We’ve had our goats for about a year now, I’ve learned SO MUCH this year! I tend to research stuff to death before I do it, and the goats were no exception, so I had read and read and read before we purchased our beauties. But, the learning curve is steep for almost everything on this farm, and they were no exception! So, I thought I’d share a few things about goats and heat from a novice’s perspective, while it’s still fresh in my mind, for other novices – to avoid the troubles I’ve had.
Goats are, for the most part, seasonal breeders. Some miniature breeds come into heat all year long, as well as some of the breeds that hail from the hotter climates. But mostly, the breeding season begins in the fall and ends mid-winter. It can start as early as August, depending on your geographic location, and ends anywhere from December to February, depending on the individual goat, the weather, and geographic location!
As August rolled around I started looking under my girl’s tails for tell-tale signs of heat a.k.a swollen, red vulva. I thought a good plan would be to look every day at milking time, so that I would know what “normal” was, and so that I could detect any changes and monitor them. This was a good plan, along with observing their general behavior everyday and noticing changes with that. When our young goats started coming into heat there was a difference in their play, and they sometimes would try to “mount” each other. Our mature doe is slightly more affectionate when she is in heat. I wrote down when I thought they were in heat. The next time I thought they were in heat, I checked the calendar. Was it 21 days? O.K. I was a little off. What I found out is that the red, swollen appearance can come about as sort of a pre-heat, and it can last several days after “standing heat” has passed.
Standing heat is the period of time when a doe is willing to “stand” for a buck
This is very important. Standing heat is also signified by a discharge from the vulva. It is clear and sticky. It is not constant, however, if it is present the hairs on the tail will be wettish, clumpy and slightly matted together. (like that scientific description?)
With this knowledge, I was able to calculate when my does would come into heat to the day. This is all so very important because, without a buck of our own, We had to take our Does to a “date” on another farm. We were fortunate in that Leslie at Turnback Creek Farm, 15 minutes from us was willing to service our does with her fine bucks. This is the farm where we originally bought our goats and Leslie has been a great help to us as new goat owners. The first time We was ready to take the girls it was in the middle of an ice storm, so we put it off another cycle and prayed they would come into heat again! The next time was in January- the day before ANOTHER ICE STORM! My Grandpa said his cows always went into labor in bad weather. Anyway, we took them to their perspective bucks, and . . . they didn’t like them. Nope. and Nope. We are trying to breed our Nubians to Pygmys for Kinders.
A Kinder is a relatively new breed, acknowledged by the ADGA.
they are a dual purpose breed that is good for milk and meat. They average 6.5% butterfat content!
The buck pen was within eyesight and our mature doe, Destiny actually tried to climb the fence to get into the buck pen, leaving the little guy behind! We moved her around the shed so she couldn’t see the others and she (unwillingly) let him get the job done. Sammy, the yearling, was only slightly less adamant about her disdain for the buck we had chosen for her.
Three weeks later, Destiny was in heat again! This is definitely a sign she is not pregnant. How? I don’t know. NOT because of my inexperience. Leslie is very experienced, and even she had said the buck had been successful. Three Times.
When a buck successfully mates a doe, it is said he has COVERED her.
This particular doe has been pregnant and given birth to healthy kids twice before, so she is able to get pregnant. We brought her back to the buck and she was even MORE adamant that this was not what she wanted. After over an hour of fervently trying, on our part as well as the buck. HE GAVE UP! A guy can only take so much rejection! This was even with us holding Destiny still for him, and yes, it took more than one person. She is strong, determined, and stubborn! Finally, tired, out of breath, and discouraged, we decided to choose a Nubian buck and the deed was done. Several times. Within 30 minutes! I am fairly sure that we will never get any Kinders out of Destiny.
When Destiny was with tall dark and handsome, I noticed something different. After a successful breeding, she hunched up her back end, similar to when she is eliminating. She had not done this before with short, dark, and handsome. Can a doe keep herself from becoming pregnant with a buck they do not desire? I don’t know. However, this leads us to question whether Sammy is pregnant, or was she just at the end of her heat cycles. Because, she did not do this when she was bred. We shall see this month, as goats often don’t “show” that they are pregnant until the last 2 months. If she is not, I fear our breeding-for-Kinders days are come to a halt. We do dearly love our Nubians though, so this won’t be a disaster 🙂
So, we wait. We are very certain Destiny is pregnant to kid near the end of June. Sammy, if she is pregnant will kid at the beginning of June. Our other yearling, Mini-Wheat, never came back into heat after December. But, I will be ready in August for another round of daily under-the-tail checks. This time, I have experience and knowledge! Here’s to success!
With a buck on the farm, all of this would be a lot simpler, as the doe would be trying to get to him, and would be vocalizing a lot more. When you put them together you would know for certain, as a buck will not attempt to breed a doe unless she is in heat.
What age to breed?
This is a pretty hot debate. Some very reputable breeders wait until the doe is at least a year old. Some, likewise reputable breeders, will breed a full-sized dairy goat at 8-9 months if they have reached 80 lbs. Pat Coleby, in his book Natural Goat Care purposes that we look at each animal individually for the decision. Fast, hearty growers should be bred early, and we should wait longer for those does needing more time to mature. He points out that when a doe is finished growing, but not pregnant, the demands on the body are so low that putting on too much weight is a problem and could cause infertility.
Take away points:
- When in heat a doe’s vulva becomes slightly red and swollen
- When in standing heat a doe will have a discharge. Even if you can’t see the discharge, you will notice a wetness of the tail
- In general, goats are seasonal breeders. The breeding season is fall, roughly August through December or January in the U.S.
- Goats go into heat every 21 days during the breeding season.
- The period of Standing Heat will only last 12-36 hours, longer in the first few months and generally shorter later on.
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