Goat Reproduction

goat Facts of Life: Goats are in their prime generally from 3 to 6 years of age. It is best to breed young does from 15 to 18 months, or at least 10 months old. Too early breeding will stunt growth and heighten risk for dead babies and poor milk production. The usual number of kids for a mature doe is 2—or 1—or even 3 or 4. Keep records on your does. They will tend to repeat themselves. goats in Heat: Young goats may vary about when they come into heat the first time—breeding them for the first time at about 10 months is ideal. Older ones that birthed in the spring won't come into season again until fall. In that case, the first chill frosts of September will bring it on. Don't bother looking for heat signs in summer unless the goat went through the fall and winter without a chance to conceive. Goats come into heat from September to January for 1, 2, or 3 days. So, you have to notice them fast and get them bred fast. The period between heats is 17-21 days.

October and November are the months she's most likely to conceive. Dynah Geissal: "Some does come into heat in August. You may want to let your buck run with the does early in the season to allow any early breeding to take place. Winter milk is usually scarce." Detecting Heat. You can tell when a nanny is in heat because she bleats all day long, runs up and down the fence looking longingly out, and wiggles her tail provocatively and constantly. She is spotting blood if you look closely, and the labia of the vagina are swelled up and red. Dynah Geissal: "Rub a rag on the most fragrant buck available and store it in a lidded jar. In October, display the rag to your doe each day. When she comes in heat, you'll know! Keep track of each heat so you'll know her cycle. Then plan for her breeding. After breeding, watch for her heat to be present or absent so you'll know if she's bred. A doeling may be bred at 7 months if she is well grown, approximately 70 lb."

The buck: You can keep a buck of your own, or maybe take your nan to someone who has one when she needs him. Or artificially inseminate. Twenty-five years ago artificial insemination for goats ranged from uncommon to unheard of. Now it's a third good option. Goat breeds are basically the same size except for the pygmies. You can breed a goat of any breed to a goat of any other breed, and the results will be goat and will get born fine (that isn't always true of cow breeds, which vary greatly in size). Keeping Your Own Buck. The buck is always ready. All you have to do is put them together and he does the rest. A half hour should do it. Bucks are unpopular inside city limits and in crowded neighborhoods because a mature buck goat has a tremendously strong odor. Every time you handle him you'll walk away with a tremendously strong odor, too. If they aren't always handled carefully and gently, they can develop some very bad butting habits. If horned, they can be quite dangerous to small children, because a point of one of those horns could come up and get an eye. I rescued my 2-year-old from being butted against the chicken house wall after a friend played at "wrestling" with our buck and awakened his butting instinct. I had to get rid of that buck. Unfortunately, no matter how careful you are, sooner or later bucks will get that butting instinct awakened.

To get your own buck, you can buy a young one fairly cheaply in the spring. He'll be able to do the job by fall breeding time. Some folks keep the billy goat in a special little house—but I let mine run with the herd. That way I don't have to worry about trying to tell when the nannies are ready for him.

Dynah Geissal wrote: "Once a year the services of a buck will be needed. Keep a buck, [artificially inseminate], or take your does elsewhere. With 1 or 2 does, a buck would be superfluous; but with a larger herd, a buck would be a significant part of the natural order of herd life. Whether you are buying your own buck or renting the services of one, find out his reliability as a stud and the milking and mothering history of his mother. If possible, obtain a purebred buck, and one that the owner assures you is easy to handle. Inexperienced people should consider a hornless buck.

"The best bet may be to raise your own. In this case, breed the best doe (preferably purebred) to the best buck obtainable. Hopefully, she will produce at least one buckling who will be left with his mother. You don't want him thinking that you are mother. Start working with him as soon as possible, but don't make a pet out of him. It could be dangerous if he thinks you are part of the herd. Be firm, even more so than with your does. Put up with no rough-housing, and always let him know that you are boss. Never allow him to get away with challenging you. Teach him early to lead and stand quietly for grooming, shots, hoof trimming, etc.

"Your buck may be used to breed a limited number of does at seven months. He should be separated from the does during breeding season. Otherwise the does will be bred indiscriminately. I once left a 3-month-old buckling with the herd because he was quite small; but surmounting a great difference in height, he managed to breed the entire herd, producing fourteen kids who looked amazingly like him and quite tiny.

"I have never had trouble with the smell of the buck getting into the milk, but it will if the does and buck are closely confined. With plenty of space and fresh air, it shouldn't be a problem. I wouldn't want to separate the buck for most of his life, for he's an important member of the herd."

Rent-a-Buck. If you can tell when your doe is wanting the buck you can take her and bring her back the same day with fair confidence of success. But it may be expensive. If too pricey, that's a good reason to keep your own buck, or check into the availability and price of artificial insemination. Artificial Insemination. Artificial insemination for goats was uncommon or even unheard of 25 years ago. Now it's a third good option. Ask your county extension agent or local goat folks about local bucks. Or ask Buck Bank about semen, breeding supplies, collection, and training. They offer your choice of champion Alpine, LaMancha, Nubian, Ober-hasli, Angora, Boer, Cashmere, Nigerian Dwarf, and Saanen bucks: 541-826-2729; fax 541-826-9717; 2344 Butte Falls Hwy., Eagle Point, OR 97524; [email protected]. Or contact Wayne and Carol Rhoten; Magnum Semen Works: 301-374-2927; 2200 Albert Hill Rd„ Hampstead, MD 21074. To read up on the subject check out Artificial Insemination and Genetic Improvement of Dairy Goats by Dr. Harry A. Herman; or Artificial Insemination Handbook by Vaughn Solomon and Donna Forsman.

gestation: The gestation period ranges from 146 to 152 days (about 5 months). So wait 5 months minus one day, and then watch for her to spring. Dynah Geissal: "If she has little milk, stop milking when she has 2 months left until kidding. If she has a lot of milk, feed her well (not to fatness), and keep milking her. I've had goats who milk well for 3 continuous years with no problem, but they need top quality feed. If she isn't milking, don't give any grain the last 2 months before kidding, for a fat goat may have birthing problems. Give shots, worm, and trim hooves 6 to 8 weeks before kidding."

Ketosis. Stress, overfeeding, underfeeding, and lack of exercise can all be contributors to this pregnancy-related illness. Dynah: "Symptoms are dullness, disinterest in feed, pressing head against something, teeth grinding, and aimless walking. To prevent ketosis, provide blackstrap molasses during the last 2 months of pregnancy. Detection is by using Ketostix to see if her blood sugar is low. The cure is to feed glycerin, exercise her, and keep her eating." kidding: We had a white Saanen buck goat named Miracle. His mother's name was Mary. He was the first goat born on our farm. He was Mary's first baby and neither she nor I had gotten into the farm kidding routine yet. She gave birth to him on a miserable rainy day in late February on the manure pile. Mike and I had been through a birth rather recently ourselves when he was with me in the delivery room, and I cried with the wonder of it when he and I found them, and that's why I named the kid "Miracle." There isn't that much difference in the basics. The miracle of life is the same whether it begins among sterile sheets and bad-tempered nurses or in the rain on a manure pile. And I always cry with joy when it's over, whether it's a goat, cow, or me.

Signs of Near Birthing. When the lips of the vulva swell up and the opening becomes longer and larger and the nanny is springing, delivery is nearing but not imminent. When hollows appear under the tail above and to the left and right of her vagina, delivery will take place within 2 hours. Dynah Geissal: "Kidding may occur as many as 5 days before or after the doe's due date (5 months, 1 day after breeding). Signs of an imminent birth are a full udder and a thin, clear mucous discharge. This is different from the thick yellow mucous pus which may appear as much as a month before kidding."

The Kidding Place. When you know a free-running goat is near kidding, check on her every morning. If she doesn't show up, go find her. If your goats run free in the open, you need to discover the mother with her kids as soon after kidding as possible. Goats, in my experience, aren't super picky where they have their kids. If she kids in cold weather out in the open, the kids will die if you don't help them. And we have lost newborn kids to predators. So I would advise that, especially if you live near the woods, keep a goat about to kid near the buildings or in protective custody until she has kidded and her kids are able to run as fast as the rest of the herd. (Kids develop jumping and running abilities very quickly.) Predators are less likely to come in where the human smell is heavy.

Provide a sheltered place—inside a shed or barn. Cover the floor of her shelter with dry bedding such as straw, hay, or sawdust. Dynah Geissal adds: "A lead goat will choose an appropriate place to kid, but a lower one may not because of being harassed. So be sure to isolate her in shelter before kidding. When it's been determined that your goat will be kidding within a few hours, isolate her in a place that is familiar to her. Be sure that it's dry, draft-free, and has plenty of bedding. Provide fresh, clear water in a small bucket (to minimize the chance that she will drop her kid into the water). Give her plenty of good hay." The Birthing. Kids are usually born in the early morning hours. The mother probably won't need any help from you with the birthing itself. But if she does, here's Dynah Geissal's expert instructions on what to do:

"Generally speaking, a goat should be left alone to kid. If she is very attached to you, she may be reassured by your presence. Most goats, however, prefer to be alone, although they do seem to be more at ease if they are able to see their herd sisters. Be sure to check on her frequently during her labor. It may be many hours before hard contractions start. If she seems at ease and eats or chews her cud, all is well. When hard labor begins, your doe may lie down, pant, and call out during a contraction. Between contractions, she will get up and resume cud chewing in the early stages. This may last several hours.

"When the kid is showing, check to see which part is presenting. If the front feet are first, with the head resting on them, everything should proceed normally. This stage may last as long as an hour. Unless things proceed rapidly, clean the kid's nose and mouth before it is born." Assisting in Kidding. Dynah, again: "There are certain circumstances where you will have to aid in the birth or get someone else to help you: ... If the water breaks and more than 2 hours have elapsed and there is no kid in sight, your goat probably needs help. ... If she seems to be in great pain, wait no more than half an hour before assisting her If she seems exhausted, wait only a few more minutes— maybe fifteen.

"If the kid is presenting, you may have to do no more than pull gently downward with each contraction. This is sometimes necessary with an especially large kid. When the kid is presenting, but in an abnormal position, you will have to enter the vagina. Scrub your hands and arms thoroughly, paying special attention to your nails. Oil your hands and arms. A presentation that is normal except that the head is turned back is easy to correct, but almost impossible to give birth to if not corrected. The same is true if one or both feet are tucked underneath the kid. A kid that is presenting normally but upside down may be turned. A breech birth may proceed successfully if the feet come first; but there must be no delay once it is presenting. The cord may be constricted in the birth canal. When the kid is coming rump first, it may be born with some help from you during contractions if it is fairly small. Otherwise, you will have to push it back and bring out the feet first.

"If the kid is not showing, but you have decided that your doe definitely needs help, reach in very carefully to prevent rupturing the vagina. In a situation where you cannot feel the kid, the cervix may not be open. In this case, you should consult a vet. Assuming you can feel the kid, determine its position and reposition if necessary. This is probably all that is necessary. On the other hand, when her water has been broken for a long time or if she is exhausted, or if the kid is very large, you may have to also pull the kid during contractions.

"A goat who has serious birthing problems 2 successive years should be butchered. I once had a goat who seemed to be giving birth normally: 2 feet were out but then nothing. When I began to examine her, I found that one leg was much larger than the other; 2 kids were trying to be born at once! I had to push one back to free the first. Then the process repeated itself, and 3 healthy kids were born."

Sue Bradford, Kansas, IL, wrote me: "My best milker, Storm, almost died giving birth. I knew she was in trouble. Phoned my boss, explained, and was told, 'She's only a 2-dollar goat and you're going to lose a day's pay!' She's a pure bred Nubian, but that doesn't matter. She was in pain and any animal in my care will not be left to die. Anyway, this was my first experience delivering. She had delivered a kid hours before. I found she had the next kid sideways. I got him out and of course he was dead, but then out popped a beautiful little girl kid! I gave Storm a pail of warm water with blackstrap molasses to drink. She drank it all, but wouldn't stand up. She wouldn't even look at her kids and wouldn't stand up. I still don't know how I did it, but I lifted her up enough to get enough milk to get both kids started on the bottle. It was a few days before Storm could stand without help, so I held her up every day while my husband milked her. Her next kids were born without problems. I love this life! I was raised in town, but my husband, Lee, and I have lived on his family farm (90+ acres) for 26 years now. We now have a lA acre garden, fruit trees, goats for milk and meat, and chickens for eggs and meat. I've learned to sew, make quilts, can and freeze garden get, make jelly, milk goats, make cheese. I even cut up a deer and goat and made salami."

Doe's Post-Birth Feeding. Dynah Geissal recommends: "Feed mother 1 lb. grain plus warm water containing molasses." That drink of warm water with some molasses in it is a real help to a goat that is kidding. She may drink as much as a gallon. If she seems chilled and seems to be having difficulty expelling the afterbirth, the drink of warm water also helps.

Afterbirth. The afterbirth comes out after the kid. It may take a long time to finish coming out. Leave it alone. I know how miserable it is when the doctor gets in a rush about afterbirth. It will come out in time. You put her more at risk by pulling on it, because that may make her bleed! When she gets done passing the afterbirth naturally, she may or may not eat it. If she does, it's recycling. If she doesn't—well, after all she's not a meat eater by nature. Care of the Newborn Kid: Carry a towel with you and dry the newborn as soon after birth as possible (getting born is a wet business). There is no reason for you to tie the cord. My advice would be, in fact, don't. Leave that part of it up to nature. I usually don't find the babies until after nature has taken care of that part anyway

Dynah Geissal's system: "Have dry, clean towels ready and either iodine or alcohol. When the kids are born, clean the faces immediately. Let mother take over, but if she doesn't do a good job, you should. Dip the cord into an iodine solution as soon as possible (don't dab it on). The cord is a wick to bacteria and infection. 'Navel ill' is an infection of the umbilical cord which spreads to the kid's entire body, especially the joints. It is prevented by dipping the cord in iodine or alcohol immediately after birth. It is treated by antibiotics or sulfa."

Helping Kid Nurse. Dynah: "There are usually 2 kids born and 3 is not unusual. The kids should be up almost immediately. Be sure the kids receive colostrum right away—hopefully within 15 minutes of birth. If not, help them up at least to nurse. If the kids have a strong sucking response, hold the teat and the kid until its initial hunger is satisfied. When the sucking response is weak, get some milk into the kid and then try in a couple hours. If a kid is not nursing on its own, you'll have to help. If the kids are weak, or there are multiple kids, you may have to help for as many as 3 days. You will learn quickly how often they are hungry—usually every 3 to four hours. Once you are certain that a kid has nursed on its own, it won't need your help any more.

"If there is no sucking after several hours, you will have to bottle feed the kid, if you want it. Once is usually enough to get it strong enough to nurse. Give the bottle as few times as possible so the kids learn to nurse the mother rather than depending on the bottle. Don't keep the kid in the house or its mother may reject it and it won't have adapted to the temperature of the barn. If the kids are bottle fed, they tend to become pets. You're their mom and, personally, I don't think livestock should be pets. I have dogs and cats for that. A pet goat is usually intractable and as obnoxious as an untrained dog. My goats are friendly and affectionate, but they are members of the herd, not the family."

Chilled Kid. If a goat kids outdoors in cold weather and the kid seems to be inactive, it's probably chilled. You may even find a kid that's weak, or prostrate from the cold. Just pick up that little baby in your arms and carry it into the warmest room of your house. Keep it wrapped in warm cloth and put it in a cardboard box near the heat source until it dries off and gets warm and is thoroughly recovered. When the kid climbs out of the box and wobbles all over the house nuzzling at everybody optimistically, it is doing fine for a 6-hour-old baby Its little tail will wag and its disposition already demonstrates the incurable curiosity of goat. Separation of Kid and Mother. One school of thought advocates taking the kid away from the mother immediately so she won't get attached to it and be harder to milk later. Another is to leave the kid with the mother for 3 days and then separate them. But since the latest research has shown that animals nursed by another animal are more respectful of humans and much safer to have around when mature, owners are trying harder to find a way to keep the kid on the goat. You can't change your mind in the middle because, if the kid is taken away from its mother for the first 6 hours or more, on its return she may well butt it viciously and refuse to mother it. Here's Dynah's system for leaving the kid nursing its mother:

"Kids should stay isolated with their mother for 3 to 5 days or until they are strong, active, and nursing well on their own. Then turn them out with the herd. The only time I have had a problem with this is when a yearling calf crushed 2 kids behind a door. So if you have large livestock sharing their barn, keep them separated a few extra days.

"Check the mother's udder twice a day to be sure it isn't too full. She will probably need milking after 3 days, but if not, you could wait up to 5 days. Except for the grain fed immediately after kidding, don't feed any more grain until your regular milking has begun. That prevents her milk from coming in too fast.

"Let the kids stay with their mother and continue to nurse her until they have grown husky and are eating regular food well. This is usually 2 months for single and twin kids, but closer to 3 for triplets. At this time, begin to separate the kids from their mother all night. That way you have the morning milk but let them take the rest during the daytime. The kids will leam the routine in a few days. Then they will stop crying and will even run into their own sleeping area when you come into the bam at night to shut them away."

Bottle-Feeding. If the kid will be bottle-fed (or disposed of), give mother some grain and milk her. If you haven't milked or handled her much before, you'll find birthing has made her completely gentle and she'll cooperate fine with you. Save that colostrum milk to feed her baby if you will be bottle-feeding. Take the milk to the house, put some into a small pop bottle, using a lamb nipple on the end of it, and feed it to the baby. Just get the nipple in its mouth and it'll get the idea. Never feed cold milk. After a few feedings and a really good warming the baby goat will be fine and can go back out to the bam to live. Or if it still seems to be doing poorly, you could keep it in the house until you feel sure it's strong. If the kid is too weak even to nurse the long, soft lamb nipple, you can feed it with an infant syringe (the rubber bulb you use to clean a newborn baby's nose), available at drugstores or a spoon.

Don't use a human baby bottle. It's the wrong style nipple. You should have several "lamb" nipples on hand (baby lambs are treated exactly the same way) well before the birthing. It's terribly important to get that first good nourishment into a chilled newborn animal. You'll be amazed at the change. I've found kid goats that looked almost dead. But after they were warmed up and had a meal in their tummy, they stood up, bleated, and wagged their tails. After 2 hours and another meal they were just fine.

Lamb nipples don't have an internal air supply like baby bottles that feed air in through the rim. The kid has to leam to let go of the nipple every so often so air can rush in and equalize the pressure; otherwise the milk will stop coming. Timing the Feedings. Feed every 2 hours the first day, 4 hours the second day, 8 hours the third day, then morning, noon and night for about 10 days, and from then on morning and night after you milk. Notice how much they are able to take at a feeding. At first they take only an ounce or so. By the end they'll empty a big pop bottle. Scours. The turds of goat kids should be round and firm, miniatures of mama's. When goat kids (or calves) get a loose diarrhea; it's called "scours." Chilling and overfeeding are the 2 greatest dangers. Sometimes they scour a while and finally get over it, but sometimes it kills them. Goat kids have a hard time on any milk but their natural milk. That powdered fake stuff is the worst thing I know of; powdered milk is next; and cow's milk is best for them. (Bigger kids can handle cow's milk better than little ones.) If a goat kid on anything but goat's milk is scouring, then a half bottle, a bottle, or all goat's milk for several feedings will usually clear it up. I am always very reluctant to sell unweaned kids to people who don't have goat's milk to give them because I know they'll have a hard time keeping the kids healthy.

If you are milking goats and have yearlings, or a poor milker, or they all have triplets—you don't have much choice. You're going to have to kill some kids to insure your family milk supply or else find homes for them elsewhere. You can't afford to buy milk for them. They are worth only a few dollars, if you can find somebody to take them. They aren't as important as having milk for your own children. If you try to raise them on that cheap milk substitute they'll be scouring and sick most of the time, and you'll spend whatever you saved on Kaopectate and antibiotics trying to help them hang on.

Surplus Newborn Kids. I try never to kill a nan kid because it is a waste, but when I have more billy kids than I have extra milk for, and nobody wants them, I kill them. This is hard to talk about and hard to do, but I'm going to tell you how because I'm writing this book for people trying to do real things in difficult situations, and sometime you may need to know this. Dynah Geissal says on this subject: "Before your kids are born, decide how many doelings you will keep and stick with it."

If I'm going to kill the kid I get there as soon after birth as possible. I check for sex. Then I take the little billy out of earshot of the mother and hit it as hard as I can on the head with a hammer. That blow probably suffices. The newborns don't have much stamina, but I hit it a couple more times to make sure. Better have it quick, certain, and complete if it has to be done.

Calf Adoption. It takes about 2 good goats to support 1 calf. Get your goats milking well first, and then you can acquire the calf. One really good goat can support a calf if she can be persuaded to adopt it and let it nurse her. Kids for Meat. If you do have extra milk, then by all means raise your extra bucklings and cull doelings for meat. If you don't have a market for them, you might as well eat them yourself. Since goats typically have more than 1 kid at a time, and they can even kid twice a year, you have extras pretty fast once you get started. The animals can be butchered when they're big enough to suit you. Even a kid 6 weeks old will add 15 lb. of meat to your supply. But the longer you wait the more meat you'll get—up to a point. Calves keep growing until they are about 2 years old, and the same with goats.

Sexing Kids. What you plan for the kid may depend on its sex. Boy kid goats have small testicles hanging from their tummy, just to the front of their hind legs. They pee from the middle of the tummy so it runs straight down as they stand. Girl goats don't have those testicles and they pee from the rear, squatting backwards as they do so. Of Big Kids and Weaning. Incidentally, big babies that are still nursing tug so hard they are liable to pull a rubber nipple off a bottle. You'll have to hold it on the bottle as they suck. A goat can be tapered off when he is eating other feeds well, weaned completely at about 4 months. Castrating. Male kids, like bull calves, are usually castrated for easier management. Dynah says, "Male kids should be castrated by one month of age. I use an elastrator and have never had a problem. Don't wait any longer than a month or it will be too traumatic. I castrate the males so they can run with the herd. If they aren't castrated, they must be separated from the does by four months."

goat Manners: Dynah Geissal: "Goats are very smart and can be taught manners. Don't allow your goats to jump on you or to jump up to get feed you're carrying. A slap on the nose and a loud "no" will save a lot of irritation and hassle. Don't allow loose goats to butt or to steal food from a goat who is confined in a stanchion."

Continue reading here: Goat Vetting and Grooming

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