If you’re a novice at tending a herd of goats, it’s good to familiarize yourself with the breeding season. Baby goats are especially vital if you are raising goats for milk production - you can’t have one without the other!
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We’re going to take a look at the months before kidding season. Here’s what first-time dairy goat breeders need to know about expanding their herd membership.
Goat Breeding Season Basics
Typically, dairy breeds tend to be seasonal breeders, with regular ovulation rates occurring annually around the same time of year. The catalyst is diminishing daylight. Females usually go into heat around every 21 days, beginning in August, lasting through the fall, and ending in January.
The term for a male goat used for breeding. Now, be advised - young males are capable of getting female goats pregnant reasonably early in life. Seven weeks old is the earliest age where this is possible.
Be sure to remove bucks from females in the weeks before this age to avoid early impregnation. Ultimately, most male goats reach fertility by five months of age.
Bucks are ready to breed pretty much as soon as the females go into heat. On the other hand, bucks can send females into heat. They do this by engaging in “rut” behavior.
We’ll spare you the details since it can get pretty graphic. However, suffice it to say that bucks will draw attention to themselves. They tend to do this by displaying their dominance and doing things to intensify their odor.
Yes, bucks evince a pungent musk when it’s breeding season.
The name for a female goat is a “doe.” While dairy goats are typically seasonal breeders, there are exceptions. Breeds capable of breeding throughout the year include Pygmy and Fainting goats and Spanish, Boer, and Nigerian goats.
For all does, the roughly 21-day ovulation cycle results in a 1-3 day period in which they are in heat. Reliable indicators include does fighting and mounting each other, discharging clear mucus, bleating randomly, and wagging their tails.
Avoid breeding doe kids before they reach three months of age, as it may permanently stunt their growth. However, don’t delay much past ten months, either. The result may be less productive does.
Most female goats are ready for breeding at around eight months of age, or 80 pounds, whichever comes first.
A goat’s body condition score should give you a good idea of their readiness for breeding. The score occurs on a numerical scale from very thin or emaciated to obese. It provides guidelines to herd owners and managers for which shape goats should be in during different seasons and cycles.
Once fertile, a doe can produce litters for the rest of her life (10 to 12 years, on average).
Delivering baby goats, or kids, is known as kidding, and more than one kid is a litter. Kids gestate in their mothers for around five months and can arrive in litters of 1-5. On average, a littler contains 2 or 3 kids.
Lactation and Breeding
If you are raising dairy goats, you will need to take into account the impact of breeding on lactation.
First of all, you can still milk your goats even while they are pregnant. However, try to let them dry up in the two months before giving birth. This way, their bodies can fortify themselves ahead of labor, and divert nutrients to the developing litter.
Another thing that is important to keep in mind is that goats can still get pregnant while lactating. Typically, goat breeders will breed their goats once a year or every 12 months.
Diet and Breeding Season
Lactation isn’t the only time does have additional nutrition considerations. Goat breeding season can also present feeding challenges that you will need to meet.
Depending on your goats’ body condition scores (BCS), they may require additional food during this time. You will need to continue to monitor does’ BCS throughout pregnancy. The final six weeks of pregnancy are especially crucial since this is when the majority of fetal development occurs.
Accordingly, you may need to increase does’ food if the BCS drops below a certain threshold. Proper nutrition and adequate food intake are essential during this period.
Need More Help? Consult a Cooperative Extension
Now, this is a bare-bones guide to breeding season. If you are new to managing a goat herd, there are many things to keep track of and remember. For that reason, you may be wondering where to turn for more information.
First-time goat breeders who need additional help can look to Cooperative Extension university websites. Many land grant universities’ agricultural departments organize programs through Cooperative Extension, intended to help farmers.
In this arrangement, universities can apply their research and put to work for real farmers the systems that they’ve designed. Novices can benefit from scholarly publications, research, and resources aimed at improving the health status of their animals.
Once Breeding Season Is Over, A New Phase Begins
If you are raising a dairy herd, your real work starts once your does have birthed their litters. At this point, goats begin to lactate, and you have to make sure conditions are optimal for milk production.
As you monitor that BCS, you will want to give your goats the best nutrition possible for them to thrive. Provide your herd with a complete diet that will support production and ensure wellness and protect their health.
New Heritage Feed Co. prides itself on our well-balanced ingredients, optimized for your herd’s wellbeing. We develop our products with caring, attentive owners, and managers in mind. Our foods blend carefully-chosen vitamins, minerals, and nutrients.
Give your herd the best you’ve got. Fortify your goats to feel and produce their best with New Heritage Feed Co. goat pellets.