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May 2007

Release Date: May 7, 2007

ASU Agriculture Department Puts Meat Goats to the Test

Human beings are not the only species that have to pass tests to make a better life for themselves.

More than 100 young meat goat bucks from throughout Texas will be delivered to Angelo State University’s Management, Instruction and Research (MIR) Center in mid May to begin one of the most important tests of their young lives, the 12th annual ASU Meat Goat Performance Test.

According to Dr. Mike Salisbury, ASU associate professor of animal science and leader of the testing team, the main focus of the program is to chart the rate of gain in each of the bucks during the 84-day testing period. How a goat performs at the test could actually save him from slaughter.

“A bad performance tells the producer to go back and reevaluate his genetics,” Salisbury said. “If he brings in five goats with the same sire and all of them perform poorly, that tells him that the sire he is using is probably not performing very well. If his entries come from does that are all kin and are not performing well, then he should probably reevaluate his breeding program to adjust and try to improve the performance there.”

“On the other hand, if he brings a buck in that is performing very well, instead of selling it, he may take that goat home and use it as a sire for the next breeding season to improve his flocks.”

The Angelo State test is the longest running such program for goats in the U.S. It was started in 1995 by Dr. Brian May, ASU associate professor of animal science, and a group of area producers shortly after the introduction of Boer goats to the U.S.

“We decided to do the test in order to determine the genetic potential of a new breed in goats,” May said. “Performance tests of young males are common in sheep, swine and cattle. We copied the format used in other performance bull and ram tests.”

Since then, the program has grown from about 75 entries to an average of 110 to 115 a year, with goats coming from as far away as California. The 2006 test group was one of the largest with 155 entries. But, Salisbury said they are now less likely to see much more of an increase or to get entries from outside Texas as more performance tests are cropping up in other states, including Oklahoma, Louisiana, Colorado and North Carolina.

The buck kids for each year’s ASU test must be born in the first three months of that year and producers benefit by being able to compare their goats to those of other producers from around the state in a highly controlled setting.

“We bring in goats, intact males that are hopefully being selected to be superior sires to where they will be the dads of the next generation,” Salisbury said. “We take them from their environment to a central location where we can remove feed differences, location and elevation differences based on where they were born, plus heat and environmental differences.”

“We put them all in the same health program and provide them nutrition where it meets all their body’s needs for growth,” he added. “That way, it allows us to remove all those environmental factors and control as many of those as possible so that the true differences are genetic.”

Another benefit to producers is the potential for points toward gaining ennoblement status for their sires.

“If you have a sire or buck that is considered ennobled, his offspring and he have done quite well both showing and in performance tests,” Salisbury said. “So, it’s kind of a way of marking what the American Boer Goat Association considers superior sires. We provide the points and how well our entries rank to the ABGA for that purpose.”

Delivery of bucks for this year’s test is set for May 24-25 at the ASU MIR Center, 7945 Grape Creek Road. The testing period runs from June 8 to August 31 and is conducted by Salisbury, ASU agriculture graduate students and Todd Schafer, MIR Center ranch manager.

“I feel that this performance test has proven that the Boer goat is a superior meat animal,” May said. It has also served to help goat producers to select for better genetics and that should result in more profitability.”

“It always finishes that week prior to the Labor Day weekend because there are probably 50 goat sales around the state of Texas on that weekend,” Salisbury said. “The producers like to get their goats back before all those sales begin.”

How each goat performs during the test could very well determine whether he ends up on stud duty or on the dinner table.