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By Donna Askew


SGA — Where do we go from here? Spanish Goats and DNA


Spanish goats have regained their place among the Meat Goat Breeds


of America. Since 2018, the Spanish Goat Association breeder membership has grown from 60 to 260 Verified and Certified breeders. The Spanish Goat Registry, the Spanish Goat Gathering and the support of the Goat Rancher magazine have all contributed. However, the greatest interest is reflected in the Spanish Goat Asso- ciation Facebook Group membership. Since 2016 the membership has grown from 265 to 1,900.


Also, the prices for Spanish goats have increased. In 2016 breeders were selling kids for $175 - $250 each, and now Certified Spanish breeders are getting up to $350 for kids. The Spanish Goat Gathering of 2019 brought from $400 - $800 for nannies and $500 - $1,800 for billies. The 2007 vision for the conservation of the Spanish goat breed is a reality in 2020, but most importantly, the goal of ensuring the economic vi- ability of the Spanish goat has also been realized.


As we all know, where there is growth there are growing pains. The Spanish Goat Association has always been a website of infor- mation, a Facebook page of com- munication, and an annual goat count. It is now time for the Spa- nish Goat Association to move into an official member association.


Nine Spanish breeders are working to create this transition for the benefit of the breed as well as the breeders. However, folks who have been on the website list for well over 12 years are facing some changes. We will now be charging dues and have membership guidelines and agreements as well as a managing board. We will be requiring the use of an SGA bill of sale and ear tags for verification and microchips for registration. This is quite the departure from the norm of Spanish goat buying and selling. The biggest change in the Spanish Goat Association is the choice to


DNA Register Spanish goats and the Certification of breeders. Breeders have always undergone a relaxed Verification process to be listed on our website and we call these breeders “Verified.”


When a breeder chooses to support the breed genetic marker study and submit 5 female and 1 male DNA samples from their herd, they par- ticipate in a more rigorous verification process to become a designated “Certified Breeder.” DNA Registration is not a requirement of membership nor does it guarantee the quality of a goat. It is being offered to those breeders who see the value of it. All our DNA Registration document photos will be visible on our website as well as a master list of our DNA Registered goats, their owners and breeders.


The formation of Spanish Goat Association as an official member as- sociation has been in the making for some time and we are on course and look for the completion of the legal paperwork by the end of this year. Thanks to the folks that are working hard on this process. For more infor- mation go to: www.spanishgoats.org.


(Donna Askew raises Spanish goats at Living Oak Farm in Abbeville, S.C., and is the administrator to the Spanish Goat Association, Registry and Gathering. She can be contacted at 828-329-5350 or visit livingoakfarm@gmail.com.)


registration ~ why now? By Donna Askew


Spanish goats have been on this continent for well over


500 years. They adapted and survived without much manage- ment from breeders for centuries. Ranchers, and homesteaders often captured the half-wild Spanish goats and domesticated them as meat, hide and milk suppliers. Large southwestern ranches and southeastern pine plantations have been using Spanish goats to manage lands for decades. Spanish goats have always been seen more as a herd than as individual goats. These are goats of dependable utility … rugged and strong to their core and consistently productive. The idea that these goats would ever be pampered or registered was laughable. However, it is 2020 and the livestock industry is growing by leaps and bounds. Goat meat is being bought at a premium and everyone wants in on the game. The push for the early maturing female and the fast-growing male is the prize. As we scroll through Facebook photos and posts, other breeds have this breed-up program and that percentage-program with ev- eryone commenting on size and how fast they got there. The purity of breed genetics seems to be lost in the push for early breeding and size. Pure genetics are necessary for seed stock to maintain a healthy and diverse population of meat goats that yield consistent results in production.


Three years ago, a private registry sought out Spanish breeders to register their stock with only a check and an ap- plication. Many Spanish breeders then asked if it was possible to start a Spanish-only registry to protect the purity of the breed. Therefore, the Spanish Goat Registry offers folks a choice as well as being an arm of the conservation and track- ing effort. In the meantime, we hopped onto the study for goat breed genetic markers — something time and many samples will bring. We created the Breeder Certification process to simplify


DNA registration for producers and to eliminate the need to register every goat. Submitting 5 female and 1 male samples from a breeder’s herd for a Breeder Certificate satisfies the need for papers and gives the buyer the confidence they are looking for. What is most common among the breeders who submit DNA on their Spanish goats is they are deeply con- cerned with keeping Spanish goats purebred, and the pop- ulation growing, as well as participate in the effort to bring the breed back into its rightful place in the meat goat industry. The greatest challenge we face as a growing breed asso- ciation and registry is to ensure that we educate buyers about the nature of Spanish goats, management practices for produc- tivity, and what constitutes a great Spanish goat that is worthy of registration. These goats thrive in stress-free hands-off en- vironments and will make any producer proud. The biggest concern is that folks will weaken the genetics of the Spanish breed by pampering them and registering goats that need to be culled. DNA Registration does not guarantee the quality of a goat nor does it mean that all registered goats are equal —


September 2020 | Goat Rancher 23


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