Goat Breeding

Written By Janice Spaulding , founder of Goat School

As autumn approaches the words “oh the joy of heat, rut, and breeding” can be heard on goat farms everywhere!
A doe in heat is usually quite obvious if you have a buck around! She will exhibit all sorts of different outward appearances like moaning, groaning, yelling, flagging (tail wagging) and in every sense of the word, make a general nuisance of herself. She will often head butt the other goats, jump on them like a dog, be cranky to you, and will more often than not, have a very red butt!

Watching a buck in rut is quite comical.  They love to display their equipment, pee all over themselves, curl their lip and make lots of really unique noises. The peeing can cause blisters and sores on their noses and very red irritated looking eyes. Don’t despair, once your girls are all bred, rut will be over and the snow and rain will clean away most of the gross, caked up yucky stuff on their faces and legs. If you are really obsessive, you can give your boy a bath. Good luck with that!

So, you have a doe in heat and a buck in rut, what now?  The estrus cycle for a doe is 18 to 21 days! Goats are pregnant for approximately 150 days.  A great thing to note here is that if you are planning on a vacation; use one of the goat breeding charts that are readily available on line to make sure your doe won’t be giving your farm sitter an unexpected gift! These charts are great for helping you “plan ahead”.

Most bucks are extremely gentle to the doe’s. If you have one that isn’t, get rid of him! Personality, as well as “meatiness”, fine fleece, or great dairy features are important factors in your breeding program. Our “problem personalities” go to Freezer Camp (also known as, imagine a deep voice here, “THE PROCESSOR”) rather than sold to an unsuspecting buyer.

The bucks will whisper in the girl’s ears, kiss them and mount them several times. Record this date and watch to see if the doe comes into heat again, approximately 21 days later. Another cycle can sometimes happen.  A doe is in heat anywhere from 8 to 48 hours. Every now and then you can have a doe whose heat cycle is even shorter than 8 hours and if that short period of time occurs during the night, you can miss the cycle altogether! Coincidentally, the girls who have the longest heat cycles are usually the most vocal.

At the very beginning of the cycle your doe may not be receptive to the buck. Later in the cycle she will go into the pen, squat and pee for him, flag him like crazy and stand for him to mount her, this is called “standing heat”.

We put the girls in several times during their cycle, because ovulation can occur anytime during that time period!
If the doe scrunches up during penetration, don’t worry. It just means the buck has penetrated her so deeply that he hit her cervix. This is not a problem and it doesn’t affect the outcome of the breeding. Also, this doesn’t have to happen for her to be bred.

Some bucks and does are quite fussy about who they breed AND who they are bred with!  About 22 years ago, we had someone contact us who had one Angora doe that they wanted to have bred. We took her to be bred by one of our three Angora bucks. Well, poor “Diana” was one of the ugliest goats we had ever seen! She had one horn and it was broken, a wicked over bite and she was a bit cross eyed. Her fleece had seen its better days, it was thin and straggly.

When we put her in with the buck, he wouldn’t even go near her! She was in raging heat. We put her in with the second buck. He looked at us like we were crazy! Wouldn’t even come close enough to sniff her! What to do???

Finally, we put her in a small pen in the barn, got our first time little buckling (named James Bond) and decided to put him to work. He couldn’t reach Diana, but he sure was willing. Ken, my husband, had to pick him up and hold him in position so the little guy could do his thing. He was successful.

INBREEDING – LINE BREEDING – CROSS BREEDING

Inbreeding: breeding animals that are closely related. The genetic effect of inbreeding is that it produces animals with genetic characteristics that are more fixed. Progress towards a certain “style” can be made more rapidly through inbreeding.
While good characteristics are fixed in fewer generations by inbreeding, bad characteristics are equally fixed, so inbreeding needs to be done very carefully with the purpose of selecting desired traits and culling out undesirable ones.

Inbreeding can and will decrease size and vigor! It has also been found to cause loss of reproductive performance. Out crossing to another breeding line needs to be done at chosen intervals.

Inbreeding is considered crossing mother to son, father to daughter, or full sister to full brother.

Line breeding is inbreeding where the relationship of the goats are kept as close as possible to an individual animal. For example, breeding a superior sire to his granddaughter or breeding half brother with a half sister who has the same sire.
Advantages to line breeding are the same as in inbreeding except you double up on selected characteristics more rapidly. Be on the look out for undesirable characteristics here also, but there will be less chance of it.

Crossbreeding or out breeding is crossing two unrelated animals that have characteristics that you want to introduce to your flock.
This is usually done between different blood lines or different breeds of goats. This type of breeding will produce a hybrid vigor.

Trait                    Inbreeding    Line breeding    Out breeding
Uniformity           good             good                  fair to good
Fertility               poor              good                  good
Growth               poor              good                  good
Predictability      good             good                  fair
Overall Vigor     poor              good                  good
Longevity          moderate      good                   good
Uniform kids     moderate      good                   good
Rapid growth    poor             good                   excellent
Characteristics and How to Use Them

There never has been, nor will there ever be a “perfect” goat. That being said, to produce the goat for show, breeding, milk, fiber, or meat, you have to aim for that perfection!

Breeders will breed hundreds of animals just to get the “best one”.  For most, the production of gorgeous kids is just plain luck, but often they are the product of knowledgeable breeders who are aware of the body style of the dam and buck and how to achieve the characteristics of greatness.

If you stood all of your does side by side, are they all a cookie cutter image of each other? Then Glory Halleluiah, you’d only need one buck to meet all of your needs. But, guess what? They are all different! They all look different, act different, eat different, etc. So when it comes to a buck, you have to look for a buck that will have great qualities to improve the weak points of your does.

You want your breeding to consistently produce good qualities that add strength to your herd, not weaknesses. If you don’t consider each and every breeding as the ultimate of importance, you are not only doing yourself a disservice but also the goat industry!

I once read that a gentleman who used to stay mostly with a particular line of Boers, would also keep a close watch on what direction his herd was taking from time to time bring in a buck that would take some of the extreme does back to the style he liked. He was said to say that when he started to get does that were “too pretty” or “too tubular”, he would need an old style buck “to ugly the does up some”!

Some goat owners stick with the same buck, year after year and wonder why they are not producing quality anymore. A completely different buck will certainly change things up a bit!

A breeder should be prepared to continually educate him or herself at every opportunity. Make your breeding seasons count, and take the time to learn how to evaluate each and every animal. The future of your herd does not count on the goats in your pasture, it counts on you! Do everything you can to make your next breeding a success!

And, please, remember how important your buck/bucks are to your herd! Initially your buck represents 50% of your herd, but with subsequent use that percentage will increase greatly.  It is well to consider keeping multiple bucks of various ages to use on your does.  Diversity in breeding is important for good outcome.

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