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management practices. To encourage the expression of genetic potential of Goats Un- limited Kikos, we use older goats to land clean and brush reduce areas. Nutrition plays a major role in the goats ability to produce in a stressful environment. Since we expect our does to kid in the brush (in Goat Rancher Magazine, January 2020) and raise/wean twins, our vegetation is managed so that the pregnant does have the high quality feed during the last trimester of pregnancy.


They are set-stocked at kidding on good feed (vegetation) and when the kids are 17-21 days of age (they begin ruminating), the mob is moved onto high quality feed for the kids. We go into areas with lots of young leaves and buds (blackberries, young forbs, budding shrubs, thistle), or into areas of previously cleaned woodlands now supporting young, lush regrowth.


At weaning, the kids now are managed on the highest quality vegetation available. Should nutrition be lacking, protein is supplied by supplementing with cull beans (cowpeas, blackeyes, limas) and energy is supplemented by feeding whole corn (barley, milo). Min- imal amounts are fed as it is the rumen microflora that we need to keep stimulated and colonized. Then, cellulose and lignin (main components of forbs, dry grass, branches) can be more easily digested and utilized. A mineral mix, based upon vegetative analysis and soil samples is balanced, chelated, and offered free choice. Mineral nutrition (with sea kelp offered free choice) stimulates the immune system decreasing internal parasite loads, footrot, re- tained placentas, milk fever, grass tetany, fescue toxicity, minimizes flux in body temperature during humid summers and helps maintain body condition scores.


During adverse weather conditions, the goats are rotated into areas with lots of mature trees, downed timber, and rock outcroppings that offer natural protection from wind and rain. If inclement weather persists, then portable shelters are provided as the severity can affect reproduction and growth rate.


The goats are segregated into various groups according to sex


and age. They are easier to monitor for body condition score, social status interactions are less pronounced, health maintenance programs are easier to administer, and the potential for genetic expression in- creased.


It is less stressful on all involved (man, livestock and land) to work in harmony with mother nature. I will save a discussion on ho- listic resource management (HRM) for another article. Goats Un- limited firmly believers in and practices HRM. Environmental adaptation is only one of the many facets of production.


Reproduction


Reproduction is a trait closely related to income. We want to give the Goats Unlimited Kiko does and doelings all possible chances of breeding and rebreeding. To maximize kidding rate and optimize profit, our breeding season for doelings and does is 36 days. I select replacement individuals that fit into this schedule as it makes feed (native vegetation) management easier, the kids are more uniform at birth and there are fewer light weight kids. The doelings must be more than 85% of their mature body weight and between 16 to 18 months of age before they are bred (bred to kid at 2 years of age). Breeding the doelings older gives them a chance to develop more bone growth (structural integrity) and will decrease chances of dystocia. Under our native vegetation management scheme, we ex- pect the females to kid a minimum of 3 times in two years (hot/dry climate) vs. annually (hot/humid climate). To meet these criteria, nu- trition plays a vital role. We have to be sure that their energy require- ments are met as energy is the major nutrient needed at this time.


Without the correct energy balance, physiological priorities begin to change and reproduction is compromised. The amount of nutrition needed depends upon body size, body weight, milk production and activity level.


Body condition score (BCS) is monitored before breeding, be- fore kidding and at weaning. The higher the score (1 – emaciated through 9 – obese), the sooner the does will recycle and the breeding season will be shortened. We like our does to be in a BCS of 6 before breeding. The kids will have a higher birth weight and gain weight faster after parturition. Because we kid in the brush, it is important that our kids are born strong, aggressive and double their birth weight in 14 days.


As the kids reach 7 to 8 weeks of age, the BCS of the doe will begin dropping to 5. Our kids are weaned at 12 weeks of age and the BCS on the does is 4 to 5. If the does drop below a 4 (cull), as it takes both energy and protein supplementation along with high qual- ity forage to get them back to a 6. It takes about 3 to 4 months and that means losing out on a breeding season, depending on the breed- ing schedule. If this happens continuously over a period of three breeding seasons, then the birth weight and growth rate of the kids are greatly compromised. Therefore, maintain body condition as it saves money over the long haul. Reproduction is also affected by the readiness of the bucks to


breed. The does can be ‘flushed’ and ready to be bred. If the bucks have not been hot synchronized (minimum of three weeks before breeding), then it will lengthen the breeding season, or, there will be fewer does bred. Reproduction efficiency increases ease of kidding management. If the bucks and does are ready to breed, about 80% of the does will kid during the first 21 day heat cycle and the other 20% kidding in less than 15 days. We begin checking heat 3 weeks before we want to put the bucks out. It is important to know what does are ovulating and how many.


Growth Rate Growth rate of the kids and weanoffs is a very important selec-


tion criterion. We weigh the kids at birth, at weaning (3 months), 8 months and again at 12-15 months of age. Birth weight is affected by nutrition the last trimester as 80% of the fetal growth takes place at this time. The weaning weight is a measure of the dam’s ability to mother and produce milk. At 8 months, the young goat has survived the initial weaning stress, foraging for itself, and re-structuring of its’ social acceptance within a mob. It is a better indication of an indi- vidual’s potential.


The 12-15 month weight gives you a good indication of mature weight as this weight is approximately 80% to 85% of the mature weight of a Goats Unlimited Kiko. This weight is also a good indi- cation of genetic expression. We are cautious not to select replace- ment stock from the extreme range of birth weight, weaning weight and weight gain post-weaning (always selecting those individuals just above the average). Our goal is to have a moderately sized goat that grows rapidly carrying a high percentage of lean red meat but is not an expense to feed. We have been selecting for growth rate as our niche market de- mands a young (6 to 7 month old) 75 pound liveweight goat. All of that weight gain comes from foraging unless weather conditions are severe and supplementation is needed to maintain basal metabolism or body condition. Our Goats Unlimited Kiko herdsires have increased our rate of gain weight, from weaning to 7 months of age, by 25 pounds. Selecting for growth rate is a long term genetic process. There has been a lot written over the years on both the pros and cons of linear measurements, which measurements to use, how


May 2020 | Goat Rancher 35


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