Home Cheese Goats Does Bucks Kids
Tale Of The Ear pt9
Quixote LaManchas

Boom Time 70s

As the undeclared war in Vietnam raged on ADGA membership and goat registration exploded. Fueled mostly by the "Back to the Land" movement, instigated by disillusioned urbanites who became footloose hippies, ADGA was poised for major growth.

The similar phenomenon was happening in Europe following in the wake of the 1968 student revolt in Paris. Newly minted French goat keepers took a different route than their American counterparts. Building on native cheese making traditions, they focused more on the milk, and less on the four legged producer as a source of income and creative challenge as we are inclined to do. In other rural enclaves all over Europe young goat cheesemakers were also honing their skills.

At both the consumer, and the producer level, it took a couple of decades for gourmet goat cheese to catch on in the US. As producers we had a dearth of artisan tradition - hence few models - and secondly, a legacy of "squeamishness" about the use of raw milk in the processing. This lack of practical knowledge was compounded by the scarceness of appropriately sized equipment - especially the required pasteurizing vats. No ready access to cultures/molds/coagulates/packaging materials, and such, added more problems.

Higher quality cheese, both imported and domestic, and greater sophistication within the food industry, allowed chevre to become a chic, saleable commodity in a relatively short time. US cheese producers with their goats and enterprising spirit geared up to exploit the market. The rest is history as they say - cheese history - not goat history, which is what we are about here!

Had there not in this period been more Americans breeding more goats it is doubtful that the LaMancha would have developed as quickly as it did since there were so few of them in the 1960's. Sellers controlled the market and few LaManchas were culled without serious cause. In some parts of the country LaManchas were routinely crossbred to increase the numbers.

The numbers of goats being milk tested on a continuous basis climbed and classification - later linear appraisal - developed following the cow model. Regional goat clubs sprung up with more shows flowering as a result. FFA and 4H encouraged dairy goat projects in their youthful members. Some thought this new-found prosperity would go on forever (the 90's were to tell a slightly different story.)

Rapidly increasing goat numbers came with a very high price tag: disease on an epidemic scale. As both large and small operations pooled colostrum and milk to hand-feed kids, an insidious retrovirus spread through an entire generation and into the future. Enlarged knees, the most visible symptom, were frequently seen even at shows. The debilitating phenomenon was soon given a name: Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis. As we began to understand more about CAE (and that other retrovirus, HIV, to which humans are susceptible) the awful truth sunk in: we were (and are) going to be dealing with this problem for a very long time.

A second disease - Caseus Lymphadenitis - equally debilitating and disfiguring, was also spreading rapidly at this time. CL abscesses were routinely opened and their contents spilled in the barnyard thereby, potentially, contaminating an entire herd as the organism is long lived in the environment.

In the decades to follow many a goatkeeper lost enthusiasm for a naturally hardy species that, seemingly, now required ever increasing amounts of care to thrive.

Fortunately, not everyone abandoned the challenge. Enthusiasm for the LaMancha soldiered on.

At the ADGA 1968 annual meeting held in Maryland 14 people banded together to form the American LaMancha Club. The dues were set at $2/year ($4 to include a listing in the quarterly newsletter.) Louise Erbe was elected president, Pat Rooney, vice-president and Pearl Ryon secretary/newsletter editor. Harvey Considine master-minded the session with Vivian and George Proctor, Paul Ashbrook and Eloise Osborn (Judy Kapture's mother) as fellow participants.

Club sponsored advertisments began to appear in the ADGA handbooks. Someone dreamed up the slogan "The Prima Donna Breed." Like the idea of changing the term "gopher ear" to a more glamorous "rose ear", which I tried to promote in the 1970's, neither whimsy caught on.

In 1975, when the club could boast of 178 members, the popular All-American program was inaugurated with Bill Griner as the founding chairman and 37 entries in the initial program. Based on the dairy cow model the program seeks to reward good type by publishing photos of the winning contestants. Five years later, following some years of discussion, a milk production award was put in place. Appropriately, the paper prize is an "earring": diamond, gold, or silver-in order of merit-for outstanding records (DHIR.)

ADGA's "poor relation" the American Goat Society began registering LaManchas in a closed purebred herdbook in 1975. Using photostatic copies of ADGA records as proof, third generation LaManchas with no grade LaManchas among his/her parents or grandparents as of July 31, 1974, became eligible for AGS registration. The current (2003) protocol for registering AGS LaManchas has been liberalized: "as long as no animals on the (ADGA) papers are designated GL (grade) or experimental" the individual may by registered with AGS. This is the same number of generations that ADGA requires to certify a buck as an "American." Thus one could have a purebred buck in AGS when the same one in ADGA was still registered as an American.

The earliest AGS LaMancha breed standard was rather long, did not seriously contradict ADGA's description of the ideal generic dairy goat, but did describe the "elf" ear as being of "any length or shape as long as it is less than 3 inches long, measured from the skull on the top of the ear, and the ear is not stretched out."

ADGA describes the "elf ear" as having an "approximate maximum length of two inches, the end of the ear must be turned up or turned down and cartilage is allowed." (Neither standard permits elf ear bucks to be registered.)

The current AGS standard states categorically that the gopher ear contains no cartilage. Elf ears are described as appearing in "many shapes and sizes" and "looking small in comparison with the size of the doe's head." No size or coat color restrictions are specified.

The ADGA standard describes the gopher ear has having very little, or no, cartilage with a maximum length of one inch. Any color is acceptable. Minimum size restrictions: height 28 inches - weight 130 pounds in a mature doe; height 30 inches - weight - 160 pounds in a mature buck.

The ADGA standard asserts the LaMancha face is "straight" period. AGS is more expansive: "the head and muzzle should be wide, as in the other breeds, and the nose will probably be concave." Although the ADGA LaMancha standard does not refer to the "roman nose" as is the case with all ADGA's swiss breed standards it does include the LaMancha in the category of "moderate to serious defect" for the "roman nose." ( The convex facial arch is a defining feature of the Nubian breed.) Over the years opinion has swayed from a push to disallow any discrimination against a roman nose LaMancha to outright acknowledgment of its inappropriateness. This issue, as with many others, remains unresolved.

Roman Nose, Elf ears, LaMancha cross
Typey Purebred LaMancha with gopher ears

In 1975 when the AGS LaMancha purebred herdbook was opened it was hinted, in some circles, that the move had been instigated by a few ADGA breeders, who were also AGS members. Impatient to create an ADGA purebred book they sought to use this AGS move as a goad to stimulate ADGA to action.

In 1980 the breed standard discussion once again became contentious when two respected breeders, who were also judges, proposed changing the standard to include elf ear bucks. The argument being: the gopher ear was subject to disease and if breeders continued this potentially disasterous practice of breeding "gopher ear to gopher ear" we would end up with "no holes at all in the openings of the ears." Apparently this prediction has not materialized.

At the other end of the spectrum, there materialized some outspoken grumbling concerning the admittance of "elf" ear does to purebred status. The elf ear does not persist through multiple generations and, in fact, is usually "lost" in one or two generations of breeding gopher to elf. A denial (or ignorance) of the true genetic implication of the ear forms is widespread.

By the end of the '70s the matter of opening an ADGA purebred herdbook for La Manchas was finally coming to a head. Several long-time breeders pushed this obvious next step to put the breed on the same footing as the other dairy breeds. The real problems emerged later in the implementation, which coincided with a long-delayed changeover to computerized record keeping.

The 1976 American LaMancha Club meeting was held in Santa Rosa at ADGA's annual convention. The standing-room only turnout, after lengthy debate, voted to request that a purebred LaMancha herdbook be considered favorably by the ADGA directors. As a result the first purebred LaMancha was registered on January 1, 1980.

The intervening four years brought to light two, not inconsiderable, problems:

1) A question remained about how to "recover" the existing, and earlier, LaManchas with"L" numbers and three generations of LaManchas in their pedigrees.

The last question came down to "money" and since ADGA was, at the same time, busily recovering, recording and registering a sixth breed - the Oberhasli - something had to give.

As a result the registration papers of the LaManchas with "L" numbers were converted to LaManchas with "AL" numbers. (Thankfully, their progeny were elevated to "L's" with the title of "purebreds" in the next generation.) The pre-1980 "L" LaManchas originally had blue papers subtitled "American LaMancha" in recognition of their putative origin. The post-1980 blue papers read "Purebred LaMancha" or "American LaMancha" and the brown papers for recorded goats of unknown or cross bred heritage have the breed percentages spelled out in accordance with the system.

2) The issue of a closing date was not then, or yet, properly addressed: leaving one breed in the association in a unique status. In the other breeds ADGA registers goats in both open American Herdbooks, which reflect the grading-up process, and closed Purebred Books, which conform to the record keeping process going back to the beginnings of the association. LaManchas have both American and Purebred open books.

The problems of an "open" herdbook and a more explicit breed standard have yet to be addressed decisively, after more than 20 years of debate. The club, which is an advisory position to ADGA, from time to time, takes on this matter with little result.

| Start  Previous  Next |

| Top  | Home  | Cheese  | Goats  | Does  | Bucks  |Kids |

Revised 2-17-04
© 2000-04 Goat's Leap Cheese. and Barbara Backus
All Rights Reserved