If you want to breed your goats, it helps to know about goat breeding behavior. Female goats don’t need a romantic dinner with champagne or whispers of sweet nothings to get it on. No sir! All she needs is little urine, some strange noises, a good tail wag and it’s on.
Before we talk about managing the process, here are a few facts about the breeding cycles:
- Male goats (also called bucks) can breed as young as 7 weeks old. It’s definitely possible for him to get his sister or mother pregnant. However, this doesn’t mean you should allow them to breed. You have to remove bucks from females at 7 weeks old. Bucks are the ones you’ll have to sell.
- Female goats (also called does) are on heat every 21 days and this can last about 1-3 days.
- The goat gestation period is approximately 5 months. They can have anywhere from 1-5 kids at a time. And, she can get pregnant while lactating
- A doe lives for about 10-12 years and can produce kids for as long as she lives. Just like humans, there can be more complications as they get older.
Managing the mating process
1. Start with a Spreadsheet
Record-keeping is important for tracking which females have been bred to which males and other aspects of reproduction. This will help you make future decisions about which animals to breed based on the genetic characteristics of their offspring. It is a wise management decision to choose a buck to breed selected does. A healthy buck can easily breed 40-50 does in two breeding cycles.
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2. Get to Know the Estrous Cycle
A good breeding schedule involves placing a single mature buck with up to 50 does and leaving them together through two heat cycles. As already mentioned, female goats (does) are “fertile” 21 days in goats with a 24- to 36-hour window of peak fertility in which to get the job done. The does make it pretty obvious when they’re fertile. They bleat and carry-on incessantly during this period, with their tail erect and wagging vigorously. Also, the vulva becomes swollen and pink, and usually trips a clear, viscous fluid. What’s very strange is the way a female on heat mounts other females. Ensure there’s a buck around to finish the job.
3. Bucks also change behaviour and enter a period known as the ‘Rut’ prior to breeding. The ‘Rut’ is characterized by obsessive interest in the Does, a decrease in appetite, fighting between Bucks and most notably, a strong odour.
4. Don’t Encourage an Orgy
Bucks and does are usually kept separate except for the purposes of breeding. This is especially if you want to produce diary products. The hormones that a female will produce when a buck is present will make her milk extra “goaty” (which is not a good thing). Insure quality offspring by not letting brothers and sisters, sons and mothers, or fathers and daughters copulate.Try to breed strategically by only mating your healthiest, most productive (and unrelated) animals.
5. The mating process
A doe that is not on heat will run from a buck, fight him off or move away from him if he tries to mount her. When a doe is on heat will remain still while the buck mounts her several times in a short period. She may even urgently push her body against his. This act of mating itself takes only seconds. You can tell if it was successful by the way the buck arches and throws his head back during ejaculation. And, if the female doesn’t go into heat again a few weeks later, you can assume she’s pregnant.
6. If you have a doe that won’t go into heat or a buck that won’t get his groove on, just know that it’s common. This is also a challenge when it comes to breeding as these animals may not be capable of having kids of their own. So you can either sell them or integrate them into the herd as loving aunties and uncles.
Lastly, to lengthen your does productive lives, try to breed does only once a year. It is unreasonable to expect a nursing doe to feed herself, as many as four kids, and growing embryos.
How to tell if your goat is pregnant
Goats have a natural large belly and fermenting rumen. Therefore, they always “look pregnant”. So, unless you’re experienced, you won’t be able to tell when your goats are pregnant until about 70-90 days, and sometimes even later. You can do an ultrasound (costly) 30 days after breeding or a blood test 60 days after breeding.