Linear Appraisal (LA)
Linear Appraisal is an ADGA program in which the structural traits of each animal in the herd are evaluated by ADGA staff. The traits are selected based on their impact on the productivity and durability of the animal. The collected data allows for accurate genetic evaluation of the animal to aid in the prediction of improving the offspring.
Click HERE for Linear Appraisal info from the ADGA website.
So how does it work?
First, you must be an ADGA member and have animals registered with ADGA. After that, you simply sign up for the program in the beginning of the year, by end of January (late entry allowed until end of February for increased cost). You only pay the enrollment fee at that time. ADGA will release a tentative regional schedule, which is published on their website, prior to the end of enrollment. The time in which appraisal occurs varies from year to year so that any given region isn't evaluated first or last (no one likes late season evaluations as animals are often past peak lactation). When signing up, you have the option to host, transport to a host herd, or schedule a 'private stop' in which a minimum stop fee applies, typically $250. If you only have 5 animals, it is going to cost you an awful lot per animal ($50). Additionally, due to the popularity of the program and the most productive use the appraiser's time, ADGA may not accommodate minimum stops with only few animals. After you sign up, then you WAIT.
As the date approaches, ADGA will send you a 'currently owned' list and a more precise appraisal date. It is then you will select which animals have been sold, leased, or are exempt for another reasons and pay the per goat fee (see ADGA fee schedule, typically $6.50 - $8.50 a goat depending how many are to be appraised at that stop). There are rules regarding which animals MUST be presented for evaluation. You DO NOT get to pick and choose. The goal of the program is herd improvement, NOT cherry-picking your best animals to showcase high scores. After all, what is the value of a goat that scores incredibly high if she NEVER passes on those traits to her offspring? See the ADGA Guidebook for the most accurate description of which animals must be presented for evaluation and on what grounds they can opt-out. In summary, however, all female animals that have freshened must be presented for evaluation unless medically exempt (yes, if you are traveling to a host herd, you must supply a vet's note stating why you couldn't transport the animal). If an animal dries-up (stops producing milk) or gets sick and is in poor condition to be evaluated, you still MUST present that animal to the appraiser and then he/she can decide whether or not to score the animal. Other exceptions for opting out of evaluation include: animals appraised the year prior, animal over 5 years of age IF PREVIOUSLY APPRAISED, and animals OVER 8 years of age. Bucks are optional and an owner can decide to only appraise one breed if more than one breed is owned. For example, I own Nigerian Dwarves and Alpines. I can appraise only my Nigerian Dwarves, but I cannot appraise my Nigerian Dwarves and only 1 Alpine... It's all or none.
Also included in the packet you receive as your appraisal date approaches is instructions on what to expect. One thing stressed is CHECK YOUR ANIMAL'S TATTOOS... ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS DO THIS! It turns out, they can be legible one year and illegible the next... and it is really disappointing to not have one of your favorite animals appraised. Do this with plenty of time so that if a new tattoo is needed, you have time to file the necessary paperwork with ADGA.
Prior to your appraisal session, it is ideal to have your animals in show condition, this means clipped and clean, shaved udder, & freshly trimmed hooves. If weather doesn't allow for a fresh clip/shave job, the appraiser will understand that. Don't stress too much if your animal doesn't stand super nice & cooperatively. A lot of the evaluation during linear appraisal is done 'on the move' and standing 'naturally'. It is helpful if you don't have to drag them around, though, as 'dragging' won't showcase the effortless manner in which an animal should move around itself if structurally correct.
On appraisal day, have everything ready to go when your appraiser arrives so that he/she can move through the animals at the speed required. The appraiser typically spends a decent amount of time on the first animal, explaining his/her process. In my experience, the appraiser usually gives a little 'lesson' on something they feel is important. One gave his thoughts on evaluation of newborn kids, certain things to look for that indicate good things are to come. Another, gave a bit of education on how to use the breed standards and score card to get a feel for the ideal score for each trait (a high score for some traits isn't a good thing, but IS a good thing for other traits). After the first animal, things move quick. If you want to take notes, have someone else do it, as you will be busy handling the animal. I found it valuable to have someone else handle a few of my animals so I could stand right next to the appraiser and look at what he/she is looking at. One reason I host linear appraisal annually is I find it very informative to watch other people's herds be evaluated. Not only are their animals typically genetically different than mine, they might be different breeds entirely. If you would ever like to attend a Linear Appraisal session to learn more, please feel free to contact me... Extra hands are never turned away.
So now you have the actual Linear Appraisal scores, what do they mean?
Letter designations representing the percent ideal are given for the 4 main categories in does: General Appearance, Dairy Strength, Body Capacity, & Mammary (3 in bucks - excluding mammary, obviously).
The letter designations and corresponding percent ideal are as follows:
- E - Excellent - at least 90% of ideal
- V - Very Good - 85% - 89% of ideal
- + - Good Plus - 80% - 84% of ideal
- A - Acceptable - 70% - 79% of ideal
- F - Fair - 60% - 69% of ideal
- P - Poor - less than 60% of ideal
In computing the final score, a total percentage of ideal, the following weights are given to each of the 4 main categories (3 main categories for bucks):
- General Appearance - 35% (55% for bucks)
- Dairy Strength - 20% (30% for bucks)
- Body Capacity - 10% (15% for bucks)
- Mammary - 35% (N/A for bucks)
As far as the linear data (which plays into the scores for the 4 main categories), there are 14 linear traits, in addition to the 8 structural evaluations (which use the percent ideal designations). The linear traits are scored 1 to 45. A high score is not always better for some categories. The 14 linear traits are ('udder stuff' not scored for bucks, obviously):
- Rump Angle
- Rump width
- Rear Leg Side View
- Fore Udder Attachment
- Rear Udder Height
- Medial (udder ligament)
- Udder Depth
- Teat Placement
- Teat Diameter
- Rear Udder Side View
The 8 structural categories using the percent ideal ratings are:
- Shoulder Assembly
- Front Legs
- Rear Legs
- Udder Texture (does only)
The appraiser can also assign codes to any animal to document condition or defects.
If an animal has been appraised, the records are public and can be found on the ADGA Genetics website by searching the goat and then clicking on 'linear history'.
More detailed information on Linear Appraisal can be found on the ADGA website. The LA 'Blue Book' provides an excellent explanation of the importance of the linear and structural traits, including pictures to reference the scoring of each trait. Keep in mind, a high score is not always better.
I find a great deal of value in the Linear Appraisal program. It documents the strong and weak points of every animal in an unbiased and technical fashion. The collected data allows for scientific analysis of the genetic expression and transmission of various traits allowing for animals to be predictably improved. These appraisers look at thousands of goats every year, many year after year, I find their opinion extremely valuable. Additionally, a show win only means a goat was the best in the ring on that day. Was the win at a small county fair or ADGA Nationals? A Linear Appraisal score is a standardized approach.
If you are interested in participating in Linear Appraisal, feel free to contact me. You can just come watch or jump in and have your animals appraised. If you are not geographically close to me, the ADGA website has a 'locate host herds' page.
In conclusion, people always want to know what is a good score. Would you get rid of an animal with such-and-such score. All appraiser are very quick to point out, use the program to breed what YOU LIKE. If you like the goat, there is no magic score, just use the data to improve that animal in the way you want. One appraiser said, regarding whether to keep or sell, 'would you want 5 more just like her/him?' Speaking of 'him', a buck is the ONLY WAY you can improve upon the genetics of your herd. Do not skimp in this area. Buy a buck that is PROVEN strong in the areas that you want to improve.
But to answer the question, what is a good score? For a mature doe, 4 or 5 years of age, depending on how quickly she matures, 87 and above is very good, in my opinion, with 90s being exceptional. I do not believe an animal has ever scored above 93, but could be wrong. For young animals, 2 or 3 years of age, low to mid 80s are good scores, 86 and above being fairly exceptional since they will likely improve to upon that score as they mature. That being said, I have a few animals in the 70s, but these animals usually only have one weak area with high weight in the overall score that results in the low overall score. These animals still have value in my breeding program as they are exceptional in other areas, often including milk production. Which is a nice segway into DHIR (milk testing).