SPANISH GOATS Balancing conservation and profitability By Donna Askew The Livestock Conservancy (TLC) holds as

its mission “To protect endangered livestock and poultry breeds from extinction . . . these breeds were carefully selected and bred over time to de- velop traits that made them well-adapted to the local environment and they thrived under farming practices and cultural conditions that are very dif- ferent from those found in modern agriculture. The Livestock Conservancy does NOT police the term or certify breeders and producers at this point in time . . . Developing a marketplace for endangered breeds is a critical piece of conserving them for the future and central to the Conservancy’s mission.” — Taken from TLC website (livestockconser- Technically, TLC has not defined a “Heritage Goat.” However, the Spanish goat is listed on TLC “Heritage Breed Watch List.” The Spanish goat breed has been on the American continent for hundreds of years adapting and thriving with little to no input from producers. Livestock conservationists seek to ensure the genetics of species that have proven to be hardy and adaptive and show promise for sustained livestock production, yet not necessarily as commer- cially profitable as more domesticated breeds.

With proper management, future generations can reap the benefits of the Spanish goat’s hardy genetics. These goats are part of the Whitworth Ranch herd.

production of the Pure Spanish Goat Breed has been the goal. SGA strives to ensure that each prospective breeder understands the Spanish goat genetics and what makes them so diverse and treas- ured. Working to help them define their goals and identify their avail- able resources for Spanish goat production is measured against several factors before recommending a particular bloodline to raise or sell.

In the marketplace the goal of a meat goat producer is to de- velop a herd that can produce the greatest quantity of meat in the shortest amount of time for the most profit. Therefore, the drive to create faster growing, larger muscling and early maturing females is the focus in the selection criteria for meat goat production, regardless of the breed.

The challenge for the Spanish goat breeder is not only ensuring their goats are, in fact, verified pure Spanish goat genetics but also to balance the drive for success in the marketplace with conserving the treasured characteristics of mothering, adaption, hardiness and parasite tolerance.

The push for profit has resulted in unpredictable yields and a weakened herd hardiness across species. Once-hardy herds raised on forage have moved into pens and barns, standing around troughs and hay rings awaiting the marketplace.

Producers are equipped with vaccines, grain feeds, growth en- hancers and a multitude of drugs and medicines for the ever-chal- lenging task of raising healthy productive goats for quick profit. For most conservationist, the goal is to move as far away from these man- agement practices as possible to safeguard the genetic diversity of the Spanish goat and ensure its productive longevity for decades to come.

Identifying the balance between conservation and profitable production is something each Spanish goat producer establishes, based on their goals, available resources and commitment to conserv- ing the breed.

Since the inception of the Spanish Goat Association (SGA), en- rolling and developing a community of Spanish goat breeders ded- icated to seeking the balance between conservation and profitable

24 Goat Rancher | April 2021

Some bloodlines of Spanish goats are more suited to certain cli- mate conditions, resources and management styles than others. Most importantly, how generations of goats are managed by a producer greatly affects the genetics of the offspring and their ability to adapt. Matching management styles is crucial for success. Therefore, those breeders who want to both conserve the Spanish breed and have a profitable business will realistically examine their options rather than looking for the “biggest, earliest maturing and fastest growing” bloodline. Understanding the genetics and the effects of management and region on the success of a herd will result in success for the Spa- nish goat buyer.

Spanish Goat, LLC Partners and the SGA Breeder Advisory Board are available to support the efforts of all prospective breeders, regardless of their goals. Buyers of Spanish goats are not always con- cerned with purity of the genetics, conservation of the breed or DNA. However, it does not take long once a buyer experiences the man- agement ease of the pure Spanish goats.

Production success drives producers back to SGA for guidance

and the DNA Registration kits for their Spanish goat seedstock. They become a Certified Breeder of pure Spanish goats as well as an ad- vocate for the conservation of the breed.

For those of us who know the facts, safeguarding the genetics of the pure Spanish goat is as important as the profit they bring. With- out the pure genetics of the Spanish goat breed, ultimately, we will lose the ease of management and the potential for sustained profit.

(Donna Askew operates Living Oak Farm in Abbeville, S.C. She

is a Spanish Goat Conservationist,partner of Spanish Goat, LLC – Spanish Goat Association, Spanish Goat Registry, Spanish Goat Gathering and the Spanish Goat Roundup. She can be contacted at 828-329-5350 or

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