Now is the time to get serious in our thinking about the upcoming breeding season. We need to get all of the kids which are old enough to be weaned off of their mothers and give the nannies a chance to start recovering from the rigors of nursing. Lactation places great demands upon the mothers and most fall off in body condition regardless of their plane of nutrition. Pulling the kids off of them now gives them time for recovery before we reach the peak of the breeding season.
Supplemental feeding, if feasible, can also be started at this time. It has been proven over the years that goats bred while they are on an upswing in body condition will have a higher rate of conception due to lack of nutritional stress. It doesn't take a lot of feed to boost the does and get them started up after pulling their kids off. In fact this could quite probably be the best economic return you will get in relation to benefit received per pound of feed poured out on average throughout the entire year. Feeding as little as ¼ lb. To ½ lb. Per head will produce positive results.
It must be cautioned that while we're wanting an increasing body condition, we do not want our nannies/does to be FAT. Overly fat goats will breed poorly as will thin, under-fed goats.
If a person owns a teaser buck or has access to one to run with their does, now would be a good time to get him out with the girls. The stimulation caused by the teaser is also another way, along with the above mentioned feeding program, to increase the ovulation rate in your nannies. These are proven and approved practices and are not theoretical; they do work.
While you have the goats up it is also a good time to check for internal parasites and drench with a worming agent to clean them out. If necessary it would also be wise to treat for external parasites at this time.
The kids we weaned off, if being kept for replacement stock or breeding stock sales, should be placed on a feeding program at this time as supplementing them will help these animals reach their true genetic potential. This is however an individual producer decision and cost must be weighed against return. In some cases it may not be economically feasible. Extensive commercial meat goat operations do not lend themselves well to this practice while the intensive breeding stock market does; it depends on your operation and goals.
Up until now we've talked about the preparations of our does for breeding and while this is very important we must not overlook the other half of the equation. Namely getting our bucks in shape and selecting which to breed to whom. These animals need to be fed up to be in excellent body condition at this time; possibly even to the extent of being over-conditioned or fat at the start of breeding season. The reason for this being that this goat is going to be servicing numerous animals and will need all the energy he can muster. As his hormones kick into high gear he will often neglect feeding and watering himself as his sexual drive overwhelms his other needs.
In an extensive operation utilizing large pastures you can help your bucks out by daily feeding of the herd in one central location. By doing this I have been able to successfully breed, in a reasonable time frame (60 days), up to 170 head of does to one buck with excellent results.
In regards to selecting which buck to use in your breeding operation I will quote one of our members, Norman Kohls from Eldorado, Texas. "It's a game of pieces." Relating to this statement means looking at your herd and seeing which particular aspect of your animals you feel needs improving on. This dictates the attributes one should look for in the buck or bucks selected for their herd sires.
If you will focus on one particular aspect at a time better overall results will be achieved in comparison to adopting a shotgun approach and trying to influence several genetic traits in one breeding season. This does not mean overlooking cull defects because of the fact the buck has one or more outstanding characteristics you feel you need in your herd. At all cost one must strive to keep cull defects out of their herds. If not done, another quote comes to mind and is very applicable in this situation. This one is from our AMGA president, Bill Banker: "You're breeding backwards". We should always be looking to improve the meat goat breed and thanks to the increased quality of animals and awareness of our members and breeders there are now better goats available on the market than there ever has been in the past history of the breed. The resources are out there; all we must do is utilize them in our individual programs.
Often times when breeders continually look at a set of goats it is possible to become "pen blind" therefore it helps a great deal to get someone else to evaluate your animals from time to time. Many times the other person can see something you might have missed. Constructive criticism is very helpful in determining what direction you're headed in comparison to where you want to go. There are many knowledgeable goat people scattered across the U.S. and if asked most are willing to lend their expertise and time to others less experienced in the business. I assure you that at every opportunity I welcome others to evaluate, criticize, and make recommendations regarding my herd of goats. After all, we are all continually learning. In closing I would like to add one final statement regarding breeding programs. They are almost all experimental at this time as there is no way to predetermine what the outcome of a particular mating might produce. The one exception to this rule would be mating a pair which has continually produced good offspring in the past. This however is staying on the same level of breeding year in and year out, and the challenge is continual improvement. Let's meet this challenge head on. Good luck in your breeding programs in the upcoming season. May all your kids be Grand Champions.
Mr. Shurley can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article first appeared in Meat Goat News, a RRL Publication, in the March 1999 issue.
Reprinted with permission of the author.