Thursday, June 9, 2011

80 bucks accepted for ’11 test

Eighty bucklings of various breeds and breed crosses were delivered to the test site of the 2011 Western Maryland Pasture-Based Meat Goat Performance Test on June 1-4. It is the 6th year of the test and the most bucks ever put on test. An additional 11 bucks were brought for pen-feeding and carcass evaluation.

The goats were worked on June 3 and 4 by Susan Schoenian, Jeff Semler, David Gordon, Dr. Nelson Escobar, Dr. Dahlia O’Brien, Kevin Beaudoin and Kwame Matthews.  After standing in a foot bath of zinc sulfate for at least 10 minutes, the goats were weighed, and FAMACHA©, body condition, coat condition, and dag scores were determined.

Weighing goats on June 4
Kevin Beaudoin (L) and Dr. Dahlia O'Brien (R)

This year’s 80 test bucks ranged in weight from 29 to 69 lbs. and averaged 40.9 lbs. The 11 bucks for pen feeding ranged in weight from 31 to 51 lbs. and averaged 36.8 lbs.  Starting weights for the test will be determined on June 10. The first six days serve as an adjustment period for the goats, many of whom were in transport for more than 10 hours.

FAMACHA© scores for the test goats ranged from 1 to 5 and averaged 1.89. FAMACHA© scores for the pen feeding goats ranged from 1 to 5 and averaged 1.86. Only goats having FAMACHA© scores of 3 or greater were dewormed with moxidectin (Cydectin© sheep drench @ 2 ml/11 lbs.).

The goats ranged in body condition from 1.5 to 3 and averaged 2.1. In goats, body condition is rated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being emaciated, 3 being average, and 5 being fat. It is assessed by feeling the backbone, ribs, and loin of the goat. The individual body condition scores are not as important as the changes (in scores) from week to week. Loss of body condition can be an indication of worm infestation or other disease problems.

Coat condition scores ranged from 1.5 to 2.5 and averaged 2.1. A scale of 1 to 3 is used to assess coat condition.  Dag scores averaged 0, as few goats showed any signs of scouring.  A scale of 0 to 5 is used to assess scouring, with 0 meaning no evidence of scouring or fecal soiling. While scouring is very often an effect of diet, it can also be a sign of internal parasitism. The barber pole worm does not usually cause scouring, but other strongyle-type worms do.

Kiko buck from Kentucky

FAMACHA©, body condition, and dag scores are all subjective scores assessed to determine the need for individual deworming. Along with bottle jaw, they are part of South Africa’s Five Point Check©, a new decision-making tool for parasite control. Coat condition can also be an indication of the goat’s overall health and well-being and has been added to the Five Point Check©. To reduce the subjectivity of scores, scoring is almost always done by the same person.

Internal parasites
On  June 3-4, a pooled fecal sample was collected from random goats from  each consigner. The pooled sample has been sent to Dr. Ray Kaplan’s  lab at the University of Georgia, where it will be analyzed to determine which kinds of internal parasites  were present in the goats upon their arrival to the test site.

It  is easy to differentiate the eggs of roundworms from eggs of tapeworms or  coccidia oocytes, but not between the different species of roundworms (strongyle-type). The worm eggs must be hatched and the species are  identified from their larvae. A fecal egg count will also be calculated from the pooled sample.

On June 10, the goats  will be treated with anthelmintics from two different chemical classes:   moxidectin (Cydectin ®sheep drench @ 2 ml/11 lbs.) and levamisole  (Prohibit® sheep drench @ 3 ml/50 lbs.). In previous years, deworming with moxidectin and levamisole has reduced fecal  egg counts by 95% or more.

However, last year’s treatments with  moxidectin and albendazole (Valbazen®) only reduced incoming fecal egg  counts by 35 percent. This resulted in some early parasite problems,  including the loss of one parasitized goat that failed to respond to  treatment with anthelmintics from all three anthelmintic classes.

Savanna cross buck from Virginia

It  is assumed that the test goats have varying degrees of resistance to  the various anthelmintics. At same point, it may be necessary to treat  the incoming goats with three anthelmintics. Fecal egg counts on June 23  will provide a measure of the effectiveness of the June 10 dual  treatment.

Parasite challenge
In order to  compare the goats for parasite resistance and resilience, it is  essential that the goats start the test equally (relatively parasite-free). In past tests, the  goats were dewormed upon their arrival. This year, only the goats requiring  treatment were dewormed.

This has allowed the goats to  contaminate one of the 2-acre paddocks with worm larvae during the  adjustment period. In fact, this cool season grass paddock will be  managed to provide a continuous source of parasite infection.

In  order to compare the parasite resistance and resilience of the goats,  there must be a sufficient disease challenge. Last year’s extreme heat  and drought conditions did not allow for a good comparison. Most of the  goats never had high egg counts or required treatment with an  anthelmintic. Hopefully, this year’s test will receive enough moisture  to allow the parasites to thrive and challenge the goats.

Boer bucks from Maryland

Many of the paddocks were mowed a week or two before the goats were delivered to the test site. Rainfall was plentiful this spring, so there should be adequate moisture for re-growth. Dwarf pearl millet, a warm season annual, has been planted in a two acre paddock.

There is also a two acre paddock of chicory that will probably be renovated after this year’s test, due to high levels of thistle. One acre of pasture was left unmanaged, as the goats often favor uncultivated plant species. The balance of the pasture is cool season grasses:  orchardgrass and MaxQ™ tall fescue.

This year, the test will include an additional 2.5 acres of grazing land. The sixth paddock contains walnut trees and a younger stand of mixed hardwoods. The forages in this wooded pasture are cool season grasses.

Pen feeding
The pen-fed goats will be slowly introduced to a grain diet. They will always have access to hay. It shouldn’t take long for them to graze down the grass in their pen. The goats on-feed will be worked on the same schedule as the pasture test goats. The same data will be collected, though the pen feeding isn’t meant to provide a comparison of performance between the two feeding and management systems.

Pen for feeding goats

The purpose of pen feeding is to create a contemporary set of goats whose carcasses can be fairly compared. The goal is to compare the carcass yield and meat quality of goats fed grain (and hay) vs. those consuming a pasture-only diet.  The pasture test goats will not be fed anything additional unless drought conditions necessitate the feeding of nutritional tubs and/or dry hay.

Special thanks
Special thanks is extended to everyone who helped work the goats on June 3 and 4; to those consigners who provided extra goats for pen feeding and carcass evaluation; and to Jeff Semler and Dave Wyand for building the pen and shelter for pen feeding.

Download June 4 report