Before buying registered Nigerian Dwarf goats, it’s a good idea to learn how to read a dairy goat pedigree. That way, you can be confident that the goats you are buying will meet your goals for owning them (see this LINK for determining whether you want registered goats).
However, be warned, understanding dairy goat pedigrees can be difficult (this is my second attempt at trying to explain how!). That’s because there are multiple registries and each has unique methods of signifying superior milk production, conformation, and genetics on the pedigree.
What’s A Dairy Goat Pedigree?
In it’s most basic form, a pedigree identifies the ancestors of any particular goat and may prove that the goat is a registered purebred. Then, designations signifying awards for milk production testing, showing, and linear appraisal or classification are added to the pedigree. This can be confusing since each registry has different methods of designating outstanding performance in these categories.
The most popular Nigerian Dwarf dairy goat registries are ADGA and AGS, so that’s what you will most often find when viewing pedigrees. Table 1 below provides an explanation of how milk production awards and show titles are earned for both ADGA and AGS.
Milk Production Awards (*M, *D, *B, & *S)
Since Nigerian Dwarf goats are dairy animals, a good place to start understanding the pedigrees are with the *M (ADGA) or *D (AGS) designations. These identify that a doe has participated in a milk production performance program and has successfully passed the required production 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 great potential for milk production.
Goats can also earn milking stars based on their progeny and this is obviously the only way a buck earns milk production awards. When a sufficient number of a goat’s progeny have earned their milking stars, then that goat also earns its’ milking stars. For bucks, these are the *B (ADGA) or *S (AGS) designations.
Show Titles (CH, MCH, GCH, ARMCH)
Goats are awarded titles for show wins, and MCH is the title for a Champion in AGS while CH is a Champion in ADGA. To reach Champion status a goat must win three shows as grand champion (beating all other goats of that breed in a show) 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.
Superior Genetics Designation
SG indicates that a doe or buck is in the top 15% of the ADGA production index for that breed, and if they also have Permanent Grand Champion status, the title becomes SGCH.
Classification (AGS)/Linear Appraisal (ADGA) Scores (The E’s and V’s)
In addition to the milk production and show awards identified in Table 1, both ADGA and AGS use classification systems to judge the conformational quality of a goat.
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.
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). These designations are generally placed below the goat’s name.
The linear appraisal scores or classification score for a goat tend to increase as they age until they are somewhere between four to seven years old, so lower scores for younger goats are typical. That’s because it’s difficult for young does or bucks to measure up conformationally to mature older does and bucks.
Deciphering An Example Nigerian Dwarf Dairy Goat Pedigree
Our Nigerian Dwarf goats are registered with both ADGA and AGS, so I’ll use our method of graphically displaying their pedigrees as an example. This is one way I see it done, but there are many different approaches and each owner may display the information slightly differently.
In a graphical presentation of a pedigree, the sires are listed on the top and the dams on the bottom for each pairing. The goat’s name is composed of the farm that bred the goat, may include the initials of the goat’s sire, and finally the goat’s name. So, for Bramblestone Sun Tea (pictured above), the breeding farm was Bramblestone and her name is Sun Tea. Some breeders also include the initials of the goat’s sire in the name which might have made Sun Tea’s name Bramblestone QQ Sun Tea (since her sire is QuentinQuinn).
In Sun Tea’s graphical pedigree below (this is the pedigree format that I supply to potential buyers and display on our website), I use blue lettering for the AGS performance designations and place them following each goats name and red lettering for the ADGA performance designations as well as championship status and place them before each goats name.
However, for example purposes, I’ll explain an ancestor’s designations (Sun Tea’s maternal grand-dam Old Mountain Farm Nutmeg) using the same colors used earlier in this section to highlight the source of each designation:
2*M SGCH/ARMCH Old Mountain Farm Nutmeg 2*D ‘E’
LA 06-03 88 VVEV
For the example doe Old Mountain Farm Nutmeg, she has earned 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). She is a second generation star milker in both registries because her dam was a star milker in both registries. Goats from good milking lines can have many generations of star milkers in their pedigrees. Nutmeg’s granddaughter Sun Tea has earned her milking star in AGS and is now a 4th generation star doe in that registry. I’m sure she will soon earn her 4th generation star in ADGA too thereby making her name 4*M Bramblestone Sun Tea 4*D.
Nutmeg has earned her Permanent Grand Champion status in both ADGA and AGS by winning shows to become a champion in each registry as well as earning her milk production stars as denoted by the GCH/ARMCH designations. However, because she also earned her Superior Genetics designation in ADGA her title changed to SGCH/ARMCH.
Finally, Nutmeg has been classified by AGS and linearly appraised by ADGA. Again, using the example above, ‘E’ means that Nutmeg scored excellent in the AGS classification system. The, “LA 06-03 88 VVEV” means that at 6 years and 3 months of age; Nutmeg was linearly appraised by ADGA with an overall score of 88. She was scored as very good in general appearance, dairy character, and mammary (the V’s) but excellent in body capacity (the E).
Putting It All Together
There are many additional items and details that can appear in a goat’s pedigree, but this covers some of the more common performance designations found in an ADGA or AGS pedigree. It takes a great deal of time and effort for goat owners to establish credentials for milk production, show wins, and conformation. Therefore, some goat owners do not participate in these programs (or may participate on a limited basis). 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.
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.