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What is "Quality" and How Much Do You Need?

By Jack Mauldin
September 11, 2002

For the last 20 years of my 30 year career working with IBM, quality was a major focus of the company because of the competitive advantages Japan had made focusing on quality products. It was not just IBM because most of the US businesses like automobiles and  technology were losing to the Japanese companies. IBM and many other companies started to preach the value of quality, required every employee attend quality classes yearly and have plans in place for how each group defined quality and they would obtain it in each department.

As I look at the description breeders have in their ads, on their web sites, and how they describe their herds, everyone says they are focused on "top quality" or it is the foundation of their herd. The problem is everyone says they have "top quality" but there is no definition of WHAT IS "quality" in the boer goat industry. Some people point to the Boer Goat Associations' standards as the definition for quality but I believe they fall far short of properly defining "quality" in the boer goat industry. However, International Boer Goat Association's revised standards are much better and they are starting to show there is a definite difference in the proper guidance given between International and ABGA's revised standards.

Quality Rule #1 - Only the "customer" can define what is quality.

The first thing a breeder needs to understand is "Who are your customers?" This does not mean specific names of individual customers. Every business has different segments of the business and segments are defined by what are the specific requirements of a certain set of customers. Take the example of motor vehicles. Companies don't have just one type of vehicle. Some people want a sports car.. some want a vehicle that can carry a large family.. some are interested in efficiency.. some need a pickup. The same is true for the goat industry. Look at our article about "Categories of the Meat goat Industry" . Different segments of the industry have different customers and different needs.  Quality is the segment customers' perception of the value of the breeder's' end result. No breeder focused on raising slaughter goats would have paid $45,000 for EGGSfile. A breeder focused on raising show wethers may not like the type of fullblood buck that is producing Grand Champion Fullbloods because different judges are looking for different characteristics. Make sure you know what segment(s) you intend to focus on and look to see what is important to the specific customers within those segments.

Quality Rule #2 - Understand what specific features are more important to your customers.

The Boer Goat Associations' standards may list all of the features of the boer goat but they give no guidance in which features are more important then other features. One of the key lessons from the Japanese companies in the 80s was focusing on how important each feature of a product was for their customers within the identified segment.  You don't see many TVs in  pickups but they are more common in family vehicles where something is needed to keep the kids  busy on long trips.  Companies learned to break down their product to individual components and find a relative value of the components. How many cars/pickups do you see now without cup holders?  We will pass over selecting a specific pickup if it does not have a good place to hold our soft drinks.  The same is true with the features of boer goats. Which is more important to you in a boer goat.... a meaty rear end or a roman nose?... correct traditional color markings or a large frame for meat capability? Your customers have goat features that are much more important to them and they will not consider your animals "top quality" if they don't meet the customers expectations. Clearly understand which features are more important to your customers and document it. Look at the article we wrote earlier on "weighting features"

Quality Rule #3 - Understand what the scope of the customers' expectation of quality.

You can buy the best car/pickup in the world but if you cannot get it serviced or fixed when needed, you will be very unhappy with the company. Even if the service people are not polite to you when you bring it in can cause customer dissatisfaction.  What if you buy a National Grand Champion Buck and all of the kids he produces look like a pigmy goat? If you are only interested in showing the buck then there is probably no problems. However if you are a real breeder and you expected the buck to produce similar quality kids, you will be very disappointed.  If you buy an exceptional doe that is known to produce similar quality kids but you realize later she has abscess scars all over her,  you will be very unhappy with the breeder selling you the animal and you will not consider that a quality animal. There are more things than just the initial sale of an animal that can go into a customer's decision of how much quality your animal has. We know some breeders that have animals that win at shows but when we bought one at a production sale with an existing abscess and we decided we will never associate that breeder with quality again. Shame on us for not looking at the animals closer before buying. Shame on the breeder for dumping an animal with an extreme abscess under their name at a production sale.

Quality Rule #4 - Understand what the objectives are that define your quality program and how you will measure your success or failure.

Imagine a company that makes TVs that has someone at the end of the assembly line looking for a TV that works well out of all the TVs that have come off the line. Companies and customers expect consistent quality from the products they buy. After world war II, the Japanese had a terrible reputation for everything being cheap and trashy. The US sent over Quality specialists to help them improve their quality. One of the experts was Dr. Deming. Quality became a religion with Japan companies and by the 1980s they produced the ultimate in quality products and took major business away from the rest of the world until the world got the message that quality was king. Any breeder can breed one buck to one doe and potentially get a future Grand Champion from the crossing. The real problem is consistently producing a specific quality animal.  If a customer buys a good animal from you one year and comes back next year and finds nothing like the first animal, the customer will not associate you as a producer of quality. You must define objectives for your herd and identify how you will measure if you are successful or not. You have to have some measurement associated with your objectives that helps tell you if you are on track or missing the boat.

Quality Rule #5 - Understand what process you are doing to produce the existing quality animals.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make in trying to produce a certain quality product is by not being consistent in the steps taken to produce it.  In all companies associated with quality processes, they first get a stable process of steps so they know how those steps are associated with the quality of the output product. Once the process is stable and you see you are not getting the quality you want, you analyze the process steps to see where changes can be made to improve the quality, make the change and continue to measure. If you are constantly changing how you breed your animals, what you feed them and the maintenance you do, you will never know why one breeding did not work or why another breeding was great. Getting consistent quality animals requires consistent process steps.

Quality Rule #6 - The best quality is not always the best answer.

I will never forget an article I read during the Quality Fever period of the 1980s. A Harvard professor  wrote an article titled - Beware of the God "Quality". He made a very good point that the best quality is not always the most appropriate answer. His example was a very fine restaurant that made the best hamburger you could image and sold them for $15. He then compared it to McDonalds "Big Mac" hamburger for $2. No one would ever say that the Big Mac was even close to the top quality of the fine restaurant  yet McDonalds was selling billions of them and had made many millionaires out of selling Big Mac.  The difference was in what the potential customers were looking for. That was consistency in the quality of the  hamburger, fast service, low price and available everywhere. The best boer goat is not always the correct solution according to who your customer is and what category of the meat goat industry they are in.  A good quality animal that is very productive and healthy at a reasonable price could be a much better focus that trying to raise the next Grand Champion.

Quality Rule #7 - What is considered quality today may not be quality tomorrow.

Quality is not a goal that stays the same year after year. A "high quality" product today may have an advantage in the market but in the future it will be expected in all similar products. The South African breeders have been continually improving the breed over the last 50 years. You must always be evaluating your herd and trying to understand what would make a better animal. That certainly does not mean we should try to have larger and larger animals. That is not necessarily the improvements needed. It is up to you and maybe your association to determine where the most beneficial improvements could be made in the breed. Don't hold your breath on the associations taking a leadership in this area at this time.

Summary

So the answer is - we can't tell you what a quality animal is or how much is needed. You must seriously look at who your potential customers are and what are their most important requirements.  Determine what your objectives for your "quality program" are and how you will measure your results. Stabilize the processes you will follow in trying to deliver the desired quality and when your measurements show you need improving, analyze the process for the most appropriate correction to help. Make sure your marketing text is aligned with what you are really doing. Nothing is worse than advertising your "top quality foundation herd" and then people find out you are only offering your culls.

Good luck in reaching the quality you want.