A quest to locate the perfect goat

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SAN ANGELO, Texas – A Texas Agricultural Experiment Station researcher said most goat producers picture the “perfect goat” as being one that would produce more kids that grow faster, and remain healthy while doing so.
This goat also would have lower production inputs because of better health.
Dan Waldron, experiment station geneticist, said the key to better health in goats often is tied directly to their resistance to internal parasites.
Does the perfect goat exist? Waldron is determined to find out.
Wetter climates. “The meat goat industry has experienced substantial growth in the last decade, and much of this growth is in areas outside the traditional goat-raising strongholds of west Texas,” Waldron said.
“Dry west Texas has relatively few internal parasite problems, but many goats are now being raised in wetter climates. Wetter climates are better environments for parasites that cause problems for goats.
“Goat producers use anthelmintics (dewormers) to treat the problem. Unfortunately, those drugs are increasingly losing their effectiveness.”
‘Minor species.’ To compound the problem, Waldron said the relatively low numbers of sheep and goats make them “minor species” when compared to other livestock.
That dubious distinction causes them to fall below the radar of pharmaceutical companies, he said.
The companies are reluctant to expend the dollars necessary to have effective anthelmintics approved by the Food and Drug Administration because they may not be profitable enough.
Hope? But there is hope on the horizon, and it’s not a new dewormer.
Several years ago, Waldron helped the American Boer Goat Association develop a genetic evaluation program called Boer Goat Improvement Network.
The project, funded by the National Sheep Industry Improvement Center, provides Boer goat breeders with genetic information needed to select animals with superior genetic merit for growth or reproduction.
This year, the center funded a second “sister” project with the association and the National Sheep Improvement Program.
The long-term goal of this Texas A&M University and Virginia Tech University project is to develop genetic evaluation procedures for determining parasite resistance in sheep and goats.
Solutions. “Our breeders are seeking a long-term solution to internal parasite problems,” said Robert Swize, executive director of the American Boer Goat Association in San Angelo.
“Identifying goats that produce offspring with genetic resistance to internal parasites will allow producers to select breeding stock that will do well in areas where internal parasites have been a problem.”
Genetic differences among animals enable some to resist internal parasite infection better than others, Waldron said.
“Our specific goal is to determine how to identify those genetic differences so we can know how best to use pedigree data from the BGIN program – along with parasite-burden data – to predict the genetic merit of individual animals,” he said.
“Identified animals would then be prime candidates for a selected parasite-resistant sheep or goat breeding program.”
Research mission. The project dovetails neatly into Waldron’s research mission of determining better, scientifically based ways of selecting animals for specific traits.
“Parasites can become resistant to anthelmintics commonly used by producers,” Waldron said.
“Genetic selection for resistance to parasites is likely the best and most cost-effective long-term solution for the global sheep and goat industry.”

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