Many goat owners ask us this question. The attempt here is to provide a simple, broad-based explanation of the program. In very simple terms, Linear Appraisal is a system used to evaluate goats and their overall quality. The evaluation is aimed at helping to determine their structural correctness, their reproductive ability, functional durability, potential lifetime and long-term genetic potential. The American Dairy Goat Association Linear Appraisal program is considered a Performance Program for dairy goat breeders.
There are four main categories in Linear Appraisal which contribute to the determination of a final score.
- General Appearance
- Dairy Character
- Body Capacity
- Mammary System
The structural and functional areas are the Head, Shoulder Assembly, Front Legs, Back Legs, Feet, Back, Rump and Udder Texture. These areas are then graded by the appraiser as Excellent, Very Good, Good Plus, Acceptable, Fair or Poor.
Each animal’s final score becomes a part of the computerized ADGA Linear Appraisal database. Goats with very good LA scores may or may not become winners in the show ring.
Understanding how certain traits impact the longevity, reproduction and production (milk) efficiency of an animal is crucial to proper herd management. By identifying the strengths and weaknesses of specific animals through ADGA Linear Appraisal, breeders are better able to determine what mating should take place.
Very simplistically put, a doe with structurally loose shoulders should be matched with a buck that has an excellent shoulder assembly in hopes of improving the trait in the next generation. It can take several generations of dedicated observation and attention to structural correctness to improve upon a specific condition.
Choosing the best mating pair is just one part of the process. Once the babies hit the ground, the responsibility continues. Sometimes, traits can be helped with daily care and other times, nothing can be done. If born with excellent legs, proper trimming of the hooves goes a long way in helping kids to keep excellent structure. Failure to trim the feet guarantees abnormal leg and possibly body development. Hoof trimming is basic care, yet many owners fail to do it consistently.
No matter how highly exceptional an animal is in form, structure and pedigree, the lack of proper nutrition and care can permanently undermine the performance potential that animal has. Sadly, we have seen goats that we sold as young kids and several months later found them nearly unrecognizable as compared to their same age siblings.
If you are serious about raising goats, the ADGA Linear Appraisal is a great program to help you understand your herd, make better mating choices and track development. If you are lucky enough to buy an exceptional kid, dedicate yourself to learning proper care and then deliver that care to protect your investment.