F-What? Understanding Mini Generations

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Foundation Nubian Girlfriend, with her F1 daughter.

If you are new to mini breeds, there can be some confusing terminology. First of all, a Mini goat is not just an exceptionally small version of a standard goat. Many people ask if their animal can be registered as a Mini if it is below-average size for its breed, and the answer is “no”. A Mini is a hybrid of a Nigerian Dwarf and standard-size dairy goat, with the desired result being a mid-size dairy goat resembling the standard breed. In our case, we breed Mini Nubians. For the purpose of this post, I’ll speak in terms of the Nubian, but you can apply the rules to any Mini breed. To me, the benefits of a Mini are easy to see. I find Minis more manageable and easier to handle than standard-size Nubians, while the Nigerian Dwarf genetics add a kick of butterfat to the already delicious Nubian milk. In my opinion, Minis are also more laid-back and easier to contain than their Nigerian Dwarf counterparts. So what does the “F” mean? You’ve probably noticed goats being labeled as F1, F2, F3 and so on. The “F” stands for “Foundation”, and foundation refers to the Nigerian Dwarf and Nubian. The number stands for how many generations removed you are from the foundation goats. If you cross a Nubian and a Nigerian Dwarf, you get an F1 (foundation +1). If you cross an F1 and an F1, you get an F2 and so on. There is no fancy math involved – your kids are always one generation more than the LOWEST parent. So, if you have an F8 and breed to an F1, your kids are still going to be F2. Here’s a simple table:

The Mini Breeds Table

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Blue denotes entry into the Experimental Herdbook.

Red denotes entry into the American Herdbook, provided breed character and height standards are met.

Purple denotes entry into the Purebred Herdbook, provided breed character and height standards are met.

So why do we keep track of the generations? Is it important? Well….it is and it isn’t. If your goat is an F6 or above it can be considered a Purebred Mini IF it has acceptable breed character and is within the height standards. An F8 is not considered “more purebred” than an F6. Breed character is basically what makes a goat look like a particular breed. For Nubians it’s long ears, roman nose and a long, elegant body.  The benefit to a higher generation is that you will get more consistent results when breeding. Size and breed character should be pretty predictable by that time you reach F6, whereas your lower generations will be more of a wildcard. For instance you may have a small doe who carries a recessive gene for really big kids. With later generations, there shouldn’t be as many surprises. However many people have fallen into the trap of valuing higher generations for no other reason than their F-rating. These breeders might overlook a higher-quality low-generation goat in favor of a mediocre high-generation. In my opinion, a good goat is a good goat, and it’s important not to lose sight of that as we work within the breed. Flooding our registries with mediocre or poor-quality (yet high-generation) goats does us no favors as Mini breeders. It downgrades the breed as a whole and damages our reputation in the eyes of standard breed organizations like ADGA. It’s valuable to recognize good traits when we see them regardless of the generation and work them into our herds when given the opportunity. Those F1 and F2s can be used to lock in great conformation, udders and milk from high-quality foundation lines; breed character can be refined in later generations. It can be fun and rewarding to start new line “from scratch”. The bottom line is: Don’t limit yourself to high generations because they look good on paper – think about what is good for your program as a whole.

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