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Breeding

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2/12/02

Getting ready

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There is really more to breeding than putting two goats together and hoping for the best. We will try to offer just a few suggestions to help you optimize your breeding program. We will not be addressing purebred breeding programs, breeding for show animals, or breeding for sale.

THE BUCK:

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A few things to consider in the acquisition of your buck: Do his parents both come from families which are good milk producers? Was he successfully dehorned as a kid? Are both testicles large, firm and without lumps or other malformations? Are the penis and prepuce free of any sign of injury, infection and inflammation? Are his feet and legs sound and show signs of routine, proper care? If he is of breeding age, what is the history of his offspring? What is his general disposition? What is his overall health history? Are there written records to support this? Will this buck improve the quality of your herd?

Some sources indicate that a doe will not stand for a buck that has been descented, but we have not found this to be the case.

The buck needs a regular routine of vaccinations and wormings (see our "Routines" page). Prior to his introduction to any does, he should be thoroughly examined for any signs of disease or abnormalities (as above). He should be in good weight because he may tend to lose a little during the breeding season. Be sure to give him about one to two pounds of grain daily starting about three weeks before the first breeding.

Be sure he has plenty of shade. The extreme heat of the late summer months, when breeding begins, reduces fertility in breeding males. Most producers want to get the kids born as early in the season as possible to maximize growth and profits and this is hard to do if there are high temperatures at the time of breeding. Try to put the buck with the does for breeding in the cool evening or morning hours. (Our kids are being born later and later each spring and this must be proof of global warming!)

It seems that there are "on the other hand"s to everything. Early breeding gets the kids on the ground and growing as early in the spring as possible. Therefore, they will have more weight and produce more income than kids born later in the year. But, also be aware that multiple birhts tend to be more multiple when the does are bred in the middle or latter part of the normal breeding season. In our area kids prices tend to drop off after July 4th each year.

THE DOES

Likewise, make sure that the does have received the proper vaccinations and wormings. Have any of them had problems with uterine infections that have not been completely cleared up? Are they of good weight, solid and trim but gaining slightly?

We keep our buck in a pen separate from, but adjacent to, the does.

HeatDivide
This is what it's like when several of the girls would like to go visiting at once.

This makes it very easy to tell when they are in heat and to have complete control over when breeding takes place. This way all heats and breedings can be recorded for future reference. We supervise all breedings (at close range) to make sure that there are no injuries to the does. The does are only in with the buck for the few minutes it takes to complete the breeding and then removed. Some say that having the buck nearby makes the does come into heat sooner.

There is no hard and fast rule about breeding does their first year. Some people prefer to wait until the second year, no matter what. Others breed the first year IF the doe has reached 90 pounds before being bred. We have done it both ways and there seems to be no real advantage to either. If you don't breed the first year, you are losing a year of productivity for the same cost of raising. On the other hand, you have to be somehat concerned about the doe not reaching her full potential. If so, make sure she is well fed without becoming fat.

Many people claim that if vinegar is added to the does' drinking water they will have more female offspring. We have never tried this.

Heat "cycles"

Little boy goats, some call them "bucklings," have been known to be sexually active (even if not fertile) only a few minutes after birth. We observed one little guy riding his newborn sister before we even got him dried off. They can become fully capable of causing pregnancies when only a few months of age. Therefore, they should either be castrated or separated from little females at an early age. An improperly banded little buck can also be fertile.

Little girl goats, call them "doelings," can easily become pregnant when they start having heats in the early part of their first autumn at about 6 months of age. It is okay to breed them the first year if: (1)they weigh at least 90 pounds (except for the dwarf or pygmy breeds which will be smaller, of course), (2) they are in excellent health, and preferably (3) they have had two or three uncomplicated heats before breeding is attempted.

It is commonly said that breeding takes place in the months ending with "R". Does generally start coming into heat in late August and the bucks start smelling, talking, and doing all sorts of nasty things in response to this. This will vary a little with the weather and lattitude. We like to get the babies delivered as soon as possible in early January, so we try to start breeding in early August; but in reality, things don’t really get going until September. Some say that there is a greater chance of multiple (as in 3 or 4) births if breeding is delayed until later in the fall.

On average, does will come into heat ("cycle") every 21 days. This can vary greatly, especially with younger does and early in the season. Usually, however, it will fall into the 19 - 22 day range. Occasionally a doe will miss alternate heats. I have suspected that this may have something to do with a malfunctioning ovary, but I really have no scientific proof of this. There are a variety of disorders that can lead to problems in either direction. Ovarian cysts, for example, can lead to frequently repetitive or nearly constant heats that do not result in breeding. Some of the infectious reproductive diseases can lead to matings that do not result in pregnancy or abortions that occur shortly after breeding. Normal heats can occur even after a successful breeding; this occurs more frequently in goats than most other species. Severe stress, such as in a doe who is producing an extremely large amount of milk or has been ill for some time, can cause the doe to completely fail to come into heat. Too much alfalfa in the diet can result in high levels of estrogen, which tends to suppress heats. Another common cause of "missed" heats is that the owner just failed to observe the sometimes subtle clues that can occur in the doe, especially if there is no buck nearby to help point it out. A single missed heat or a single failed breeding should not be cause for alarm. But if you can see a pattern of failure developing you need to consider a consultation with your vet for some basic tests which may (or may not) reveal the cause. There are so many reasons for reproductive failure that they cannot all be covered here and most of them require specific lab testing in order to confirm. While these are not terribly expensive, your vet can greatly benefit from an accurate history so that a lot of tests are not run needlessly.

The individual heats last from 12 - 36 hours, with quite a bit of variation among the individual animals. Further, even though the signs of active heat may have passed, breeding can be succesful a few hours afterwards. Some does just aren’t very demonstative in showing their desires. It may take some careful observations to spot a heat. The usual signs of estrus may include: nervousness, tail twitching, varying amounts of "pinkness" and swelling around the vulva, small amounts of discharge in or from the vagina or on the tail , erect hair on the spine, talking, decrease of appetite, decrease in amount of milk produced, allowing other does to mount her, rubbing other does or objects, fighting. A doe in heat may respond to your rubbing your hand down her back by twitching her tail or raising the hairs on her lower spine.

The action

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This is where your kids can learn about the birds and the bees. It is really hard to predict how the doe will respond to the advances of the eager buck. Some just stand there quietly and let him get on with it. Others will take off running and never stop. If you have observed strong heat activity (this is why it is nice to have the buck penned next to the does) it is okay to intervene and hold her if you have little desire to stand there and wait forever. If you really want to make this a family affair, it is helpful to have someone else observe whether or not actual contact was made, because if you are holding her, you cannot tell. Of course, if the neighbors see you, they will be sure that you are a bunch of perverts. But if you have nothing better to do, you can just sit there and watch...and wait.

The first thing to do after the breeding is completed is to make a record of it and make a note on your calendar 21 days from now to watch for the next heat. She may need to be bred again at that time. However, she may come into heat at another date, especially if she is a yearling or it is early in the season. We have bred the same doe up to five times in one season and it is pretty impossible to tell which one will "take." They can have heats after a successful breeding.

You will also want to mark down a date 151 days after this on your calendar, for that is when the delivery is most likely to take place. Each doe has a little bit different average gestation length and it helps to keep track of these as well. You will want to plan her pre-natal vaccinations (about 3 weeks before delivery) based on this information.

Inbreeding and other confusing terms

This page could be written with greater accuracy by any of the many breeders who aim to develop the very best in purebred blood lines for the specific breeds of goats. Although we generally try to use purebred bucks in our breeding and seek overall improvement of our herd with each breeding season, we do not try to maintain a line of purebred animals. The intricacies of breeding, with all the confusing terminology thereof, have not been a real important part of our operation. Therefore, to the expert the following may appear a little amateurish. Mostly, we will just try to define most of the words commonly used.

Purebred

Best described as the offspring of two purebred parents of the same distinctive breed. The degree or percentage of breed (e.g. 15/16) is determined by the breed association.
Registered
Pedigree for individual animal is recorded and accepted by the specific breed association.
Crossbred
Each parent is of a different, distinct breed.
Upgrading
Use of a purebred buck and keeping accurate breeding records with the goal of improving specific traits of the herd.
Grade
The result of the breeding of purebred (buck) and "ordinary" (doe).
Mongrel
The result of a breeding using parents of unknown, unimproved or "grade" ancestry.
Backcross
A daughter is bred back to her father or a son back to his mother.
Inbreeding
A doe is bred to a buck that is more closely related to her than the average buck. Also refers to the same buck being kept to breed successive generations of female descendants or doe to succeeding male descendants.

This, of course, is where so many questions arise for the amateur goat raiser. It is generally stated that inbreeding results in:

Poor reproductive fitness

General lack of vigor

Reduced performance

When two animals carrying recessive genes for a deleterious trait are bred, then there is an increased chance for that trait to appear in some of the offspring. There is no getting around this fact. But, if a line is free of harmful recessives, then inbreeding will do no harm. The $64,000 question is: How do you know? Answer: you don't... until problems start occurring.

"Lack of vigor." "Poor performance." These may be hard to define. If these symptoms show up to the point where they are noticeable, then you have probably reached the point where it's time to stop. There is some evidence that the offspring of inbreeding will become smaller with each successive generation. One should also be on guard against this. What if you are trying to increase milk output and inbreeding accomplishes that goal. Then it is a good thing.

The crossing of different inbred lines results in vigorous hybrids. Some of the great advances in livestock breeding have been created this way.

So what does one do? If you have a tried and true buck that produces excellent offspring year after year, should you trade him in on "new blood?" As with most things in life, there is no simple answer. Generally, we would recommend against excessive inbreeding. However, this is not as rigorous a situation as used to be thought. One can go ahead and breed through successive generations until such time as improvements no longer occur or, on the other hand, until problems first appear IF one is also aware of the risks involved.

Line breeding
Line breeding is the mating of animals which are both related to an ancestor with an outstanding trait (sometimes with the fiat that they not be related to each other). It has been stated that line breeding is inbreeding with a purpose or socially acceptable inbreeding. It should be pointed out that bad traits as well as good ones will be emphasized.
Marking the Buck

If you run the buck with the does and are not there for 24 hour observation, it is sometimes difficult to know when a breeding takes place. You may then have "surprise" deliveries; and I really don't like surprises. Buy two or more colors of crayon-type [not chalk] marking stick. Remove the outer "skin" from one color and then slice it into little pieces into a small jar. Add a small amount of vegetable oil to it, Set the jar in a pan of water and heat it over the stove while mixing it all together. You will eventually learn the right proportions. When you let it cool you will have a nice waterproof paste that you can paint onto the brisket-chest area of the buck every day. At breeding the buck will leave a mark on the does. Change colors every 21 days so you can check second breedings. You may want to select colors that will be most visible on the does which you have.

WWW Resources

Iowa State

CONSULTANT ©   Cornell's Diagnostic program




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