One of the main reasons we belong to the American Dairy Goat Association (ADGA) is the programs they offer in order to help improve all breeds of dairy goats, giving breeders the tools they need in order to work on improving their herds. One of these programs is Linear Appraisal.
What is Linear Appraisal?
Linear Appraisal is a program where an ADGA member can sign up to have a sanctioned appraiser come to their farm and asses each one of their goats individually. Each goat is given a score based on a variety of traits from mammary structure, to shoulder assembly and everything in between. Based on the scores from each area that is assessed, the appraiser gives the goat a final score which is then recorded with the ADGA.
How to Participate in Linear Appraisal
Applications to participate in Linear Appraisal are usually available in January on the ADGA website. Typically applications must be submitted to the ADGA by March 1st. Appraisals take place in the spring and summer, and your individual appraisal date will be mailed to you.
Your herd must have at least 22 registered goats in order to be eligible for the appraiser to come to your farm as an individual stop. The cost for the stop is $250, with additional charges to file the initial application, and a charge for each goat you want appraised. If you don’t have the required herd numbers, you can find a farm in your area that is hosting and transport your goats to that site on the day of appraisal. This is also a good way to reduce the cost as you can split the stop fee. Any doe that is part of your herd must be appraised if they have ever freshened. Young stock, bucks, and does over 8 years old with a permanent score in place, are all optional.
Preparing for Your Appraisal
Even though it is stated that goats do not have to be clipped to be appraised, it’s a lot easier for the appraiser to see your goat’s best qualities if they are clean and clipped. While you are prepping your goats, BE SURE TO CHECK ALL TATTTOOS! Check each tattoo very carefully to make sure all required tattoos are in place and match the goat’s registration. I can’t stress how important this is, or how often breeders loose out on having some of their best goats appraised because of missing or incorrect tattoos.
Be sure that you are ready on time for your scheduled appointment with the appraiser. If your appraisal is taking place at a host farm, be sure to be there early to set up. If you are hosting, be sure everyone is on time and ready to go. There are penalty charges if you cause the appraisal to start late.
Make sure you know the freshening date for each doe. Be prepared with questions for the appraiser regarding conformation. Do not ask questions regarding goat care or breeding. Take notes so that you can review what the appraiser has said once you have time to processes everything.
Trying to figure out the scoring system that ADGA uses can be very overwhelming. The very best resource I’ve found can be located at http://adga.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/LA_BOOKLET.pdf
The scoring is broken down into several categories.
13 Primary Linear Traits:
- Rump Angle
- Rump Width
- Rear Legs – Side View
- Fore Udder Attachment
- Rear Udder Height
- Rear Udder Arch
- Medial Suspensory Ligament
- Udder Depth
- Teat Placement – Rear View
- Teat Diameter
And one Secondary Linear Trait:
- Rear Udder, Side View
These traits are scored from 0-50. These numbers are used by the ADGA to help determine the average scoring of these traits from breed to breed each year, and go towards determining the heritability of different structural traits.
Following that, there are 8 structural and functional traits that are evaluated:
- Shoulder Assembly
- Legs Front
- Legs Rear
- Udder Texture
These traits are scores as Excellent (E), Very Good (V), Good Plus (+), Acceptable (A), Fair (F) or Poor (P). These categories are for the breeders benefit, primarily to recognize areas of strength and weaknesses that should be corrected through their breeding program
The final four categories are “the big four” and these will generally show up alongside the goat’s final score number. These four major overall categories are:
- General Appearance
- Dairy Character
These are also scored from Excellent (E) to Poor (P).
Once an appraiser has taken all of the components into consideration, they assign a final score to the goat. The final score number is factored by weighing those final four categories.
For Mature Does:
General Appearance 35%
Dairy Strength 20%
Body Capacity 10%
For Bucks and Young Stock:
General Appearance 55%
Dairy Strength 30%
Body Capacity 15%
The highest scoring Nigerian Dwarf Doe received a final score of 93. Most breeders aspire for high 80’s or low 90’s for their best stock. When a goat reaches 5 years old their score becomes permanent, and they are not required to be included in another herd appraisal.
Just remember in the end that scores can change year to year, and don’t rush to sell off your goats based on one appraisers evaluation. Use the appraisal as a tool for fine-tuning your breeding program. Above all, learn as much as possible, and try to have fun!