When Kinders are born and bred on our property, we become Kinder breeders. That project is exciting and endlessly interesting! Most of us keep in mind how breeding strategies can help us achieve our goals not only in our own herds but also on behalf of the Kinder breed as a whole. There is a place for different approaches at different times and even on the same farm.
Pygmy breeder Maxine Kinne reminds us of a vital point that holds regardless of the approach we choose, “A cardinal rule of selective breeding is that two goats with the same fault are never mated.” Instead, breed a goat that is weak in one area with another that is correct in that area. For instance, breed a doe with a weak chine to a buck with a level topline. Keep in mind a mental picture of the kind of Kinder you are breeding to achieve, adding animals to your herd that help you to achieve that goal.
As you work toward the herd you want to see, you have several options by way of breeding strategies and may well decide to utilize more than one strategy in your breeding program. What follows is a nontechnical discussion of these. In case you want to take a deeper dive into how genetics work, plunge into the list of helpful resources that follows this article.
Crossbreeding First Gens
Crossbreeding refers to mating goats from two different breeds, with each individual carefully selected with goals for the resulting offspring in mind. The Kinder gene pool is still small, which is why the work that a number of Kinder breeders are doing in breeding first generation kids is so important. Carefully chosen Pygmy bucks and Nubian does can lead to some very promising first generation kids that grow up to produce some very nice second generation kids. Yet there is still likely to be more variability among the kids who are born than there will be among Kinders that have been thoughtfully paired over several generations. Occasional lanky kids may hearken back to their Nubian parent or grandparent, for instance, while others inherit a smaller Pygmy-type udder with less capacity rather than their dam’s or grand dam’s capacious Nubian udder. That said, enlarging the Kinder gene pool is critical work done on behalf of the future success of the breed. Here you can find more information on breeding first generation kids.
Outcrossing is the term for breeding two animals (of the same breed) that do not share common ancestors for four or more generations back in their pedigrees. Because Kinders are a young breed, when we examine our Kinders’ pedigrees, we often find common ancestors, especially the farther back we look, because the gene pool was smaller. But for each generation we move backward, the amount of genetic material contributed by any one ancestor is halved. You, for example, have half your genetic material from each parent, 1/4 from each grandparent, 1/8 from each great grand parent, 1/16 from each great great grandparent, and so forth.
In an article originally published in Dairy Goat Journal, Alice Hall sums describes the outcomes of outcrossing:
If the breeder is working with heterozygous (relatively genetically diverse) parents, he might end up with any number of combinations in the kid. The results would be very unpredictable. This is what happens with outcrossing or cross-breeding. The kid would be a combination of all kinds of genes, only the dominant of which would show. The breeder would have no idea what recessive genes are masked in the genotype of the kid. A breeder can continue to keep the recessives masked and work with dominants as long as he continues to outcross, but he will continue to have unpredictable results unless he happens to hit on some lucky combinations of homozygous [relatively genetically similar] dominants.
Outcrossing, Maxine Kinne points out, works well when the dominant traits we see expressed in both parents are the desirable ones we are after. Outcrossing introduces more variability and less consistency but can be especially useful when linebreeding uncovers some undesirable recessive trait. For example, two very nice animals with straight hind legs are linebred and produce kids with cow hocks they do not grow out of. That is a breeding not to repeat because cow hocks are lurking in recessive genes of those parents. An outcrossing might mask that undesirable recessive trait. Outcrossing also aids in preventing or correcting inbreeding depression (a loss in vigor, fertility, or survivability) that can happen with linebreeding or inbreeding.
Haphazard outcrossing of a carefully developed line, on the other hand, can undo generations of progress; so it is important, when outcrossing, to ensure that the animals used for the outcrossing also exhibit most of the desirable traits breeders want to see in the offspring.
Linebreeding is key to bringing out desirable traits that tend to be recessive, like improved toplines and level rumps. The focus of linebreeding is to create a line of goats that has sufficient genetics in common to cement their desirable traits, so that these traits are more consistently reflected in offspring, generation after generation. In lines where this is skillfully done, we may recognize the line when we spot that goat we would love to add to our herd.
When they choose to linebreed, breeders may pair half siblings or cousins, aunt and nephew, uncle and niece, grandfather and granddaughter, or grandmother and grandson, with the clear understanding that promising offspring will be added to the Kinder world, while kids with faults, deformities, or health issues will be culled, as in destined for the freezer. Effective linebreeding depends on culling as a key strategy, with only its successes added to the Kinder gene pool.
Successful linebreeding is always based on an outstanding individual or individuals (not just average descendents of those outstanding individuals). As Maxine Kinne points out, “Linebreeding average animals is counterproductive, as you are certain to fix mediocrity firmly in your herd.”
Inbreeding is the most radical form of linebreeding. It can bring out recessive genes that are otherwise masked by the dominant ones that determine a goat’s physical appearance. Father/daughter, mother/son, or full siblings may be mated, but this should be done only with the understanding that inbreeding requires rigorous culling (meaning goats in the freezer). Breeder Alice Hall notes that the more successful close linebreedings are often those involving half siblings. The most risky are those involving full siblings.
Inbreeding is a daring experiment of sorts—recessive faults or even serious mutations or deformities may lurk as surely as desirable results do. On the other hand, remarkable individuals can also result, who leave their stamp on the breed. Whatever the results of the experiment, inbreeding reveals very useful information about what a physically outstanding individual really brings, good and/or bad, to the gene pool.
Strategies for Successful Linebreeding
Boar breeder Tom Boyer points out a number of ways that linebreeding efforts can go wrong (see his article referenced below). Here is an inverse of his list, indicating what you need to be willing to do in order to linebreed successfully:
- Have a firm grasp of the Kinder Breed Standard and the kind of animal you are aiming to produce (in the case of Kinders, think about both meat traits and good udders, milk production, length of lactations, overall hardiness, parasite resistance, easy of kidding, etc.).
- Keep detailed records that can help you make informed breeding decisions.
- Obtain superior does and especially outstanding sire(s), even if you have to travel or spend more up front to get them.
- Cull undesirable animals by stocking the freezer (and sell that reasonably nice doe you love if her daughter is better and you do not have room for both). (If you are selling animals, please make sure they go to good homes where they will be cared for properly.)
- Retain some of the very best kids for your breeding program rather than selling them all, so that you are improving your herd generation by generation.
Which breeding strategy you choose at any given point in your breeding program will depend on your goals in each instance, but Boyer notes that the trouble and expense you undertake to implement a successful linebreeding program can pay off richly in terms of the quality of your herd.
As you make breeding decisions, keep in mind what we know about dominant and recessive traits and those that are otherwise more or less heritable.
|Long ears||Short ears|
|Long hair||Short hair|
|Nervous behavior||Calm behavior|
|Normal reproductive system||Hermaphroditism (does)|
|Straight hocks||Cow hocks|
|More Heritable||Less Heritable|
|Steep rumps||Level rumps|
|Weak chine||Level topline|
|Short stature||Tall stature|
|Posty hind legs||Ideal hind legs|
Maxine Kinne has compiled a valuable chart on heritability percentages for a long list of traits at http://kinne.net/heritcht.htm.
For more information, especially on linebreeding and genetics, see resources below. We pair this general overview with two linebreeding Q&As and case studies, one with breeder Sue Huston and one with breeder Ashley Kennedy. We hope to follow up with another case study or two in our summer issue. There’s nothing like learning from the experience of others who are generous enough to share! Most important of all are the insights into how experienced and skillful breeders make breeding decisions.
- Boyer, Tom. “Linebreeding vs. Inbreeding” (http://www.chalkcreekboers.com/Linebreeding.html
- Getz, Will. “Genetic Improvement and Crossbreeding in Meat Goats
Lessons in Animal Breeding for Goats Bred and Raised for Meat” (http://www2.luresext.edu/goats/training/appendixI.html).
- Hall, Alice. “Linebreeding, Inbreeding… What’s the Difference?” (http://static1.1.sqspcdn.com/static/f/378878/26602312/1444759258933/Alice+Hall+Linebreeding.pdf). Published by Dairy Goat Journal Online; previously published in Dairy Goat Guide, also found in Fundamentals of Improved Dairy Goat Management.
- Kinne, Maxine. “Genetics 101: To B or Not to BB” (http://www.kinne.net/2bornotb.htm).
- —— “The Heritability Percentage of a Number of Traits” (http://kinne.net/heritcht.htm).
- —— “Selective Breeding for Herd Improvement” (http://kinne.net/matesys.htm).
- Shoenian, Susan. “Genetics 101” (https://www.slideshare.net/SusanSchoenian/genetics-101-16142943).
By Elizabeth Sweet