As we head into breeding season, some people wonder about the prevalence of goat infertility …
Luckily, infertility in bucks is rare. An inability to get does pregnant is usually related to nutritional deficiencies, which is why a good mineral is essential for bucks. As a buck gets older, his sperm count may go down, meaning he can service fewer does in a day, which is something to keep in mind if you have two does go into heat at the same time. Older bucks may also start to have problems with arthritis or other aches and pains that make it difficult for them to mount a doe.
If a young buck has been bred to multiple does and never settled any of them, a visit to a veterinarian is in order to make sure he is genetically a buck. An intersex goat may appear to be a buck on the outside, even though lacking all of the necessary anatomy.
Based on emails I receive and posts on my online goat forum, it seems that a lot of people worry about the ability of their does to get pregnant. The reality, however, is that less than 1 percent of does have a genetic inability to get pregnant, so it isn’t something that you are likely to experience unless you have a sizable herd. Free-martins and hermaphrodites are very uncommon in goats, but a quick physical exam by your vet or anyone trained in artificial insemination will tell you if your doe is physically capable of getting pregnant.
The most common reason goats do not get pregnant is a mineral deficiency, and this is fairly common. Copper and selenium both play an important role in a goat’s ability to come into heat, get pregnant, and stay pregnant for five months. If several goats in the herd are having fertility problems, you should look at your feeding and supplement program to ensure that it is providing adequate amounts of copper and selenium.
It is possible for does to have cysts on their ovaries, which could keep them from settling, but it is not common. A cystic doe may appear to come into heat every week or not at all. This can be tricky for an inexperienced goat keeper, who may not notice a doe coming into heat if it isn’t one of the more vocal ones. A cystic doe can be treated with hormone injections available from your veterinarian.
In does that have freshened before, it is possible that a sub-clinical uterine infection from the previous delivery is keeping her from getting pregnant or staying pregnant. This is more likely to occur following an assisted delivery where the attendant had their hand inside the uterus. Some people will automatically administer antibiotics to a doe after an assisted delivery with the assumption that it will take care of the risk of infection. A low-grade infection, however, may not have any other outward symptoms, so you would have no idea whether the antibiotics had worked until you found yourself with a doe that wasn’t getting pregnant.
This is an excerpt from Raising Goats Naturally: The Complete Guide to Milk, Meat, and More by Deborah Niemann.
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