Have you ever wondered about what happens if goats inbreed? Inbreeding goats can offer benefits and drawbacks alike, and with this in mind, it’s something you should consider very carefully when deciding how to manage your goats (especially if you plan on breeding).
Of course, inbreeding is a natural process in the wild, and isn’t anything new – in many wild species, it happens on a regular basis, especially among animals that live in family groups or in a population that has a bottleneck.
Still, as a breeder, it’s important to be aware of the benefits and drawbacks of inbreeding – and what this might mean for your goats.
What Happens if Goats Inbreed?
In the simplest way possible, inbreeding occurs when two closely related animals breed together. Inbreeding goats will often not have a hugely detrimental impact in the first generation, especially if inbreeding goats are more distantly related, but with repeated or very close inbreeding, complications may be more common.
It’s sometimes also referred to as linebreeding – when it works. However, when goats inbreed, you can also put them at risk of complications, which is highly important to consider. Don’t worry – we’ll look at this in the next section.
What are the Risks of Inbreeding Goats?
Inbreeding goats can come with several risks. Some of the most common risks of inbreeding may include the following (although these may not always occur, especially if inbreeding for the first time):
- Ill thrift
- Reduced vigor
- Lower fertility
- Increased chance of genetic diseases or undesirable traits
Does Inbreeding Offer Any Benefits?
At this point, we’ve considered some of the risks of inbreeding goats. Still, are there any benefits to this process? Well, in my personal opinion, there are two potential benefits to inbreeding (when used cautiously).
However, I strongly recommend that inbreeding should only ever be attempted if you are willing to cull, put down, or castrate any animals that have poor conformation as a result of it.
Indeed, while the following benefits are potentially worthwhile – it’s why I’ve attempted inbreeding in my own herd with great success – it does still come with the risks presented above.
Understand your genetics without expensive testing.
When you inbreed closely related oats, you “condense” the gene pool. This allows you to see which bloodlines have good and bad traits (that you might not otherwise recognise if they are recessive traits). In turn, you can then select suitable breeding stock that doesn’t carry those negative traits, helping improve your herd’s genes overall.
Condense good traits into your herd.
In the same way that inbreeding can condense bad recessive traits, it can also help make desirable traits more common in your herd. For example, in our own herd, we discovered that our ex-champion buck, Beech Hay Jaguar, carried the red gene. By line breeding a handful of his offspring, we were able to condense the red gene and get more red goats in the herd.
How to Prevent Inbreeding from Happening in your Herd
If you’re not prepared to cull as strictly as may be necessary with inbreeding, or if you notice any detrimental traits while inbreeding (for example, a lack of muscle tone or fishtail (split) teats) it’s best to prevent it from happening.
The simplest way to do this is not to keep any male kids you breed; castrating every male kid, or selling them as early as possible, will help prevent these young lads from breeding with their mothers, sister, cousins, and so on.
Furthermore, if you notice that your goats are already inbred, outcrossing them to new lines may help reduce the risk of complications. This is typically our policy on inbreeding; if we keep a line bred goat with good traits, we aim to cross to a new bloodline to help ensure the gene pool doesn’t get too close in our herd.
How Can You Tell That Your Goats are Inbred?
If your goat is inbred, it may look very similar to its siblings (owing to the small gene pool). However, there’s no visible way to tell if your goat is inbred immediately; the best way is to look at the goat’s papers (if it has them) to check if there are any common ancestors.
As with everything in life, while inbreeding is often considered a bad thing, it can actually reap benefits in some cases – however, while inbreeding can be beneficial, it can also be highly dangerous.
With this thought in mind, whether you’re breeding on purpose or if you simply have bucks / billies nearby that might be related, considering the effects of inbreeding goats is crucial.
Luckily, we’ve outlined some of the key things you need to know about what happens if goats inbreed today; hopefully, this will help you determine the most suitable way forwards for your own goals.