Friday, November 9, 2007

Proposed changes for 2008 test

Plans are already underway for the 2008 Western Maryland Pasture-Based Meat Goat Performance Test. Here are some proposed changes to the 2008 test:

1) Add a carcass component to the test
Harvest two goats from each consignment of five. Consignors could identify the two goats at the end of the testing period. This would allow us to compare the carcass merit of different goats and herd sires, to evaluate the accuracy of ultrasound scanning in goats (and different breeds of goats), and to examine the correlation between ribeye area and total carcass muscling.

bucks grazing pearl millet 2) Improve evaluation of parasite resistance
Parasite resistance is the ability of the animal to resist infection with parasitic worms. It is measured by fecal egg counts: eggs per gram of feces as determined by the modified McMaster procedure. It is a moderately heritable trait.

Starting in 2008, we plan to collect fecal samples every 14 days until a goat needs dewormed. For most of the goats this should allow five collections at day 0, 14, 28, 42, and 56. Having additional data points will improve the repeatability of the data, as a single egg count is not very meaningful.

We also plan to have a pooled sample of feces evaluated each time we collect samples to determine the species of worms that are challenging the goats at the different time periods. Stomach worm species (strongyle-type) cannot be identified simply by looking at the eggs. The eggs need to hatched into larvae for accurate identification.

3) Start and finish the test approximately one month earlier
This will still enable most producers to participate, though goats should still be at least 3 months old when the test starts. By starting the test earlier, we will be able to take advantage of the lush spring growth of pasture and be able to finish the test before the goats get into serious rutt. The proposed new testing period would run from second Saturday in May until early September.

goats standing on rocks

The other change related to the pasture system will be the inclusion of 2 acres of pearl millet in the 10-acre pasture system. In 2007, the field of pearl millet was located outside of the 10 acre system, which created some logistical problems. In 2008, the pasture system would consist of 2 acres each of pearl millet and chicory, with the remaining paddocks composed of orchardgrass and MaxQ™ tall fescue.

4) Have a field day on the day the goats are to be picked up
The field day would include an educational program, in hopes of attracting a large audience to the test site. In conjunction with the field day, we could hold a board sale (silent auction) to sell some of the bucks. An invitational doe sale (consigners only) is also a possibility.

Please let us know what you think about these proposed changes by contacting Susan, Jeff, Jeanne or another member of the test committee. Scroll down the blog to see the list of contacts (on the left hand panel).