For beginners breeding goats for the first time can be very overwhelming, but if you keep dairy goats it’s necessary to keep getting milk. And it also brings one of the joys of keeping goats to the farm- baby goats. So just how do your prepare? And what do you need to know?
Breeding Goats 101
Breeding goats for the first time can be very exciting to a goat owner. The promise of adorable babies, milk and increasing/improving your herd genetics can make new goat owners eager to get started with breeding right away. But, there’s a lot more to knowing how to breed goats than just sticking a male goat and a female goat together. Let’s break down exactly what you need to know for a successful goat breeding season:
Breeding Goats: Are Goats Easy To Breed?
Yes breeding goats is pretty easy, but before doing so you need to ensure your goats are in good health and ready to be bred.
Do You Need To Own A Buck?
No you do not need to own a buck. Depending on your farm size and where you live keeping a buck on the property may not be suitable. This case is true on our farm, I don’t have room to keep a buck in separate housing so we choose to rent one. Many people will rent out their bucks to breed other peoples goats. Typically this will be either you bringing your goats over to the farm with the buck, or them bringing the buck to your property. You can talk to local goat owners, or check Craigslist’s, or Facebook groups for people renting out their bucks.
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Some Facts About Breeding Goats
- Most goat owners choose to breed their goats once a year to maintain their milk supply.
- Signs your goats may be in heat can be wagging the tail, mounting other does, letting other does mount her, fighting, clear (wet or dried) mucosal discharge from her vulva, or yelling (bleating) for no reason.
- Female goats (aka does) go into heat every 21 days and lasts about 1-3 days. Breeds, like Nigerians, Boers, Pygmies, Fainting, Spanish, and (sometimes) Nubians can be bred year round. Most other dairy goats are seasonal breeders, meaning they will only go into heat every 21 days in the Fall from about August to January.
- The goat gestation period is 5 months (roughly 150 days).
- Male goats (aka bucks) can breed pretty much any time, except in extreme weather conditions. They won’t breed, just for fun however they will only breed when they can smell that the female is in heat.
- Bucks can go into a “rut” which means they get a surge of hormones and ready to breed before a doe is ready.
- Sometimes a buck going into rut is enough to make your females go into heat.
- During rut season when you are breeding goats, bucks will show wild dominance and do things like snort, spit, urinate on themselves to make themselves more smelly, and even drink their own urine.
- Full-size dairy goat breeds can be bred when they reach 8 months (or 80 lbs.) but it is better to begin breeding at about a 1 year old, the same is true for small goat breeds like Nigerian Dwarf.
- Goats can have anywhere from 1-5 kids in a litter, however the average is 2-3.
- Male goats can breed as young as 7 weeks old. But this doesn’t mean that they should be bred! It’s definitely possible for them to get a sister or their mother pregnant. For this reason it’s important to remove all bucks from females at 7 weeks old or whether them so they can’t breed.
- You can still milk a doe while she is pregnant. It is best to stop milking and let her “dry up” around 2 months before she is set to deliver. This way her body can rest and build up nutritional reserves to support the babies.
- A goat can produce babies for as long as she lives, which is typically around 10-12 years, although there can be more complications as they get older.
- A doe can get pregnant while she is in milk.
When Is The Breeding Season For Goats?
The season for breeding goats depends on the breed, most goats breed in the fall usually starting in August and ending in January.
Breeding Goats: How Often Do Goats Go Into Heat?
One of the first things you need to know when it comes to breeding goats for beginner’s is when Female goats (aka does) go into heat. Depending on the breed female goats will go into heat every 21 days starting in August and stay in heat 1-3 days. This will continue until January typically. However breed like Nigerian Dwarf, Boers, Pygmies, Fainting, Spanish, and sometimes Nubians can go into heat ever 21 days year round.
Breeding Goats: Doing The Actual Deed
Now that you know the basics, it’s time to talk about actually breeding your goats. Once you put your buck and doe that is in heat together, the buck will act interested at once and will begin pawing and stomping at the ground. If she urinates, the buck will put his face in the stream. The doe will wag her tail and stand still when the buck tries to mount her. Some goats like to breed at night. So while they’ll run around and act interested at first, they may wait till the evening to finally do the deed.
Most goat owners like to know for sure if their goats were bred, so they will check the back end of their doe in the morning. You can tell there’s been a successful breeding if there’s a milky white liquid coming from her vulva.
Breeding Goats: What Is The Gestation Period For A Goat?
The gestation period is typically 150 days. Most goats follow a schedule of an average of 150 days however Pygmy goats seem to be the exception with reports of 155 days gestation.
What Is The Best Age To Breed A Goat?
Everyone has a different opinion on this, and honestly every goat is different, some mature quicker some are slower. The general consciences is you should wait until a year old to breed our goats. Some people choose to wait until a year and a half before breeding goats for the first time.
Breeding Goats: How Do I Tell If A Goat Is Pregnant?
Because goats have a natural fermenting rumen and large belly it’s very hard to tell if your goat is pregnant because they always look pregnant. One way to see if you’ve been successful in breeding goats is by doing an ultrasound 30 days post breeding. Another way you can tell if your goat is pregnant is by doing a blood test, this can be done 60 days post breeding.
If you don’t want to do a blood test or a an ultrasound and would prefer to go off looks you won’t be able to notice a larger belly than normal until about 70-90 days after breeding, and sometimes even later.
Often experienced goat breeders can usually tell when their goats are pregnant, but if you’re new to the goat world, I’d suggest doing a blood test or ultrasound to be sure.
How To Care For Goats During The Breeding Season
Before Breeding Your Goats:
- Before breeding goats it’s important to ensure your animals are healthy and ready to support their babies. Ensure your goats are the proper weight for their breed (not to skinny and not to heavy) before proceeding.
- Before breeding goats heck your goats parasite levels, and worm if necessary.
- Before breeding goats check for any topical parasites and deal with them if found.
- Ensure your goats have the proper levels of copper and minerals before breeding.
Two To Three Weeks Prior To The Breeding Season
- Two to three weeks before breeding goats deworm the does using a targeted selected treatment such as FAMACHA.
- Some people recommend that you vaccinate female goats with C&D tetanus toxoid before breeding goats.
- Before breeding goats check and trim the goat’s hooves if needed.
- You can also give the does an injection of vitamin E/Se to aid in ovulation, this is completely optional however.
- If you are planning for artificial insemination (AI), plan estrous cycle synchronization prior to this time.
Problems With Breeding Goats
In some cases (usually with a young doe that hasn’t been bred before, or a older doe with a young buck), even when a doe seems to be in heat, she may refuse to breed and try to run from the buck. Sometimes you can put your buck and doe in a smaller enclosure where it’s harder for her to get away from him and she’ll eventually get used to him.
What About Goat Inbreeding?
Some people choose to inbreed or line breed (breeding closely related animals) can quickly improve a herd because the good qualities of the animals get accentuated. However the bad qualities are also accentuated through these practices. Due this you really have to think about what you are doing, access your animas and use your head.
The only hard and fast rule that I know of is do not breed a full brother and full sister. In some circumstances, it is ok to breed father to daughter, but we hardly ever do that. We much prefer to breed grandfather to granddaughter, uncles to niece, etc. (source)
Breeding Goats: Line Breeding vs. Inbreeding
Inbreeding: Inbreeding means the breeding of relatives. Parent-offspring and sibling-sibling breeding are what most people are referring to when they mention inbreeding, however technically pairings between an aunt/uncle-niece/nephew, cousins, and grandparent-offspring are also inbreeding.
Line Breeding: Line breeding is still technically a form of inbreeding. Line breeding deals with pairs that are related more distantly than first-generation relatives. It might involve breeding two animals that have a common grandparent. The object of line breeding is to bring an animal in the pedigree forward again and increase its genetic influence over the resulting offspring.
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