Before buying Nigerian Dwarf goats (or any goat breed), it’s a good idea to learn how to read their pedigrees. That way, you can be confident that the goats you are buying will meet your goals for owning them. However, goat pedigrees can be complex, because there are multiple registries and each has unique methods of signifying superior production, conformation, and genetics.
It can also be confusing because some goats are registered with more than one registry, and goat owners try to highlight the significant information from multiple registries. The most popular registries are ADGA and AGS, so that’s what you will most often find when viewing pedigrees. Our Nigerian Dwarf goats are registered with both of these registries, so I’ll use our method of graphically displaying their pedigrees as an example. This is the way I frequently see it done, but there are many different approaches and each owner may display the information differently.
In a graphical presentation of a pedigree, the sires are listed on the top and the dams on the bottom for each pairing, and the goat’s name is in blue lettering in this example. The goat’s name is actually composed of the farm that bred the goat, may include the initials of the goat’s sire, and finally the goat’s actual name. So, for Bramblestone Sun Tea (see graphical pedigree below or click on it for a larger version), the breeding farm was Bramblestone and her actual name is Sun Tea. Some breeders also include the initials of the goat’s sire in the name which would have made Sun Tea’s name Bramblestone QQ Sun Tea (since her sire is Quentin Quinn).
Sun Tea (click here to go to her page) is registered with both the American Goat Society (AGS) and the American Dairy Goat Association (ADGA) which use different terminology to identify milking and show performance. So, I’ve used green lettering for the AGS performance designations and placed it following each goat’s name and red lettering for the ADGA performance designations as well as championship status and placed it before the goat’s name.
For example purposes I’ll use an ancestor (dam) appearing in Sun Tea’s pedigree with fairly complex information:
2*M GCH/ARMCH Old Mountain Farm Nutmeg 2*D ‘E’
LA 06-03 88 VVEV
Milk Production Awards (the pluses and stars)
Since Nigerian Dwarves are dairy goats, perhaps the best place to start understanding the pedigree is with the *M (ADGA) or *D (AGS) designations. This indicates that a doe has been tested for milking ability, and has successfully passed the required levels. There are many details associated with earning the star milking designations; however, stars in the pedigree are a good indicator that the goat has the potential for good milk production. Goats can also earn stars based on their progeny, and this is obviously the only way a buck earns production awards.
For the example goat Old Mountain Farm Nutmeg above, she has qualified for her milking stars in both ADGA (the *M) and AGS (the *D) and is a second generation star milker (the 2 in both the ADGA and AGS designations).
Titles (CH, MCH, GCH, ARMCH)
Goats are awarded titles for show wins, and MCH is the title for a Master Champion in AGS while CH is a Champion in ADGA. To reach Champion status a goat must win three shows as champion under at least two different judges. If a goat has achieved Champion status and also has milk production awards (the pluses and stars), then the goat becomes a Permanent Grand Champion which is denoted by ARMCH for AGS and GCH for ADGA. These designations are placed in front of the goat’s name. If animals have multiple titles (CH/MCH), then they have completed wins at shows for both registries.
For the example goat Old Mountain Farm Nutmeg above, she has earned her permanent Grand Champion status in both ADGA and AGS.
SG indicates that a doe or buck is in the top 15% of the production index for that breed, and if they also have Permanent Grand Champion status, the title becomes SGCH. The following table provides an explanation of how milk production awards and titles are earned for both ADGA and AGS:
Classification (AGS)/Linear Appraisal (ADGA) Scores (The E’s and V’s)
AGS uses a classification system to rate goat conformation which compares the goat to an ideal 100% and assigns a percentage for that goat. The scores are Excellent (90-100), Very Good (85-89.9), Good Plus (80-84.9), Good (70-79.9), Fair (60-69.9), and Poor (under 60). This classification is displayed after the goat’s name and any production awards. So again using the example, ‘E’ means that Nutmeg scored excellent in the AGS classification system.
ADGA uses Linear Appraisal to classify goats with the goat being assigned scores for general appearance, dairy character, body capacity, and mammary. The classifications are Excellent (E), Very Good (V), Good Plus (+), Acceptable (A), and Poor (P). So in the example, 06-03 88 VVEV means that at 6 years and 3 months; Nutmeg was given an overall score of 88 and was considered very good in general appearance, dairy character, and mammary but excellent in body capacity. For Nigerian Dwarf goats, the highest a goat can score is 94, and the highest that I’ve heard of a goat scoring is 93.
Putting It All Together
There are additional items that can appear in a goat’s pedigree, but this covers many of the more common things found in an ADGA or AGS pedigree. Many goat owners do not participate in milk production testing, showing, or linear appraisal (or may participate in only some of these things) and they may have wonderful goats; but, it becomes more difficult to pick great goats without the help of a pedigree that demonstrates the probable potential of any goat that you may be considering.
Obviously, if your goal is great milk production, then it’s a good idea to look for does with many generations of milking stars in their pedigrees. Or, if showing is the main attraction, a pedigree with many champion dams and sires is important. No matter what your goal, goats with excellent conformation (high linear appraisal or classification scores) are important because great conformation is what produces a healthy goat that can produce well (both milk production and kids) over a long life.