For the Love of Goats
Rather than waiting for spring and wondering why your goats didn’t get pregnant, now is the time to get your ducks in a row — er, um, goats! In this solo episode I’m talking about all of the things you need to consider during breeding season.
- If you breed your goats now, will they give birth at a time when you are not traveling or overly busy with work? Will it be freezing outside?
- How old or how big should your does be before the first breeding?
- How old do bucks need to be to successfully service does?
- Should you “flush” your does before breeding? (What does that even mean?)
- What are the pros and cons of pen breeding vs hand breeding?
- What are the sign that a doe is in heat?
- What does normal buck behavior look like (and sound like) during breeding season?
- What does a successful breeding look like?
- Should you try artificial insemination?
Page down for a complete transcript, or click play (above) to listen to the podcast.
For more information on breeding your goats:
My free course on Goat Breeding includes videos to help you recognize signs of heat, as well as successful and unsuccessful breeding attempts — and more!
Goats need proper nutrition for successful breeding, pregnancies, and birthing. That means they need a good, loose goat mineral, NOT a “sheep and goat” mineral and not a block or poured tub.
To learn more about copper deficiency, check out my free course on that topic here.
Today’s episode was sponsored by Standlee Premium Western Forage, which makes my favorite alfalfa pellets and timothy hay pellets!
For the love of goats, we are talking about everything goat, whether you’re a goat owner, a breeder, or just a fan of these wonderful creatures, we’ve got you covered. Today’s episode is brought to you by Standlee, Premium Western Forage. Now, here’s Deborah Niemann.
Hello everyone and welcome to today’s episode, where I am going to be talking about breeding season!
Most goats are seasonal breeders. And that means that they are only going to get pregnant in the fall. Maybe a little bit late summer, maybe a little bit early winter, but for the most part, you’re looking at September through December for breeding.
Now, there are some sources out there that are going to tell you that only dairy goats are seasonal breeders. So like your Alpines, LaMancha, those big goats that are known for producing milk. There are some sources out there that say that goats like Nigerian dwarf pygmies, boers, kikos, goats that come from warmer climates, that they may be able to breed year-round. And while that is absolutely true in Africa that goats do breed year-round, once you move them to North America, or someplace just away from the equator, where you actually are having seasons, that year-round breeding has been disappearing.
When I was working on the second edition of my book “Raising Goats Naturally”, I decided to go ahead and do a survey of people who breed Nigerian dwarfs, which is what I have, as well as kinders, because I know the people who raise kinders, and people in a kinder goat association, so I thought I could do both of those. And I found that what I was experiencing was not unique. A lot of people actually said that they cannot breed all of their goats year-round anymore. In fact, I had 216 Nigerian dwarf goat breeders who responded, and only 40% said that all of their does come into heat year-round. 25% of the people said that less than half of their does come into heat year-round. And 5% said that none of their does come in to heat year-round.
When I got started with my goats, it seemed that I had a lot more coming into heat in the fall, in the spring, and summer. Now I really do not ever see my goats coming into heat off-season anymore. In fact, some of you know that my unofficial motto is ‘I made all the mistakes, so you don’t have to’ and the really not so brilliant thing that we decided to do a long time ago, this was definitely more than 10 years ago, is that we thought that to have lots of milk year-round and so that we didn’t have so many goats in milk at one time, that we would breed half of our goats for fall kidding and half of our goats for spring kidding. And that turned out to be a huge mistake, because what happened was, half of my goats did not get pregnant that year. I just randomly split them in half, I bred half of them in the fall during the traditional breeding season and then I thought, when spring comes, you know, around March, I’ll just put all of those does into a pen with a buck. And nobody got pregnant, not even one goat. So that was really disappointing.
So for the vast majority of us with goats, right now is the time to be thinking about breeding. And you may just be thinking, not actually doing it, because one thing you want to do is look ahead five months and ask yourself, where will you be in five months? Are you going to be on vacation or is this, a really tough time for you at work so that you’re going to be working like 12-14 hours a day? And another really important question is what is the weather going to be like in five months. We used to breed for January and February kidding in Illinois. And we actually did that strategically because we had a problem with dewormer resistance. And we found that when we had our goats kidding in the dead of winter when the pasture was frozen, that our does would not have a problem with a parasite overload after kidding.
However, we have parasites under control. If you haven’t listened to the parasite
episodes that I have done, I hope you will and next week I have another excellent parasite episode coming with another researcher who’s we’re going to be talking about using dewormers correctly so that you don’t wind up facing dewormer resistance at some point.
But once we got our parasite problem under control, I didn’t want to be out there. You know I had so many people asking, why are you having kids right now, you know, it’s 10 degrees below zero. And we have to have a heat lamp and a blow dryer and lots of towels. And we have to get these kids dried off so that they don’t literally freeze to death, so that their ears don’t freeze off, so that their tail doesn’t freeze off. And it is not easy to get those kids dry. It takes like 45 minutes of blow drying it. When you’re below zero, it is very hard to get kids dry. And you think that they’re dry but then you learn like oh, dry at 10 below zero is very different than dry when it’s like 40 or 50 degrees even. Because the first time we had a kidding below zero. I thought the kids were dry, I’d been blow drying them for 45 minutes between three kids. And then as soon as I stopped, like within a couple minutes, one of my daughters said, Mom, I think this one’s ears are freezing. And yeah, they were!
Like instead of being soft and pliable, they were hard and crunchy. And we wound up with one of those kids losing, you know, like an inch or so off of his ears. So if you’ve never had a winter kidding, I want you to think really long and hard about this.
Another problem with winter kiddings is that when kids get hypothermia is that the first thing to go is their sucking instinct. There is a massive difference between how fast your kids are going to be on their feet and looking for that teat when it’s warm out, versus when it’s freezing. And we’re talking like they can be on their feet looking for the teat within 10 or 15 minutes. In fact, they can even be looking for the teat, scooting around on their belly like little commando crawl before they can even stand. Whereas, you know, if it’s freezing and they get cold, you can wind up out there 45 minutes after birth, they’re just getting more and more lethargic. And you have it, you’re having a harder and harder time. So you wind up having to
really heat them up then like you know, putting them on a heating pad and blow drying them. And sometimes even, you know getting milk into them initially with an eyedropper or syringe or tube feeding or a bottle or something like that. So it’s just a lot more work and more stressful if you’re going to be kidding when it’s really cold.
But I know all of you are not as crazy as us and you don’t live in the frozen Northland. And so this right now, today might be a perfect time to be breeding your goats for kidding, when the weather will actually be very nice in your area.
One thing I want to mention right now, that is very important to know is, you may be wondering, and you may be saying I don’t really want to breed my goats. I don’t need baby goats. I just want milk. Well, if you want milk, you have to breed your goats. Now, if you’re sitting there going duh. You’re lucky that you know this information. I have had many people, including women who have given birth and had children themselves who didn’t know this. I get emails from people still who say, how do you make a goat make milk, and they do not know that the goat has to give birth before it can produce milk. So if you want milk goats, you need to breed them to have a baby so that their body will produce milk for that baby.
The way that the cycle works in a commercial dairy is that a goat, let’s say she gives birth in January just to make our math easy here. After she has been in milk for seven months, you breed her again. After three more months, when she’s three months pregnant, you would stop milking her so that she can spend the last two months of that pregnancy putting all of her energy into growing the kids and then she kids again in January, a typical lactation standard lactation is considered to be 305 days. And like most people, we did this. We followed this schedule for many, many years. More recently, however, we have decided that we are going to just see how long we can get our goats to milk. We had randomly in the past milked our Nigerians, some of them for two or three years. And I find a lot of people think this is not possible with Nigerians. So basically now, we’re just gonna see if we can do it with every single goat in our herd. After they have kids, we’re gonna just start milking and keep milking. And right now the goats that gave birth in 2019, every single one of them is still milking. And so they’re getting up to around 18-19 months in milk. The reason I’m doing this is because unless you want to breed goats as a business or you want to eat goat meat and eat all of the offspring … so you want them to kid every year not just to give you milk but also to give you meat then you probably don’t want goats to kid very often because it just means that you’re gonna have to find more homes for those baby goats.
If you have any of the more traditional dairy breeds like Saanens and Alpines, there’s a pretty good history of them being able to do extended lactations. So you could milk them for two or three years before breeding them again. Now, the reason that commercially they breed them every year is because most goats will peak in their lactation at around two months after the kid is born. They’ll go down a little, and then they’re going to stay at a certain level for a while. But the commercial dairies really want that big peak for the first couple months. So they feel like they wind up with more milk over the course of a year if they keep rebreeding that goat.
Now if you just want milk for your family, you’re not looking for maximum profit, then having a goat milk for two or three years is great. Like one of our goats that milked for three years, she was probably only giving like two or three cups towards the end, which somebody you know, like with a LaMancha, or Alpine or Saanen or something is like, Oh my gosh, that’s not even worth it. But if all you need is, you know, a little bit of milk, to make cheese or for your coffee and cereal and stuff like that. That’s plenty.
So it’s really a personal decision when you’re milking goats for your own personal use.
Another very, very important point that I want to make is that if you have Nigerian dwarf or pygmy, or if you don’t even know what it is, but you have a small doe or several small does, you want to get a buck that is also that breed, or that size. You do not want to breed a Nigerian or a pygmy doe, to a buck that weighs twice as much that like an Alpine or Saanen, or heaven forbid a Boer, which is a meat goat, because you are just asking for trouble.
And it drives me absolutely nuts when somebody does this, and then brags on Facebook that the doe gave birth, because they just got incredibly lucky. Your average Nigerian dwarf kid is going to be around two and a half to three pounds. Your average dairy goat kid is going to be like around seven or eight pounds. And meat goats like Boers, they can be 10 pounds or more.
Now just think about that for a second, like how do you expect this tiny little Nigerian, who normally gives birth to a two and a half to three pound kid maybe four pounds to give birth to a kid that is seven pounds? The answer is that virtually none of them can do it. I know people who have had c-sections and had seven pound kids delivered from a little Nigerian doe that got bred by a large breed buck. So please just don’t do it. I also know somebody who made the very difficult decision to put down a doe in labor. Because she couldn’t give birth. And the vet said it’s going to be $800 for a c-section and they couldn’t afford the c-section. So they said just put her down.
Now, I don’t think most of you want to ever be in that position. So just don’t take a dumb risk like that. And even if a doe can successfully give birth, that doesn’t mean she’s gonna survive. I had a doe who almost bled to death. And she cannot be bred again, because she gave birth to a full blooded Nigerian who was five pounds and two ounces.
Along this same theme, it is also very important to breed your does for the first time based upon their size, not their age. There are people all over who say oh, you can breed them when they’re a year old. Or you should wait until they’re two years old. And the answer like everything else with goats, it depends. Like it’s not the age that is important. It is the size. Because again, you could have a two year old goat but if she’s not big enough, then she’s not going to be able to successfully give birth to those kids. And what you’re looking for is you want her to be about two thirds of her expected adult weight. So this is where it’s nice to know what breed you have rather than to buy some mixed breed from the sale barn or something. Like with my Nigerians, I want them to be 40 pounds before I breed them.
And this was another one of those lessons that I learned the hard way.
Back around I think it was like 2005 – 2006 we had a goat. And first I should say that at that time all of our goats we bred them when they were a year you know bred them to kid at a year of age so they were bred at around seven to nine months, you know, whenever we caught them in heat, in the fall, after the spring when they were born. I was still new to goats back then and I had never heard anybody talk about how big a doe should be, before she is bred. And however, there was this one doe, her name was Giselle. And I talk about her story in my book, ‘Raising Goats Naturally’. And just so, thank goodness, I looked at her when she was seven or eight months old, and knew that she was too small. So I didn’t breed her. And I waited until she was about 15-16 months old. And at that point, I still thought she looks small, but I’m like, but you’re so old, like, I’ve never bred a goat this old before. So I should breed you. Because there’s also this crazy idea that you, you shouldn’t breed goats that are too old. So I bred her. And it is a story I will never forget. Because it was Christmas, it was December 24 is when she went into labor. And then at around two or three o’clock in the morning on December 25, we wound up taking her to the vet because she was trying to give birth to a kid and we could not get it out. She couldn’t get it out. We were pulling, we couldn’t get it out. So in the middle of the night on Christmas, we drove her to the vet who was not very happy to be dragged out of his nice warm bed on Christmas to come in. And oh my goodness, it was a horrible, horrible experience. He got the kid out.
I truly thought we were going in for a c-section. But I got very lucky. This vet is no longer in practice anymore, but he actually raised pygmy goats. So finding a vet who actually has real life experience with goats is such a gift and so rare. And so he had dealt with, you know, kidding problems personally. And my daughter and I had to hold this goat, like with all our strength while he pulled on that kid, and he got it out. And her poor vulva was so swollen, and she was so traumatized. She just looked at him, like, I don’t know what that thing is, but I want nothing to do with it. And so she completely rejected him (the kid). And I felt like a horrible person. I called one of my mentors at the time and she said, ‘Well, how much does the goat weigh’. And I remember because the table that she was on at the vet was the kind that has the scale in it. And I remember looking at it and seeing that after the kid was out, she weighed 35 pounds. And when I told my mentor this, she said, ‘Oh, I don’t even breed goats that small.’ And so I just shudder to think how little she actually weighed five months earlier when we did breed her. So that’s why like, it’s just really, really important that you know what your goats weigh.
Now, if you’ve got us, this is really easy. You know, like Nigerians and stuff, we just take our bathroom scale out there, pick up the goat, stand on the bathroom scale, and then deduct our own weight. If you have a larger goat, I actually heard from a vet professor, that a couple people brought in their bathroom scales one time, and they had a larger goat, you know, like an Alpine put the front feet on one scale and put the back feet on another scale, and they added up those two numbers. And then they put the goat on their big fancy livestock scale there at the vet clinic. And it was the same. So that actually works, you can just buy a couple of cheap bathroom scales and save yourself a few hundred dollars on a livestock scale.
Now I’ve got one more thing I got to talk about before we actually get into the whole breeding section of this podcast.
And that is breeding for fertility. There’s an old goat thing that people used to do called flushing. And you still see people talk about flushing their does, which sounds horrible. But really, it’s just the practice of feeding extra grain for a month before you breed them. Now the idea behind this is a good one. And you can tell this idea came from a long time ago, before we knew anything about goat nutrition, because the idea behind it is just that you want your does to be in excellent body condition which is true you do. You do not want to breed an underweight goat. But you also don’t want to breed an overweight goat. You want them to be, you know, in ideal condition. And also before we knew anything really about, nutrition and goats. I mean, that was really the best we could do is just say, oh, we’ll just feed them a little extra for a month so that they’ll be more likely to get pregnant and more likely to have a successful pregnancy. So of course you want your goat to be in top condition before you breed her.
However, feeding grain does not equate to having a goat in top condition. So you want to make sure that you’ve got a really good mineral. Now if you’ve read my stuff and listen to other podcasts, you may know that the two minerals that I recommend for breeding goats is Sweetlix Meat Maker, not any of the other Sweetlix, just their Meat Maker, and Purina Goat Minerals. The Sweetlix Meat Maker is my first choice, Purina goat minerals is my second choice.
And I’m not going to get into the details of why because I have plenty of articles on my blog for this. And I will, in fact, link to it in the show notes, I will link to an article about that if you need more information about that. But there are a ton of minerals out there that are labeled for goats that do not have enough selenium, or enough copper, for good fertility and successful pregnancies. So you want to make sure to look at your feed tag. I want to see 50 ppm selenium and I want to see at least 1700 – 1800 ppm copper in a mineral.
Now I know there are people who use minerals that have more copper than that, and that’s fine if they need it.
There’s a huge variation in the amount of copper that goats need from one farm to another. Again, I have written about this so extensively. I’ll link to that in the show notes too, if you’re not familiar with that information. But again, I learned this one the hard way, because you know, way back like 15 years ago, we had goats that were not getting pregnant, not staying pregnant, they were aborting, like, at four months when you know they’d give birth to these tiny little toothpick kids that were too small to survive. And it was all because our goats were deficient in copper. So that does not mean your goats might need it. So I’m going to post that information. If you don’t have good information on copper. Be sure to check that out.
And please do not forget about your bucks. Those boys need to have a really good free choice loose mineral also, so that they will have a nice high sperm count and be able to get your does pregnant.
And since I’m talking about nutrition, now is a perfect time to thank the show sponsor again which is Standlee Premium Western Forage. We’ve been using Standlee’s alfalfa hay pellets and timothy hay pellets for well over 10 years. We feed the alfalfa hay pellets to our does on the milk stand and our bucks get the timothy hay pellets in the winter, if we can’t find enough good grass hay for them. And for more about that, be sure to check out Episode Two, which I will also link in the show notes.
Another question that I get a lot is how old does a buck have to be before he can get a doe pregnant? And the answer can vary a little bit. But do not get excited about three or four month old bucks being able to do the job. I know there are people who swear that they’re very young, but got a goat pregnant. But I feel pretty confident that in most of those cases, some poor little kid is taking the blame for another bigger buck jumping a fence. Because every single person I know who has ever tried to use a buck that young has not been successful. Now if that’s all you’ve got, you can try. There’s no harm in trying. But I wouldn’t get my hopes up too much. If I saw that goat come into heat again in three weeks, I would say nope, he did not succeed, I will breed her again.
So your goats are in excellent physical condition. And you have looked at your calendar five months from now it would be a good time for that goat to give birth, both from the weather and from your personal scheduling standpoint.
So what’s the next thing you need to think about? Do you want to pen breed or hand breed? Pen breeding is exactly how it sounds. You put a buck and a doe or a buck and ten does into a pen and just let nature take its course. Now you might think, Oh, well, that’s what I’m gonna do. That’s gonna be easy. They’ve been doing this for thousands of years. And you’re right, they do. And it works. The thing I don’t like about pen breeding is that you were probably not going to have a due date.
Now I get emails from people who are like my doe has been in with a buck for three months and she’s not pregnant. Well, how do you know she’s not pregnant? Because I didn’t see her get bred. Yeah, that doesn’t mean she’s not pregnant. Goat breeding literally takes seconds. I will never forget the woman who bought two does for me and she kept emailing me and calling me and complaining that my does that I sold her were not coming into heat. And then all of a sudden one day I get this panic phone call because both does were in labor.
After a little bit more discussion, I learned that she had left the does with the buck for 15 minutes and gone in the house one time. That’s it, guys. It takes way less than 15 minutes. When it comes to goat breeding the old adage, if you blink you’ll miss it is literally true. Like it literally takes seconds for this to happen. So you don’t want to turn your back if you want to know when the due date is, when did they actually breed, then pen breeding is not the way to go. If I pen breed, I will probably not see more than… In most cases, I usually only know about when one out of every three of the does gets bred. The rest of them, I don’t usually see it. Last year, I got really lucky and totally flip that around. And I saw I think I was pen breeding five goats last year. And I happened to get lucky with my timing of going out to the barn and happened to see all of them get bred except for one or two. But that was rare, like after all these years, that’s the first time I got that lucky.
So that means I prefer hand breeding, which I really don’t like that name. But that’s what people call it. It makes it sound like you’re far more involved than you actually are. All that means is that you wait for a doe to come into heat, and then you set her up on a date with her boyfriend. And that’s all you have to do. Okay? I just cringe when I get these emails from people in the spring. And they say my goat is overdue. And I’m like, how do you know she’s overdue? Well, because I saw her get bred 152 days ago or 155 days ago. And, and I know she got bred because I held her. I just want to scream when somebody says that, okay, your doe has to be in standing heat to get pregnant. The way that it works, a doe can be in heat for like 12 to 48 hours, but she can only get pregnant when she is in standing heat, you really don’t have to help that much. Okay, if she is in standing heat, that is when she can get pregnant. And that is only for a few hours, usually towards the end
of that time period that she’s in heat. So if you take her in there, and with a buck and she’s running from him, she’s not in standing heat. So, you know, if you wait a couple hours and put her back in there, then she is more likely to stand. If she doesn’t, if she still doesn’t, then you maybe just missed it. Maybe she was actually in standing heat you know, six hours ago, if you go out there at eight o’clock in the morning, you know, and she was in standing heat at midnight or something like from midnight to 6am, then you just missed it. So I do sometimes actually, I usually watch to see that a doe get bred at least once. And then once I see her get bred at least once I know I have to mark the calendar at that point, I’m going to assume that she is pregnant. So that in 145 days I am looking for an udder and other signs of labor. Goats are actually extremely efficient. And on time when it comes to giving birth. Nigerians typically give birth between 145 and 150 days. And I would say I’ve had two goats give birth beyond 150 days, and maybe four or five that gave birth a little bit before 145 like at 143 or 144. So I usually start paying very close attention to them at around 140 days. And we will do a podcast episode in the spring that has more details about this. And if you want to know even more, I have a course at the Thrifty Homesteader Academy that’s all about goats giving birth. And I also have a book called Goats Giving Birth. So there’s a lot of other information about that. So I’m not going to get into that today.
But you are probably wondering, how do I know that my goat is in heat? Well, the first sign I’m going to talk about is called flagging. And now if this was a dog, you would say that they were wagging their tail, but for some reason in the goat world, they decided to call it flagging. And it is really funny because usually a goat just very quietly carries its tail over its back. In fact, extra tip for the day, you can tell the difference between a goat and sheep at a distance because goats have their tail over their back and sheep, their tail just hangs straight down. So normally goats are just walking around with their tail just sitting on their back.
If it is flagging or wagging, then that’s probably because your doe is in heat and it’s pretty funny when we are milking a doe, it’s very easy for us to know because we have this tiny little milking parlor that’s five feet by 10 feet. And when a doe is in heat and flagging, it’s like a fan in there. I mean, she is, some of them are just going to town and it makes it very cool in there for us.
Another symptom is mounting. If a doe is in heat she may be mounting other does or they may be mounting her. Now, if you see them sometimes this just looks like an insane free for all. You look out there, you know, you got five does, six does, and they’re all mounting each other. So how do you know who’s in heat? Well, the first thing I look for is, remember, a doe needs to be in standing heat. So if she is just standing there and letting all the other does mount her, she’s the one that’s in heat, the one who’s standing there and letting everybody mount her. If a doe is running off, as other does are trying to mount her, then she’s not in standing heat. However, there have been times when it still looks so confusing to me. I just go out there and I stand and I watch and I’m like, well, you’re standing for her, but not for her. And oh my gosh, I have no idea who’s in heat. If it matches up with your breeding plans to breed all those does to the same buck, or maybe you only have one buck because you’re just getting started, you can put all of those does with one buck and he will sort it out very quickly. Like you will see some does are gonna run from him and other does are just gonna stand there. And he will figure out who is interested in him and who is not.
Another thing that happens sometimes, but not always is vocalizing. And it even varies from one month to the next with the same doe. So it’s not like you can say “Oh, that doe always screams when she’s in heat.” But it can sound really crazy. If you’ve ever seen the goat screaming video that went viral on YouTube a number of years ago. That is what it’s like. In fact, I have heard people say that their neighbor has called the police because they thought they heard a woman screaming in their yard. And it was just their doe that was in heat. So this is where it can get a little tricky if you have goats in a city, because they are very quiet most of the time. And this is why if you’re in a city and you just want a couple pets, you should get wethers because they’re going to be quiet. But if you’re not going to breed a doe, every 21 days, at least during the fall, she is going to be coming into heat. And there’s a pretty good chance that once or twice at least that she’s just gonna scream her head off. Because she’s calling the boys. She’s like, “Hey, boys, come on, come see me, I’m in heat.”
Another thing that you might see is flirting. And that is if your does can see your bucks. They may go to the fence where they can see them, they may try to get as close to them as they possibly can and try to get their attention. They will be calling, they will be flagging … the point of flagging is trying to get that smell over there, get their smell out there to the boys so that they can smell it because that’s the first thing a buck is going to do when he runs to see a doe is sniff under her tail, and then decide what he should do next.
Another potential sign of heat is one that a lot of people give way too much credence to and that is discharge. Yes, goats probably have discharge but I don’t even usually look under their tail. I really go by all these behavioral things. Typically, a goat will have discharge that is clear when she’s in the early stages of heat. And then as she progresses, the discharge may turn more cloudy. At least that is what the textbook says. I personally have not paid that much attention to it to verify it. The main reason I mentioned that is because if you don’t have your own buck, and you’re going to have to drive your does somewhere, if you see white discharge would not say oh, I’ll take her to be bred tomorrow, because maybe she’s already been in heat for 12 hours. She’s not gonna be in heat tomorrow anymore. In fact, if you don’t have your own buck, I never recommend waiting until tomorrow because I know so many people who’ve gotten really frustrated with buck service. They keep taking their doe and you know, she doesn’t want to stand, they hold her and then she doesn’t get pregnant and they don’t know why she didn’t get pregnant. And it’s because you were just too late. So that’s the great thing about having a buck, your own bucks.
So once I see a successful breeding I leave the doe and the buck in there. If I think there’s another doe in heat I want him to breed, I may only leave them together for two or three hours. Because I don’t want his sperm count to get too low. But I also want multiple breedings to increase the chances of pregnancy. It’s really not a great idea to have a buck in there with multiple does even though I do it and that’s pen breeding. But what I’ve seen is that a buck will usually get a favorite if there are two or three does in heat at the same time. And he may just keep breeding the same doe over and over again. If I see that, I will take that doe out. Because it’s like, Ah, I need you to get these other does pregnant too. So once you’ve seen three or four breedings, it’s fine to remove a doe. And I really recommend that you do that, especially if you have other goats that need to be bred just to increase the chances that those other goats are going to get bred. Because one thing I have noticed that if I use a buck for breeding three or more does, the first two are probably going to get pregnant. And I’m talking about in a single day. The first two are probably going to get pregnant. The third one is probably not going to get pregnant. And it’s just because the sperm count has dropped so low. And it was kind of funny when I was talking to someone else about this. He said the same thing — that he has noticed the same thing. And he’s actually experimented with it a little bit. Like with ages and stuff, and I’m sorry, I don’t remember which age he said had better luck, I think it was older bucks had better luck being able to breed three or four does than the younger bucks. So that’s something to think about.
One final thing to look for is that if you are milking a doe, her supply could plummet. So normally, if a goat’s milk supply plummets, it goes down by you know, eight to 16 ounces, literally overnight. You know, yesterday, you got a couple cups more milk than you did today, or a pound more milk than you did, sometimes that can be a sign that she’s sick, maybe she’s got a really bad parasite load, or something else is happening. And sometimes it just means she’s in heat. So if you see a drop in milk production, and the goat is flagging, and has these other signs of heat, then I would not panic, I would just breed her, and her milk supply will come up in two or three days.
Let’s talk briefly about buck behavior, because especially if you’re new, this can be really shocking. I have received videos from people asking me what is wrong with their buck, because he is running around going blalalalala and screaming like those screaming goats in viral videos, and peeing on his face and things like maybe peeing on the other goats. And people think, Oh my gosh, he’s gone crazy, or there’s something terribly wrong with him. And there’s not, that’s his normal buck behavior during breeding season. And this is on him. This is honestly one reason I am not a fan of bottle fed bucks. They’re so cute when they’re little. But when they grow up, they have a little trouble discerning the difference between humans and goats. And I really really hate it when a buck thinks I am his girlfriend. And he wants to jump on me and lick my face the moment after he just peed on his face.
That is not my idea of fun. So buck behavior can be very strange. And so just don’t be alarmed by that. It’s totally normal. It is also really important that you know what a successful breeding looks like. And really for this, I would suggest that you take my free online course on breeding goats because there’s video in there. So if you’re having trouble visualizing this, then go take that course so that you can actually see what it looks like. Because a buck may mount a doe repeatedly before there’s a successful breeding and if you don’t know what a successful breeding looks like, you might think oh, I guess that was it and you might think your doe, you might expect her to be pregnant when she was never even successfully bred.
So you know, it’s been a successful breeding if a doe arches her back when the buck mounts her and she arches her back like she’ll pull her front legs and her hind legs together. So like they can, they can wind up she’s really pulling her hind legs underneath her body when she has that contraction and arches her back and that’s what you’re looking for. If she just continues standing there. You see no change whatsoever in the shape of her back. She doesn’t move her back legs forward, then the buck just tried and failed. And again in those videos, there’s a lot of failures that they have, especially after the first time. The first time, you know, if a buck hasn’t bred a doe in 24 hours or longer, you put them in there with her, he could jump on her and breed her instantly. And you’ve got a successful breeding, she arches her back. And then he wants to do it again, he’s trying to do it again. But he’s not really able to do it again, you know, he gets an A for effort, but he’s not succeeding. So he mounts, falls off, mounts, falls off. And he could do this six or seven times before he successfully breeds her again. Usually, you’re not going to see a successful breeding more than every five or 10 minutes, and the more that he breeds throughout the day, the harder it’s going to get for him to do it again. So you just want to make sure that you know what that looks like so that you don’t get disappointed if she’s not pregnant.
Now, how do you know that your goat really is pregnant? Well, one of the things that most people do is just look for signs of heat. Again, if you see no more signs of heat over the next few months, then she is probably pregnant. However, if she comes into heat, and she could come into heat in five or six days, or she could come into heat in three weeks. If she comes into heat in five or six days, that last heat is what people refer to as a false heat. And so you should breed her again. Knock on wood, whenever that happens, it’s always been the second breeding that took. However, I always mark my calendar for every single time I see successful breedings because I don’t want any surprises.
Now, the surprises I have had are those that continue to come into heat every three weeks. And that has only happened… we’ve had like around 650 kids and that has only happened about three times I think. And the first time it happened I had actually no idea that this was even possible. And I just kept breeding her again and getting really frustrated and thinking why isn’t this girl getting pregnant. And we thought she was going to be due in September because she kept coming into heat. And then one day we came home from a fourth of July party and she had three kids in the pasture. So obviously, she had come into heat two more times after being successfully bred. And she got bred again. And that, of course just didn’t count because she was already pregnant. I mean, if you’re pregnant and you have sex, you’re not going to get pregnant again. So that’s why she gave birth in July instead of September. So that is why I tell you always write down any potential due date, so that you do not get surprised like that.
And the last thing I am going to talk about today is the possibility of artificial insemination. Because sometimes when people only have three or four goats, they don’t want to buy a buck. And they would like to have access to different genetics. And so using artificial insemination is definitely a possibility. You can buy goat sperm. And the thing is you would need a semen tank to store it in. Because it has to stay frozen and your freezer is not cold enough. It’s like a dry ice kind of a freezer situation. It is very, very cold.
If you don’t want to buy a semen tank, and you know someone near you who’s doing it, you might be able to rent storage space in their tank. Or if you have an AI technician in your area. He or she may have a semen tank and have a variety of semen available that you can purchase directly from them. Otherwise, you would have to purchase it online and have it shipped overnight on dry ice to be able to get it.
Now if you’re thinking this sounds kind of risky, you’re right, it does. And it’s the main reason that I have never started doing AI. I know someone years ago when I was still pretty new, I knew a woman who actually had like 15 goats and was going to do 100% AI and something went wrong and not a single one of her goats got pregnant. So there’s just a lot of room for error, you know, in terms of like shipping the semen and keeping it frozen and even the insemination part. You know, like, if you’re new to goats, you’re not going to be as smart as a buck when it comes to knowing when a doe is actually in standing heat. And you can wind up just wasting a lot of sperm by inseminating a doe when she’s not actually in heat.
And that’s it for today. I want to thank Standlee Premium Western Forage for sponsoring today’s episode. And I also want to say thank you to all of you listeners who have taken the time to leave a review or rating for the podcast because that really helps other listeners find us. If you’ve got any questions, remember to check the show notes. There’s gonna be a lot of links in there this week. And if you haven’t already done so be sure to hit the subscribe button, especially because next week is going to be an awesome episode I’m talking to a parasite researcher about how to use dewormers correctly, and we’re gonna talk about fecals and you’re going to be probably blown away by some of the information that you hear. I’ll see you again next time. Bye for now.
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