The University of California’s Dairy Goat Facility on the Davis campus offers a unique opportunity for students and faculty to learn about and study dairy and meat goats. It is one of only a few university goat facilities in the country and it is the only one located on the West Coast of the United States. It is also the only dairy goat facility on a major land-grant university campus with an extensive teaching program.
Although the facility is unique, it is not new. Goats have been part of the livestock make-up on the Davis campus for 90 years. The current goat facility was created in 1980, as a cooperative effort between the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, the School of Veterinary Medicine, and goat producers in California. The facility is used for teaching undergraduate students.
“Our students can get undergraduate degrees in Animal Science, Animal Science & Management, or Avian Sciences,” said Jan Carlson, facility manager for goat teaching, research and outreach. “During their course work they can take elective courses in their specific areas of interest. Our graduates have taken jobs in industry and with government agencies, and have gone on to graduate school and veterinary school.”
Prior to being employed at UC Davis, Carlson worked at Washington State University managing the dairy goat facility there for 15 years. Then she spent five years in Texas working with Boer goats. She has been at UC Davis since 2000.
The facility Carlson manages is home to three different herds. The dairy goat herd consists of Alpine, Toggenburg, Saanen, La Mancha, and Oberhasli. There are approximately 50 milking does, along with young stock and bucks, for a total of about 75 animals. The meat goat herd is comprised mainly of percentage Boer does, used to produce show wether prospects which are sold to youth for their 4-H and FFA market projects.
The University of California Dairy Goat Facility at the Davis campus is home to three different herds.
The third herd consists of approximately 25 transgenic goats. These goats are of Alpine and Toggenburg ancestry that produce milk with antibacterial proteins normally found in human breast milk. Transgenic goats are created when embryos are flushed from a donor doe at 24 hours post conception. A genetic construct is injected into the embryos by means of “pronuclear injection.” The injected embryos are then transferred into recipient does and carried to term. The health of the does are never compromised in any way during the process.
“The first transgenic goats were born at UCD in the spring of 1999 and we’ve been developing the program since,” Carlson said. “The Animal Science faculty is developing goats that carry transgenes that express in the milk. These genetic constructs will hopefully enhance various properties in milk that are beneficial to human and animal health, offer some mastitis protection, and positively impact the processing properties and shelf life of milk.”
The Goat Research Facility itself operates under the daily management of a herd manager who is assisted by three to five part-time student employees and two students who actually live at the barn. About 30 students per quarter, or 90 per year, come to the barn for weekly management classes or volunteer to gain goat management experience. Approximately 20 students are involved in the annual Kidding and Kid Management Internship which runs from winter through spring quarter. The main barn of the facility contains the office, laboratory, milking, kid rearing, trial areas, and two student residences. Animals are kept in dry lot pens surrounding the main barn.
“Student involvement at the goat facility is extensive and essential. They provide most of the labor and management to keep the program functioning at a high level, they also participate in the many outreach activities the facility provides to producers and the public in California,” Carlson said.
Some of the outreach activities for students have included helping out with dairy promotion at the California State Fair and an annual “Goat Day” held to educate goat producers and the general public.
The 2008 Goat Day, held last January, included presentations on mastitis detection and prevention, ultrasound for pregnancy detection, the business of owning a small goat herd, and numerous other topics.
Carlson said that Goat Day 2009 will have an abbreviated program consisting of DHIA tester training and scale calibration.
“We are encouraging everyone to attend the American Dairy Goat Association (ADGA) annual meeting in Rohnert Park, California,” she said.
This year Jan Carlson and her UC Davis crew nominated an Oberhasli doeling for consignment in the 2008 ADGA Spotlight Sale, part of the ADGA annual meeting in late October. The doeling, California Varekai Kia, is the result of a collaborative effort between the university and several well-known Oberhasli breeders.
“We at the University of California Davis are thrilled with the selection of this doe to the ADGA Spotlight sale,” Carlson said. “Many West Coast breeders donated animals, semen, and breeding services to our research facility and the result is Kia, a doeling with a special history.”
According to information available from the American Dairy Goat Association, Kia’s story started with a doe named White Haven Nasake, an Oberhasli donated to the university by Jean White, Molalla, Oregon. The breeding of this doe to Clovertop’s Ecktorsketch Kalvin, a buck donated by Lorrie Echols, Sebastopol, California, herd name SquawMountain, produced the dam of Kia, California Kalvin Special K. The Clovertop buck behind this breeding was masterminded by a well-known dairy production breeder and ADGA judge, Raymond Vieira, Artois, California. The 2008 Spotlight Sale doeling, Kia, was the result of artificial insemination, via donation of semen from the Udderly Crazy herd, Carolyn Hoeker and family, Monroe, Washington. Their donation of semen from the Oberhasli buck, Udderly Crazy Varekai, was utilized by California veterinarian, Dr. Joan Dean Rowe, who inseminated Special K at the Davis facility, which resulted in the birth of triplet doelings on 4/9/08, one of which was Kia.
Students Heather Welsch, Jolene Berg, Gina Gonella, and Casey Sanderson are part of the hands-on dairy goat teaching and research classes at the University of California Davis. They are pictured with the university’s 2008 ADGA Spotlight Sale doeling consignment, California Varekai Kia.
“We think of our goats and our herd as a collaboration between our facility and breeders throughout the United States,” Carlson said. “We are continually grateful for the support and encouragement that we receive. A bid on California Varekai Kia at the 2008 ADGA Spotlight Sale, is a bid to support the UC Davis goat teaching and research facility.”
Faculty and students at UC Davis are actively involved in ADGA events regionally and nationally. In 2005 a UC Davis doe was named the 2005 American Dairy Goat Association Reserve National Champion.
“We did not enter this year’s 2008 National Show,” Carlson said. “The facility showed goats in Sacramento 1999, Spokane 2005, and Gillette, 2007. In Spokane we had Reserve Champion Recorded Grade and in Gillette we had Champion Recorded Grade with the same doe. In 2007 we also had the National Champion Recorded Grade. We show goats for the same reason everybody does. We thought they would be competitive and we wanted to see how they compare to others. We have used this opportunity to give students experience showing dairy animals and taking part in ADGA’s events and performance programs.”
In 1996 UC Davis students started the first UC Davis Dairy Goat Show team. With the addition of Boer goats to the facility in 2000 the team name was modified to the UC Davis Goat Show team. Not only does the team give students who may not have had any previous animal experience the opportunity to select, fit and show dairy animals goats it provides them with the opportunity to meet and work with producers and breeders in the goat industry.
To find out more about the goat facility at the University of California Davis visit http://animalscience.ucdavis.edu/facilities/goats.