By Debbie James

A Welsh goat milk producer says artificial insemination has the potential to accelerate performance improvements in the national herd.

Gary Yeomans has been performing AI on his own herd of 600 British Saanen, Toggenberg and Alpine dairy goats since visiting France with the Farming Connect Management Exchange Programme to find out more about the technique.

France has a million dairy goats on 6,000 farms and produces 29 per cent of the European goat milk output.

As a result of the Exchange Programme, Mr Yeomans has adapted his breeding programme at Pant Farm, Llanvetherine, Monmouthshire, by inseminating a group of goats using French AI techniques.

“We have just scanned these goats and we had a 48 per cent success rate, compared to 38 per cent using the vet previously,’’ says Mr Yeomans, who farms with his wife, Jess.

He is now encouraging other goat farmers in Wales to embrace the concept of AI within their own herds since it allows for faster genetic gain and, as there are known kidding dates, easier herd management too.

“UK goat herds should take up AI to improve performance,’’ Mr Yeomans recommends.

“It improves biosecurity as there’s less need to buy in males and it allows the facility to concentrate on improving specific traits within a herd.’’

He acknowledges that AI is more expensive but says the financial benefits resulting from improvements exceed this cost as genetic improvement allows more profitable goats and increased milk yield, constituents and longevity.

Mr Yeomans is using goat semen from France because of the extensive progeny testing that has been undertaken in that country, with at least 60 daughters per male required.

There is also good knowledge of the breeding values, a diversity of bloodlines with selection available on milk, components and type, he says.

France’s Alpine and Saanen genetic programme incorporates 170,000 goats with selection objectives ranging from milk quantity and quality and udder and conformation to somatic cell counts and a reduction in inbreeding.

In France, frozen semen is available for all the goat breeds, providing an average pregnancy rate of 62 per cent.

Goats are selected based on their reproductive ability, genetic level and morphology.

The Management Exchange allowed Mr Yeomans to undertake AI training at Capgenes, a co-operative of goat breeders which is approved by the French ministry of agriculture for management of breeds.

He now plans to increase the number of goats in his herd bred through AI over the next few years.

“If the success rate continues, I will possibly offer an AI service to other goat farmers in the area,’’ he says.