Finding Mr. Right: Picking the right buck for your herd
The incorporation of the right buck could quickly improve your herd’s production and genetic potential. With half of your herd’s genetics coming from your bucks, carefully selecting one that will improve your herd’s production and profitability seems like a no-brainer.
Ask yourself the following questions when you are considering a new buck:
- What goals do you want to achieve in the next two to five years?
Write down these goals. Will the incorporation of this buck and his genetics help you accomplish those goals?
- Does he have the traits you hope to have?
Take a good look at the buck’s conformation. If you want stronger feet or legs, does he carry those traits? Do his dam, granddam or sisters have good udder attachments?
- How much milk does his dam/granddam/etc. produce?
Having a buck that comes from a long line of productive animals can help guarantee that he will produce productive offspring.
- Does his dam milk at least your herd average?
This is instrumental to improving your herd. Think of it this way, if you breed with a buck whose dam doesn’t milk your herd average or higher, your herd average will likely go down.
- Do DHI tests back his genetics?
Having a dam that produced 8 pounds for one month is different than a dam that averaged 8 pounds for her entire lactation. An average for the entire lactation is much more valuable than a peak lactation average. You will not reach your production goals by adding a below-average buck.
- Is he fertile?
Not all intact bucks are fertile. If you are adding an older buck to your herd, check if he was a successful breeder the year before. If you are buying a young buck, make sure his scrotum looks correct and both testicles have dropped.
- If the buck is from your farm, how linebred is he?
If you retain a buck from your farm, make sure he can be bred to a large portion of your herd. Yes, having a buck that crosses well with your genetics is important, but a buck that is breeding all his half-sisters is not an ideal situation.
- If you’re purchasing a buck, do you trust the seller?
Because this buck can have a positive or negative impact on your herd’s future productivity, it’s important to establish good relationships with fellow goat breeders. If you buy a buck from another farmer, he or she should be able to give you good information on his lineage.Seek those who are willing to share information, answer your questions, and understand your goals.
One of the easiest ways to improve your current herd, and meet your production goals, is to incorporate the right buck with the best genetics. Consider these questions, and your answers to them, the next time you consider adding a new herd sire.
About the author: Sarah Adamson is the Vita Plus dairy goat specialist. She grew up in Milton, Wisconsin, on her family’s 250-head dairy goat farm. She attended the University of Wisconsin-Platteville and received her bachelor’s degree in animal science with an emphasis on dairy science. Adamson worked on the UW-Platteville dairy farm while in school and then as a lead herdsman for a dairy goat farm in northeast Wisconsin before joining Vita Plus in 2018.
Dairy Goat Performance