Goat producers interested in improving their operations should educate themselves on some of the basic production indicators used within the industry. Producers should understand these terms, how they are derived, and what their implications are to his or her operation.
Terms relating to breeding and reproduction include kidding percentage, kid mortality rate, and conception rate. Terms that give an indication of growth rate and cost of production include average daily gain, both pre and post weaning, feed conversion ratio, and cost per pound of gain.
Conception rate is the percentage of exposed does that are successfully bred. This number is determined by dividing the number of does bred by the number of does exposed. Multiply that number by 100 to determine conception rate. If an ultrasound machine is available and economically feasible, it can be used to sonogram does at 45 days bred to determine the number of does bred. However, for most meat goat producers ultra sounding does would be cost prohibitive, so conception rate is typically determined at the end of the kidding season. It is important to keep in mind that a doe could have been bred and aborted during gestation, however.
Kidding percentage is another indicator of productivity. If does typically average one kid per doe kidding then it is likely very little profit is realized. To determine kidding percentage divide the number of kids by the number of does kidding and multiply by 100. Often first time kidders will give birth to a single the first year. However, by the second kidding does should be able to successfully produce twins. A realistic goal for most operations is a 175% to 200% kid crop each year. Production at that level requires proper management of brood does from one breeding to the next.
While kidding percentage is important, one must have live kids at weaning or the work of breeding, and kidding out does is futile. Kid mortality rate is determined by dividing the number of kids who die prior to weaning by the number of live kids born and multiplying by 100.
A meat goat producer who has successfully bred 100% of the does exposed, had a kidding percentage of 175%, and a mortality rate of 5% should be well on the way to a profitable year. However, that profit can quickly disappear if one is feeding goats that grow slowly, or does that just won’t milk well! Knowing the average daily gain, feed conversion rate, and cost per pound of gain of kids will provide valuable insight into an operation.
The first step in determining average daily gain of kids is to weigh kids at birth and at weaning and record those weights. If kids are not marketed at weaning then it is important to record the date they are marketed and their weight at marketing to determine post weaning average daily gain. To calculate average daily gain, subtract the birth weight from the weaning weight and divide by days of age of the kid. So a kid who weighed 10 pounds at birth, was weaned at 90 days old weighing 50 pounds would have an average daily gain of (50-10)/ 90 = .44 pounds per day. To determine post weaning average daily gain subtract weaning weight from market weight and divide by the number of days since weaning.
If kids are finished on concentrates post weaning then it is possible to determine feed conversion rates (FCR). FCR= Total weight of feed/ (market weight-weaning weight). So a kid who was receiving 0.50 pounds of feed for 30 days and gained 10 pounds on feed would have an FCR= 1.5. Keeping the FCR of 1.5 in mind, one can then determine the cost per pound of gain for this particular kid. If feed costs are 0.10 per pound then it costs the producer 0.15 cents for each additional pound of gain postweaning.
A comparison between weaning weights from one year to the next may alert a producer to the fact that the buck purchased to use this year has greatly improved the average daily gain on kids or may reveal that purchasing a buck at the stockyards wasn’t a great idea, after all! Or perhaps a producer decides to use a lower protein feed this year to reduce feed costs. A quick look at average daily gain and cost of gain shows that finishing kids on a lower protein feed not only reduced the average daily gain, but also increased costs per pound of gain!