We’ve all heard it a million times – your buck is the most important animal in your herd. The buck contributes 50% of the genes of every kid he sires and determines the overall pregnancy rate of the herd. Good breeding stock is fundamental to a quality goat breeding operation. By choosing the right buck, you can improve conformation and increase milk production, growth rates, and meat qualities in the kid crop. Improving these qualities will not only make the kids more valuable, but will equate to a healthier herd that saves you money on feed, vet bills, and replacement costs.
It is also important to choose the bucks you believe will improve the breed in general! In recent years, we’ve seen an enormous upsurge in the Kinder breeder’s desire to produce quality animals that excel on the homestead, in the milk room, and in the show ring. Many Kinders now have improved milk production and conformation over some of the original animals admitted into the registry. Yet, there are still large discrepancies in the quality between various lines and herds and their offspring – so where do you begin?
Choosing a breeding buck can be very challenging. Every spring brings a surplus of bucklings, many of which will be sold as potential herdsires. They are all darling little boys, but how do you decide which ones will help you meet your breeding goals?
First, make specific herd and breeding program goals. Write them down! When I sell a goat, I ask the buyer what they want in their herd and, more often than not, they don’t really know. They might know they want a hearty, medium-sized, dual-purpose goat but haven’t given more thought to what else is most important on their farm or homestead. Considering YOUR priorities prior to purchasing a herdsire is critical when it comes to your overall success as a breeder.
To determine what you want, ask yourself some questions –
Do you want your does to raise their own kids without requiring additional bottle feeding? If so, you may not want a buck from lines that produce quads and quints.
Do you live in an area where parasites are a serious issue? Goats and herds that are resistant and resilient to parasites should be high priority, as should be breeders who keep deworming records.
Do you expect your goats to travel and climb over large, rough areas to browse? Then potential breeding stock cannot afford to have poor quality feet and legs.
Will you be hand-milking? Teat and orifice size might be very important to you.
It is easy to want it all, but be realistic and choose two or three things that are most the most important starting points, to you. Once you decide what your primary goals are, take a long, hard look at your does. What do you love about them? What would you like to change? You want your buck and his parents to excel in the areas that you want to improve. Once again, try to pick just two or three important things you want to improve on now; you can always work on other things later.
Now that you have decided which qualities are most important in your new buck, you can begin your search. Begin by finding breeders whose priorities and management style closely resemble your own. A breeder that is successfully managing their herd in the way you do or plan to should have offspring that will thrive in a comparable environment and should easily transition into their new home with you.
Ask lots of questions. Good breeders will keep good records on milk quantities, growth rates, ease of kidding in various lines, results for disease testing, show records, deworming records etc. and will be happy to share them with you. Never hesitate to ask for documentation to back up a breeder’s claims.
After finding a breeder or two that you would like to work with, it is time to pick your buck! Here’s where things get difficult – ignore their colors! It is always fun to get a goat that is super-flashy or your favorite color, but try not to let those things “color” your decision – haha! Assess the bucks by conformation first, paying special attention to avoid weaknesses already in your herd or doe. If the buck has been evaluated, make sure that an area where your herd is weak is one of the buck’s strong points. For example, if it is a priority to improve legs, look for a buck with an Excellent or Very Good in the General Appearance category and high scores in the legs and feet sections.
By now, you should have your choices narrowed down to just a few boys. At this point, research the relatives of potential herdsires. Relatives should be goats that you would love to have in your own herd. Never buy a buck from poor quality parents in hopes that he will be an improvement over them! Your potential buck’s relatives should be well-balanced with good conformation and adhere closely to the breed standard. Do they have the qualities that you listed as top priorities? Are they strong in areas where your herd is weak?
Additionally, remember that the most expensive buck is not always the best buck, and the most well-known herds may not be the best fit for you. Know the direction you are going with your herd and wait for the right buck. As with your entire breeding program, planning, time, and patience pay off in the end when choosing a herdsire.
By Sue Beck