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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.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

The Four Aspects

The Four Aspects


General appearance

General appearance refers to the combination of the structural aspects of the animal plus other observations such as dairy character, smoothness of blending of the body parts, freedom of movement as the animal walks, harmony, and health condition. In the show ring it can make the difference between a first place and a second placing.

Dairy Character

Dairy Character consists of those qualities that have been observed to correlate with enhanced milk production over time. Dairymen have made these observations for many years and they hold true for both cattle and dairy goats.   Thin, pliable skin; widely spaced, flat ribbing; a feminine appearance in does; fine shiny coat; deep but not coarse muzzle; a deep barrel increasing towards the rear; angularity; and of course a well attached, capacious mammary system all contribute to dairy character.

Body Capacity

Body Capacity refers to the overall ability of an animal to consume the large quantities of feed necessary for the production of milk, and also the carrying capacity she has for her kids. Dairy goats should be deep bodied, wide throughout without being coarse, and with a deep wide chest to accommodate her heart, lungs, and other organs.


The mammary system needs to be strong, well attached and capacious. It must be easy to milk, with teats that are easy to grasp and easy to express. It must be located well up out of the way of the feet and legs as well as ground obstacles that can cause injury. It must be capable of containing the production of at least 12 hours of milk without damage to the udder tissue or ligaments.

All four of these aspects are present in quality dairy animals.  In addition, they create an animal that is pleasing to the eye, and a pleasure to behold.

Know Your Parts

Know Your Parts

When discussing parts of a dairy goat and how they influence structure, it's important to know what parts you are talking about.  The diagram below illustrates these parts. It's difficult to understand conformation if you don't know where they are!

There are four aspects of overall conformation to consider in a functional Dairy Goat.  These are:
  • General Appearance
  • Dairy Character
  • Body Capacity
  • Mammary
These aspects consist of certain desirable characteristics of the body of the goat, and they form the basic structure necessary for the animal to fulfill it's purpose of providing lengthy high producing lactations while remaining healthy enough to do so over a long life.

Each individual body part also contributes to the overall aspects mentioned above.  These will be discussed individually in future posts.

It is beneficial to learn the correct terminology about dairy goat parts so you will be familiar with them in the future.  Do you know what the thurls are???

Conformation Matters

Conformation Matters because Form follows Function


In his 1896 article 'The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered' Architect Louis Sullivan wrote:
“It is the pervading law of all things organic and inorganic, of all things physical and metaphysical, of all things human and all things superhuman, of all true manifestations of the head, of the heart, of the soul, that the life is recognizable in its expression, that form ever follows function. This is the law.”

Over many years both dairy cattle and dairy goat authorities have evaluated certain physical structures of dairy animals and have been able to correlate those which data has shown to be consistent with increased longevity in the dairy, health, and production.  These qualities are ones that are observable - and form the basis for what comprises 'Poor' to ' Excellent' quality conformation in Dairy animals.

'Type' refers to structural correctness. The perfect dairy goat would have all aspects of 'ideal type' based on the Scorecard used for judging dairy goats at Registry sanctioned shows.

Shows are designed to highlight animals that show the most correct "Type" expressed by a particular animal in each class. As such, they represent the animals most desirable in a breeding program designed to enhance and create more correct and more productive animals in future generations.

This blog will discuss type and structural correctness in all mini dairy goat breeds.

The TMGR Score Card establishes type based on traits that represent characteristics shown to enhance health and productivity in all Miniature Dairy Goat breeds. Both breeders and buyers would benefit from a better understanding of the traits that highly productive animals possess.