Understanding reproductive performance

GenStat is known as the data analysis tool for biological sciences, its original development and history stems from the data analysis needs of agricultural researchers based at Rothamsted Research.

A study, published in the Journal of Tropical Animal Health and Production, has been looking at determining the true reproductive and productive potential of the Matou goat, with a greater understanding of the reproductive parameters. The paper “Reproductive performance of Matou goat under sub-tropical monsoonal climate of Central China”, by researchers in China and Pakistan estimated the reproductive performance of the Matou goat to evaluate a meat breed, with the help of GenStat.

Goats are one of the oldest domesticated animals, providing milk, meat, hair and skins, plus the possible use of their dung as fertilizer. Their importance to local agriculture and communities has made them a popular animal in many developing countries, so to be able to evaluate and then recommend particular breeds for particular climates could be a great advantage to goat herders.

The Matou goat, indigenous to China, has a reputation for rapid growth rate, big build and good meat quality; it is therefore very highly prized. Its reproductive performance is dependent on both genetic and environmental factors, with environmental issues, such as the seasonal variety of feed, playing an important role.

The researchers gathered data from Matou goat herds (averaging 25 goats in each herd) from the main Matou goat production area of Shiye city in Hubei province. The does were checked daily, and their age at puberty, kidding, litter size and survival rate until puberty recorded, as was each kid’s weight within 24 hours of birth.

The data was analysed in GenStat using regression techniques and descriptive statistics. GenStat’s descriptive statistical techniques, which automatically calculate, maximum, minimums and the mean when data is read into GenStat, allow researchers to easily see some simple quantitative descriptions. The world-class regression techniques in GenStat allowed the researchers to explain or identify relationships between variables.

The results indicated that the litter size increased with the number of pregnancies, until the fourth kidding, and then the litter size dropped; however as litter size increased so the survival rate of kids decreased. Mortality rates among kids is an important factor determining the productivity of a herd, so to understand and be able to identify the optimum litter size and number of pregnancies could be important in promoting one breed of goat over another.

The information and results of the statistical analysis of this study indicate that the Matou goat is an important breed and even in these early stages of study could be recommended to other parts of China and other areas of the world having a similar climate.

Information such as this could be vital for goat herders across China and other similar areas; the ability to pick appropriate breeds for specific areas, and reducing some of the worries associated with animal breeding. The confidence in the results comes to some extent from a confidence in the software being used: GenStat is a tried a tested data analysis software package used throughout the world by biological scientists.

For more information on GenStat and its capabilities go to the VSNi webpages or to read the original research paper in the Tropical Animal Health and Production (2008) 40:17-23.

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