Tis the season for goat pictures to show up on social media, and we are not talking about cute kid pictures. We are talking about pictures of goat’s back ends! They are posted on people’s personal walls, on farm pages, and in goat groups with the question, “Is my goat pregnant?”
Just as there used to be lots of old wives tales about women and pregnancy, now there are lots of myths about figuring out if goats are pregnant. Some of these are loosely based on facts, but the accuracy of so-called “tests” is questionable. Here are a few of the ideas floating around the Internet …
The pooch test
This is probably every veteran goat breeder’s least favorite home pregnancy test! I remember after we had been raising goats for a few years, we realized that the vulva on some goats will get rather puffy towards the end of pregnancy.
Then I started seeing people online claim that by using the pooch test, they could tell with 100% accuracy if their goats were pregnant a month after they were bred! This tidbit has been published in so many places around the Internet that now those of us with goats get regularly assailed with pictures of goats’ back ends. Does the pooch test accurately tell you if your goat is pregnant?
Not with any degree of accuracy early in pregnancy, and by the end of pregnancy you will probably see an udder starting to develop before the vulva looks puffy. The biggest problem with this “test” is that it varies so much from one goat to another.
Is my goat fat or pregnant?
This frequently means another picture of a goat from behind, but in this case, the person is focusing on how wide the goat’s belly is.
Although some goats are very obviously pregnant, this is far from 100% accurate because many goats don’t look very pregnant even at four or five months. I’ve had a few goats that kept me guessing right up until they went into labor. Here is a little quiz. See if you can guess whether each of these goats is pregnant.
Did you guess that three are pregnant and one is not? Which ones did you think were pregnant? Most people think the goat in photo D is pregnant, but she is not. She has simply lost her girlish figure — just like some people do after having a few children. This photo was taken two years ago, and she is even wider now. Almost everyone who visits our farm asks when that goat is going to give birth!
The goat in photo A was three weeks away from kidding, and the goats in B and C were only a few days away from giving birth. If you thought any of the goats in the background of photo A were pregnant, you were incorrect. A goat’s owner may be able to tell when their goat is pregnant based upon how it looks, but total strangers (such as those in an Internet group) will be less likely to know if a goat looks pregnant because they have no idea what the goat normally looks like.
Want to know what goat D looks like when she is actually pregnant? She does not get any wider. Her abdomen simply lifts up and gets higher across her spine, and it also starts to hang lower. You’ll also notice that she has an udder in the picture below, which was taken a few days before she gave birth.
I saw kids moving in her belly!
Some people think that seeing movement in a goat’s belly means that she is pregnant, but that’s not always true. In fact, it’s rarely true. Check out this video …
So, how can I tell if my goat is pregnant?
The most dependable tests to determine pregnancy in goats are similar to pregnancy tests for humans. Keep in mind that a goat must be at least one month pregnant for accurate results.
Blood test — You can draw blood from a goat’s jugular vein and send it to a lab. If you have a lot of goats to test, you might want to learn how to draw the blood yourself to save money. Biotracking is the most popular lab that has this test available.
Milk test — Although there isn’t a urine test for goat pregnancy at this time, there is a milk test. This won’t help you with a doe that has never freshened before, but if you are milking a doe, and she’s been bred, you can send in a sample of her milk and have it tested to see if she is pregnant. Dairy One is one lab that offers this service.
Because a blood test is just testing for hormones, you will get a positive on a blood test, even if a doe is having a false pregnancy. Although it is very rare, it can happen. In a false pregnancy, an ultrasound would show a uterus full of fluid with no fetuses. For more info on that topic, click here.
Ultrasound — The gold standard of pregnancy testing is ultrasound but only in the hands of an experienced person. Many years ago we were told that several does were pregnant, and they all came into heat within a week after the ultrasound.
Note that ultrasound is not a great way to know how many kids a doe is carrying. I know one couple who was very worried when their doe didn’t give birth to a third kid that they were told she would be having. And I even know one person who was told that her doe was carrying seven — yes, 7 — when in reality the doe actually had twins!
Some people would also say that you can just wait and see if your goat gives birth, which is also an option. Remember that a goat comes into heat approximately every 21 days, so if she is not pregnant, you should see her come back into heat before you would even be able to use one of these pregnancy tests. However, it is possible to miss a doe’s heat if you are not in the pasture with them for hours every day. A doe might also have a silent heat.
If you are milking a doe, almost all of them will dry up by the time they are two to three months pregnant. However, that is not 100%. I know someone who said she had a la mancha doe that jumped off the milk stand one day, laid down, and pushed out a set of twins. Now she does blood testing every year.
Update September 20, 2016 — There is now a urine test for checking pregnancy in goats, and it’s appropriately called P-Test. We have not used it ourselves though, and we have heard mixed reviews about its accuracy.