Back in Interactions And Breeding Objectives I said: “Good breeders will have a breeding objective—a goal to develop an animal that to them is the ‘best’ of its kind for the traits they desire.”
What is “best” will differ even amongst breeders of the same breed—as shown by the Border Collie example in that post. Two different breeders with two different—and valid— versions of “best”. Two very different breeding objectives, and yet the same objective: that of breeding an animal that “best” meets an end user’s needs.
Breeders should always keep the end user in mind when determining their breeding objectives. The end user, after all, is the one who will either buy (directly or indirectly) your animals or the products your animals produce. To know the end user is to know your breeding objectives.
Many breeding industries can be represented by a three-tiered pyramid. There are a small number of elite breeders at the top, who sell breeding stock to a larger group of breeders (or “multipliers”) below. Those breeders in turn build up numbers of quality animals to sell to a larger group again of end users below them.
End users in the sheep, cattle, pig and poultry industries are the commercial producers. They are breeders as well as producers, and seek animals that are reproductively and physically sound, and which will produce profitably and reliably the fibre, milk and meat demanded by processors and the public.
End users in the pet and recreational animal markets (dogs, cats, horses, birds, hamsters, snakes…) may never be breeders, but still have defined needs in mind. These could be performance (hunting dogs, race horses), aesthetic (beautiful, cute), or temperament traits (affectionate, protective), or any combination of these and other traits.
Going back to the pyramid model: ideally the end user would be the one driving breeding objectives. He knows what animals are best for him, and it is the multipliers above who are expected to supply those animals. They in turn would expect the elite breeders to supply the breeding stock that helps them meet those needs.
Sometimes though, breeding objectives become skewed and do not always have the end user in mind. For example, competition amongst the small group of elite breeders at the top of a commercial industry is strong. After decades or even more of breeding, all animals at that level are going to be of outstanding quality. It may be that at a prestigious show on which many future sales hinge, that a judge, in an effort to choose between two exceptional bulls, picks the one with the slightly more evenly spaced markings as there was nothing else that separated them. Suddenly coat pattern and colour—which do not increase productivity—have become important in an animal bred for milk or meat.
Your breeding programme must overcome such distractions and be focussed on your end users and their needs if it is to breed the best animal for that market.