Goat breeding is an important part of raising goats. Learn how to breed your goats, and when to breed to goats in our homsteading handbook below.
Breeding is not only essential for creating offspring; goats also should be bred for milk production. Typically a goat will breed annually with one to five offspring. In nature, goats have a specific season for breeding, but this is not set in stone. There are alternatives available to breed your goat outside the breeding season should it be more favorable to you. Whatever option you want to go for is entirely up to you.
6.1 – Goat Breeding Season
In the usual breeding cycle, you will see a mother goat give birth to her children around the first month of the year and begins to produce a generous supply of milk. Several months later, around August, she is bred so she can begin the circle again in January. When the doe is three to four months along in her pregnancy, you will notice the halt in milk production. It is the body’s default mechanism to focus all energy on the development of the child during the late stages of gestation. If you can successfully sway breeding by three to five months, it is a simple method used to keep your milk in continual supply. The only way to get a female goat pregnant is when she allows a buck to interact with her while she is still in heat, which is usually every twenty-one days. Should the buck be the only one in heat, he is out of luck – the doe will run for it if he tries. It would be beneficial for breeders to understand and regulate female goats heat cycle to have better control of the breeding process. If you, for example, notice that your doe is in heat, but you are not quite ready for breeding, pay attention to the following cycle in the next few weeks. Goats are pregnant for around five months, and many breeds like to plan in advance if that time down the road is fitting or not for them.
Most people are uncertain as to how old a female goat should be for her first breed and often it is their size, not their age that matters more. Many recommend that a goat should hit at least sixty to seventy percent of their body weight to be at a safe breeding weight and some goats can attain this while they are 7-8 months old. On the off chance you have a goat that does not reach the recommended by two years of age, you should not use her for breeding purposes. The sexual maturity for bucks is different and varies. Some bucks can successfully breed as early as three or four months. It is best to use bucks for breeding at around six to eight months old. Their body weight is not a factor as it is with female goats.
Here are some sure-fire signs that will make you aware a female goat is in heat:
- Mounting – When a doe is in heat, it will not be unusual to see her mounting on other does or if she allows them instead to mount her
- Flagging – You will constantly see her wagging her tail
- Discharge – Discharge that is white or transparent seen at the base of a female goats vulva. The color discharge provides you with more detail about which type of heat condition she is experiencing. When it is clear, she is just at the beginning of heat and when it is colored white, she is nearly finished.
- Flirting – Female goats tend to camp out around a fence when a buck is in her view, should there be one. Even with a two fences as a barrier between them, the doe will still squeeze as closely as possible to the buck.
- Vocalizing – There will be some quiet ones, but not nearly close to the amount of female goats who are very vocal. You will hear the calls when they are in heat even when you are distant from them.
- Decrease in Milk Production – It is often not a substantial difference, and it is short lasting, but there will be a drop in milk production. It lasts for about one or two milkings.
6.2 – Goat Breeding methods
There are positives and negatives with either hand or pen breeding, so the choice on which you use depend on what best works for each. Most would agree that pen breeding their goats is much more convenient when breeding season comes around. Hand breeding can give a smaller for due dates. Meat breeders tend to go for the pen breeding route. The Bucks are placed in the same area as does and are free to interact with each other for a few weeks; around the female goats heating cycle that greatly increases the likelihood of breeding. If you still want to milk your goats around breeding time, you will want to look more carefully at the doe’s milk. They will often be marked with a prominent goaty taste thanks to the Bucks who decide they want to rub all over them. On the day of intercourse, you will typically have a day of milk you will not want to use. However, you can still feed it to your other farm animals who will not mind it.
Hand breeding is not as “hands on” as it seems to be. All you have to do is put a buck and a doe together when you are aware the female is in heat. How little or how long you want to keep the two together is completely up to you. But, most goat breeders will finally separate them once they witnessed two or three consecutive times the goats were able to breed.
First-time goat owners are often surprised at how swiftly goats can breed. A few minutes is often all they need together for the female goat get impregnated and ready to deliver in a few months down the road. If you are around to ensure the female goat has a successful breeding before you choose to leave, you just need to see her arch her back. A buck can breed in minutes several times a day and normally will have enough sperm count to get many does pregnant in one day. The older a buck grows, the more his sperm level will drop. Although they usually will still be able to breed just fine, the minutes it used to take to get a female goat pregnant will become hours. There will be times a female goat will still be in heat after a few days passes of being bred. If you notice this, it is not your mind playing tricks on you, these ladies will need to breed again. The female goat will end up in heat again about a month later, which will alert you she did not successfully get pregnant the month prior. You will come to be able to monitor this fairly quickly and easily; should the goat not experience a heat cycle, it is safe to believe you will see offspring five months from now. To be completely sure your female goat is pregnant, you can also complete an ultrasound three to four weeks after breeding. Alternatively, you may complete a blood test after a month from the time breeding occurred.
If you do not have a buck in your home and no neighbor available that won’t mind you borrowing their buck for breeding purposes, you can consider getting your does pregnant through artificial insemination. Artificial might seem like an expensive procedure to get done, but if you think about the cost you are already paying for stock and feed your goats, artificial insemination (AI), is much cheaper. The cost for the semen tank is a whole other story, but on the bright side it will be of use for a long time. Many people who do have fellow neighbor breeders may still want to do artificial insemination that way they do not have to do frequent visits. If you feel uncomfortable or squeamish at the idea of learning how to do this procedure alone, you can go to a veterinarian for AI technician to get the job done. There is a term known as “flushing” that means goat breeders will feed their female goats more than they normally would a month before breeding as a method of heightening their fertility. The goat is more likely to become pregnant and remain that way because of the increased nutrients and additional weight she will put on. The only issue with flushing is that it emphasizes the highest level of nutrition for a month when necessary, the true ultimatum should be giving the best level of nutrition possible every month out of the year. You can expect that your Bucks will need more nutrition during breeding because of all that activity they need to do. I highly suggest that you do not to go too crazy feeding them grains because of renal calculi, but you should individually determine if such a case is relevant to you.
That was Chapter 6: Goat Breeding from our Homestead Handbook: Raising Goats