So, before I got distracted with telling y'all about the PUPPY, I had given a summary of how show season was going up to the first weekend in June. The weekend after that, I had Linear Appraisal, which is sort of a big deal, as it is a really good source of information.
For those of you who aren't familiar with Linear Appraisal, a short explanation:
When we go to a show, our goats are judged against the other goats who are also at that show. If lots of really good goats show up and we win, then that's great. If not so nice goats show up and we win, well, that doesn't tell you all that much about the quality of our goats- but the win counts just as much as it did over the goats that were really good. During Linear Appraisal, goats are measured against a score card by a very experienced judge who has also gone through extensive appraiser training. There are several linear traits that are scored on a scale of 1 to 50 with 1 generally being way too little of the trait and 50 being way too much. Depending on what your breeding goals are, generally scores in the 25 to 35 range are the the target you are aiming for.
In theory, Linear Appraisal (LA) is an objective measurement which can give you an accurate picture of how a given animal looks based on the scores. In theory, all appraisers are the same in their scoring. We've noticed that there is more of a difference between appraisers than we thought there would be, and unfortunately, some appraisers consider themselves to be "tougher" than others, which sort of goes against that whole "objective evaluation" that is supposed to be the point of LA. In spite of this, during the two appraisal sessions I've participated in, I've learned a tremendous amount. Both times, appraisers have pointed out some trait I had not really been paying attention to. It's very nice to have a fresh set of eyes look over the herd since I can get a bit of tunnel vision- I either get so fixated on one great trait that a doe has that I ignore some other issue that she has, or I have a soft squishy spot for a doe and am more forgiving than perhaps I should be about her structure. It doesn't happen all that often, but it is good to have another evaluation of the herd from someone who is not emotionally attached.
An Appraisal session is somewhat different from a show. We still wash and clip all of the does so they will be looking their best, and we try to time things so that the does will have 12 hours to bag up. The appraiser comes to our farm instead of us going to them, and unlike a show, where we set the does up, the does are just supposed to walk naturally on a lead. The appraiser is able to spend several minutes with each goat that is being appraised, which is more time than judges get at most shows.
All does who have freshened are to be presented for appraisal and it is up to the appraiser whether they will excuse any given animal if they are not feeling well, or if the doe is dry. A couple of our does were excused- Mouzza had come down with a high fever just a few days before appraisal and was still recovering. Raven took all of 2010 off, having not freshened this year, Honey Child had just freshened, and Tuscan Sun was still two weeks from freshening, so those does were not appraised.
So, how did we do?
Overall, I was fairly pleased.
I should amend that. After letting everything percolate for a few days, I was pleased.
At first, the two scores of 82, earned by SkyRocketGilia (Lia) and Penny Wise stood out since 82 was lower than I was expecting from those two. I think in the back of my mind I had thought, going into the session, that I would be getting rid of any animals that had scored that low. But then I also realized that no one was going to force me to sell those girls if I didn't want to, and I believe that another freshening will do them some good. In Lia's case, the appraiser said that her udder held a lot of promise and would only get better with subsequent freshenings.
Once i got over being hung up on those two, I was able to focus on some of the brighter spots. Our second freshener, CH Algedi Farm H Purple Rain, had our high score of VVEE 90. CH-MCH Castle Rock Alum Root once again scored an 89- VVEV, and the appraiser said that she missed getting an E for mammary because her medial suspensory ligament was too strong and starting to affect capacity. I was surprised by this since our last appraiser indicated that he thought Nigerians as a breed really needed stronger MSLs and had said Alum Root was almost perfect in that category. CH CRF Castle Rock Blizzard scored a VVEV 88 and CRF Castle Rock Bay Berry earned our second E for mammary with a VVEE 88.
To get an overview of does in the herd, I made a few lists of the traits that I want to continue to focus on, and the does who had the strongest scores in those areas. A second list was made of the does who were weakest in those areas to help focus on who needs help and where. Traits where the herd is fairly strong, such as foreudder and MSL were not included since we're doing just fine there and don't need to focus much on improvement. I did include rump angle, rump width, rear udder arch, teat placement, and general appearance. Three does consistently floated to the top of these lists- Purple Rain, ARMCH Lost Valley TB Infinity 4*D, and Blizzard. The two bucks that I retained from my herd this year are out of Infinity (Bentley), and Purple Rain (Tanzanite), so I was happy to see that. I've also decided to retain a buck out of Blizzard next year- something I might have done this year if that had been an option, but we got twin does instead.
Our appraiser kindly allowed us to milk out most of our does before giving a score for udder texture. Just about all of the does we milked out earned 'E's for udder texture. It's nice to see the work we've done on udders show up in the scores.
We were very lucky to have several helping hands on deck who were able to help with bringing does out of the barn for me to handle and then to put them back when they were done. Rebecca, Jenn, Justin, and Sarah (who milked the girls by hand for me!) were so very helpful- I do recommend participating in LA, but I do not recommend doing it alone!
To sum up: if you can- participate in LA- I see something new in my herd every time I do. If you really listen to your appraiser, and ask good questions, you'll definitely learn something. I am already looking forward to next year and seeing how the herd does-- especially when so many of my first fresheners from this year will have another freshening on them!