Make Recordkeeping Work For You
Maxine Kinne

 

Successful goatkeepers keep and use records. Basic records note routine treatments, vaccinations, deworming and other periodic management factors. Extensive records can cover much more than the basics and allow you to see your individuals and your whole herd in an entirely fresh perspective. Over time, your records, and the statistics you develop from them, will show just how well or how poorly specific individuals, families and the total herd perform in as many ways as you want can think to look for.

When you keep records, you look closely at many details. These finer points are a wealth of meaningful information about your herd. Paper and pencils were invented so you could trust the truly important things to memory, like birthdays. Get in the habit of writing down everything else. Now is a good time to start.

When we bought our first goats in the late 1970's, I bought a notebook and pencil for the barn and used it every single day. Often, I didnít know why I recorded information, but I thought it might someday be useful. It has been a treasure trove! Many management decisions - breeding, culling, treatment, and others - depended on information I carefully collected every day. It took a minute or two each day to build this historical chronology. Easy as pie and worth a Kingís ransom. You canít replace the wealth of historical knowledge about your animals without a written record.

Our first doe was ill for a while, and I still have her health chart with the medications, amounts used, dietary changes, twice-daily body temperatures, and her response to each treatment. Every goat from our first to our newest has a health chart. I referred to these when treating others, even 20 years later.

Included here on separate pages (links below) are many of the forms I designed to track and compare individuals and monitor individual and herd performance. The data comes from barn notebooks, the master information source. I liked transcribing the barn records into looseleaf (house) notebooks at the kitchen table instead of entering it into the computer. Notebooks are easy to flip through - everything's there at your fingertips. My forms are color coded to find subjects easily. I have three house notebooks (and one for registration papers that contain the following sections and forms:

Health/Medical records sections: individual treatment records on bucks, does, wethers, sale records, name ideas, growth measurements

Reproduction records: heat cycles, gestation measurements, kidding time of day, kidding time of day listed by parity number, parity & gestation length & litter size and litter genders, annual production averages, kiddings by month, doe lifetime production totals, breeding records for each buck, and detailed individual kidding chart for each doe.

Pedigrees: more detailed form than registration papers. I had a 4-generation pedigree for each buck and for each doe. The sire's side was always on the top half of the page, and the dam's half was always on the bottom half of the page. Put a top (sire) half and a bottom (dam) half together, and you can see the pedigree of the litter to decide whether or not to make that cross.

If you use a computer to store any of this type of information, print new copies of everything, develop a filing or notebook system, file everything as it's printed, back-up computer files often, and store the back-ups in a safe place. I much preferred entering information by hand, as it made me think about it a lot more intensively as I worked. 

In my notebook system, typing and notebook paper didnít last very long. I ended up using card/index stock, which comes in many colors at computer supply stores. Each kind of form is color coded - blue for bucks, pink for does, et cetera. A colorful, easy-to-navigate record system is easy to put together and use.

Aside from the barn notebook and medical records, many other categories can be created as needed. As I pored over my information, I occasionally created new categories to look at information in a different ways. The following hypothetical examples show what you might look for. Remember that your statistics apply only to your herd. Herds down the block, across town or in other states have their own statistics that may greatly differ from yours.
 

 
Comparing Traits
 
Rump Length List does from longest to shortest. Kidding ease declines as rumps get shorter. Measure rump length at breeding and mature ages.
Cannon Bone Length Cannon length correlates with fertility and longevity. Measure adults.
Growth Rates

Do certain animals mature or breed earlier or later than others?  Does it run in families? Which parents or other ancestors transmit these traits?
 

Gestation Measurements After keeping these records for some years, I was able to link some cases of dystocia with early pregnancy weight/size gain. I also figured out when I could predict a triplet litter instead of a single or twins.
 
Gestation Length Do your sires influence longer or shorter gestation length? Do longer gestations or specific sires cause larger or heavier birth weight kids and/or dystocia? Do outcrosses and linebreeding produce the same results in your herd?
Faults & Metabolic Illness

Do certain faults occur in certain bloodlines? Does a certain sire produce more faults? Do certain sires or bloodlines produce more health problems in their offspring, like urinary calculi?
 

 
You wonít know any of this unless you keep records for a while and review them from time to time. And you wonít have any records or use until you write it all down.

NPGAís Health, Education & Research Committee is looking into a statistical program called Estimated Progeny Differences (EPDs). [This was in 1996 when I headed the committee. I learned in early 2004 that a Boer goat association partnered with a Texas university with a grant from a national small ruminant association to begin an EPD program for meat goats. I forwarded the information to NPGA and hope Pygmy goats can be included in this statistical genetic evaluation program.] EPDs do not apply to shows - they strictly pertain to productive and reproductive qualities. Show ring qualities are highly subjective to personal opinion - genetic records are not.

These genetic evaluation programs are already used by other livestock organizations to identify genetically superior producing animals. Trait leaders are more genetically valuable because they have been proven, through official records, to transmit any of a number of desirable qualities a certain percentage of the time. For instance, the highest ranked sire might produce small birth weight offspring 95% of the time. Sires that produce fewer rank below him in decreasing order. With such records available, you can use the good sire to lower birth weights and reduce dystocia. When a sire produces the good trait(s) in many herds, his percentile ranking is even more desirable, as it proves his good transmitting ability. Genetic quality in his family line can be proven through his own records and those of his sons, grandsons, and so on. EPD programs also identify animals that reproduce bad traits so they can be eliminated from the gene pool. EPD records are calculated annually, giving more accurate up-to-date information as statistical numbers grow. Herds can be improved using EPDs in many criteria other than birth weight - for instance, growth rates, milk production (via growth rates), litter size (does), kidding ease (does & bucks), gestation length, longevity, and many other categories.

The real beauty in an EPD program is that everyone is eligible to participate. You do not have to show. All you have to do is keep accurate records. This means that John Q. Goatowner in Timbuktu has just as much chance as a top show herd of generating trait leaders in any category. In fact, he may score higher in many categories.

Even if you have no interest in genetic improvement (i.e., EPDs, which may or may not be developed for NPGA in the future), you can keep records to see where your goats have been and where you want them to go. Anybody can do it. If you want to improve your goats, you will ask questions and make decisions based on your records. I guarantee that you will be surprised.

 

Record Forms

Related Reading

Barn Notebook
Health/Medical
Herd Composition
Sales Record
Heat Cycles
Gestation Measurements
Kidding Chart
Measurement & Growth Charts
Sire's Service Record

Parity & Time of Delivery
Semen Inventory
Nitrogen Tank Level

 

 


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