For the Love of Goats
If you want to view everything we know about individual ADGA-registered dairy goats in one place, check out ADGA Genetics. It’s the brainchild of Gene Dershewitz, who created the database and website. He also responds to questions from goat owners or wanna-be goat owners.
Gene says that most people are simply using the site as a pedigree viewer, but it has so much more to offer. In addition to a planned breeding function where you can see what a hypothetical breeding between a specific buck and doe would look like, you can see performance data on individual goats and more.
In this episode, we talk about how the site can be used when you are goat shopping, as well as how you can use it for goats you already own.
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Introduction 0:03 For the love of goats! We are talking about everything goat. Whether you’re a goat owner, a breeder, or just a fan of these wonderful creatures, we’ve got you covered. And now, here is Deborah Niemann.
Deborah Niemann 0:17
Hello, everyone, and welcome to today’s episode. This is going to be really informative for all of you who have goats that are registered with the American Dairy Goat Association, because we are joined today by Gene Dershowitz, who is the developer of the ADGA genetic software, and he’s also the owner of Misty’s French Alpine Dairy Goats. Welcome to the show today, Gene.
Gene Dershewitz 0:43
Thank you, Deborah. Glad to be here.
Deborah Niemann 0:45
I’m so excited to have you here, because for better or for worse, I have not really used ADGA Genetics a whole lot, because I have a closed herd, and I buy a buck about every five years. Other than that, I’ve been working with the same genetics since 2002. And so I haven’t really- I know a lot of people go to ADGA Genetics when they are shopping for goats to get a lot of genetic information. And since I don’t go goat shopping much anymore, I haven’t been there. And maybe that’s a mistake, I’m going to find out today, I have a feeling I might be visiting that site more after our chat. So can you tell us basically what is ADGA Genetics?
Gene Dershewitz 1:26
ADGA Genetics is a database and an application that sits on top of that, that allows people to combine registry pedigree information with dairy goat production and type evaluations that come out of, it used to be USDA, and now it’s CDCB, Council for Dairy Cattle Breeding. So there haven’t been any good tools for combining that information and putting it in a useful format. And my idea was to combine that and make it a tool that people can use to make good breeding decisions for their goats.
Deborah Niemann 2:15
Okay. One of the things that I have heard people talk about doing is creating pedigrees, and I put pedigrees in air quotes, which people can’t see- of potential breedings. Like, you know, what happens if I breed this doe to this buck? Is that one of the applications? And why exactly would somebody do that instead of just like looking at the two pedigrees and going, “oh, these are the goats and the two pedigrees that I’m going to cross?”
Gene Dershewitz 2:42
The planned pedigree function is one of the more useful parts of ADGA Genetics. People use that quite a bit to do what-ifs on breedings. What it does is it’ll show the planned pedigree, you know, which animals are in it, and then also display evaluation information on those and how that possible combination might be better than another one.
Deborah Niemann 3:14
Okay. And then does it also pull in all the information from the performance programs?
Gene Dershewitz 3:21
You can get to that, but it’s mostly a combination of the planned pedigree and evaluation information, as well as the coefficient of inbreeding, which is fairly important. You know, everybody has their own way of deciding how much inbreeding is okay. This will do the calculation on the planned breeding and allow them to be in their comfort zone if they’re actually going to do that breeding.
Deborah Niemann 3:53
I’m glad you brought that up because that number is a percentage, and I think it might be kind of confusing to people. I know when I first heard about it, I thought, well if you’re breeding a father to a daughter, shouldn’t that percentage be like 75%? Because 75% of the genes are going to come from that one buck that’s being bred to his daughter, but that’s not the number that you would see with that particular breeding. Can you explain what that percentage is and what it means?
Gene Dershewitz 4:24
What the coefficient of inbreeding shows is common animals in the top and the bottom of the pedigree, on the sire side and the dam side. So the closer they are to the actual animal, the higher percentage you’re going to have. The further back you get, the contribution in that coefficient of inbreeding is going to be halved by each generation. So the biggest effect is going to be breeding a father to a daughter or a dam to a sire. Those you’ll have very high percentages, but it’ll never get to 100% because 100% is the animal bred to itself, which you can’t do.
Deborah Niemann 5:18
Right. So I know, like I said, a father-daughter is not- to me, before I saw these, I thought, oh that’s 75%, but it’s not. So what is the- Because you said very high, what would the highest number be that you would see?
Gene Dershewitz 5:33
You can go over 50%, but basic close breeding will be 50%. If you have other animals in there that are common, it may push it over. But I don’t know that people really want to do that kind of a breeding. It can create problems.
Deborah Niemann 5:56
Yeah, exactly. So other than the planned pedigrees, what are some other reasons people might use adgogenetics?
Gene Dershewitz 6:04
Well, just from looking at the web statistics, I think the biggest usage is actually doing pedigree searches, people researching their animal’s family history. A lot of people will also link to those pages from their websites and sales pages. So I think, for better or worse, most people use it as just a pedigree search engine. I have tried to get people to dig a little deeper. The genetic information with the evaluations is a real powerful tool for making breedings that really make sense based on the data. And there are tools in there that allow you to go through production evaluations to find out what potential sires might increase milk production or protein or butterfat. On the type side, you can look at the linear traits. If you’re trying to do improvement, let’s say, on rump width or fore udder attachment or rear udder height, you can look at bucks that might work for increasing those traits and improving those traits. So those are real important parts. It’s really why I created the application, was to use that information, not just make a fancy pedigree viewer.
Deborah Niemann 7:49
Okay. So if somebody wanted to do that, like say somebody did want to increase the milk production in their herd, bring in a better buck, how would they go about doing that? Would they need to just look up each individual buck that they had heard about? Or would they be able to search on there for bucks with a certain trait and get a whole list of those? Or how does that work?
Gene Dershewitz 8:15
So as far as production goes, there’s a production tab in ADGA Genetics. And there’s various ways of bringing back lists of potential sires. And by sorting the columns, let’s say you want to find the bucks that are the best for increasing milk production. You can sort them so the ones that have the highest improvement would be at the top, and you could go through those. And I’m going on the assumption you’ve already subset it by the breed you’re interested in. You can do that. You can look at registered purebreds, American, recorded grades- subset that way. And it’s pretty easy to get a nice ordered list of bucks you might want to look at for making that kind of improvement. And another thing, I’m talking primarily about sires and their effect on improvement. A lot of people want to look at does as well. But when you look at the grand scheme of things, the sires have a lot more potential progeny than a single doe does. And that’s where the most effect is going to be. So I kind of concentrate on looking for sires to make improvements.
Deborah Niemann 9:39
So a lot of times people aren’t necessarily looking for a buck that’s in ADGA Genetics already to buy. They’re going to have to buy a kid. So they might then want to look at does and bucks. And is there a way, would they do those separately? Like what does on a farm have the best milking numbers and then what bucks have does with the highest milking numbers? Or are the buck numbers actually, do they have to do with the buck’s ability to have better daughters?
Gene Dershewitz 10:15
The evaluations for sires are based on daughter averages. So like a sire themselves does not milk, but their female progeny do. So the production evaluations are all based on daughter evaluations. So that’s what we’re looking at. And some of the numbers that you get on the evaluation are how many daughters have been evaluated, how many lactations they’ve had, how many herds these daughters are in, and all those things go together to create a record for that sire that has a certain reliability as far as what those numbers mean.
Deborah Niemann 11:04
Wow. That is fascinating. I’m just thinking about, you know, back in the day before ADGA Genetics, you would look at pedigrees on people’s websites and look for bucks that had a +S. But unfortunately some of those, like by the time they had a +S or ++S, they were already dead because it takes time for their daughters to get those milk stars and stuff. So it sounds like with this, you might be able to identify some of those better sires a little earlier in life.
Gene Dershewitz 11:34
Potentially. ADGA has a program to identify potential sires, you know, based on their evaluations and I’m not exactly sure how well it works. I don’t really look at that information. I use the evaluations directly from the source, from CDCB.
Deborah Niemann 11:56
Oh, that is really good to know. Can you describe that source a little bit more and like where their information comes from?
Gene Dershewitz 12:03
So as far as production goes, a herd is on test. They take their samples to a lab to get them analyzed for their monthly test. Those results go to a dairy records processing center and there’s a number of them around the country. They kind of correlate those results and then send them along to CDCB where CDCB is kind of the clearinghouse for all production records for dairy goats and dairy cattle in this country. So they get all that data and they do the evaluations from that central location on those records that were supplied.
Deborah Niemann 12:47
Okay, that is so good to know. And is there anything else in ADGA Genetics that you feel like is underutilized?
Gene Dershewitz 12:55
The evaluation tools accessed from the menu options, production and type, aren’t used all that much and I think there are a lot of features in there that would help people make improvements in areas that they’re interested in for production: milk production and components, protein and butterfat. And for type, you can search for sires that will improve certain aspects of type based on the linear traits that is very useful if you need help, let’s say with teat placement or rear udder height or fore udder. There are a number of things that production and type go hand in hand together, and you can’t just look at a high-producing cross and not have the type of animal that will support that for a long, useful lifetime. So those things need to be done together. Also there’s a feature in there where you can create an account and save pedigrees and plan pedigrees and group your animals so you can access them a lot easier than having to go through a pedigree search every time you want to find them. So quite a few people use that feature now but a lot of people don’t really either know where it is or know how to create an account or don’t want to create an account. It’s very private, I never share any of that information, and that’s free to use however you want.
Deborah Niemann 14:44
Okay. When you talk about type and evaluation stuff, are you referring to linear appraisal scores?
Gene Dershewitz 14:52
So the linear appraisal scores, the type traits and the final score get fed to CDCB and they use those to calculate the type evaluations at the end of each year. So that’s the information that’s fed into CDCB to make those evaluations happen.
Deborah Niemann 15:16
Okay. And when you said that it’s free to use, is that just for ADGA members or if somebody is thinking of getting goats and they’re not a member yet, could they go in there and use it to go goat shopping?
Gene Dershewitz 15:30
Sure. It’s totally open, totally public. That was one of the stipulations when I entered into the agreement with ADGA for registry information, that there would never be any charges for it, and it would be open.
Deborah Niemann 15:49
Okay. And then is it- so is ADGA Genetics part of ADGA or is it still your baby that you’re still taking care of it?
Gene Dershewitz 15:59
It’s separate. The Dairy Goat Association and I have a co-op agreement for data sharing. You know, they’re supposed to be providing the information and I display that information in a useful format.
Deborah Niemann 16:14
And is there anything else that people should know about ADGA Genetics?
Gene Dershewitz 16:19
I think it can be, you know, genetics and evaluations can be pretty daunting and, you know, hard to understand at first. I would suggest using the links on the homepage on the lower left-hand side. There’s a number of presentations I’ve put together that go through all the aspects of the application and hopefully would shed some light on how it works and what it means.
Deborah Niemann 16:50
And the homepage is adgagenetics.org. Sorry, we didn’t mention that sooner. And if people have questions, I know you also have a Facebook group where, the name of the Facebook group is ADGA Genetics also, right?
Gene Dershewitz 17:05
Yes. Yeah. I do notifications when new data is loaded. If there’s any system problems, I’ll notify through there. It’s also a great social media forum for asking questions. There are a lot of knowledgeable application users out there that can answer questions. And usually the questions that come up have been answered before. So you can search through the group archives and find a lot of good information there. There is a link at the bottom of each page for feedback, and that will come directly to my email. So if there’s questions that way, you’re welcome to email me. Also I will respond to instant messenger messages from users as well.
Deborah Niemann 18:03
Okay. And that’s, you said at the bottom of every page, you mean on adgagenetics[.org]?
Gene Dershewitz 18:09
Yes. In the small print.
Deborah Niemann 18:11
Gotcha. Well, this has been really informative and helpful, and I’m sure a lot of people are going to be heading over to adgagenetics.org now to start playing with it. I know I’m a lot more excited about it now to see what kind of information I can find about some of my goats. Thanks so much for joining us today.
Gene Dershewitz 18:31
Well, thank you for having me.
Deborah Niemann And that’s it for today’s show. If you haven’t already done so, be sure to hit the “subscribe” button so that you don’t miss any episodes. To see show notes, you can always visit ForTheLoveOfGoats.com, and you can follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/LoveGoatsPodcast. See you again next time. Bye for now!