Saanen dairy goats are known by many as the top milk producing breed in dairy situations. Scott Hoyman, Caprikorn Farms near Gapland, Maryland would like the world to know that Caprikorn Saanens milk more than any other Saanens, a claim he can back up with proof! According to DHIR data released recently by the American Dairy Goat Association the top milk producer for 2007 was Caprikorn Krug’s Stargate, who produced 5,140 pounds or 44,393 gallons of milk in 305 days between March 2006 and March 2007.
“For our foundation stock we used mega milkers and sons of mega milkers,” Hoyman said. “Then we spent 30 years DHI (dairy herd improvement) testing and culling. Any Caprikorn bred kid will grow up to radically out-milk any other kid bought.”
As Hoyman stated, the two essential parts of Caprikorn Farm’s breeding program which led to success in milk production records, are to use extraordinary animals for the genetic basis of their herd and DHI records to select generation after generation. Caprikorn Farms has consistently placed does in the top ten milk rankings for ADGA during the last two decades. The three-year-old getting all the attention this year has a granddam that was number one in 1994.
“We succeeded in having top producers because both my wife and I were willing to turn our back on show ring glory,” Hoyman said. “But the principles we’ve used can be used for breeding top quality show goats as well. The principles are the same.”
Show breeders use show ring results in place of DHI. Anyone who wants to be successful in breeding top quality dairy goats, whether it be for show or milk production emphasis, just needs to make use of the programs and information already available, Hoyman said.
Caprikorn Krug’s Stargate was named the 2006 Top Producing Dairy Goat in the U. S. by the American Dairy Goat Association, based on DHIR test data facilitated by her owners/breeders, Scott Hoyman and Alice Orzechowski, Maryland.
“We got our first truly extraordinary animal right out of Dairy Goat Journal,” Hoyman said. “Pat Hendrickson, who is one of the very key long term Saanen breeders, ran the ad and it said, ‘There’s a new All Time All Breed production record holder.’ That caught my eye.”
The doe Pat Hendrickson was justly proud of was a Saanen, Rebel Valley’s Southern Bonus, born in 1979. According to ADGA verified production records, Bonus milked 6,850 pounds in 304 days.
“We were able to get Bonus’ only living son and he kicked our production up hugely,” Hoyman said.
The next great Saanen to catch Hoyman’s eye was a California bred buck, Companeros Voice of Reason.
“Steven Schack, a great Saanen breeder no longer with us, had the courage to start with a grade Saanen doe named Beulah at a time when purebred Saanens were greatly favored,” Hoyman said. “Today four out of five registered Saanens are Americans. From Beulah, Schack and Ray Viera (the well-known Clovertop herd) were able to breed Companeros Voice of Reason. At the time, the USDA computer was just starting to do sire summaries and they rated Reason the number one Saanen buck. Time has proven that data to be correct and Reason is now the most important Saanen in the history of the breed.”
Hoyman said the success of Caprikorn Farms award winning Saanen dairy goats, must be attributed to great breeders like Pat Hendricks (Rocky Run) and Steven Schack (Companeros/Redwood Hills) for their efforts to make the best better.
“No Saanen breeder stands by themselves,” he said. “We are all building on what the other people have done.”
Hoyman also said the National Saanen Breeders Association has always been a great help in maintaining records and promoting the Saanen breed club winners.
Thanks to Penny Nealigh, of the NSBA, Hoyman, and his wife Alice Orzechowski, were able to obtain a buck that had Reason as both of his grandfathers.
“We didn’t know that Reason would be so important at the time but we were able to get our next extraordinary animal with that purchase. That was our second big move. At the time we were not a producing dairy and had no market. We went 25 years without selling a drop of milk. It’s illegal to sell off the farm in Maryland,” Hoyman said.
Suprisingly, Hoyman and Orzechowski did not choose Saanens as Caprikorn’s main breed at the beginning of their dairy goat journey. They tried all the recognized dairy breeds, except Toggenbergs. But when it came down to it, Saanens just seemed to work better for them.
“We have found our market is to breed for dairymen and Saanens make more milk than the other breeds,” Hoyman said. “At that time some of the other breeds were running very close, but it just turned out Saanens worked better for us. I greatly respect Alpines and Toggenburgs and I’m not going to say anything negative about the other breeds but every dairy has a certain number of slots. My experience has been that you can get more Saanens in the same size living space than you can get Alpines. Alpines like to fight more than Saanens like to fight. Milking Saanens still need 30 square feet of interior space. At one time we tried to cram more milkers into the same sized barn and our total milk didn’t go up at all. Space requirements are an important part of managing top end milk producers.”
As Hoyman and Orzechowski committed to breeding and raising Saanens, they acquired two more key extraordinary animals, in their quest for top milk production.
“We got on board with the bloodlines of Mari-Willow Pride’s Sharmin, the only Saanen to make number one on the ADGA Top Ten list three different years,” Hoyman said. “Sharmin produced 32,300 pounds of milk in her life.”
To get those bloodlines in his herd, the first year Hoyman took his two best milkers to breed to Sharmin’s son, Legend West Atlas. The following year he and Orzechowski leased him. The third year Caprikorn Farms bought Atlas.
“The fourth animal we credit with genetic distinction is Gold Banner NCJC Messenger B bred by Peggy Sanford,” Hoyman said. “The B was stuck on there because Alice and I name our goats using the American Dairy Goat Association recommended tattoo letter. It was the B year for tattoos. This year all our goats have a X. Messenger’s dam was GCH Gold Banner Betsie Lee, LA-90 and she did 5,020 pounds in 305 days.”
It was the selection and use of those four killer animals that formed the base of Caprikorn Farms Saanen herd, although later on the farm was able to buy a buck that descended from Bonus, Voice of Reason, and Sharmin’s key ancestor.
“I call that three way line breeding,” Hoyman said.
It is because of his well-documented genetic base of high milk producing Saanens that Hoyman is comfortable making the claim that Caprikorn Saanens will produce a lot of milk, guaranteed.
“All our mature Saanens should exceed 3,500 pounds in 305 days,” he said. “This is because for our foundation stock we used mega milkers only and the sons of mega milkers. Then we spent years testing and discarding. We also breed for strong back pasterns and ease of kidding. Most of our goats cross immediately on both sides to Top Ten does.”
Hoyman said he is certain his Saanen bucks will sire fewer duds—that’s his word “duds”—than other bucks because the ancestors of his kids have DHI records which establish the historical and genetic basis for making the claim.
He also said he places much more emphasis on pedigrees and production information than just on looks and visual images.
“Looking at a kid won’t tell you much,” Hoyman said. “I can’t tell if one of my doelings is a top producer by looking at her. By showring standards she may even be ugly. However, I can predict that she will be productive by looking at her ancestor’s records. But to be 100 percent certain you will have to wait until she’s finished a lactation or two.”
Hoyman quotes Helen Proulx, past President of the National Saanen Breeders Association, who said, “Big milk doesn’t look like anything. It comes in all shapes and sizes.”
Another top producer in the Caprikorn herd is two-year-old SGCH Caprikorn Meadow Romance 9*M.
When it comes to selecting goats for production or show, there are a lot of questions to be asked, especially if the information data isn’t available.
“When I started this and was searching for extraordinary numbers I had to ask a huge number of questions,” Hoyman said. “With Bonus, that first extraordinary animal, there were no DHI records or USDA computerized data base to guide our decision. I needed to know how much her mother milked. The next question is her sire’s dam, and her sisters, and what their sire’s dam milked. The questions go on and on. There are these Saanen does that Todd Biddle and I call flukes. He’s a great show breeder but the same principles that apply for milk apply to breeding for show. In the show world maybe there is a doe who appraises 92 but if all of her sisters and her dam are in the low 80’s, we’re not interested. She’s a fluke. Bonus’ mother milked 4,870 pounds. But what if she hadn’t or what if she only had one lactation like that. DHI records help avoid flukes and help build your herd.”
Hoyman said raw DHI production numbers are not as useful however as a computer program developed by Dr. George Wiggins of the USDA in Beltsville, Maryland.
“The miracle of Dr. Wiggins program is that it takes into account every known ancestor that’s been on test,” Hoyman said. “The program has linked all the ancestors that are on official test. You don’t have to ask any questions. It’s all tied to one figure which he calls Percentile.”
The percentile for Caprikorn Majestic Prince, a Caprikorn Saanen from the 2006 Top 15%, for example, is 93. The top percentile on that list, Heavenly Poor-FRM Prime Rate, is 99.
“There is no substitute for DHI testing,” Hoyman said. “I once had a lady from Tennessee tell me she had a goat that gave three gallons of milk every day for a year. Three gallons times 8.6 pounds times 305 days is 7,800 pounds. It would be the world record by a long way. I asked her if she was on test and she said no. There was no proof of her claim. Trying to remember how much your doe gave and how much her mother and grandmother gave is futile. Also, you have to measure averages and not just one lactation.”
Good record keeping and an insistence on the best genetics are the way to improve any herd, Hoyman said. Management and environment are also critical. He credits Steve Considine for the proven statement, “production is 80 percent management” and said Caprikorn Farms has been working on improving management in recent years.
“We’ve become increasingly careful about barn cleanliness and fly control,” he said. We’ve also moved away from water based teat washes and have gone to a pre-dip. Even if you’re hand milking and doing nothing before you milk you ought to end every milking with a squirt of something like Fight Bac. A high somatic cell count cuts down your production and bad mastitis can kill a doe.”
Despite their emphasis on milk production genetics, Caprikorn Farms has also had several show winners, designated by GCH, SG, SGCH markings in their herd sales book. The numbers and prefixes that are important to them however, are Percentiles and PTAM (Predicted Transmitting Alibilty Milk) developed by the USDA and used by serious dairymen. PTAM’s measure only milk, but Percentiles include milk and butterfat percentages produced. Percentiles also include the lactations of every known relative. For the commercial dairyman, a goat’s percintile is even more connected to dollars for the dairyman than PTAM’s.
Caprikorn Farms is dedicated to providing serious goat dairy operations with quality animals that will produce milk. They have shipped stock all over the United States and to several other countries. They admit that their dairy goats are expensive, but they can guarantee the buyer will get what they pay for, top milk production.