LOUISVILLE, Ohio – Jess Aller of Louisville gets incredibly excited when she talks about her goats. Until she met her husband, Doug, three years ago, they were the focus of her attention.
At 21, Aller has been breeding LaMancha goats for 11 years and her Celtic Knot herd prefix is already recognized in Ohio and among LaMancha breeders.
When she decides to go for her first national Spotlight Sale, she hopes to take her goats onto the national stage. Then, she said, the value of her herd will skyrocket.
“I’m not playing anymore,” Aller said of her breeding program.
Goats without ears. The LaMancha breed is apparently the result of genetic mutation from a type of short-eared goat, probably from Spain or possibly from Africa.
It was developed into a recognizable breed by a group of California goat breeders in the early 1950s.
While LaManchas now have definite confirmation standards, and are characterized as copious milkers with a good butterfat content to their milk, the most notable characteristic that defines the breed is the ears.
LaMancha goats have what is called a “gopher” ear, which looks like no ears at all because there is no visible ear flap.
“When I first saw one,” Aller said, “I thought they were ugly. I wondered why anyone would want one.”
But Aller had had a personality conflict with the first goat she had owned, a Nubian. She said it was “kind of bull headed.” In contrast, the LaManchas, often called monkey-faced and sometimes compared to E.T., have a wonderful personality, she said.
Line breeding. Aller’s goats come from the line of LaManchas bred by Edythe Jensen at Yazz LaManchas in Gilbert, Ariz.
Starting with a single doe and using a buck from Yazz, Aller started a program of line breeding that she still continues.
She still has her original doe, now retired, and has shown five of her daughters. Her prized doe right now is a granddaughter.
Aller’s mother, Sherry Hicklin of Carrollton, eventually bought that first buck, Thunder Road Tombstone, and at 9 years he is still going strong, still winning shows.
This year he was shown only three times and each time won the best LaMancha buck award. He also took a best buck in the show award.
Tombstone at 9 is also now producing semen that Aller has available for sale. Last year, on his first try, he produced 30 straws.
Basis of herds. Because artificial insemination was not really being used on goats when Tombstone was in his prime, Aller said, his genetic strengths did not really get fully used. But they are the basis of the herd she and her parents established, Joyful Morn LaManchas, and from which she has created her own herd.
This year, the combined herds have won five awards for best LaMancha senior doe and two for best of show senior doe, plus showing five grand champion senior does and five reserve champion senior does. They have also shown five grand champion junior does, and have twice won the best junior doe in show award.
Aller acquired her own Yazz buck when she was 17, Yazz, Now You See It Excel.
Fantastic animals. Breeding the daughters of Tombstone to Excel have created a line of does that are “fantastic,” she said, developing into her grand champion show animals.
To introduce new genetics into the herd without going outside of her line breeding, she has purchased two new does from the Yazz line.
They will be inseminated from a buck that is closely related to Excel.
She plans to take the first buck kid from this experiment to raise as her new herd sire, introducing new, but closely related, genetics.
After the new buck has been used once, she said, he will have to be retired into the barn for a year to see what the results will be.
If Aller is happy with the does he produces, she will then breed those does back to Excel again, repeating the cross-breeding sequence that has been so successful for her with Tombstone.
Show herd. Aller said she is breeding strictly for a show herd, looking for correct animals with good top lines, tight elbow joints, and good udder attachment.
Milking performance is also important, she said, although she has taken her herd off DHIA because it was not something that people looking at show animals were asking to see.
But because “when you have goats you have all this milk” she has also gotten her farm licensed to sell goat milk as pet food and sells raw milk off the farm to people who respond to her notice posted in the feed mill.
It mostly goes to feeding baby animals, she said, because goat milk is easier for most animals to digest than cow’s milk.
Sale of genetics. It’s not the sale of milk, however, that supports her herd. It’s the sale of animals. Right now her herd isn’t making her any profit, but it is paying for itself.
Because she wants to keep her herd small, at about 15 animals, she sells most of her kids and many of her milkers. The kids from her best animals are priced from $200 to $500.
Buck kids are a little harder to sell, she said, because buying a buck is a real investment for anyone. She sold only two this year, but has had a few more inquiries.
Aller said she will soon apply for nomination to get one of her goats into the Spotlight Sale, a national, by-invitation-only sale sponsored by the American Goat Association. Acceptance into the sale means national recognition.
What it will mean for her is a huge leap in the value of her kids and the opportunity to become competitive in national goat shows. It will also mean, however, that she will have to start selling some of her champions, something she has not yet been able to make herself do.
(You can contact Jackie Cummins at 1-800-837-3419, ext. 23, or by e-mail at email@example.com.)