Wednesday, November 12, 2014

2015 Test Schedule

Several changes will be implemented for the 2015 Western Maryland Pasture-Based Meat Goat Performance Test. The purpose of the changes is to get better growth rates (ADG) and produce bigger (heavier) bucks by the end of the test, while still being able to effectively evaluate the bucks for parasite resistance and resilience.

The test will start and end later. Bucks must be delivered to the test site on Friday, June 26, from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. Bucks can be brought to the test site earlier (with prior approval), but cannot be brought after June 26.

The bucks will start the test on the warm season annuals.

Age requirements remain relatively the same. Eligible bucks must be born between January 1, 2015, and March 15, 2015. Since the goats will be almost a month older at the start of the test, the minimum starting weight has been increased to 40 lbs. Since goats will lose weight during transport, it is suggested that bucks weigh at least 45 lbs. on the farm, prior to transport (more if they are being transported from a far distance).

The later starting date will allow the goats to graze the "clean" warm season annual grasses and legumes upon arrival. The first six weeks of the test will serve as a "growth challenge." Upon arrival, the bucks will be sequentially dosed with dewormers from each anthelmintic class:  albendazole (Valbazen®), moxidectin (Cydectin®), and levamisole (Prohibit®). Last year's sequential deworming reduced fecal egg counts by 99 percent, after only six days, allowing the goats to start the test equally, with regards to parasites.

The goats will have a 13-day adjustment period. Starting weights will be recorded on July 9 and 10, after the reduction in fecal egg counts. Starting weights will be determined by averaging the weights recorded on July 9 and 10.The test will last for 84 days. Midway through the test, the goats will be switched to the cool season grass paddocks. These paddocks will have been grazed by infected sheep prior to the test.

The second part of the test will serve as the "parasite challenge." The bucks will be handled every 14 days to determine body weights, FAMACHA©, body condition, coat condition, dag, and fecal consistency scores. Fecal samples will be collected bi-weekly to determine individual fecal egg counts. Pooled fecal samples will be collected for larvae ID and diet composition.

The bucks will be supplemented with soybean hulls.

The test bucks will be supplemented with soybean hulls throughout the test. Supplementation will begin during the adjustment period and will be gradually increased until it reaches 0.75 lbs. per day or approximately 1.5 percent of  body weight.  Last year, soy hulls were fed during the second half of the test. Supplementation seemed to improve the body condition, health, and welfare of the goats. Fecal data had shown that the goats' diet was deficient in energy. Vegetative pasture growth is very high in moisture.

The last data will be collected on October 1. Final weights will be determined by averaging the weights recorded on October 1 and 2. The ten top-performing bucks will be recognized.  As in year's past, the primary performance criteria will be growth (ADG), parasite resistance (fecal egg counts), and parasite resilience (FAMACHA© scores and anthelmintic treatments). Various other criteria may factor into the selection of the ten top-performing bucks, such as WDA, ultrasound data, teat configuration, scrotal circumference, and structural correctness.

Tentative schedule for 2015 test
June 26 - deliver bucks to test site
July 9 - data collection (d-0)
July 9-10 - starting weights determined
July 23 - data collection (d-14)
August 6 - data collection (d-28)
August 20 - data collection (d-42)
September 3 - data collection (d-56)
September 17 - data collection (d-70)
October 1 - data collection (d-84)
October 1 & 2 - final weights determined

The nomination period for the 2015 test will be April 15 through June 1. there will be a $20 nomination fee for each buck. The total fee for testing a buck will be $120. Discounted fees will be offered to Maryland residents and consignors who consign five half-sibs (bucks with same sire) or whose herds are enrolled in the National Sheep Improvement Program (NSIP). NSIP calculates EBVs (estimated breeding values) for meat goats. The purpose of the second two discounts is to enhance the genetic evaluation of goats. A maximum of 80 goats will be accepted for the 2015 test.

2015 will be the 10th year of the Western Maryland Pasture-Based Meat Goat Performance Test. It is conducted at the University of Maryland's Western Maryland Research & Education Center in Keedysville. It is a program of University of Maryland Extension.

Please direct any questions about the 2015 test to Susan Schoenian at (301) 432-2767 x343 or

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Carcass Comparisons

If you're interested in carcass evaluation in goats, check out the carcass comparisons from the 2013 and 2014 pen vs. pasture studies. There are pictures and data from each goat.

2014 Pen-fed goats
2014 Pasture-raised goats
2013 Pen-fed goats

2013 Pasture-raised goats

Thanks to the consignors who have provided bucks for the pen vs. pasture studies (2011-2014).

Carcass from 2014 pen-fed goat

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Buck Test Survey Results

Twenty-seven people responded to the recent survey about the buck test. Thirteen (48%) consigned bucks to this year's test. Fourteen (52%) did not. Of those, five have consigned to previous tests and one consigned to this year's test, but had to withdraw. Nineteen (70%) plan to consign to the 2015 test. Eight (30%) are undecided.

The survey asked questions about proposed changes to next year's test. Two thirds (n=18) of respondents support starting the test one month later, in late June/early July. Only two were opposed. Seven were undecided. Seventy-four percent of respondents (n=18) agree with providing supplemental feed to the bucks throughout the test. Only four disagreed. Three were undecided.

There was no consensus as to what to do with the top-performing bucks after the test. Seventy-eight percent of respondents agree with the idea of selecting the 10 top-performing bucks, as opposed to labeling the top-performing bucks as Gold, Silver, or Bronze. Four disagreed. Two were undecided.

Seventy percent (n=19) of respondents agree with offering discounted fees to those who consign five bucks from the same sire (half-sibs). Almost half (n=13) support discounted fees for consignors who enroll their herds in the National Sheep Improvement Program (NSIP), a quantitative genetic evaluation program which calculates EBVs (estimated breeding values) for goats (and sheep).

Using a sliding bar, respondents were able to indicate the relative importance of the traits measured in the test. Respondents considered growth (ADG), parasite resistance (FECs), and parasite resilience (FAMACHA©) to be the most important traits measured in the test. On a scale of 0-100, the average values for these traits were 93, 91, and 86, respectively.

Many respondents provided comments at the end of the survey. Please call or e-mail Susan if you'd like to discuss your comments or concerns about next year's test:  (301) 432-2767 x343 or

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

2015 Goat Test Survey

As we think ahead to next year's test, we'd like to get input from all potential consignors. Several changes are being proposed for next year's test.

If you're considering consigning bucks to next year's test, please fill out the following survey.

Your input is appreciated and will be considered as next year's test is planned.

2015 will be the 10th anniversary of the buck test. We'd like to make it the best one yet.

Friday, October 3, 2014

NSIP Needs Your Opinions

NSIP is seeking your input.

We need your opinions. If you click on the following link, it will take you to the survey. The survey should take less than 10 or 12 minutes to complete. Your answers will not be reported individually nor associated with your personal identity in any way.

This survey is being conducted by the National Sheep Improvement Association (NSIP), a non-profit group led by industry volunteers, whose sole purpose is to improve the quality of sheep and goats in the U.S. As a result of the American Lamb Industry Roadmap Project, which concluded that a major barrier to growth and prosperity in the U.S. sheep industry is quality, NSIP is taking a fresh look at how it can better serve the U.S. sheep and goat producer.

As a way of thanking you for your participation in this important project, we will draw the names of 10 participants who complete the survey and provide their contact information at the end of the survey to win a $50 VISA gift card.

Please provide your input today and thank you very much for participating!

Questions can be directed to

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Mostly Barber Pole Worm

Three pooled fecal samples were collected during this year's test to determine the type of worms that were infecting the goats. For the first sample collected on May 30, at least one sample was collected from each consignment.  For samples collected on July 3 and July 31, samples were collected from random goats.

Haemonchus contortus, better known as the barber pole worm, is a blood-sucking parasite that attaches itself to the lining of the abomasum. It causes anemia, bottle jaw, and sometimes death. Haemonchus is the primary parasite affecting sheep and goats in warm, moist climates -- and this test! 

Trichostrongylus worms infect the  abomasum or small intestines. Teladorsagia (previously Ostertagia) or the medium brown stomach worm, is another abomasal worm. Trichostrongylus and Teladorsagia infections are usually secondary to barber pole worm infections and additive in effect. The primary symptoms are scours and weight loss.

It is not possible to differentiate strongyle-type worms at the egg stage. The eggs must be hatched, and the species is identified by examining the larvae. The larvae ID was done by Dr. Dahlia O'Brien's lab at Virginia State University.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Summary: 2014 Pen vs. Pasture Study

You can read a summary of this year's pen vs. pasture study at

The results were similar to last year, in which the pen goats performed better, were healthier, and produced superior carcasses. However, despite the results, the economics of pen feeding will vary by year and farm and be dependent upon many factors, including feed costs and market prices.

This year's pen-fed goats

This is the third year in which the Maryland Grain Producers Utilization Board funded the pen vs. pasture study. Their support of the University of Maryland's goat research and extension program is greatly appreciated.The goat test has also benefited from the funding received for the pen vs. pasture study.

For the past four years, the pen vs. pasture study has taken 10-15 spots in the buck test. As this was the last year of the study, there will be room for an additional 15 bucks in next year's test. For the past two, years, the test has not been able to accept all nominations.

Special thanks is extended to those consigners who provided bucks for the pen vs. pasture studies.

Summary of 2014 Pen vs. Pasture Study