HOW TO IDENTIFY GOOD GOAT CONFORMATION
Is defined as the shape or structure of something, especially an animal. Example: “the judges run their hands over the animal’s body and structure, evaluating its conformation”.
Selecting a good market goat takes time and study of body types. Strong market potential features are; body frame length, width and depth. These terms all contribute to a potential for a good market goat. Can you see any of these characteristics in this goat?
Do you see body parts that can be described as thick, wide, long, deep, or big?
MARKET GOAT SELECTION
Picking out a market goat can be a challenge. The first obstacle is that they appear to all look alike! It’s only when you start to look for specific qualities or problems that it becomes clear that one animal is better built than the next.
It may seem easier to first eliminate animals with obvious faults. Whether standing in a pasture with 30 bouncy goats or at an auction where the goats are all lined up on a stands, it’s a systematic process that needs to takes place. From the ground up and rear forward. Your goal is to envision how the young and undeveloped goat will grow and blossom at market time. That’s where understanding conformation comes in.
Conformation – The goal here is to develop our skills at picking out characteristics that equal a nice market goat. We will also put those characteristics in order of importance. You should be able to answer what you are looking for. “I am looking for a long backed, thick boned goat who looks wide, deep and balanced”.
Open Pasture Evaluation – In an open pasture or corral, the benefit here is that you can see the goat at a distance and see the goat’s natural movement…and believe me, they will be moving and running around! Once you spot a few goats that you like, ask the breeder to hold the goat so that you can get a closer look and feel. Because they are young and untrained, they will wiggle, squirm, drop to their knees and jump around! It will be difficult to view…but keep working at it. You might see resistance like these young wethers.
In the Pasture, the Goat Should:
- Walk with ease; smooth and without limps or other noticeable problems in their gait.
- Stand wide and square on thick boned legs, like a table.
- From the hips to the shoulders, their back should look level, wide and long (like a board is under the skin).
- From the side and top view should look like a rectangle.
These pictures represent the difficulty in evaluation young goats! Their little skinny bodies will be jumpy, wiggly and quick to run. This is where looking at their bone structure will help.
This is what you hope to see!
This is what you’ll see in the pasture!
This is how the first setup will look like!
Goats can wiggle & pull like no other!
Show Rack or Small Pen Evaluation – Some breeders will use stands to setup their goats. This makes evaluation much easier. It’s a good way to see the length, width and structure of the goat and compare them to one another. You can quickly see the longest, tallest, straightest, thickest, deepest and any other “est” you can describe! It will be easy to see which goats are more superior in their natural shape.
If the goats are in a small pen, the breeder may arrange 3 or 4 similar sized goats in each pen. If you find it difficult to see the conformation of the goats in a pen, ask the breeder for assistance to view the goat.
Evaluating Primary Meat Cuts – The primary meat cuts are found on the back; Shoulder, Rib, Loin, Sirloin & Leg. Loin is the #1 Cut. To evaluate these cuts, run your flat hand down the back. After touching several goats, you should be able to feel the natural muscle development and width. Some goats will feel mushy to the touch, while others will be firmer. Remember, since the loin of the goat is the best cut of meat, it should be the highest priority in selection. It should be the longest and the widest of the goats available.
The only drawback to reviewing goats on a stand is that you will not be able to see how they walk or what the chest looks like. Ask the owner to pull the goat off the stand and set him up so that you can see all angles. Never pull a goat off a stand or out of a pen without permission of the owner. Most owners will have people on hand to help handle and show the goats. Owners will prefer that they move the goats for you. Besides, it’s too hard to see the goat if you are holding it.
- Select 6 Goats – Aim for 6 goats to make your ideal list.
- Take Notes Be sure to write down the sales number or ear tag number along with key notes of conformation & composition qualities of your favorite goats.
- Rank & Rate the Goats – Rate them according to your notes and seek input from your advisor or the breeder. Once you have narrowed down your selection to your top six goats, rank them in order of their ability to grow into the conformation & composition terms below.
CONFORMATION & COMPOSITION GOALS:
Conformation short list – This is the structural correctness and balance of their body. Market goats should be wide, thick, deep & solid from every angle.
- Body: The depth of the body should equal 60% of the height of the goat. Regardless of which angle you look at the goat, words that come to mind to describe the goat should be wide, thick, muscled, deep & long.
- The underline (belly) of the goat should be level from front to back.
- The back should be nearly level with a slightly higher angle at the shoulder/neck joint.
- The head should be long and broad. The ear should not cover the eyes.
- The teeth should all line up evenly.
- The front & back legs should be thick and squarely under the goat and the feet should be pointed straight forward, not splayed out or pigeon toed. The leg should have a smooth appearance.
- The pasterns (above the hooves) should be slightly sloped. (See the Article Downed Pasterns for more specific information)
- The Rear Legs should be set squarely underneath the goat, with the rear toes pointing straight forward.
- Balanced: In short, there should be more of your goat in the back half over the front half.
Good conformation & breeding allowed these two week old goats to naturally stand this way. With a management program that allowed them good daily exercise, quality feed and proper show training, they both grew up to be class winners and compete in the Grand Championship Drive.
- Composition – Is the muscle, condition, and freshness. Muscle is the most important quality in a market goat. Look for a goat that has some muscle and looks strong. Goats at this age can look small and skinny, so put your hands on the goat to feel their muscles on the back, leg and shoulder areas.
- Muscle & Condition
- Withers: (the top of the shoulders) wide width
- Rack: (the ribcage) wide width & long length. The distance from the last rib back to the butt should be longer than the last rib forward to the shoulder.
- Loin: (lower back area in front of hips) long & wide.
- Forearm: should be thick and have a prominent bulge
- Leg: All should be muscled on the inside & outside of the leg
- Freshness: The goat should appear healthy, hydrated with a shiny coat.
Warning about Horns or Scurs
If you see a pen of goats with horns, keeping walking. All market goats for fairs must NOT have horns. Only breeding stock animals are allowed to have horns. Most fairs will allow up to 2 inches of horn growth, but it isn’t worth the hassle and worry of being disqualified during the vet exam.
Breeders will disbud (remove the horns) when the goats are 10 days old or younger. The horns can be removed, but it is not a pleasant task and scurs will most likely to grow back. Also, if the goat still has its testicles, ask the breeder if they plan on banding the goat or selling it as a buck. Some showmen like to leave the testicles on for a couple of months to allow more muscle development. This should only be practiced by an experienced goat showman or breeder. As a novice or intermediate showman, it is not in your best interest to deal with either issue. Don’t risk the disqualification.
Question about Selection:
- From this view, which breeder doe would you pick?
- Which is naturally square & which has a problem?
- Better yet, which goat would you pass over…and why?
The best advice to start with is to pick the longest, widest and most balanced goat available. Each year you will learn more and develop your eye for what makes a good market animal.
Thank you Hummel Livestock for the featured picture!