Buck Health and Breeding

Episode 83
For the Love of Goats

Buck Health and Breeding featured image

Every aspect of your buck’s health is critically important during breeding season, from his eyes and legs to his reproductive system.

Dr. Jamie Stewart, Assistant Professor in Production Management Medicine at the vet school at Virginia Tech, who previously joined us for an episode on artificial insemination in goats, talks about the various aspects of a buck’s health that can affect breeding success, as well as the success of your kidding season.

Dr. Stewart talks about what a vet does in a breeding soundness exam, as well as what goat owners can do to be sure their buck is in the best condition for breeding season.

We discuss epididymitis and orchitis and the many potential causes for those problems, from physical trauma to infectious disease, including some that can wind up causing an abortion storm during kidding season.

If you’ve ever wondered why it’s so hard to find a goat owner who will provide buck service, this episode will help you understand the possible diseases that can be transmitted during breeding.

Other episodes with Dr. Jamie Stewart

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Want to keep your bucks healthy? Check out these seven tips.


Introduction 0:03
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. And now, here is Deborah Niemann.

Deborah Niemann 0:16
Hello, everyone, and welcome to today’s episode. As we are getting closer to breeding season this fall, I thought it would be a great time to have Dr. Jamie Stewart back again. She is an assistant professor in production management medicine at the vet school at Virginia Tech, and she was previously with us on an episode where we talked about artificial insemination and goats. Welcome back, Dr. Stewart!

Jamie Stewart 0:42
Thank you for having me again.

Deborah Niemann 0:44
So, the first thing I want to just—like, really basic here. And that is, we want to talk about the fact that, like, a buck is truly half of your herd. And, if you’re new to raising goats, you might feel like, “Oh, I just want to find a cheap one. He’s only going to have to work a couple days a year, and I’m gonna have to feed him for 365 days.” But, it really is important that you get a really good quality buck.

Deborah Niemann 1:08
And—just going back to, like, super basics here. And that is, that your buck needs to have two testicles. It’s kind of funny, the first time I heard about the possibility that cryptorchidism was genetic, I found a study from the ’60s, when they were apparently breeding cryptorchids all the time. And I was just like, “Why did anybody think that this was a good idea?” So, can you talk a little bit about cryptorchids, and why you don’t want to use them for bucks?

Jamie Stewart 1:39
Absolutely. You know, and some of its going to come back to what you’re selling the kids for; some of its going to come back to your intended use for that buck. So, certainly, the big thing that you already touched on is that you’re going to continuously pass down that gene. And you’ll continuously have more animals—more males—that are born that are prone to getting that. And so, if you’re selling… You know, if you’re selling these animals to become pets, per se—you know, we see that quite a bit. It’s growing in popularity, just to have goats as pets—you get more of those cryptorchids. And, where that becomes a problem is, some people will just maybe not notice, and they’ll band their kids, and just take out one of the testicles. So then, we were talking about this before the podcast a little bit, about how we can sometimes get these pet male goats coming in, and, “Well gee, doc, they’re smelling like a buck, and they’re acting like a buck. What could be wrong with it? He’s castrated. I don’t see any testicles.” And about 100% of the time, they certainly have a testicle within that abdomen.

Jamie Stewart 2:40
So, that becomes kind of a down-the-line problem, if you’re not checking adequately before you castrate to make sure that you get both of those in there. And then going, you know, along the lines with the bucks, even if the smelliness and the behavior doesn’t turn you off, you can get issues even further down the line—again, with the pets—that if you’re planning on having them live in your herd for a long time, having that testicle in the abdomen is an -itis for tumor formation. So, when we think about things like neoplasia, that testicle in the abdomen is going to be very prone, because it’s in an environment it’s not used to being; it’s supposed to be outside the body. And so, once you have it inside the body getting exposure, and it’s still gonna be producing all the testosterone and everything, it’s still going to be able to produce sperm—I’ll be it, they’ll be a little bit less fertile than your normal buck. But, it’s still possible for them to get things pregnant. But then, down the line, it’s also a risk for getting cancer. And, by the time that you would probably figure it out, it would probably be too late to consider any kind of our treatment options, like surgery. So certainly, the best thing to do for those is just to castrate them and take care of those testicles early on. But, that seems to be the issue mostly with our pets.

Jamie Stewart 3:54
And then, even with, you know, breeding populations, it comes back to just the continuously passing it on. So, if you have a breeding animal, and you decide, “I’m just going to keep breeding him,” you have that issue.

Deborah Niemann 4:05
Right. And, like we talked about in the artificial insemination episode, you know, one reason you might want to do AI is to bring in some really excellent genetics, you know, such as for parasite resistance or something like that—or even, like, show-quality and things like that—where you can’t necessarily afford a live buck, but you can bring in the semen to do that. And so, that’s just one thing I always try to stress to people when they’re buying a buck, is to make sure you’re getting the best you can get.

Deborah Niemann 4:33
A lot of us who have especially, like, small backyard dairy herds—you know, only have like 10, maybe 20, does—we tend to have multiple bucks. Like, I know the main reason I’ve had multiple bucks is because I want to have a closed herd. And, like, I haven’t bought a doe since 2005, because of biosecurity reasons. And, I only buy a buck about every 5 years or so. And I’ve got enough doe lines that I can breed that buck to different does, and then breed a buck from them to a different doe, and and keep going for quite a while without having to bring in any new bucks. Because again, biosecurity—even though I’m always buying from herds that have a long history, like 10 years or more, of negative tests for CAE, CL, and Johne’s.

Deborah Niemann 5:21
But, I was reading your paper, “Management of Reproductive Diseases in Male Small Ruminants,” and one of the things that you say in there is that one buck can breed 50 does in a breeding season. And that’s where I really started thinking about like, “Oh my goodness. Like, if you have one buck that you’re expecting to breed 50 does, you really want to be sure that he can get the job done.”

Deborah Niemann 5:46
I remember what it was like. My absolute favorite buck ever, when he was 8 years old… You know, it was, like, October, he bred does, nobody got pregnant. In November, he bred does, nobody got pregnant. And I was like, “You can’t be sterile!” And I used him again in December. And thank goodness I have Nigerians, so I wasn’t too worried about missing that heat window, because they tend to come into heat a little longer than most dairy goats. I finally gave up on him. And, it was really just a matter of a couple months when his testicles shrunk up; he stopped stinking. He just, it was obvious he was no longer a buck. The testosterone was gone.

Deborah Niemann 6:21
So, when we talk about this—like, because this article that you wrote, one of the things you talk about are breeding soundness exams. And, I can certainly see that if somebody has one buck that they’re expecting to do the job with 50 does, you can’t wait and see if they’re coming back into heat, because that could be really bad for business. So, can you tell us a little bit about what a breeding soundness exam done by a veterinarian involves?

Jamie Stewart 6:49
Absolutely. So, it’s actually one of my favorite things to do, because it does have such an impact on your herd. It’s just so important. I can’t stress that enough. So usually, what we start off with is doing just a general physical exam, because it’s more than just doing a semen analysis, it’s identifying. Because, once you get to the semen analysis, if you find a problem, then you’re going to have to go back and find where the problem is. So, we always start with our physical exam. You know, just making sure the animal is in good health. You know, we look at the eyes; the nose; making sure that there’s, you know, no signs of respiratory disease.

Jamie Stewart 7:21
With the eyes, we want to make sure that there’s nothing impeding his vision. So, that’s a big one that people tend to not think too much about. But, if you think about, you know, if you’re sitting outside watching your females in estrus, what are things that they’re doing? They’re showing signs of estrus, and there’s an evolutionary reason why they do that. Because, if your little buck goes up to a female who’s not an estrus and tries to mount her, she’s going to kick him, and he’s gonna get hurt. So evolutionarily, she exhibits those signs of estrus so that he can see it from afar and know that she’s safe to approach for mounting. So, that’s why when you’re doing natural cover, the eyes are so important. And we always look at that, make sure there’s no tumors, ulcers, pink eye, any of that sort. So, we look at that.

Jamie Stewart 8:03
And then, feet are the other big things. Because, you know, now that he’s seen the female, he has to be able to get to her, and he has to be able to mount, you know, and that takes all four hooves; it’s not just… You know, the back ones are probably a little bit slightly more important, but he still has to be able to get to her. If he’s really lame, and he can’t walk all the way across the pasture, then he’s not going to be as efficient for his breeding. And so, then, kind of going forward of, you know, we look at the feet, we look at the eyes, and the overall condition—his body condition, too, is also super important. So, before the breeding season, we always like the males to be slightly over-conditioned, because, if you think about it, for about a month or two, all he’s going to be thinking about is going around and breeding females. So, his what we call a “voluntary feed intake” is going to decrease. So, we want him to start off where he’s, you know, slightly on the heftier side—not too much. There’s definitely a fine line, but enough that if he’s not eating as much over the next month, that it’s not going to cause him to waste away. So, those are the things for our physical exam.

Jamie Stewart 9:03
And then, we move to what we call kind of our “focus reproductive exam,” where we’re going to look at the actual prepuce itself, plus or minus, sometimes we’ll exteriorize the penis; a lot of times, they’ll come out when we collect the semen, so we wait—before we look at the penis, we’ll wait till we do our semen evaluation. So then, before that, we go to palpating the testicles, and you really want them… Let’s see, my colleague here says, “You want them to be the consistency of a grapefruit the day before it’s ready to be eaten.” Very specific. You don’t want them too soft; usually that means there’s some degeneration. Certainly, if you go around and feel some of them outside of season, you’ll feel that softness, and that’s normal outside of the season. But when they’re gearing up to breed, you want them to have a little bit of turgidity, but not overly firm—not like you’re feeling, like, a tennis ball. And so, we feel those, and you should be able to kind of freely move them within the scrotum, too. So, the scrotum is just kind of the skin covering, and then you’ve got the two testicles in there. So, you should be able to freely move them.

Jamie Stewart 10:06
And then, the other big thing that we want to feel for is a differentiation between what we call the “testicle” and the “epididymis.” And that’s really important, especially with our rams and bucks, because they are so prone to getting what we call “epididymitis.” The biggest way to note that is by understanding if you’re feeling the testicle or epididymis, to know what’s enlarged. I had students come to me one time after doing their physical exam. And they were, “Oh, his right testicle is really enlarged.” And I went to go palpate his testicle—and there’s actually an image of it in the article that you mentioned that I cowrote, where I basically outlined where everything is—and I felt him, and yeah, there was a big mass there. But it was all a big epididymis. The testicle was actually really small and degenerated; the epididymis was just full of pus and the disease. So, that’s why it’s so important to be able to feel that differentiation, and know what structures you’re feeling.

Jamie Stewart 11:01
So then, after we do that, the one thing that we really miss in our small ruminant exams that we do in our bull exams is a transrectal palpation, to feel some of those accessory sex glands. So, those are the structures that produce all of the fluid that come out with the sperm. And so, we don’t do that routinely. But, we can do it with an ultrasound—using, I have this little probe introducer—if we suspect that there’s an issue. But, we don’t routinely do it, just because most of the time, you’ll find an issue with the semen that you would have to end up tracing back to that. So, we just don’t do it routinely, because it’s just kind of logistically hard to do.

Jamie Stewart 11:37
So then, we do our semen collection, and we look at the sample. We’re going to look at the motility; we want to look at the sperm morphology. So, just basically looking to make sure that each of those sperm cells—we usually count about 100 of them—that they look normal. So, there’s three parts of the sperm: There’s the head; there’s the mid-piece; and the tail. And, the worst defects that you can find are on the head and the midpiece. And those ones are so important, because they’ll have normal motility. So, you look, and the sperm are all moving normally. And they’ll be able to actually get to the O site, and they’ll fertilize the O site, but then that O site won’t be viable, because of the defects within the DNA of it. And so, that’s why those can be pretty dramatic, and why we want to make sure that we rule those out. Whereas, the ones that don’t have tails, they’re not going to go fertilize anything. So, the sperm just kind of end up not going anywhere—and they’re easy to notice. So, you know, even the layperson that just, you know, has a microscope at their house—which, you know, I’ve had plenty of producers that do, just to kind of keep an eye on their semen quality. They’ll look at under the microscope, and it’s pretty easy to point out a whole bunch of them that have tailed defects, because they’re not going to be moving.

Jamie Stewart 12:46
So that’s, I guess, the long version of what we do for our breeding soundness exam.

Deborah Niemann 12:53
Oh, that’s great! That’s really good information. And a lot of that, too, I think, if somebody only has a few goats and two or three bucks that they can obviously, like, pay attention to a lot of that. You know, like, are their feet good, are their eyes good, that kind of stuff. It’s amazing how everything—every body part, practically—can affect a buck’s ability to breed successfully.

Deborah Niemann 13:15
One of the things that I remember from, like, many years ago when we were having a problem with severe parasites on our farm, was a buck that was severely parasitized. Like, he bred a doe once, very unenthusiastically, and just kind of, you know, dropped off and didn’t seem to think about it again, you know. And which, you know, I look back and I was like, “Well, of course not.” Like, you know, he was anemic and not feeling well. So also, obviously, people should be paying attention to that and, like, see, you know, what their goats FAMACHA score looks like, and their body condition. Is there anything else that that people should be looking for at home to make sure that their buck is in good condition for breeding?

Jamie Stewart 14:03
So, one of the things that really tends to be missing on our breeding soundness exam is doing an assessment of libido, and basically just the willingness to breed. And so, luckily, you know, I think most of the time, we don’t have issues with that. But, because we can’t really assess that in the clinic—you know, they’re not out there breeding females—we really rely on our producers to watch for that. You know, we can tell them that, you know, that everything looks okay, and, you know, the sperm are moving, and the sperm have good quality, but if he’s not out there with the willingness to breed, just like you said, that can have just as devastating consequences. But, he has to kind of be in his normal environment for you to be able to see that.

Jamie Stewart 14:42
And, the other thing is, you know, it’s always good for you to kind of watch the mounting and make sure that they’re getting bred, because sometimes they might have issues with even just intermission itself. And so, again, we can make sure that there’s no masses on the penis, we can make sure everything looks pretty normal, but again, if, you know, he’s got some nerve damage that we can’t necessarily see, that can affect his ability to basically penetrate the female and get the job done. So we, you know, we do our best. And again, those situations are few and far between. But, I definitely go back to your point, where the best thing you can do is just to make sure he’s in a good body condition score. Watch closely for any lameness. FAMACHA scoring, absolutely critical. And, any kind of disease, the earlier that you recognize it, the better. If you notice that, you know, one testicle looks bigger than the other, the earlier that you address that stuff, the better the outcome is going to be.

Deborah Niemann 15:37
A little earlier, you mentioned a swollen epididymis. So, I’d like to talk more now about epididymitis. Because, until I read your paper, I had no idea. I mean, the number of causes just goes on and on and on. And, you know, there were so many, from, like, physical to infectious. So, I’d love to talk about that a little bit more, because some of these… You know, in some cases, like, they’re just not going to be able to breed. But in other cases, we’re talking about, like, they could start an abortion storm on your farm.

Jamie Stewart 16:10
Yeah. And luckily, the majority of pathogens that will affect and cause epididymitis aren’t going to be the ones that cause an abortion storm. So, that’s the good news. The bad news is, you know, if it’s affecting your males during breeding season, you’re gonna have a really unproductive season if it’s not caught early and addressed. So, I had—and this was back when I was at Illinois—I had a client who just, like I said before, she did a good job at, you know, she would collect semen and check it to make sure the motility was good. And she had a buck that was out they had just bought. And, they noticed that a lot of the does were coming into heat again, and coming into heat again. So, she looked at a semen sample and thought that the motility looked low, so they brought it into us to work up. And, by the time he got to us, the sperm that we saw on the slide was completely dead. And he had a pretty significant epididymitis, where there was really no functional testicle left. And it was pretty devastating for them, because, they had spent a lot of money on this buck. It was a show herd, so they spent a lot of money on this buck to breed to their good females. And, you know, then being able to tell her whether or not, you know, did he pick this up on their farm? Or did he pick it up beforehand? It’s really quite unpredictable, because, you know, certain pathogens can act really quickly, and certain pathogens can maybe brew a little bit.

Jamie Stewart 17:30
But, as I kind of mentioned before, the earlier that you pick up these things, the better it’s going to be, and the best time to pick it up is during your routine breeding soundness exam, and before there’s even any lesions in the testicles. So, a lot of times, what we might find is, when we do the semen evaluation, we might see that there’s a bunch of white blood cells in the ejaculate. And so, then, that might prompt us to, “Okay, let’s stain this, and make sure they’re white blood cells. And then, “Well, maybe we should do a culture of this, and make sure that it’s not, you know, a pathogen that we should be concerned about that can cause an epididymitis.”

Jamie Stewart 18:03
And certainly, in the paper you’re referring to, there is a number of pathogens that can cause that. And, the good news is things that are really quite devastating—so chlamydia is one of them, Brucella is the other—they’re much more rare if you’ve got good biosecurity. So, they’re not necessarily going to bring those in very easily. The bad news is, other pathogens, such as Trueperella or Actinomyces, a lot of those, most of the time, won’t cause harm to your females; it’s just going to be devastating for your male, because they just develop such an immune response, and they get all the pus that locates to that one spot. And, once it starts to become clinical, then there’s not much you can do for that testicle.

Jamie Stewart 18:46
Now, if it’s affecting one side and not necessarily the other, you know, if it’s a valuable animal, we can remove the one testicle and save the other side. So, there’s a very—I mentioned this with the cryptorchidism—there’s a very distinct balance of heat exchange that keeps that testicle at just the right temperature. And so, when you have inflammation, it’s going to negatively affect both testicles. So, if you are going to make the decision to do what we call a “hemicastration” to save the good testicle, you have to make that decision pretty quickly. And obviously, you know, it gets to be a little bit more expensive of a procedure, so it just ends up being how valuable that male is to you. But, we’ve had plenty that can breed with one testicle; it just ends up, instead of 50 females, maybe he can cover 25. But yeah, being able to identify, you know, as soon as you see that there’s a testicle that’s enlarged, getting that looked at ASAP is going to be the best route if you want to preserve any fertility.

Deborah Niemann 19:47
So, on the topic of chlamydia, I’ve always just heard of it in terms of, like, it causing an abortion storm. I never really thought of where it came from before. So, when I saw on your paper that it can come from a buck during breeding, that was really surprising. And I thought, “Wow, okay, so this is a really good reason not to do buck service.” Because, I mean, like, I won’t do buck service for anyone, unless the doeling was born here, and she’s bought by somebody who has no other goats. So basically, there’s close to zero risk of disease transmission. And I was always just thinking of the big three, you know: CAE, CL, and Johne’s. And Illinois is a brucellosis-free state, so that’s really not usually at the front of my mind. But chlamydia is definitely another thing.

Deborah Niemann 20:39
So, if somebody came in with a doe that had chlamydia, and my buck bred her, could he then spread it to my whole herd?

Jamie Stewart 20:45
Absolutely. And that’s, you know, why we emphasize biosecurity so much, because that definitely can be a concern. Because, most of the time, something like chlamydia, it can cause lesions in them, but a lot of times, it won’t; they’ll just kind of asymptomatically hold on to it. And then, yeah, they can give it to your females and kind of keep passing it along to each other. And then, if you bring a new male in, and he breeds that female, then he picks it up, and then he can… You know, it goes on and on and on.

Deborah Niemann 21:12
Yeah. And chlamydia is a horrible disease because of the risk of abortion, and having so many goats abort in your herd.

Jamie Stewart 21:20
Well, and so, and then, one of the other diseases that I saw a lot when I was at Illinois—so much that I wrote a whole separate paper about it—is CL, or what we call Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis. You know, we always think of that one as the disease that causes the abscesses under the jaw, and then, in more severe cases, sometimes in the lungs, things like that. But, we saw quite a few cases where the abscesses from the CL pathogen will set up shop in the testicles. And again, once you get those abscesses in the testicle, you know, not only is he not going to be fertile, but you shouldn’t let him breed; you shouldn’t let him stick around. Because, we actually culture the C. pseudotuberculosis pathogen from the semen in one of these bucks. So, if he was going around breeding, then he’s inoculating your females with the CL bacteria, and not only inoculating them, but inoculating them in the reproductive tract, where is another place that they could be setting up.

Jamie Stewart 21:21
And then, just CL in general, you know, again, you were talking about, you know, how you test for it, which is great. I know a lot of people that just end up wanting to just live with it, because, “Okay, well, it just causes the abscesses under the chin. We can deal with that.” But, you know, the more we learn about it, the more we know, “Well, it’s not causing just that.” So, even when there’s no lesions in the testicles, there’s actually a exotoxin that it produces. It’s called phospholipase D. And this exotoxin actually attacks the testicular cells. And even if they’re not clinical, it can severely affect their semen quality, and they can quickly become subfertile or infertile from just having the pathogen, even without any lesions. So, that’s one of the reasons—especially if you, you know, if you rely on breeding—that I really try to emphasize to producers to make sure that they’re, you know, trying to keep CL out of their herd.

Deborah Niemann 23:15
Another thing that you mentioned in the paper is orchitis. Can you talk a little bit about that condition?

Jamie Stewart 23:22
Yeah. So, orchitis and epididymitis are both very similar things. So, I’ll just kind of talk about the anatomy here really quickly, is the sperm are produced in the testicle, and then from the testicle, they are transported through the epididymis to your vas deferens, and then out the body. And so, they are all connected to each other. And, as they’re going out the body, that’s where I talked about those accessory sex glands; they add all of the fluid to it as it’s coming out. So, all of these organs are all connected to each other. And, it’s not uncommon that if you have an epididymitis, that you could have an orchitis. So, orchitis is just inflammation in the testicle, and epididymitis is inflammation of that epidemis. You can have those concurrently.

Jamie Stewart 24:03
But, the thing about them is, both of them can be caused by a lot of the same pathogens, because it does run along that same track. So, you can have just one that’s affected, you can have both that are affected, but they cause the same thing, and both are devastating. And so, if you’ve got an epididymitis, what tends to happen is your sperm starts to get backed up, and then you get degeneration of that testicle if it doesn’t get infected. If you have an orchitis, it’s usually that testicle is large, it’s going to be pretty firm, it might be hot to the touch when you feel it, and then some of that bacteria will end up setting up shop in the epididymis. And, you know, if you don’t catch it, it’ll progress to getting an epididymitis. And then, it can infect your accessory sex glands too, again. But, you know, the big thing is, it’s going to be devastating if you’ve got those clinical signs, just because that testicle is the shop where all the sperm are being produced.

Jamie Stewart 24:57
So, it’s really important to take care of that, but it doesn’t have to be all infectious disease. That’s tends to be what we think of, because, you know, we get so worried about spreading things within our herd. So, we always jump to “infectious diseases” first. But certainly, orchitis—being just a general term for inflammation of the testicle—can be from things like trauma, too, if, you know, he got kicked, or the males are fighting and they rammed each, other things like that. And so, with an ultrasound, you know—that’s why getting your vet involved is helpful—you can differentiate what some of these things are, just by looking at it. Certainly, if there’s fluid around the testicle, that would be more of an indication that, you know, maybe that there was some trauma, because you can get some, like, what we call a “hematoma” or “seroma” around there from the trauma. And then, you know, you can try some medical management of those. But again, it comes back to my first point of, if you’re trying to preserve fertility, the longer that you’ve got that excess heat there, the less likely your other testicle is going to be functional at the end of it.

Jamie Stewart 25:57
So, if you’re going to preserve fertility, sometimes hemicastration is going to be your best bet. But, if you’re not sure if you want to keep him around, maybe just see how he does after he resolves, then you can certainly try… We would probably do some, like, hose therapy, antibiotics to prevent it from getting infected, things like that if it’s trauma. Versus infectious, where we’d probably just, you know, say to go ahead and get rid of him. Now, if the testicular tissue looks normal—which, again, is where ultrasound comes in handy—there’s some antibiotics we can try and some medical management we can try. And, if what we call the “parenchyma”—the testicle—is not affected yet, we might be able to stop it in its tracks.

Deborah Niemann 26:34
Oh, that is amazing!

Deborah Niemann 26:37
I have a note here for the transcript. Did you say “hose” therapy? H-O-S-E?

Jamie Stewart 26:41
Yeah, cold hose therapy. So, you basically just spray it with cold water.

Deborah Niemann 26:45
Oh… Oh. Got it.

Jamie Stewart 26:49
They don’t really appreciate it, but it does help. We, you know, we do it for feet, we do it for preputial swelling, we do where we just spray it with a cold hose, just to try to help bring that inflammation down.

Deborah Niemann 27:00
Okay. You explained it beautifully there.

Deborah Niemann 27:04
This has all been so fascinating to me. And it’s definitely brought to mind a situation in a goat group I was in many years ago, where a ranch manager joined the group and was very frustrated that she was not able to find somebody to do buck service. Because, she lived on this ranch; they had a lot of horses that were worth tens of thousands of dollars. And, she said it’s quite easy to find stallions to breed to your mares, and she did not understand why it was so hard to find bucks—because the owners had bought a few goats. And she did not understand why there were so few people willing to do buck service for does. And, you know, I explained, “Biosecurity.” And, I’ve always been wondering then, like, do goats have more problems? Are there more sexually transmitted diseases with goats than with horses and cows and other animals?

Jamie Stewart 28:00
I wouldn’t say that there’s more. Certainly with cattle, I would say it’s pretty equivalent. But, I think, you know, with cattle, it’s a lot more people are willing to keep a closed herd. Certainly dairy cows, they do more AI anymore. But, with beef cows, a lot of people keep kind of a closed herd, or it’s easier sometimes to test for some of the pathogens that we’re more worried about with those. With small ruminants, I think it’s just, it’s a different number of pathogens that can be an issue.

Jamie Stewart 28:31
For horses, I, unfortunately, don’t do a whole lot of horse work. But you know, I know that they do extensive testing on the horses, and some of it comes to how much it costs to do all those tests, also. You know, a stallion—where, you just mentioned, you know, everything’s worth tens of thousands dollars for a stallion—it’s much more worth their time to spend hundreds of dollars on these tests, you know, between every female, to make sure that he’s not passing anything on. But, you know, if you want to have somebody come breed your five does, you know, are you going to spend hundreds of dollars to do testing on a buck to make sure that he’s not bringing things back and forth? I think that’s where the difference comes in for them.

Deborah Niemann 29:11
That makes a lot of sense. Yeah. Because, I’m sure that those breedings for those horses are not cheap.

Jamie Stewart 29:18

Deborah Niemann 29:19
So, definitely the cost of all that testing is built into it. And, I mean, I think most people, you know, charge $50 or $100 for buck service if they do it. So, that doesn’t even… Like, we recently did biosecurity testing. And with us drawing the blood, it was… You know, $24 was the lab fee alone. So, like, that just wouldn’t be worth it. And that’s just for CAE, CL, and Johne’s. That didn’t even include chlamydia, or any of these other diseases that could be transmitted.

Jamie Stewart 29:50

Deborah Niemann 29:51
This has been really fascinating today. I am gonna feel so much less guilty in the future now when I tell people, “No, I don’t offer buck service,” just to goats that I don’t know. Thank you so much! Is there anything else that people should keep in mind as we get close to breeding season?

Jamie Stewart 30:09
I would say, you know, if you’re not offering buck service, you know, don’t rule out that, if they want to do transcervical AI, something like that—they’re, you know, not concerned about, you know, what’s going to be in the semen—is you can always do fresh semen, too. So, you can, you know, if they want to pay for it, have somebody come collect your buck. And then, you know, they can breed—again, if it’s just a smaller number of does—you can extend that out to cover quite a few does. So, that would be an option, too, for those situations.

Deborah Niemann 30:37
Oh, that’s good to know! How long is fresh semen good at room temperature? Or something that most people could do, rather than a nitrogen tank?

Jamie Stewart 30:46
Usually, if you keep it in the fridge—you have to get extender for it. Which again, if you’re having somebody come collect it, most of the time, they’ll have that. It should be good for—depending on the extender—48 hours up to about 5 days. It’ll depend on the buck and the extender that you use.

Deborah Niemann 31:02
Okay, that is great to know. Well, thank you so much!

Jamie Stewart 31:06

Deborah Niemann 31:08
And that’s it for today’s show. If you haven’t already done so, be sure to hit the “subscribe” button so that you don’t miss any episodes. To see show notes, you can always visit ForTheLoveOfGoats.com, and you can follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/LoveGoatsPodcast. See you again next time. Bye for now!

Buck Health and Breeding

6 thoughts on “Buck Health and Breeding”

  1. This was an interesting interview. I’m curious about how one goes about getting a sample of buck semen.
    From your previous discussions, is it correct to say that a buck is sexually mature and able to breed successfully at 5 months?

    • It’s not something that your average goat owner can do. You don’t get a semen sample and take it to the vet like a fecal sample. The vet doing the evaluation will get the sample.

      Five months is just a ballpark. If you are using a buck that age, I’d leave him with the doe for a few hours at least.

  2. If AI was as easy and effective as it is for horses and cattle, I would seriously consider it. But from what I understand the success rate is not near as high and is more difficult in small ruminants.

  3. Is it common for a buck to throw all male offspring?
    This past year I had three does kid and ended up with seven healthy bucklings. All were bred to the same buck. Does that happen often? Are there outside influences that can affect this?
    This is only our second year with goats, and I’m going for milking enough does to fulfill most of our family’s liquid milk needs. (6 kids 7-22 yrs +parents) I gave up milking the Pygmy doe we took in – too squirrelly and not much milk. But the two Nigerians are both giving a pint or better being milked once per day. I was just hoping to have a few doelings to keep to increase that in the future.
    Thanks so much for all your great information,

    • Hi Annie
      It will eventually even out to a 50/50 ratio of boys and girls. You just happened with a whole lot of boys on the coin toss this year!


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