Wednesday, August 16, 2017

A New Era

The Western Maryland Pasture-Based Meat Goat Performance Test was initiated at the University of Maryland’s Western Maryland Research & Education in Keedysville (Washington County) in 2006.

The purpose of the test was to evaluate the post-weaning performance of meat goat bucklings consuming a pasture-based diet, with natural exposure to internal parasites. Identifying bucks that were resistant and resilient to internal parasites was the trademark of the test.

The test was conducted for eleven years. Almost 800 bucks were evaluated. While the test was open to any breed or cross of goat, it gradually evolved into a “Kiko test.”Over the span of the test, more than 100 producers from 20 states consigned bucks. Top-performing bucks were sold (as far away as California) or returned to farms for breeding.

Some of the bucks from the 2015 test

Over the years, many programs and activities were held in conjunction with the test, including field days, tours, sales, skillathons, and carcass evaluation. In 2014, the BluegrassPerformance Invitational in Frankfort, Kentucky, was established as a place to sell performance tested goats, including the top-performing bucks from the Maryland test. This year's sale is September 1-2, 2017.

Now, the goat test era is over (in  Maryland). Goat producers will be encouraged and assisted in their move to the next step in performance testing: within and across-herd EBVs.  EBV stands for estimated breeding value and is a measure of genetic merit, The data is far more accurate (repeatable) than the data from buck tests.

A sheep research program will be initiated at the Western Maryland Research & Education next spring (2018). The pastures are being re-established and new infrastructure is being put in, as the hoop house that was installed several years ago was completely destroyed this past winter.

Internal parasites (GI worms) will likely continue to be the focus of the research program, as it is a logical follow-up to the goat test and parasites remain a major obstacle to profitable small ruminant production. We also plan to plant different forages for grazing.

A few bucks from the 2012 test

I’d like to express appreciation to my “Goat Team”: Jeff Semler, David Gordon, Pam Thomas, and Mary Beth Bennett. Others who played key roles include E. Nelson Escobar, Niki Whitley, Willie Lantz, Chris Anderson, Jeanne Deitz-Band, Lexie Simmons, and Amy Garza.

Dr. Dahlia O’Brien at Virginia State University (previously at Delaware State University) was instrumental to the success of the test, as she performed all the fecal egg analyses.

Thanks to the Maryland Grain Producers Utilization Board for providing funding for the pen vs. pasture studies.

Thanks to everyone who supported the goat test over the years, including all the consigners and buyers of bucks.

Susan Schoenian
Sheep & Goat Specialist
University of Maryland Extension

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Share Your Opinion

The USDA National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS) is conducting needs-assessment surveys for its upcoming Goat 2019 study of the goat industry.  To help NAHMS craft the most informative study possible and obtain data that will be most beneficial to the goat industry.  The survey should take 10 minutes or less to complete.

NAHMS Goat 2019 Needs Assessment:

The survey asks what you consider to be the most important health issues facing the U.S. goat industry.  It also asks you to help identify the information that is needed regarding health-management practices used in the U.S. goat industry sectors.  The survey will be available through September 8, 2017.

The goat study will initiate data collection in 2019. This will be the second NAHMS study of the goat industry. The data from the study will be reported only in summary form; individual responses will be confidential.  Results from the preliminary survey linked above will help determine the priorities and objectives for the goat study.

Additional information about NAHMS, including reports from prior goat studies, is available at

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Subscribe to WORMINFO listserv

A listserv is an application that distributes messages to subscribers on an electronic mailing list.

WORMINFO is a new listserv for the American Consortium for Small Ruminant Parasite Control (ACSRPC). Subscribers will receive an email when something new has been posted to the consortium's web site: or  The listserv may also be used to distribute general information about internal parasite control in small ruminants.

To subscribe to the listserv, send an email message to

In the body of the message, write subscribe WORMINFO

To unsubscribe, send an email message to the same email address, but instead, write unsubscribe or signoff WORMINFO.

The WORMINFO listserv is intended for one-way communication. Subscribers should not respond to messages received from the listserv administrator.

The American Consortium for Small Ruminant Parasite Control (ACSRPC) is a group of veterinarians, scientists, and extension specialists dedicated to developing novel method of parasite control. It was organized almost 15 years ago in response to emerging dewormer resistance.

The University of Maryland Small Ruminant Extension Program maintains several other listservs:  Wild & Woolly Newsletter, Shepherd's Notebook blog, Meat Goat Test blog, and sheep and goat webinars. Go to to learn more.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Kiko Performance Invitational (KPI)

The Western Maryland Pasture-Based Meat Goat Performance Test would like to offer a new program to consigners, called the Kiko Performance Initiative (KPI). The purpose of KPI is to get a core group of Kiko breeders to enroll in NSIP/KidPlan to get the meat goat industry started in quantitative genetic evaluation and establish the Kiko breed as the leader in this regard.

I (Susan Schoenian) would like to offer the program to previous consigners to the Maryland test, as well as those who have purchased top-performing bucks, as it is you who have already demonstrated a commitment to performance evaluation.

In order to enroll in KPI (NSIP/KidPlan), you should have at least 30 does. Herds should be purebred or high percentage Kiko (or other breed). Producers who raise crossbred animals can "participate" by purchasing breeding stock from NSIP-enrolled herds.  Participation is possible with smaller herds, with sufficiently high kidding percentages (see table).

# does
% kid crop
# kids
Buck A
Buck B

Kidding percentage is the number of kids sold (or retained) divided by the number of does exposed for breeding. There is a basic need of 15 kids per contemporary group (per sire). Twenty (20) is preferred. A contemporary group is a group of kids, with similar birth dates (range) that have been managed the same.

Breeding strategies
Producers should use at least two bucks for breeding. NSIP/KidPlan works best if participating herds "share" genetics, meaning the same buck (or his semen) is used in different herds, ideally with different production practices and different climates. Using sons of the same sire for breeding will also create some genetic linkages, though not as close.

Genetic linkages are necessary to get across-herd EBVs. Across-herd EBVs allow comparison of animals on different farms. Without genetic linkages, EBVs can still be calculated for use in within-herd comparisons.

It is important to understand that EBVs are about the differences in performance not the absolute values. If a buck has a heavy weaning weight, it doesn't mean he'll have a high EBV for weaning weight. His heavy weaning weight could be the result of favorable environmental conditions (e.g. mature dam, single birth, creep-fed). EBVs "tease out" the environmental effects to get genetic predictions of performance.

The data required for NSIP/KidPlan is data most producers are already collecting. The data collected on the farm is entered into a program (online) called Pedigree Master. Australia's KidPlan calculates the EBVs. My goal is to find, adapt, or develop an app that will make data recording easier and allow automatic upload to NSIP/KidPlan. Electronic ID (EID, RFID) would also facilitate data recording. In the meantime, I (Susan) am willing to enter the data into Pedigree Master and serve as the coordinator for KPI.

 Required data  Optional data
 Sire and dam
 Date of birth
 Birth weight*
 Type of birth and rearing
 Weaning weight
 Post-weaning weight
 Fecal egg counts
 Scrotal circumference
 Carcass data
 Other weights
*  can use standard birth weight

Obviously, there are costs associated with NSIP/KidPlan.  There is an annual enrollment fee:  $100 plus a per doe charge of  $2.50. The first year enrollment fee is waived. It is also waived for youth (younger than 22, up to 3 years). The database fee is dependent upon the number of kids entered. It is $3 per kid. Up to 25% of the kid crop can be designated as commercial or cull, in which case no data base fees are charged. Database fees cover the lifetime of the animal. Entering historical data (recommended) will increase first year cost; however, only the two most recent kid crops are billable.

Annual enrollment fees
Database fee
Per female
Per kid
First year

The maximum annual enrollment fee is $400. There is a cost of $25 for each additional herd. The cost of participating in NSIP/KidPlan is less than the cost of participating in buck tests. And the data is more meaningful. Let me know if KPI interests you.   Or call me.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

EBVs: The Next Step

For the past 11 years, the Western Maryland Pasture-Based Meat Goat Performance Test has evaluated meat goat bucklings, mostly Kiko and Kiko crosses, for growth (on pasture), parasite resistance (fecal egg counts), parasite resilience, and various other traits. Buck tests are a good start to genetic improvement, but it is time for the meat goat industry to move onto EBVs.

EBV stands for estimated breeding value. An EBV is an estimate of an animal’s genetic merit for a specific trait. EBVs can be calculated for any trait that can be measured, including number of kids born, number of kids weaned, weaning weight, post-weaning weight, loin depth, and parasite resistance.  Indexes are often created to aid in selection decisions. They can be tailored to specific breeds or goals. For those familiar with EPDs (for cattle), an EPD is half the numeric value of an EBV.

EBVs can measure maternal traits: buck tests cannot.

EBVs are far more accurate than the (raw) data collected in a buck test because they factor in data from an animal’s relatives (sire, dam, siblings, even distant cousins), as well as other traits. In the calculation of EBVs, genetic correlations and heritabilities are also considered. Because the performance of crossbred animals is influenced by hybrid vigor (heterosis),  EBVs can only be calculated for purebreds or animals containing a high percentage of a single breed. This may eventually change. It is in cattle. To be truthful, it was not fair to compare the performance of purebred bucks in the Maryland test with crossbred bucks.

Other countries and animal industries have been using EBVs for many years, with well-documented successes.The National Sheep Improvement Program (NSIP) calculates EBVs for sheep and meat goat producers in the US. Data is processed by Sheep Genetics of Australia, which has both a LambPlan and KidPlan.