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Heredity and Environment in Dairy Goat Development

Crafting Excellence: The Interplay of Heredity and Environment in Dairy Goat Development

Breeding and nurturing an excellent dairy goat involves a delicate dance between heredity and environment. The genetic makeup inherited from parentage sets the foundation, while the environment in which the goat is raised molds and refines those inherent traits. In this article, we will explore the pivotal role that heredity and environment play in the development of an exceptional dairy goat, emphasizing the impact of the mother or surrogate mother through embryonic transplant.

Learn how to develop a dairy goat herd with the best qualities!

1. Heredity: The Blueprint of Excellence

a. Genetic Inheritance:

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  • The genes passed down from the parental lineage serve as the blueprint for the goat’s physical characteristics, milk production potential, and overall health.
  • Selecting breeding pairs with desirable traits is the first step in cultivating excellence.
  • But not every matching will produce the same results, even if it’s the same match from last year. Your goal is to find the best possible animals to pair together but then when their offspring is born, cull heavily and only keep the ones that are the very best. 
  • Genetics can be described in a term called the “bell curve”. At the very top of the bell it’s smaller and comes to a point, the goats that fall at the top of the bell are ones that you want to keep. They are the exception to the rule and are the cream of the crop. As the bell curves out at the middle, a lot of goats will land there, this is where the average goats fall and there will be a lot more of those than at the top. And then there will be the goat of least quality at the bottom of the bell. Keeping the cream of the crop and being tough on yourself to not keep the less quality goats will improve your herd dramatically. 

b. Pedigree and Lineage:

  • A comprehensive understanding of the goat’s pedigree and lineage helps predict potential strengths and weaknesses.
  • Breeding from proven bloodlines enhances the likelihood of passing down desirable traits.

c. Genetic Diversity:

  • Introducing genetic diversity is crucial for preventing inbreeding and maintaining a robust and resilient population.
  • Breeding programs should aim for a balance between preserving desirable traits and introducing new genetic material.
  • Don’t line breed until you know what you’re doing and are familiar with how to do it successfully. 

2. Environmental Influences: Shaping Potential into Performance

a. Nutrition:

  • Providing a balanced and nutrient-rich diet is essential for maximizing the genetic potential of a dairy goat.
  • Proper nutrition during all life stages contributes to optimal growth, milk production, and overall health.

b. Management Practices:

  • Environmental factors such as cleanliness, ventilation, and space impact the goat’s comfort and well-being.
  • Implementing sound management practices minimizes stressors and promotes a healthy environment.

c. Climate and Geographic Considerations:

  • Goats raised in different climates and geographic locations may develop specific adaptations.
  • Recognizing and accommodating these factors can contribute to the goat’s overall resilience and well-being.

3. Maternal Influence: The Role of the Mother in Dairy Goat Development

a. In Utero Environment:

  • The mother’s health during pregnancy influences the developing kid’s early environment.
  • Proper prenatal care, including nutrition and stress management, contributes to healthy fetal development.

b. Lactation and Nursing:

  • A mother goat’s milk provides essential nutrients and antibodies critical for the kid’s early growth and immune system development.
  • Adequate nursing time and proper lactation support are vital for a strong start.

c. Embryonic Transplant:

  • The use of embryonic transplant, where embryos are transferred from a genetically superior donor to a surrogate mother, allows for the propagation of exceptional genetics.
  • This technique enables the transfer of desirable traits without relying solely on natural reproduction.
  • As already mentioned, no breeding is guaranteed to produce perfect results (the top of the bell). And the surrogate mother will have a dramatic affect on the embryo and as it raises the kid. The mother who raises the kid will teach it everything it needs to know to thrive and survive. Or that is your goal. In other words, the milk that the dam is giving the kid, is not the only important factor to consider if you’re using surrogate mothers. And you’ll still have to cull heavily from these breeding outcomes as well. 
  • The embryo will retain qualities from both its biological mom and from the surrogate mother. But it will never be identical to what the outcome would have been if the embryo would have been born from its original mother. 

4. Selective Breeding and Continuous Improvement:

a. Performance Testing:

  • Conducting performance testing, such as milk yield evaluations, helps identify superior individuals.
  • Use performance data to inform selective breeding decisions for continuous improvement.

b. Adaptation and Resilience:

  • Observing how goats adapt to their environment and exhibit resilience in the face of challenges is crucial.
  • Incorporate adaptive traits into breeding programs to enhance the overall hardiness of the herd.
  • Developing your best milking goat will take so much time. And you must be willing to take that time to do it. The faster you can figure out what you’re looking for and how to get to it, the less time you’ll waste.


The development of an excellent dairy goat is a dynamic interplay between heredity and environment. By understanding the genetic blueprint, implementing sound environmental practices, and recognizing the influential role of the mother—whether through traditional means or innovative techniques like embryonic transplant—goat breeders can contribute to the advancement of dairy goat excellence. Continuous improvement through selective breeding, coupled with thoughtful environmental management, ensures a harmonious synergy that fosters the growth, productivity, and well-being of each generation of dairy goats.

Keep learning about what it takes to raise goats you love: Raising Goats Resource page 

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