultrasound Processing (CUP) Lab. Patricia Loyd (North Carolina) had the buck that scanned with the largest rib eye (1.53 square inches). As compared to the rest of the bucks in the test, its rib eye area was 43 percent larger than the test average of 1.07 square inches. The Majancsiks had the buck with the deepest eye muscle (0.92 inches).

On the last day of the test, the bucks were evaluated for reproductive soundness and structural correctness. Scrotal circumference was measured. Measurements ranged from 20 to 29 cm and averaged 24.7 ± 1.7 cm. Teats were counted and characterized. Only four bucks had supernumerary teats or 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 (abnormal heel growth).

 

End of Test

The ten top-performing bucks were selected at the end of the test. The top-performing buck was a commercial Kiko consigned by Randy & Jodie Mazancsik from Kentucky. It was the second year in a row that the Majancsiks had the top-performing buck.  David Peters (North Carolina) had two bucks in the top 10. He was named top consignor, an award given to the consignor with the three best bucks in the test. David also had the most resistant buck in the test.  One of his bucks had an averaged fecal egg count of 217 epg and never had an egg count above 500 epg. David had a top-performing buck in last year's test.

 

The only other buck that met the traditional Gold standards for parasite resistance was a Kiko buck consigned by Brent Ballenger. His buck's average FEC was 432 epg. It never had an egg count above 1000 epg. The average egg count of the top 10 bucks was 630 epg. The most resilient bucks in the test were consigned by P.J. Murphy and Patricia Larr (Indiana). Each time, their bucks were scored, they had FAMACHA© scores of 1. The average FAMACHA© score of the top 10 bucks over the duration of the test was 1.7. None of the goats in the top-10 required deworming.

 

Besides the Majacsik's buck, the rest of the top 10 bucks (in no particular order) were 501 (Craig Adams, IL), 505 (Brent Ballenger, KY), 527 (Jarred Dennison, KY), 543 (Steve Maynard & Darla Dishman, TN), 550 (P.J. Murphy, NJ), 551 (Waldo Nelson, MD), 556 & 557 (David Peters, NC), & 584 (John Weber, IL). All  consignors with top-10 bucks have had top-performers in previous tests, with the exception of Maynard/Dishman, who are first time consignors.


The progress reports and summary reports from the 2015 year's test can be downloaded from the blog or http://www.sheepandgoat.com/goattest. Reports from previous tests are also available at the aforementioned web site.

 

The 2015 Test was dedicated to the memory of long-time consignors Merritt "Sam" Burke from Delaware and Craig Adams from Illinois. Both men passed away in 2015. Each had consigned many top-performing bucks. In fact, Craig had one of the top-performing bucks in this year's test.

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