A key aspect of farming for goat owners is having your goat herd reproduce when you want them to, not haphazardly.
Goat breeders need to follow a few simple guidelines to follow a responsible breeding program.
Fertile male (bucks) and female (does) goats should be kept separately in a buck pen and a doe pen to prevent accidental breeding.
A lactating, or nursing, doe can indeed get pregnant very soon after kidding, so make sure nursing kids are not at a fertile age.
A doe can go into heat 14-48 hours after giving birth and become pregnant. The brief time period in early lactation in which the female goat does not come into heat is called lactational anestrous. Theoretically, it gives the doe time to wean her kids before rebreeding.
Lactational anestrous gives the female’s uterus a chance to heal and the body to adjust to lactating.
It is very important to decide early on if you will let your male goats be bucks (unneutered) or wethers (neutered) and neuter them on time before you inadvertently expand your flock during the breeding season.
Read on to find out more about goat breeding!
Goat Breeding Cycles
Individual goats’ heat cycles depend on their breed; some are year-round, and others are seasonal (Aug-Jan).
Some year-round breeders are:
- Nigerian Dwarf
- Pygmy goats
The year-round breeders are mostly meat goats and originated in equatorial or desert climates, where food was available to support kids all year round.
Some seasonal breeders are:
- Angora goats
These breeds are mostly dairy goats and originated in cooler climates when the timing of kidding would be more crucial for successfully raising the baby goats.
During the entire breeding season, it typically goes into heat about every 21 days and lasts for 3-4 days.
Although fertile at 4 months of age (for males) and 7-10 months (for females), it is preferable to wait to breed either sex until they are 1 year of age.
It is best to ensure does are at least 80% of adult body weight before breeding for the first time.
Signs of heat are:
- Does making more noise than normal; some breeds even screeching
- Wagging her tail, or flags, to indicate her readiness to the buck
- Personality changes
- The doe’s tail gets sticky and damp from vaginal mucous discharge
- Milk output might lessen as the body shifts resources
- The doe pees more often, releasing pheromones for the buck
- The buck’s behavior changes; he slaps his hoof on the ground, urinates on himself, and wags his tongue
- Doe stands still for the buck to mount her
For breeding purposes, put the buck in with the doe for 40-45 days, approximately two heat cycles.
Signs your doe is pregnant:
- She does not return to heat when her cycle is due
- Her appetite goes up, but her milk production goes down because her body is diverting resources to the pregnancy
- Her belly tightens, and the area just in front of her udder will feel tense and tight
- The doe’s personality does a sudden switch one way or the other
- The buck’s personality changes, often becoming more bossy or aggressive towards the doe
- Doe’s barrel swells; this can happen right away or towards the end of the pregnancy
- The doe’s shape changes, such as sticking out way more on the right side
- The doe snores more and louder than normal
- Udder swells in preparation for lactation
- Kids move
Sometimes it is still hard to tell if your doe is pregnant, and tests and/or a vet visit are required.
An ultrasound is done 30 days post-breeding, and a blood test is done 60 days post-breeding.
A doe, or female goat, gestates her young on average for 150 days.
The breed, litter size, parity, and environment affect gestation periods.
As litter sizes go up, typically, gestation periods go down.
Typically first-time mama goats have one or two kids, and triplets and quadruplets can come in later kiddings.
A goat diet is very important throughout the entire breeding process.
After 145-155 days of gestation, the doe should be ready to kid.
Labor lasts about 12 hours.
Delivery of a kid should be finished in under 30 minutes, barring complications.
The doe will lick her kids clean and let them nurse, giving them colostrum which bolsters their immune system and is nutrient-rich.
The placenta is delivered and sometimes eaten to replace important nutrients and levels of protein.
Nutritional Requirements for Lactating Does
Feeding high-energy rations such as good quality feed grains at breeding, late gestation, and lactation is important.
Because she is making food for another entire creature (or up to four!) and supporting herself, a lactating doe has high energy needs in her diet.
Feed your lactating, good-quality hay supplemented with half a pound of protein from corn, barley, peas, or oats, to a total of 20% protein.
Poor feed quality or low amounts of feed can adversely affect your doe’s health.
Related Reading: Goats giving milk but not being pregnant; what does it mean?
How Often Can a Goat Get Pregnant?
Since the average gestational period for goats is 150 days, give or take a few days, a doe can get pregnant twice a year.
Since selling kids is a lucrative part of goat farming, it is beneficial to breed your goat herd this often, but it is hard on the does.
Goats raised for a meat goat enterprise are often bred every 8 months.
This approach requires goat keepers to have excellent herd management skills and provide good nutrition.
The quality level of feed offered will have a direct effect on whether a breeding effort is successful or not.
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