So You Need a New Herd Buck?  

by Kathy Brasby, CO

It hit me one night at about 3 am. Panic threatened. Whet I realized was that I had ONE buck of breeding age in my herd of Hollands and he was 4 1/2 years old. My "junior" buck was 2 months old. While RJ was in need of a rocking chair, Rian was still at the pacifier stage. I needed another buck, and I needed him NOW. So I made a few quick inquiries.

The breeders were very kind: what qualities did I need in a buck? What weaknesses was I correcting in my does? Good questions. And I began to wonder just how to choose a new herd buck. So I began asking around. My question was this:

As I choose a new herd buck, I am wondering if it is better to:

1) look at the weaknesses of the does in my herd and try to find a buck that will hopefully compensate for the does' weaknesses or
2) look at the weaknesses of the buck I am now using to compensate for what he has not passed on. What would your advice be, and why?

I got some very helpful opinions, which I want to share with you. Thank you to those who took the time to give advice, encouragement and help!

Sara Firkus,Wisconsin wrote:

My advice would be, both 1 and 2. You always want to match fault to fault. So yes, you would want a buck to match the does faults. For question #2, I need more specifics to have a clearer understanding. EXAMPLE: If you have a buck with a very nice head, and he has not passed in on to any of his offspring out of does that are all related to another line you would then have two choices. 1) Sell the buck as he is not "clicking" with the current line. 2) Purchase some different lines in hopes of finding something that he will "click" with. It somewhat depends what he is not passing on. If searching for a new herd buck to match your does faults, (say your does are long in body type, so you would be searching for a short buck,) be sure to purchase a short buck but also make sure he has short bodied animals in his pedigree or that it is a trait that line is known for. I believe that the animal itself, AND its pedigree make the whole. An uneven balance of either one leads to inconsistency within the herd.

Thank you for giving the opportunity to offer any advice and I hope that it will help you in the future.

From Amy Kroush, HLRSC VP, Arizona:

Hi Kathy, Part of my answer would depend on if you were keeping the buck you currently have. If you are, you want a buck that does not have or throw the same problems that you are getting. In other words who needs two bucks that give fine boned babies, or long shoulders. You would want the bucks to compliment each other. If one has long shoulders the other should be short in the shoulder. With this arrangement you can pick and choose between different qualities, depending on what the doe needs.

If you are getting rid of your current buck you would want one that has and throws what your does are missing. If overall your herd is fine boned, you would choose a buck that is heavy boned. I just need to add a word of caution here, do not try to change too much at once!!! It mucks things up. Pick the fault that bothers you the most, and fix it, while keeping what you like best. Good luck and have fun breeding your Hollands....because HOLLANDS RULE!!!!

Serena Reeder, Zone 4 director, Oklahoma:

Hi Kathy! To answer your question, I combine both approaches when looking for a new herd buck. I first evaluate the weaknesses of my overall herd, look at the does that I am using, and look at the buck that I am using. I determine what characteristics the current buck throws and look for a buck who will hopefully compensate for both the does' weaknesses and the characteristics that the current buck does not seem to pass on.

From Debbie Vigue, Zone 7 director, Maine:

1) look at the weaknesses of the does in my herd and try to find a buck that will hopefully compensate for the does' weaknesses. Yes, try to find a good overall buck, no major faults. Even if your does might be able to compensate for a buck's major fault, half the babies will take after him and you are using him on most of your does. There is always going to be something about a good buck that is his outstanding feature. Make sure his outstanding feature is what your does need.

2) look at the weaknesses of the buck I am now using to compensate for what he has not passed on. No, you aren't breeding the new buck to the old buck you are breeding him to your does who apparently haven't been able to compensate for your old buck in that area.

Debbie Jones, Wyoming writes:

Do I choose a buck based on the faults of my does or on the faults of the buck I am now using? Good question. Hard to give a simple answer. I think this decision really depends on your herd, and where you are in the improvement process.

I keep more bucks in my small herd of 35 Hollands than most breeders do. I keep 10 to 12 bucks. I don't buy pedigrees, I buy type. I do introduce new bloodlines each year for genetic diversity. I recommend all new breeders buy the best buck they can afford when starting out, with the best type they can find. I feel the buck is more important than your does, he will influence your entire herd if you breed him to all your does, where as your doe will only influence her litters.

If you only choose your buck to improve your does weaknesses, you are limiting yourself to choosing a buck that only compliments certain does, and may not compliment future does. You will pull genetics from both bucks and does backgrounds, both weaknesses and strengths, and sometimes finding that certain combo that works is very challenging. You can pick two hollands to breed together, and on paper, or physically, they look like a great match only to produce a litter that didn't "click".

Thus to choose a buck to compliment your does may sound like a good idea, but then just not work. I add bucks to my herd to compliment my current bucks, add strength where I feel my bucks need it, adding parts and new genes. I add does for the same reasons.

Wendy Meredith, Colorado writes:

I hadn't really thought about your question before you asked... but it's a good one. I think you should mostly concentrate on the faults in your does as you will not be breeding the bucks together. I do realize that you will most probably be breeding their offspring together, and I feel that should be the time to look at the bucks and their offspring. What I mean is that you should try to offset the faults of your does with your bucks. Then, when it comes time to breed each bucks' respective offspring together, try· to offset the faults of the prospective mates (those offspring). However, keep in mind the faults of the parents.

For example: If I had 2 animals that were extraordinary in their own rights, but each had a parent that lacked side-to-side crown width (had ear control), I would hesitate to breed them together. However, if I had another 2 animals, again extraordinary in their own rights, and one had a parent with a little length in the shoulder but the other had a parent with an undercut hindquarter, I would be more inclined to try the breeding.

The Hollander / Spring Issue - April 1999