Origninally published 10/9/06
You knew it was going to happen. You knew that it was inevitable. You ladies out there knew that if a sweaty, stinky, hairy man was writing this column that this would rear its ugly head sooner or later. Lock up the kids (human type) and get the signs ready to demonstrate in front of the Herald-Press. Yes folks, weíre talking about SEX. There, Iíve gotten it off my chest, now all I have to wait for is the hot tar and feathers.
Come on now, its only nature. You and I wouldnít be here if it werenít for the twinkle in our parents eyes. With the change in the weather, and the shortening of the days, all of the 47 nannies have started to really twitch their tails and hang around the gates of Captain Hardheadís pen. The Captain is in a high dudgeon and smells to high heaven because his girlfriends are working so hard to tempt him. At three years old, he is in the equivalent physical condition of a 17 year old, blond haired, blue eyed star quarterback on a high school football team. All the cheerleaders want to go steady with him, but donít realize the consequences of their behavior. Their mamas didnít warn them!
Goats will come into estrus or as some say ďinto SeasonĒ at any time of the year but this condition intensifies with the coming of fall. Exposure to a buck will also trigger estrus. As nannies come into estrus, they will become restless, vocalize a lot, and wag their tail off. They will try to mount other goats and allow themselves to be mounted. A way to confirm this is to rub or scratch them at the base of their tail. If they raise their tail and stand for this it is likely they are in season. If they lower their tail and dodge away from you then they are not.
You can tell that you have nannies in season just by coming within 100 feet of your buck. Bucks have scent glands and will urinate on themselves and spread it around with their mouth. To put it mildly, they really, really STINK! When you put your buck with the does he will find the does in estrus and show various signs. Some of these signs are vocalizing, rubbing the doe or pushing her around by the shoulder, and sniffing her rear end. Iím not going to get to descriptive about what happens next, but you will surely know that it happened. Afterwards the nanny will act like nothing ever happened and try to ignore the Billie, just like the aforementioned cheerleader. If you try to breed during warmer months, your goats may breed at night when itís cooler. Many older bucks will be like older bulls and prefer to breed at night when the nannies are less restive. Nannies will tend to stand for the buck more readily at night. During your breeding season, you can expect your buck to lose a great deal of weight. One way to tell that all your does are bred is that the buck will start to eat more and will stop perfuming himself, just like that teenager we talked about earlier.
As you approach the time of year that you have decided to breed, there are several things that you can do to get your goats in optimal condition. One thing to do is called ďflushing outĒ. About a month before breeding, start feeding your goats some extra rations to fatten them up. A well conditioned goat will breed more readily than a goat that is a sack of bones. By flushing out you can shorten the time that your nannies will be exposed. Gwen and I did this last year and had more numerous multiple births and a shorter kidding period. One of the disadvantages was that the yearling nannies that had triplets were drug down too much and looked like that sack of bones that I was talking about when it came time to wean. Your Buck will also benefit because of all the weight he will lose during the breeding period. Another thing to do is make sure their hooves are trimmed and they are worm free. Your goats donít need the distraction of being sore footed or being anemic when they are breeding. Being anemic or ill with other sickness will cause them not to be bred. We bring our goats into the pen every night and give them a small ration of feed so that we may go about and give them a good looking over. Some breeders prefer not to do this so they will inspect their herds when the occasion arises. Either way, you must treat the illness when you see it, donít put it off, because most illness tend to compound themselves and sick goats will not breed and tend to lie down with all four feet in the air and stop breathing. Consult your Veterinarian to find out which vaccinations to give your goats to put them in optimal health. Cutting corners on herd health can cause problems.
After your does are bred, donít skimp on their nutrition. Last year while our does were preggers, we gave them not only hay, their nightly ration, but also an extra ration of whole cottonseed. Now I know that Dr. Frank Pinkerton and all you Pro Breeders out there will start screaming about what a waste of money on feed this is, but you canít argue about results. We bought the cottonseed for the cows last year on the advice of our friend Curtis Halbert. He was right in concluding that they would stay in good shape with the additional feed, plus itís cheaper than sacks of cube. When the grass went brown and the trees went bare we started putting some out for the goats after consulting our goat Vet, Doc Jonus in Buffalo. We filled two five gallon buckets and would sprinkle it out in a line along the ground. This gave the goats a belly full of ration that was rich in protein and fiber to ruminate on those cold winter nights and add some belly warmth. When the goats kidded last year we had 67 of 72 kids survive and Dr. Mom attributes that to the extra ration of cottonseed we gave them.
One of the things we went to with so many does is a marking harness for our buck. The marker straps on the front of the buckís chest right about at the back of his front legs. As he mounts the doe the marker colors the area on her back just in front of her hips. The marker allows you to note the date of breeding so that you can calculate the time the doe will deliver her bundle of joy. Just from experience weíve found that the yellow or the hot weather markers donít work worth a hoot. Also the markers donít work on dark brown or red goats, you canít see if they have been marked. Putting the harness on the buck is no easy chore so we put him in the Sydell goat flopper and this seems to make it easier. Gwen has become a pro at changing out the crayons on the harness. She puts the Captain in the flopper and he seems to lie there quietly while she does it. Maybe he knows heís going to get a new color to work with, we rotate the colors from week to week so as to note the date they were marked. Make sure you buy some of those long plastic gloves to wear because the buck will rub something on you that soap and water can hardly wash off.
We usually keep the buck with the does about 60 days to allow the does to cycle around twice. Goats estrus cycle time is about 28 days, the same as a cows. Last year we had some yearling does that didnít come into estrus and some does that due to health problems, etc. didnít breed. It is a decision that is hard, but we kept the young does and took the others to the sale barn with the culls, there is no reason to keep a doe that has kidded before but will not rebreed. If they donít breed, then cut off the feed! By keeping a close eye on the young does we have seen that they are cycling into estrus. Gwen and I rely on a more hands on approach with our goats so we know and make a note of when the various does come into season.
As I said before, the Captain will be a very busy Billie goat for the next couple of months. There will be times that he wonít know which doe to turn his amorous attentions to because several will cycle at the same time. This is the reason we give him the extra time to do his job. Try not to give him too many distractions and whatever you do, donít get between him and the doe in season. He will look at you as a rival and may try to hurt you very badly. Donít put another buck in with him and the does because you think they will do the job twice as fast. The bucks will be too busy fighting each other to get any breeding done.
We try to breed around the middle of October in anticipation of March babies. Some breeders try to coordinate their breeding for whenever their county fairs occur. Breeders try to have their kids about 8 to 10 months before their county fairs because that is the optimal age for show wethers. We breed at the time we do because of the seasons. In the middle of March, everything is starting to green up and the forage is plentiful. If you breed for a later time it may be hotter. If you breed for September kids as you would for the Freestone fair, your forage starts to fall off because of the coming of fall. You should try to consider all of the variables when thinking of your breeding period.
Many breeders leave the buck in with the doeís year around. This lets your goats breed whenever they will. With this breeding practice the does will kid about every 6 to 8 months. Gwen and I have made the decision to breed once a year because we believe that if the doeís kid twice a year then it is too hard on them physically. Breeding year round may give you more kids to sell, but your does wonít last as long. A good, strong breeding doe can live and be productive for 6 to 9 years if managed properly. The flip side of this coin is that to some breeders, the goats are just a commodity and you should get as much out of them as you can early, so as to make a better profit. You decide!
There are alternatives to natural breeding, such as artificial insemination and embryo transfer, but I will admit I donít know anything about these procedures. Consult your Vet and knowledgeable breeders that do it, and do your research. It seems like a pricey proposal to me, but what do I know!
Keep in mind that I donít know everything about goats, and at no time will I state that I do! Iím trying to put the information out there and let you fine folks make your own decisions. All I ask is that you do your research and not be afraid to go out and find the people that have experience and ask questions. Like cow people, most goat people are willing to network and go out and find the right answer to your questions. Seeking alternative answers to your questions will only help you make the right decisions to fit you.
Bye, for now.