Infertility in Bucks and Does

Infertility in Bucks and Does featured image

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.

Genetic inability

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.

free-martin goat
Free-martins and hermaphrodites are very uncommon in goats

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.

Ovarian cysts

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.

Infertility in bucks and does

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11 thoughts on “Infertility in Bucks and Does”

  1. Hi. My doe has freshened once before( last year ) with a single buckling. This year, she has been attempted to be bred more than four times, but she doesn’t take. She came into heat again yesterday and I put her with the buck. She was copperbolused 3 weeks a go and is in proper condition. I gave her the oral selenium yesterday, will this solve the problem?

    • Hopefully you will not see her come into heat again since you’ve given her copper and selenium. That usually does the trick. Do keep all of those due dates on the calendar, however, because once in awhile a doe will come into heat even if she is pregnant. It’s only happened two or three times here since 2002, so it’s not very common, but it does happen.

  2. The doe I mentioned before has come into heat again! Does this mean that she has cystic ovaries? (She was never assisted in a kidding before, but had a smelly discharge for some days 3 months after kidding) I am so confused, and I really don’t want to use those hormone injections.

    • Not necessarily. A mineral deficiency can cause this. Copper and selenium would be the two most likely to cause infertility, but a deficiency in many minerals can be problematic.

  3. I hear conflicting stories, one is of a foe (pygmy) is past 4 and never been bred she will not ever get bred but also told this is not true,. Has anyone had experience with an older foe being bred as a first timer?

    • Some people do say they seem to have more problems if bred later, but I do know people who’ve done it without issue. I am not aware of any solid research on this, so it’s really a question of how you feel about it. I’d probably just keep the doe (or sell her) as a pet at this point unless the genetics are really fantastic, so you’re breeding her because you really want the genetics.

  4. I have a buck and he is 10 months old, Nigerian Dwarf. I have him with 6 does 2 of which have had babies before. They go into heat every 21 days and not one of them are pregnant yet. They get copper every 3 months, their eyes look great, tails are good. I have not given them selenium so I will start that. Should I also give it to the buck? We live in Southern California.

    • According to the label, you are not supposed to give BoSe to pregnant animals, so that might not be a good idea, in case any of them did get pregnant last time they were bred. By 10 months he should be able to get some of them pregnant, even if they are all coming into heat on the same day. What free choice mineral do you have available?

  5. I have 3 ND does and two wethers together in a pen. In July I brought in a buck and kept him for 3 months. Non of my does got pregnant, but he went home and got one of his normal does pregnant. I brought him back last month and kept him for two heat cycles, they all went back into heat the second time last week. One has had 4 unassisted deliveries, the other two are 18 months and have never been bread. I offer a free choice goat mineral that contains copper, I’m in East Tennessee. I don’t know what is going on 🙁 any help would be greatly appreciated.


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