6 Signs Your Goat is in Heat

If you want to milk your goat, she has to have kids, and before she has kids, she has to get bred. People with goats usually don’t let their buck run with the does, even if they have only one buck, because he would make the girls stinky, which would make stinky milk that has a terrible taste.

That means you have to know when the does are in heat, so you can set them up on a date with Mr. Right. Most dairy goats are seasonal breeders that give birth in the spring, which means they will come into heat in the fall.

Nigerian dwarf goats are one exception. Some of them will cycle for most of the year, although there are no guarantees, and I don’t count on being able to breed them for fall kidding because it doesn’t always work.

So, how do you know when a goat is in heat?

Having a wether (castrated male goat) can really be helpful. Even after 17 years I keep a wether with my does, and he lets me know when a doe is in heat, even when they are not showing some of the obvious signs listed below. Wethers don’t know that they’re not real bucks, so when a doe is in heat, he’ll mount her, and if the doe will stand for him, that means she is in “standing heat.” If the doe runs off or starts to butt heads with the wether, she’s probably close, so you can keep an eye on her for the rest of the day. But you can still figure out if your doe is in heat, even if you don’t have a wether.

Does mounting each other

Sometimes does will mount each other when they’re in heat, but it can be like a free for all with them. Usually the one being mounted is the one in heat, especially if she is standing for it. If a doe is mounting other does, and they’re running away, then the one doing the mounting is probably in heat.

Flagging

Flagging is a sign of heat — that’s goat speak for “tail wagging.” It’s really constant when they’re in heat. My milking parlor felt five degrees cooler last week when I was milking a doe that was in heat. She was flagging the whole time. They do that to get the smell out there so that bucks will know they’re in heat. It isn’t anything that humans can smell, but it’s obvious that bucks love it because they sniff the doe’s back end a lot and do the lip curl, known as the flehmen response.

Vocalizing

A small number of goats will get very vocal — pretty much screaming their head off all day — but you can’t count on that. Maybe one out of every seven or eight does will do that. And it can vary from one month to another with the same doe.

Slightly puffy vulva and/or discharge

The vulva may look slightly puffy, and there could be a tiny amount of white or clear discharge. It’s not usually enough that you’ll notice without looking, so you have to make a conscious effort to check under the tail. If you happen to notice dried mucous causing the hairs to stick together on a doe’s tail, mark your calendar for 18 days and start checking her for slight puffiness and discharge at that time for her next heat. They come into heat every 21 days, plus or minus two days.

Butting heads

Some goats may also get very violent, butting heads with everyone. Several years ago, in the middle of summer, our intern came to get me because Star, who was then 12 years old, was beating the snot out of everyone. She was facing off with three or four does at once. Because I had absolutely no desire to breed her, and because I was afraid she was going to get hurt, I just locked her up in the barn by herself for the day. Maybe one out of three or four does will act like this when they’re in heat.

Hair standing up and back arched

This usually goes along with butting heads, but it’s worth mentioning separately because I’ve seen people worry that their goat was constipated when they saw this behavior. Constipation in goats is very uncommon and usually a sign of something serious, which is why I wrote an entire post on constipation in goats.

What if you don’t see your does in heat?

Like everything else, you’ll get better at recognizing a doe in heat as time goes on and you get more experience. If you haven’t noticed your doe in heat, and it’s December, you might want to consider pen breeding, which means you put the doe in a pen with a buck for a month.

The disadvantage to pen breeding is that you really don’t know when the doe is due unless you get lucky enough to see the breeding — and it only takes a few seconds, so it’s easy to miss. When we pen breed, I might wind up seeing one out of every three or four does get bred. 

From the time you breed your doe until the time she kids, it is usually 145 to 150 days for Nigerian dwarf and pygmy goats, but standard sized goats can go up to 155 days. Five months may not sound like a long time, but that last week or two can seem like an eternity when you’re waiting to see those cute kids!

female goat in heat

Updated September 2019

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27 thoughts on “6 Signs Your Goat is in Heat”

  1. I just bought a goat and they wasn’t for sure if she pregnant said may be Nov 4 2017 her belly is hard though and white mucus out her area. What could this mean. Maybe people bought her and her farther along they won’t tell me how long they had her before sold her to me

    Reply
    • Anyone noticed or experienced an increase in deer when their does are in heat? We have four Oberhalsis, one doe and three wethers-three small male deer showed up this am, all very curious in our sweet girl who was consequently “tail wagging” yesterday afternoon…one of the deer and her even touched noses! Although the whole interaction was super cute, I am wondering if it might evolve into a problem, will the deer strike my wethers if they feel competitive, might we eventually end up with some sort of “fawnkids?!”

      Reply
      • I have never seen this personally, and we have tons of deer in the woods. I never say anything is impossible, but you’re probably more likely to get struck by lightening before you wind up with a deer-goat hybrid. Deer and goats are not even in the same family. Sheep and goats are more closely related, but there are no recorded cases of a male goat getting a ewe pregnant. There have been a few cases of a sheep ram getting a goat pregnant, but they usually wind up miscarrying or the offspring dies shortly after birth.

        If these are white-tailed deer, hopefully they won’t get into your pasture because if you also have snails (intermediary host), your goats can wind up with meningeal worm. Most goats are immune to it since worms are species specific, but once in awhile a goat does wind up with meningeal worm, which can paralyze and kill them.

        Reply
      • I remember talking to a girl online who had one of her larger does breed to a deer! She knows this because she had no buck goats, had kept these does for years, and lived in an area where there were lots of deer… I never heard back from her but I’m guessing the baby came out looking kinda wonky

        So when your girls do go into heat and you see those buck deer, go ahead and lock them up in a completely closed in pen with no openings for the night (like a garage or something) and let them out under close supervision in the daytime… I’d imagine that you don’t want yourself any goat’deers running about LOL..

        Reply
        • I’m not sure why she would think a deer successfully bred a goat, but … if she saw a breeding take place does not mean the goat got pregnant. As I already mentioned, a male goat cannot get a female sheep pregnant. Or if she only thought that a doe was pregnant but had no bucks, the doe could have had a false pregnancy, which means that her uterus just filled up with fluid and her udder filled with milk, but no babies.

          Reply
  2. Two questions

    #1 I bought an ND doe who was not exposed to my buck until October 24th. The previous owner did had a buck, but did not think she had been bred. This week I have noticed she is starting to bag up. I felt her ligaments, but they are soft and not prominent at all. I assumed she would kid end of March…..does this sound normal? Should she be bagging up this soon?

    #2 My buck got loose yesterday and has been in with my 5 month old ND for all day. She is very tiny. Maybe 30lbs. She is def in heat. Flagging her tail and squatting. I seperated them again, but when I checked under her tail she has some clear thick discharge, and also mucus like discharge stuck to her tail. Does this mean I was too late, or is this simply a sign of heat? She is WAY to small and young to be bred. What can I do if in fact he did breed her?

    Reply
    • #1 That is not normal. Does do not usually bag up until about a month before kidding. Sounds like she was bred when you bought her.
      #2 Sounds like she was bred. They have a little discharge when in heat, but they have a lot more after they’ve been bred because semen leaks out. You can call your vet and get a dose of Lutalyse to inject, which should end the pregnancy.

      Reply
  3. What causes a doe who has had very regular monthly heats, to not have any this spring and summer. She’s years old and has kidded 4 times (1, 3, 4, and 5 kids) and she stays “fat” bellied, after the 5 kids . Her two does I kept last year have never come into heat. Now I would like to breed the two kids in December (cold in Alaska until May), but how will I know when?

    Thanks,
    Barb R.

    Reply
    • Goats do not normally come into heat during spring and summer, so everything you described sounds completely normal. As I recall you have Nigerians, but those of us with NDs in northern climates have noticed that they usually become seasonal breeders. On the flip side, I have visited a goat dairy in Hawaii, and they said that most of their Swiss breed dairy goats actually cycle year round.

      You will probably see them come into heat in the next month or so. If you don’t, they could be copper deficient. I have a free copper course with videos that explains everything, if you haven’t taken that yet. Click on the “Classes” link at the top of the page to find it.

      Reply
  4. We have a companion goat for our very old horse. She is wagging her tail A LOT and also turning back to look at her rear. I don’t really know anything about goats so I have no idea if this behavior is normal. She appeared on our land 5 years ago when she was still young so I know she hasn’t been bread. We never found out where she came from or how she got onto our land. At the time we were actually thinking of getting a goat because one of our horses had died and the other was lonely. After no one responded to our flyers we decided to keep her. She has probably quintupled in size since then. Anyway I was just wondering about her recent behavior. I tried to get a look under her tail but I can’t get real close to her because she doesn’t really like me and is too big for me to handle. She still has her horns and is HUGE! We aren’t sure what kind of goat she is but she is white with large tan/orange patches, has long floppy ears and her horns curl quite a bit. I’m just feeding her while my father is away.

    Reply
  5. Hi! I purchased a 12 week old lamancha doeling last week and her vulva looked a little puffy then but thought it was just cosmetic. Today it is very puffy and pink with clear discharge. Is she old enough to be in heat (in the spring!) or might it be an infection? Otherwise she is eating and active, I don’t have a whether to watch her with. Thank you!

    Reply
    • It would be extremely unusual but not impossible for a goat to be in heat that early. I’ve seen it happen twice in 18 years. As a vet professor said to me years ago, I have a hard time getting excited about a goat that is eating, drinking, and acting normal, so I wouldn’t worry based on what you described.

      Reply
      • Thank you for the info! She seems happy and healthy, I just didn’t think she could mature that young so was worried. I guess I’ll monitor and see what happens .

        Reply
  6. We recently bought a doe and buck from a lady and she bred right in front of us on April 29, 2020 and we have since had the buck and doe together because they seem a lot happier together. The doe has been pushing away the buck but she still is flagging and she is not showing. How can we tell she is pregnant without having to go to our vet to see if she is?

    Reply
    • Hopefully, the breed is a Nigerian dwarf, kinder, or other goat that can get pregnant in the spring. Otherwise, I would not expect the goat to get pregnant. Even if it is one of the breeds that can ovulate year round, it’s not a sure thing, so she may not get pregnant until later this summer or this fall. Here is information about goat pregnancy tests that you can buy over the counter:
      https://thriftyhomesteader.com/is-my-goat-pregnan/

      It sounds like someone sold you only a buck and a doe. If that’s the case, I’m sorry to hear that. Goats are herd animals and need a friend to be happy, but you really should not keep them together 365 days a year. If you were planning to milk, the milk will probably taste bucky if he rubs on her at all. And you don’t want him to get his own daughters pregnant when they’re still to small to be able to give birth safely. Depending on his personality, you might be able to keep them together until she kids, but then he needs to go into a separate pen with another buck or a wether (castrated male).

      Reply
  7. Have you seen a doeling as young as 4-5 weeks come into heat? We have one who has white discharge and a crusty tail.

    Reply
    • In 18 years, I have only seen two does come into heat at 3 months, so it’s very uncommon for one to come into heat that early. I have heard of a few does giving birth (or having a c-section) at 8 months of age, meaning that they came into heat 3 months. I never say anything is impossible, but a doe coming into heat at 4-5 weeks would be a huge scientific anomaly, so I’d suspect something else is happening. Tapeworms look like a grain of rice or noodle, so that could be mistaken for mucus if it landed on her vulva after being pooped out, but this also seems pretty young to have a heavy load of tapes. My best guess is that what you saw actually came from her rectum and just landed on her vulva.

      Reply
  8. How can I tell if my goat is pregnant?
    I just bought a doe and the stomach is slightly big seemingly pregnant couple with discharge of white stuffs from the vulva but the udder isn’t full of milk

    Reply
  9. Question #1 I have an eight month old and she has been having discharge from her vulva for about a week now at first it was like clear/white no it is a brown.she also has sunken in sides when her sides are usually pretty big and her back is arched.is she in heat or is she bred? She has been with a buck because he got out.

    Reply
    • That is not normal, and she may be too small to be safely bred. She should be at least 2/3 of her adult weight. Otherwise she might not be bit enough to be able to give birth successfully.

      Reply
  10. My 5 year old doe kidded this last april and it was a difficult birth. One did not make it and the other one was almost lost. I had to take her to the vet as the kids were stuck. They really manhandled her in my opinion to get the kids out. She ended up with a uterine infection about 1 1/2 months later and we had to treat her…she came out of it. Here we are now in mid september and she started with a discharge. Eating and drinking just fine…no temp. At first I thought it was an early heat but it has continued…had the vet out but she did not know and gave her a couple of injections. the “leaking” stopped for a few days but then started back up about a week later….it is clear to milky, just runs out while I’m milking her, hair all crusty and clumped together….she is separate from the buck and he can not get in. Any ideas?

    Reply
    • If the discharge is lasting more than a couple of days and is NOT associated with other signs of the doe being in heat, she could have an infection. Different drugs work on different infections. The fact that she did not get treated for an infection until six weeks after the birth could be problematic. If they did a lot of manipulating of kids inside the doe, that probably caused the infection. If you are near a university vet school, you might take her there. They tend to be more knowledgeable than most local vets about goats, plus they have better diagnostic ability. You might even be able to just call and speak to someone.

      Reply
      • She did get treated right after birth as a preventative of an infection. She got treated this time as well…..so right after birth she was on a round of antibiotics for “just in case”….then 6 weeks later she had all the clinical signs of infection and was treated immediately with another round of antibiotics…now she has NO signs of infection, no temp. eating and drinking great.,..but was still put on another round of antibiotic for “just in case”.

        Reply

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