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A Dairy Goat Homestead: Our First Breeding Season, Part 2

12/30/2013 9:38:00 AM

Tags: dairy goats, animal husbandry, Tara-Sky Alford, Michigan

goatsWell, it’s been a few months since I complained about our woes at the start of our first breeding season. We do not have a buck on our property, and figuring out when my does were in heat proved to be a larger challenge than I originally anticipated. Breeding season is now drawing to a close, and I am happy to announce that all of our does have been bred!

How to Tell If a Goat's In Heat

At first, I thought it would be pretty obvious when my does were in heat; I quickly found out this was not the case. After months of scrutinizing my goats daily for changes in behavior, I slowly noticed a different pattern with each goat. Rather than displaying all the symptoms of heat at once, as I originally thought, each doe displayed her own unique changes in behavior. Cupcake was a little flighty to begin with, and that characteristic was amplified when she went into heat. She bounded around the pen and, depending on her mood, became easily spooked, annoyed, or playful. Another goat, Moon, simply flagged her tail for a few hours. Lastly, Nibbles became very vocal - bleating nearly incessantly for days. It required a lot of observation to preserve my dream of a buckless property!

Just 15 minutes down the road, the two bucks selected for my ladies were anxiously awaiting their arrival. One was a full size LaMancha and the other, a Nigerian Dwarf goat. The small size of Cupcake (my Alpine/LaMancha) and Nibbles (my Mini Mancha) necessitated breeding them with the Nigerian Dwarf. Both Nibbles and Cupcake were slightly larger than their buck, so the assistance of a hay bale was required to assure proper positioning. Moon, a full size Alpine, was bred to the LaMancha buck. Thankfully, she did not need assistance, and I was able to stand back at a proper distance.

Staggering Goat Breeding

All three of my goats went into heat at the same time, and I was terrified with visions of sleepless nights, heat lamp shortages, and triplet kids during my first kidding season. So, I staggered the breedings over two heat cycles to ensure that all three does would not kid at the same time. Each breeding took just half an hour, then we were on our way home again.  After my last doe was bred, I smiled as I glanced at her lying in the backseat of my truck. We had successfully finished our first breeding season! Instantly, my smile turned into a grimace as a residual pungent aroma wafted past my nose. We finished the rest of the drive celebrating with the windows down.goats

Now that my does are bred, I have made some minor changes to their care. My two pregnant, non-milking does are now given grain in addition to their hay. I am extra vigilant in checking their free choice minerals, baking soda, and water supply. Also, I switched my pregnant milker from twice a day milking to once a day. This takes some of the stress of of her body and readies her for drying off later this winter. Careful diligence is required to ensure that the goats are getting everything they need to stay healthy with the added demand of pregnancy, as well as the change in weather.

Although I am still slightly anxious about the upcoming kidding season, it is still far enough away that most of my thoughts are idealistic. I am very excited to see the kids frolicking over our hills and bouncing after their mothers. When my seven year old daughter was asked what she wanted for Christmas, she answered promptly, “Baby goats in April!” I would have to agree.

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