The STAR Breeding Concept

by Debbie Dahl or

THIS SYSTEM originally developed at Cornell University for year-round production of lambs can easily be applied to dairy and meat goats. Called the STAR System, it was specifically used for a line of Dorset sheep that had been selected to breed year round. Hormone treatments or a select line of goats which had the ability to cycle year-round are readily adapted to this system. This has now been attempted with indications of measurable success at our ranch here in Oklahoma, much to our satisfaction and expectations.

ANNUAL CYCLE is broken down into five roughly equal periods, each of about 73 days. A herd would have to be managed for breeding, kidding, and drying off as three separate groups (probably need three separate pastures too), at different times during the year. By example, one group (A) would be bred about January 1 and would kid and enter the milking string about May 27. They would be rebred 73 days later (August 8) to kid a second time in January 1 of the following year. This would produce a kidding interval of 219 days, and if the doe/nanny is dried up 29 days (or more) before kidding, it would give her a 190 day lactation, which is approximately the period of time for optimal milk production in an average doe's lactation.

THE SECOND GROUP (B) would be bred 73 days after Group A (March 15) and consequently would enter the milking string on August 8, rebred on October 20 and re-enter the string the following year on March 15. Group Three (C) would similarly breed 73 days after (B) on May 27, to kid October 20. The cycle could continue indefinitely.

THIS SYSTEM would spread the annual work calendar out such that only one-third of the time and labor involved in breeding, kidding, etc. would be required at five separate times during the year. The system would also supply a group of kids to be sold (selling meat goats on demand to a futures market) or kept as replacements (Nucleus Breeding Concept) at least five times each year.

The system also accelerates the kidding interval to produce five kid crops each three years and this potentially raises the number of kids produced each year by twenty percent. Most importantly, it would place all the animals in the milking string throughout the year except for three one-month periods when the string is reduced by 33 percent.

A DISTINCT ADVANTAGE of this system would be that periods of intense work would be periodic rather than all concentrated at one time during the year, or continuously as in a continuous year-round system in which a small number of animals are handled for breeding, kidding, etc., say every week or month. Such a system would also create a year-round use on breeding and kidding facilities and should simplify record keeping. This would also require LESS facilities, since the bred does/nannies are divided into smaller groups, not all at once.

NOTE: Synchronizing heat cycles and use of superior bucks by A.I. would be a major consideration for uniform traits in offspring, and create a very obvious advantage in meat marketing.

AN ADDITIONAL ADVANTAGE to this system is that it allows any animal who does not conceive or does not produce a kid to immediately enter the succeeding group. Similarly, animals whose lactation should be shortened or lengthened can easily be moved to a preceding or a later scheduled group.

THE STAR Breeder concept (possibly within a Co-Op effort) would be most advantageous. Breeding to the demands (1) futures meat market, (2) lactation year-round. (3) Nucleus breeding concept - building a herd of estrous animals of a superior breed in 4 years instead of 25 years.

PER SE: In a futures market the call comes in to deliver on or about September 1 for 500 plus kids, 30-40 pounds at $1.00 a pound. A Co-Op consisting of 12 or more members with 100 does each, using A.I. and the hormone implants (synchronization) they begin breeding Group A on January 1-2. The kidding starts on or about May 27 and 500 plus kids will be ready for September 1 for sale date.

REMEMBER we divided each herd of 100 does into groups of 33 does each and so on day 1, 33 goats are bred, and on day 2 another 33 are bred from another breeder's group. Twelve members have in only two days bred (A.I.) 396 animals. Using this breeding plan and the STAR System as opposed to the conventional way is like increasing the herd of 100 does by 65, a total of 165!

Okay, let's think about how this works. We have 12 members who are using the STAR System and have divided their animals into three groups of 33 each, times the 12 members' herds, equals 396 does bred. Not all will take, however, we will try very hard for an 80 percent success rate and that is 315 to kid. With good management, that is 2 kids each, we are looking at a possible 630 kids for the September market date.

THERE WILL BE SOME which will die, some to put down and WHO gets the bummers? Setting up a Bummer Bar Bucket Ranch and surplus milk? Bummers, calves, and pigs, using the STAR system for continuous lactation in the dairy goat barn is another need for cooperative marketing of surplus milk and/or kids.

FROM EACH kidding period of the STAR System a specific number of doe and buck kids go to the NUCLEUS to build the superior (breeding stock) which demonstrates the ability to cycle, breed and conceive out of season.

Wouldn't everybody like to have a herd of 100 does who meet these criteria? I know _I_ would!

Credits and reference go to United Caprine News, February 1993, Volume No. 10, Dr. A. David Scarfe, Tuskegee Institute, Tuskegee, Alabama.

Credit also goes to J. R. Jones of Holden, Missouri, for passing this along to me several years ago. If he hadn't sent it to me, you wouldn't be reading it now! :) He first saw the Cornell University STAR System for breeding sheep in "The Shepherd Magazine". Dr. Scarfe has done the work up to adapt it for goats, and we owe him our thanks. It is up to the breeder to apply the program and specify it to their own time periods.

IF AFTER READING the description, you would be interested in the picture wheel that accompanies this, and shows a better view of the actual dates, E-Mail me privately and I'll see if I can mail you a copy. It is basically self explanatory from the picture wheel.

Debbie Dahl
RAD Ranch - Goat & Emu Farm
DairyDoll Registered Nubians & Toggs
Boer, Spanish, Meat & Dairy Goats
Fainter (Wooden Leg) Meat Goats
AKC Great Pyrenees Guardian Dogs
Route 1, Box 147-2, Colcord, OK 74338