This thesis provides a description of the demography, production and reproductive characteristics of dairy
goats on commercial dairy goat farms in New Zealand. In addition, it quantifies the influence of individual
animal-level characteristics on the length of productive life (LPL).
A secondary set of data provided by the New Zealand Dairy Goat Co-operative formed the basis of the
analyses presented in this thesis. Details were available for 23,771 does from 38 herds which were born
between 1 January 2000 and 31 December 2009. Survival analyses were used to describe the pattern of
removal of does as a function of age and within a lactation cycle, as a function of days in milk and days dry.
A piece-wise Cox model was used to quantify the effect of individual doe level characteristics on LPL.
The median age of does at first kidding was 394 days (Q1 369 days, Q3 722 days). The median age at
the time of removal was 3.7 years (Q1 2.5 years, Q3 4.9 years). On average does completed less than
three lactation cycles at the time they were removed from the herd. Within a lactation cycle the majority of
removals took place soon after dry off date. We found that the majority of does were removed as culls as
opposed to those removed by sale or death. Compared to dairy cows, does were removed for a wide range
of reasons, the majority of which comprised various infectious and non-infectious health disorders. This
indicates that those managing animal health on dairy goat farms require detailed knowledge on the control
and prevention of a wide range of caprine health disorders.
The effect of first lactation milksolids yield (MSL1) on LPL varied over time. During the first two years
following the date of second kidding, high MSL1 yields had a protective effect on removal whereas beyond
two years from the date of second kidding, does with high MSL1 yields were at a greater risk of removal
compared to average producers. These findings indicate that high MSL1 producers should be preferentially
managed beyond two years from the date of second kidding, in order to avoid preventable losses. In turn
this should ensure longer LPLs among a more profitable sub-group of the herd.