Before buying Nigerian Dwarf goats, it’s a good idea to learn how to read (while understanding) dairy goat pedigrees. 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 goat pedigrees can be difficult. That’s because there are multiple registries and each has unique methods of signifying superior milk production, conformation, and genetics on the pedigree.
If you have no experience at all with understanding goat pedigrees and registration, you may find yourself a bit confused. If so, go over this section several times. If you still have questions, ask your breeder to clarify.
What’s A Dairy Goat Pedigree?
In its 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.
The most popular Nigerian Dwarf goat registries are ADGA and AGS, so those are the designations you will most often find when viewing pedigrees. Table 1 below provides an explanation of how milk production awards and show designations are earned for both ADGA and AGS.
Table 1 – ADGA & AGS Performance Designations
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.
For example, a *M doe is one that has produced a sufficient amount of milk for her age to qualify as a star doe in ADGA. A *D doe has done the same in AGS. A 2*M doe is a second-generation star doe (her dam also earned her milking star). A 3*M is third generation, and so on. It’s the same for the *D’s in AGS as identified in Table 1 above.
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. If you look in the table above, it explains exactly how a doe or buck can earn their milking stars.
There are many details associated with earning the milking designations; however, stars and pluses in the pedigree are a good indicator that the goat has great potential for milk production.
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
Nigerian Dwarf goats are frequently registered in more than one registry (see Registered or Unregistered for information on registries). Although the registries provide the certificates that prove a goat is a registered purebred Nigerian Dwarf and may provide limited pedigree information online, it is the owner that often prepares and displays the pedigree information.
Owners prepare pedigrees by taking the show and performance designations recorded on the goat’s registration paperwork and transferring it to a graphical pedigree format. 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. However, 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 breeding farm and the goat’s name. So, for Bramblestone Pal Chai Tea (pictured above ), the breeding farm was Bramblestone and her name is Chai Tea. Some breeders also include the initials or part of the goat’s sires name which made Chai Tea’s name become Bramblestone Pal Chai Tea (since her sire is Palindrome).
In Chai Tea’s graphical pedigree below (this is the pedigree format that I supply to potential buyers and display on our website), I use red lettering for the ADGA performance designations as well as championship status and place them before each goats name. I use blue lettering for the AGS performance designations and place them after each goats name.
To see a larger version of her pedigree, click HERE.
However, for example purposes, I’ll explain an ancestor’s designations (Chai 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 Chai Tea has earned her milking stars in both ADGA and AGS and is now a 4th generation star doe in both registries.
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 (which, if you recall, mean the same thing). 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 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. I hope the information above helps you with a basic understanding of dairy goat pedigrees.
I love all the info you give. I wish you had a breakdown of understanding milk testing. lol… I’m struggling to fully understand what it all means. Thank you for the info.
Linda Mehr says
This is Linda Mehr and Samantha (Sam) Mehr is my Daughter.
She looks into everything in detail and I appreciate All You share and look forward to Our 2 does and 1 weather(spell Ck.) We are soon getting💜. They are registered Nigerian Drawfs.
Thank You and Have A Beautiful Day!
Congratulations on your does and wether! I hope you enjoy them as much as we have 🙂
Connie Maine says
Great information adding to the research I have done and gaining more knowledge so I can participate in these programs in the near future. Thank you for this valuable information.
Hi Leza – Great Post on a hard to explain and comprehend subject! I refer a lot to your extremely informative site. Thank you for taking your valuable time to share your knowledge and expertise to us newbies!
Wow! This post just showed me how much I DON’T know about goats *sigh*. That pedigree information is tough to digest for sure! You did a great job though. My plan is to get registered NG’s or another type of mini since I know in the long run that is good for me, but I have no intention of showing them or becoming a professional breeder. I have always read that I should purchase the best goats I can afford, so that is the plan. I will have to bookmark this post so I can refer back to it when purchasing time comes later this year!
Thanks, Ruthie, yes it is hard to understand at first. I remember when I first started – like, are you kidding me (no pun intended)! And yes it helps to start out with the best that you can afford, you’ll be happier when you look back down the road. Good Luck and a good breeder should help answer any questions you have concerning a pedigree of any goat they’re offering 🙂