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Recorded Grades Find Favor with Many Dairy Goat Breeders

By Janet Hurst

Recorded Grade goats are defined by the International Dairy Goat Registry as: "Those goats having little or no information available on their ancestry or of their ancestry were not registered, then the goat can be recorded as Grade. The application process to register a grade animal requires identification of the breed the animal most represents, a photo and available background information on the animal. If the animal is found to conform to the breed standards for its age and gender but has no registered ancestors, it will be entered in the Grade herdbook as Recorded by Appearance."

Many breeders favor the Recorded Grades for a variety of reasons. Most notably, selective breeding for specific traits or breeding for the elimination of identified weaknesses. Silvia and Nancy Shirley have become well known for their herd consisting of Alpines, LaManchas, Grades and one Mini Mancha. The Shirleys are located in Arkansas and their herd, "Harmony Goats," has become well-known in competitive circles at Missouri and Arkansas shows.

"We want our goats to show and milk well," Silvia Shirley said. "I find the grades versatile and interesting. We have one that is half LaMancha and half Saanen. She has the LaMancha personality but milks like a Saanen. With Recorded Grades you can get the best of two breeds. Sometimes you get a better quality animal than a purebred. To me some of the grades are more productive. Also, you never know what you are going to get, colorwise or ear wise, which makes it fun."

Recorded Grade dairy goats come in a wide variety of colors and types. Silvia Shirley, Flippin, Arkansas, enjoys the freedom from breeding for specific color and ear correctness and instead likes to concentrate on pairing genetics for milk production and structure with her herd of Recorded Grade dairy goats.

Photos provided by Harmony Goats Farm, raising quality LaMancha and Grade dairy goats, www.freewebs.com/harmonygoats

Hybrid vigor is a factor in the consideration of Recorded Grade dairy goats. "Heterosis," hybrid vigor or outbreeding enhancement, describes the increased strength of various characteristics in hybrids. As Shirley mentioned, the superior characteristics of two breeds can be combined to create one animal with traits of both breeds. Selective breeding research is currently in progress all over the world, with goats being bred for superior conformations, udder formation, stature, milk production and butterfat content. Parasite resistance is also a point of research within theses selective breeding programs. Combining the best of both breeds can result in offspring which is superior to both parents.

Silvia Shirley started with dairy goats as a 4-H project wth a Grade LaMancha. Noted traits such as "airplane ears," found in Nubian crosses, are evident in her herd. She has also found the earless appearance of LaManchas to be a dominant characteristic in her crossbred kids. However, she, like most breeders who raise Recorded Grades, feels the trade-off in the classic breed standard appearances is worth the increased production and overall increase in hardiness of the animal. It makes for an interesting kidding season as well, as one is never sure what the result of crossbreeding dairy goats might be.

The Harmony goat owners follow a strict CAE prevention program by removing the kids from their dams at birth and feeding them heat treated and pasteurized colostrum and milk. A diet of locally grown grass hay also provides nutrition. Shirley’s award winning stock can be seen on her website at www.freewebs.com/harmonygoats.

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