Preparing For Your Breeding Season

A quick guide to your goat breeding season preparations and tricks of the trade!

Pieter van Jaarsveld

7/6/20214 min read

Preparing for your Breeding Season

The gestation period of a doe is a short 150 days in which adequate husbandry measures must be implemented in order to deliver happy and healthy kids. There are four main stages of gestation and different things that can go wrong in these time frames. These include; early embryo loss, late embryo loss,abortions and birthing problems. This article will delve into what happens at the different stages of gestation, what may cause loss of productivity and howto care for the doe at each stage along the way.

The Buck and your Does…

Before we go into the details, a few parameters need to be considered to ensure healthy breed planning. Firstly, a 1-year-old buck can serve up to 10 does maximum and by the age of 3 years old he will be able to serve up to 40 does at one time. Not overloading your prize buck with too many does is important for his optimal growth and development.  Secondly, does will only reach sexual maturity between 8-12 months depending on the breed, season and nutritional status. Roughly 2 weeks prior to the joining period, it is common for breeders to increase the doe’s daily food intake, referred to as flushing, in order to increase the Body Condition Score of the does. This increases ovulation rate of the herd and will increase the likelihood of twins or triplets thus improving productivity.Lastly, detecting embryo loss, monitoring the doe’s pregnancy and making records of the herds pregnancy rate are all important in order to ensure an efficiently producing herd. Having a local vet on call can be very helpful after the joining period to detect which does are pregnant and which does may need to be re-joined. This brings us to the first stage of gestation where the buck and does are joined so mating can occur. 

How joining occurs!

Once the does are in a healthy condition and preferably wormed, the joining period should commence for approximately 6-8 weeks. As the doe’s oestrous cycle lasts on average every 21 days, a long joining period ensures that each doe has cycled at least once or twice and the bull has the ability to cover them all. Goats naturally cycle between February to June in order to drop kids in late Winter to Spring. However, out of season breeding is very common and is possible via the ‘buck effect’. This refers to the introduction of a buck into the herd which in turn induces ovulation within the following 10 days. Therefore, breeding all year round means that farmers are able to have 3 kidding’s in 2 years to increase production.

At the commencement of joining, the buck should be removed and the does placed on a paddock with plenty of pasture. The first 6 weeks after conception is the early gestation period in which early embryonic loss can occur. Some of the main reasons for this include; genetics, animal’s environment i.e. toxicity from plants, endocrine function, for example, hormonal imbalance and intrauterine function and lastly, the buck’s sperm quality. Therefore, an overall soundness examination of the does and the buck in the case that conception does not occur can be helpful in order to find out the cause to the loss of productivity. Furthermore, checking the environment for any toxic plants as well as checking their genetic background can aid in ensuring efficient breeding. During early gestation it is also essential not to stress the animals as this may cause resorption of the embryo causing early embryo loss. Stressors may come from handling, being with other non pregnant goats, travelling, malnutrition, disease and all should be avoided during this period.

During the later stage of gestation, 4 weeks from predicted kidding, daily feed intake needs to increase marginally to maintain the does at a BCS (Body Condition Score) of 3-4. It is important to maintain the does at a moderate BCS throughout gestation in order to supply enough nutrients to the growing foetus. Feed may include; quality hay, high protein grain, loose or lick minerals, vitamins and concentrates. Also at this time prior to predicted kidding, the does should be vaccinated with an appropriate goat vaccination for the region. This ensures that the antibodies produced in the mother by the vaccination will be passed through the umbilical cord to the foetus. This provides disease protection to the foetus for the first few weeks of its life.

University of Kentucky, college of Agriculture, 2018

Its almost time to drop!

Two weeks prior to kidding, I personally recommend getting prepared for unexpected early parturition. It is not an ideal situation when one of your does is kidding the the middle of a paddock during a storm.Therefore, bringing your does into a shelter a few days before their expected kidding is a great way to avoid any unplanned situations as well as keeping the doe protected whilst she kids. Having a shelter or shed for the does to kid is a helpful provision as it provides an ideal safe place from predators and the weather.

Whether you’re a beginner breeder or an expert, embryo loss,abortions and fatality due to birthing problems can occur regardless how much hard work you may put in. It is a natural process of life and sometimes cannot be prevented. However, taking the above small measures to look after your does and your buck can help to increase your kidding rate. Keeping kidding records can be crucial because, although, there may be a margin of natural fatality that is unpreventable, sometimes a disease or infection that is unnoticed can cause a major loss of productivity. From the period of joining through to kidding a loss of no more than 10% is ideal. For example, if 100 does were joined, 90 does would kid. However, if these kidding rates were below 90%, it would mean that more attention to breeding management or a herd assessment would be needed in order to increase productivity.

All in all, watching your does give life is a beautiful thing regardless whether it’s a high producing system or your house pet. This article serves the purpose of providing gestation parameters and information on important husbandry measures for a general goat herd. However, remember that, each farmer, region and herd is dissimilar and requires different care and attention.As the saying goes, no one knows your goats as well as you know them.