Raising goats has become very popular recently, especially among goat owners who like to keep a few dairy goats on a small backyard farm.
However, if you keep a mixed herd of bucks and does, it is vital to understand a goat’s reproductive cycle.
If a female goat becomes pregnant at a very early age, it could cause serious issues with her body.
Young female goats are also prone to having complicated pregnancies, and they may not fully be ready to be a good mother to their goat kids.
So, at what age is it possible for a female goat to become pregnant?
On average, a female goat can get pregnant when she is around 5-6 months old; this age also varies among goat breeds. Pygmy goats may go into heat as early as 3-4 months old, while desert goat breeds, such as the Jhakrana, do not reach sexual maturity until they are over one year old.
Many other factors affect the reproductive cycle of goats as well, including the time of year, living environment, and body condition.
Understanding these factors allows you to keep your female goat healthy and increases the chance of a viable pregnancy.
Keep reading to learn more about the reproductive cycle of goats and how to know if a doe is pregnant.
What Affects the Reproductive Cycle of Goats?
Aside from genetics, a couple of external factors affect goats’ reproductive cycle.
The time of year a goat is born is one of the most significant factors determining when a goat will come into heat.
The amount of daylight varies depending on the season and plays a role in a goat’s circadian rhythm.
It is not ideal for a goat to become pregnant during the cooler months because newborn goats are very sensitive to cold temperatures and are more susceptible to hypothermia.
Related: How cold of a temperature can goats survive?
Kids born in the hotter months may also have a challenging time as baby goats cannot properly regulate their body temperatures until they are a couple of months old.
If you have goats born in the wintertime, it is vital to keep them warm, especially during the first few weeks of life.
Goats born in the spring months will typically come into season during the fall months of the same year.
However, autumn-born goats may not come into season until almost one year.
This is a goat’s instinct to prevent having babies when it is too cold for them to survive.
Desert breeds will experience estrous cycles throughout the year because of the constant warm climate.
A goat’s environment will also affect the animal’s sexual maturity.
If young female goats are kept in the same pen as sexually active bucks, it could cause the females to come into heat early than they should.
It is not recommended to do this because the doe may be much too young to carry babies successfully.
Not only could there be complications from a young doe giving birth, but she may also not be able to produce enough milk to feed her offspring.
When a female goat is not receiving enough nutrients or is underweight, it is less likely for her to come into season.
A healthy, well-fed doe may come into season much earlier and have up to two breeding cycles in one year.
Likewise, an overweight doe may have difficulty getting pregnant or giving birth and are more likely to suffer from pregnancy toxemia, which is often fatal.
How Long is a Female Goat in Heat?
After the female goat goes into heat, ovulation usually occurs 9-27 hours later.
The doe will be available to mate for 24-48 hours, but this time varies according to different goat breeds.
The typical heat period for goats lasts around 36 hours.
If the female goat does not become pregnant, she will cycle into another heat in approximately 21 days.
A doe who has come into season will exhibit several typical signs of heat, including:
- Constant bleating, moaning, or blubbering sounds
- Tail flagging
- A reddened vulva
- Discharge from vagina
Breeding season ranges will vary according to the goat breed and weather conditions.
Some breeds of goats living in desert climates will have continuous heat cycles, so the breeding period lasts throughout the year.
Most dairy breeds are seasonal breeders and will come into heat seasons every 21 days from August until early January.
Related: Ever Wondered Why Your Goat Wags Its Tail?
When is the Proper Time to Breed a Doe?
To avoid breeding a doe too early, it is best to wait until she is between 10 to 12 months of age.
The breeding doe also needs to weigh at least 60% of her adult weight to ensure she is healthy throughout pregnancy and birth.
For miniature goats with an average adult weight between 60 and 70 pounds, the doe would need to weigh at least 40 pounds before she is bred.
If you have access to a livestock scale, it is recommended to regularly weigh your goats to ensure they weigh enough for breeding.
An inexpensive method for weighing larger goats is to use a goat “weigh tape” or a regular measuring tape.
A goat with a low body weight will have a difficult pregnancy because the growing baby in her body will quickly deplete her nutritional reserves.
An obese goat will also have complications becoming pregnant and will experience a challenging birth.
When a doe is bred at too young, her body may not be able to handle the pregnancy.
A young doe’s uterus and the birth canal will not be large enough for a healthy pregnancy or delivery, and she may also have reduced milk production and be unable to feed her kids.
Goat keepers usually stop breeding their does once they are ten years old, even though they will continue to ovulate for the rest of their life.
Retiring an adult goat from breeding after ten years may significantly prolong her life and allow her to live for up to 20 years.
Breeding a doe after she is ten years old results in a significantly shorter lifespan, and she may only live to be 12 years old.
Related Reading: Goats’ growth rates and age
The best time for breeding goats is from late summer to early fall, when fertility is the highest.
To prevent your goats from mating and giving birth during less than ideal times of the year, the bucks may wear anti-mating goat aprons.
How to Know When a Goat is Pregnant
The best way to confirm a goat pregnancy is to have a veterinarian perform an x-ray or ultrasound.
You may also send a blood sample from your doe to a lab to test for pregnancy.
An x-ray or ultrasound is usually performed about 30 days after the doe has mated.
A blood test may be done to confirm pregnancy 60 days after breeding the doe.
A doe may have visible signs of pregnancy, such as a firmer stomach and a swollen vulva.
Pregnant goats will also have an increased appetite and will not go into heat again for the rest of the breeding season.
Pregnant female goats do not always show a significant weight gain unless she is carrying more than one baby.
The litter size for goats ranges from 1-5 kids, with the average doe giving birth to just one or two baby goats.
The average gestation period for goats is between 145 and 152 days.
If the doe is pregnant with more than one kid, the gestation period will typically be shorter.
Miniature breeds like the Pygmy and Nigerian Dwarf also have gestation periods on the lower end of the spectrum.
Calculating the approximate kidding due dates allows you to be prepared if the mother needs some help giving birth.
It is also a good idea to calculate approximate kidding due dates before breeding your goats, so the babies are not born during extremely hot or cold weather.
It is crucial to provide a pregnant doe with a low-stress environment and extra vitamin and mineral supplements to maintain her health.
Goats are often delicate mothers, and too much stress may cause them to abort their babies.
Prenatal care is also essential for any does who are about to enter the breeding season.