Mark has finished his third semester of grad school and he has all A's so far. We're half way through and so glad he has a break for summer. Bradyn files for graduation for his Bachelor of Arts in Music in a month at the age of 19. Declan is making plans for his first trip out to Arkansas for the Inspiration Fine Arts Colony Strings Camp this July. He has selected a lovely piece for his first cello recital. He's also been bass fishing with his granddad and enjoying every minute. The littles are all finishing their school year and heading into a summer curriculum of French, music, art and lots of outdoor play. That's life outside the barn.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we had our linear appraisal very early this year, which was just perfect for us given the busy summer we have ahead of us. It was another year of tremendous surprise and the standard mega learning. Linear appraisal truly is my favorite "goat day" of the year. We had record rain and cold, but the girls did what they could and we brought out tents to keep us dry. All the scores can be seen on the girls' pages or on our summary on our Facebook page. But, everyone did very well and we had lots of trends, etc. to evaluate as we try to improve even more and to make our herd as consistent as possible. It was a great day!
So, what's with the title of this entry, right? (Besides that I'm a huge Gershwin fan.) With the arrival of spring comes the annual flooding of the market (especially in the Nigerian Dwarf world) of animals, particularly kids, for sale. Selling goats is the worst part of our farm life - and here's why--you say tomato and I say tomahto. Everyone sees these animals differently. And in this case, (unlike the pronunciation of a word) there IS a difference. Or is there? I guess it depends upon what one is looking for in a goat.
Without making this a rant, we invest a lot of money, time and thought in ADGA Performance Programs. Actually, we have for many, many years (check out the picture at the head of this post). Even before ADGA came out with Owner Sample DHIR test (we do not have access to an independent monthly supervisor), we found a way to test. The picture you see at the top is our participation in an unofficial milk test from the AGS DHIR Director through Ruminations magazine 7 years ago. While we had no way to test components, our very first year that we milked a full lactations with our does, we started on test. I know who milks what, when and how. I know who likes hot weather and who can't handle the cold. I know who needs heavier feed and who can milk on nothing but mediocre hay. And I know this for FULL lactations for years. And after years, I also know what lines produce what. We also have invested in linear appraisal for over a 4 year timeframe (3 appraisals). We have NO udders here that have less than a V. We have no scores less than an 86. Now, that WILL change. We are going to have young animals who score lower and mammary systems that are not up to what we want to see. But, these programs will help us KNOW that, eliminate bloodlines where needed and continue to make our herd a very consistent, producing herd, which allows us to sell said animals.
Meanwhile, the posts for a certain color goat, a certain eye color or those with claims of wonderful grandparents (whose genes are rather dilute) abound. And the animal in question has no dairy performance proof either for itself, the case of a fresh doe, or for its parents, in the case of a kid. And those animals sell like hot cakes. The commitment to true dairy production in the Nigerian breed is still lacking, in my estimation. I think it always will. They are small and too pet like and can be so very, very colorful - that I think these issues are here to stay.
So, we do feel the frustration in the lack of appreciation for the performance of our herd. In the end, we have a choice---breed for dairy performance, or breed for an easy sale with lots of blue eyes and splash of color. These moments bring us back to why we do what we do and only bolster our commitment to our goals. We hope for customers that are looking for the kind of animal we breed. Every year, they seem to come and after spring, we rarely have a goat for sale. But, it certainly is interesting to see how people see the Nigerian breed and to see what is valued and what is not. So, you say tomato, I say tomahto---yeah, let's call the whole thing off. We'll still stick with what we value and we'll continue to learn what it takes to produce proven dairy goats. And we hope a long the way, we'll be able to help a few other people find some great dairy goats for their herds. Thanks, Gershwin--it's a great song!