Choosing a buck for breeding your does can be a very challenging decision. When you’re working with great pedigrees, and know your does well, you often wrestle with the best genetic match. But, when you’re just starting out, the decision can be even more confusing.
Our Decision to Get Bucks
When we first got into goats, we told ourselves we would probably never own our own buck. The way we saw it, there were just too many drawbacks to keeping a buck on site for our small herd. But things change. Our herd grew, our overall goals solidified, and it was no longer reasonable to ship our girls out and pay for them to be bred elsewhere. We also wanted a stable breeding program with measurable results, and the ability to keep our herd as closed and as healthy as possible.
We were incredibly lucky to find two high quality, service ready bucks with great pedigrees and proven fertility – Old Mountain Farm Bold Elk and Dragonfly POS Princeton. They were both from highly reputable, clean tested herds. As the years progressed and we got a bit more focused on what we were aiming for with our breeding program, choosing a buck geared towards those goals became key.
Deciding to keep our own bucks was one of the best things we ever did for our herd. We are able to keep our biosecurity tight, and breed what we want when we want. The boys are also very charming for all of their stinkiness, and we genuinely enjoy them.
Choosing a Buck for Your Herd
Selecting a herd sire is a very weighty decision – a bad buck can negatively impact a herd’s genetics for several generations. Even with careful research and planning, issues can crop up unexpectedly.
There are a TON of bucks available out there. Most of them should not be bucks. Unfortunately there are a lot of fly-by-night breeders out there who don’t know or don’t care enough to select a good buck. Many don’t even get registered bucks or look at pedigrees.
Even if you’re a hobby breeder, it’s always in your best interest to get the best buck you can. Their offspring could be your next herd members, and most dairy confirmation and milk lines are key to your future generations. And when it comes to selling kids, knowing they have a good herd sire behind them is a great selling point
Things to Consider
The first question you need to ask yourself is “what am I breeding for”? The next question to ask yourself is “what do I need to improve in my does”? Do you need better feet and legs in your herd? More udder capacity for your dairy needs? Better confirmation for overall production longevity? Make a list of all of the strengths that are important to you.
A great tool for gauging conformation potential is to see if the buck you’re considering has a dam and sire with Linear Appraisal scores from ADGA. Looking through these scores can give you a good idea of the structural areas your potential buck may help bring to your herd. If you’re looking for great dairy production, look for DHIR milk testing records to see what kind of dairy quality he may bring to the table.
Do your research! Don’t jump at the first flashy buck you see. Look at the pedigree. Study photos. Ask to see the dam and her udder. Ask to see as many udders as you can that are in his pedigree, and possibly any daughters he’s produced. Make sure the farm you are purchasing from is knowledgeable about what the buck has to offer and what’s behind him.
As always, make sure you’re dealing with a breeder who can verify they have a clean, tested herd with a solid history of health and hardiness. Don’t commit to a final sale without seeing buck in person and verifying that he’s sound and as advertised.
Take Your Time
As I said, there are hundreds of bucks out there, and eventually you will be able to find exactly what you’re looking for. Decide on a budget and make sure it’s realistic for what you’re looking for. Don’t construct a dream buck with a stellar pedigree and think you’re going to get him for $100. Choosing the right buck is worth the investment.
ADGA is doing a lot to promote herd sire development as they recognize the contribution of a good buck within a breeding program. The right buck can make or break the future of your herd. While moonspots, blue eyes, polled, etc. may seem like exciting qualities to have in a buck, you need to look beyond that and at the future of your herd.