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The traditional goat breeding season in the U.S. is between late August and the early part of January, according to Angela McKenzie-Jakes, extension animal science specialist at Florida A&M University. At this time of year, buck goats are getting smelly, and their does are looking hopeful. But it takes planning to produce a bountiful crop of bouncing baby goats. Here are some things to consider.
1. Look to Nutrition
Goat breeding stock should be neither fat nor thin. While quality forage and free-choice minerals are sufficient for goats on maintenance rations, they need more energy in their diets as rut approaches. Many folks “flush” does by switching to legume hay and introducing 1/2 to 1 pound of 12 percent protein grain mix three or four weeks before breeding season begins; this helps boost ovulation rates and results in more kids. Meanwhile, bucks often forget to eat during rut, so they need to be plump but not grossly overweight as breeding begins.
2. Add Selenium, if Needed
Insufficient selenium in goats’ diets is associated with low conception rates, retained placentas and weak kids. It also has a positive effect on male fertility. If you live in a selenium-deficient part of the country, such as portions of the Northeast, the selenium in goat-specific minerals is inadequate. If you aren’t sure, check with your county extension agent or large animal veterinarian. Selenium granules added to grain, oral pastes or BO-SE selenium-vitamin E injectables all fit the bill.
3. Copper Counts
Prior to goat breeding is a good time to boost your animals’ copper levels if it’s needed. Bucks, especially, need plenty of copper in their diets to do their job. Goats with fish tails (a ‘Y’ in the hair at the end of their tails), coarse hair or dark coats with a brassy overtone probably need copper. Introducing a mineral mix that contains more copper can help, but bolusing them with copper oxide particles goes right to the heart of the problem.
4. Check Hooves
Trim hooves and check for abnormalities at least three weeks prior to the onset of breeding season so that if problems arise, such as accidentally trimming a hoof too closely, they have time to resolve before breeding begins.
5. Zap Parasites
Within that same time frame, check your goats for external parasites such as lice or mites and apply products to eradicate them. Have fecal exams run to determine internal parasite loads, or examine each goat’s eye membranes using the FAMANCHA method (a diagnostic chart to identify parasite infection in small ruminants that matches eyelid color to anemia levels, an indicator of parasite infection) and deworm as necessary.
6. See to the Bucks
Make sure bucks’ fences and housing are secure and in good repair because once breeding season begins, they’ll do their level best to get out and breed the ladies. If you have several bucks housed as a group you might have to separate them as rut approaches and interfighting begins, especially if some are considerably larger or more aggressive than others.
7. If You Don’t Have a Buck, Find One
Don’t wait until the last minute to find a buck that complements your doe. The buck should be better than your doe, not a compromise just to get her bred. If you breed registered goats, look to the buck’s pedigree as well as the goat himself. Choose a strong, healthy buck with excellent conformation and an easygoing temperament. Ask to see his mother or pictures of her udder; that’s the type of mammary system he’ll pass on to his daughters.
When you find a buck you like, make arrangements for your doe to be bred. Get everything in writing to prevent misunderstandings later on.
8. Consider A.I.
If you can’t find a buck you like, investigate artificial insemination. It’s a way to breed your does to the best of the best, and it’s no more difficult that arranging for a live breeding at another farm.
This story originally appeared in the September/October 2018 issue of Hobby Farms magazine.