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Conformation Matters

Sunday, October 7, 2018


Posture - Stand up straight, Little Girl


When evaluating animals, it's necessary to view their skeletal structure while they are standing properly with all four feet on a level, clear surface. 

Their heads should be held up at a natural angle, legs should be placed so that the cannon bone is vertical and perpendicular to the ground surface.

Front legs should be squarely set directly under the animal's withers.  Rear legs should be placed so that a perpendicular line dropped from the pin bone to the ground runs down the center of the cannon bone.

Correct positioning helps to properly evaluate the animal.

You will see MANY pictures of dairy goats showing handlers pinching down the topline of the animal in the photograph.  They do this to flatten out the topline to make it look straighter, and/or to cause the animal to tilt the pelvis into a more level appearance.  Do not be fooled by this:  it is obvious to all judges and most knowledgeable viewers that this is done to alter the animal's real posture.  As a matter of fact, to me it only points out that the handler thinks their animal has a poor topline that needs to be "fixed" to begin with.

You will also see animals whose rear feet are placed BEHIND the pin bones, instead of up underneath them where they belong.  This is obvious when you notice that the cannon bone of the animal is not vertical or perpendicular to the ground.  This is often done thinking that placing the rear legs back will make the animal appear longer in the body, or to drop the topline so it appears to slope from wither to hips - a desirable trait when it is natural.

While these artificial methods of setting the animal up are common in the show ring, and show goat photos, they will not help you get an honest idea of your own (or other people's)  animals natural conformation, so learn to recognize these handling tricks when you see them.

Also, be aware that sometimes bucks look their best while they are peeing.  Pee Pee pictures (especially of kids) show the animal as being leveler over the topline, loin, and pelvis than they really are.  Check the picture for signs of 'leakage' either coming from the belly of the buck or a wet spot on the ground ;).

Health and Condition

Health and Condition


All animals look better (and feel better) when they are in good condition.  One cannot accurately evaluate an animal that is not in robust health and/or is not feeling well.

Most animals entering the show ring have been body clipped, with their feet trimmed, cleaned and well presented.  This presentation/process is part of Showmanship - the presentation of an animal showing its best.

However, condition is always important.

Animals should have fine, shiny, soft, haircoats,  and should carry the proper amount of body fat, being neither too fat nor too thin.  Dairy goats are supposed to look DAIRY, and may tend to look more boney, or ANGULAR, than a meat animal does.  They may appear thin to the untrained eye, but quality animals will be putting their energy into making milk, not fat.

Animals not in the best condition: uncomfortable because of foot pain, parasites, or showing evidence of lack of proper nutrition, or too fat or too thin, will not carry themselves well or stand in the upright posture necessary to evaluate them properly.

The doe to the right is in terrible condition.  Her coat is a mess, being rough, dry, and unkempt looking.  Coat condition is a reflection of the health status of the animal.  It is directly linked to General Appearance and Dairy Character, since a smooth, fine, silky coat with loose pliable skin underneath is a most desirable trait linked to both.  Even if her coat was clipped off, one could still feel the dry, harsh, dandruffy skin underneath.

This doe was in the process of recovering from a life threatening episode of acute laminitis at the time these pictures were taken.  She had been unable to stand, bear weight, or walk for 3 weeks prior.

Today she has made a full recovery...... and her condition is much improved.

Friday, October 5, 2018

The Dairy Triangles

The Dairy Triangles 


Angularity refers to the dairy triangles, or 'wedges', and the sharpness of line visible in dairy animals and which contrasts with the round, thick aspects of form common to meat animals.

There are several dairy triangles visible when observing animals from different points of view.

The most obvious is the triangle visible from the side, with the animal in profile.  She should be long and level across the top, deep in the rear flank, with the underline deepening from the brisket (elbows) to the foreudder.  This is the first dairy triangle or wedge shape.  It is the basis for determining body capacity, which helps enable maximum milk production.

The second is the triangle visible when viewing the animal overhead and from the rear.  The head forms the point, while the body increases in width smoothly from front to rear.  The well sprung ribs and rear end form the widest part and base of the wedge.  Width in the rear is necessary to provide room under the pelvis from which the udder is supported.  In addition, the deep, wide, barrel, with wide spring of rib maximizes the body capacity of the animal.

The third triangle is that formed from the rear, by the framework of the hind legs.  The top is the tail head, and the shape increases in width as your eye travels down towards the ground, where the legs and feet complete the sides and base.  Great width is needed here as this is where the mammary is placed.

Develop an 'eye' for recognizing the three dairy triangles.  They are a quick way to recognize dairy character, the will to milk, and the strength to sustain it.