The domestication of animals is one of the oldest milestones along the road to civilization. The level of sophistication achieved in livestock management is quite remarkable. An understanding of genetics has promoted steady improvement in animal populations. Today, farms and ranches of all sizes choose their approach to breeding practices based on multiple factors. The climate of the pasture resources, type of livestock and marketing strategies are all important drivers in decisions made about managing individual herds.
An operator’s decisions are also influenced by the target market and the prevailing trends in the market. The products derived from animals are a key factor to consider as well. Domesticated since antiquity, different goat species producing fiber, milk and meat present an interesting livestock example. Operators raising purebred goats, primarily for breeding stock, employ strategies that differ considerably from operators raising fiber animals. Two common breeding approaches include line breeding and crossbreeding for genetic management.
This strategy minimizes the genetic diversity of the herd. Combined with some form of selection technique it produces very consistent and predictable traits among offspring. Selection refers to the choice of breeding pairs based on specific traits that are desirable. Care must be taken that the breeding pair are not too closely related genetically to avoid the negative repercussions of inbreeding.
The practice of using breeding pairs from different breeds results in the first generation of offspring that benefit from the consistent expression of traits from each respective breed. Subsequent generations, utilizing off-spring from the initial cross as breeding stock, will lose the consistency in expression. Random traits from each breed are expressed resulting in more diverse and less predictable characteristics. Within the cross-breeding strategy, there are different approaches to subsequent generation genetic management.
Various breeding strategies in livestock operations offer opportunities for useful promotion or suppression of phenotypic traits. When consistently applied over multiple generations of animals, specific desirable traits can be realized. Informed operators can leverage the different strategies to their advantage. Ultimately, the outcome sought after is improved animal populations that sustain profitable operation and market satisfaction.