To breed or not to breed

Kristeva's Kontemplation Korner.

Kristeva's Kontemplation Korner.

…and how, is the question. I came home today to Fatty-fat bleating away at me relentlessly. This was unusual because she is normally a very self-sustaining, quiet goat. Today, however, she was insistent and seemed so ‘needy’ that she convinced me I needed to go into the goat pen to see if anything was wrong; I ended up staying and cuddling with her for a while.

Within seconds Malcolm joined in the snuggle-fest; he’s not one to let such an opportunity go unattended. At first I thought she was wanting some scratching in places that horns just can’t reach, then Malcolm made me think twice: he fake mounted her. I went over to my bench to contemplate. Then it occurred to me that Fatty-fat might be in heat–but I’m not sure how to tell. I think her vulva might be a bit more pink than normal, but then I can’t say for certain … I’ve not spent a lot of time considering that end of my goats!

I’ve been wanting to breed my goats for a long time, but I knew I had to work up the courage to kill the kids before I committed myself (and them). After this year’s hunt, and the butchering experience of various animals I’ve had this summer and fall, I now feel as ready as I ever will be. So I’ve located a willing buck, and plan to bring him to the farm tomorrow. I’m worried about how it will go with the two wethers, Gordon and Malcolm. I don’t know if they will fight with the buck or not, but it is certainly a concern to the uninitiated.

Any advice as to what to look for, what to avoid, or what is ideal, would be appreciated.



Filed under Animal issues, Goats, Learning to Farm

9 responses to “To breed or not to breed

  1. No advice, cause I don’t own goats or sheep, but I will wish you the best of luck.

    Ask the owner of the buck what his/her opinion of keeping the wethers in the pen are. I suspect “no” since they are so attached to Fatty-Fat. 🙂

  2. MMP

    I am not great about spotting heats, but here is what I have. Noisier than usual is a good sign. The braying may be a little more insistant also. Her vulva might be swollen. She will also probably wag her tail a lot. It’ll be going like a little helicopter rotor. Some people also say she might be calling in a particular direction, potentially towards a distant buck. I haven’t seen that one.

    Heats come in a 21 day cycle, 3 days long. The easiest thing is to spot the heat early, then be prepared for the next one when it comes. I generally take my does to someone else’s buck, so knowing when the heat will be is important. Or you can do like you are doing, host a buck.

    I ended up hosting a buck this fall. I had a doe I wanted pregnant but it’s her first season and I was having a hard time spotting the heats. The woman whose bucks I use let me borrow a buck from this spring. It isn’t my first choice, I don’t like bringing animals onto our farm, but I wanted the doe bred.

    I keep a wether for the express purpose of when I need a companion for a loan goat. I imagine you know that since goats are herd animals, they get into trouble when they are left alone. So having a wether to put with a visiting buck or a doe that needs to be secluded can be handy. I kept my visiting buck with my wether and had no trouble. Granted, they were both kids from this spring, so not a lot of trouble was to be expected anyway. But keeping a wether with a buck is a common practice.

    This is my post about borrowing a buck

  3. MMP

    At my blog, you left this comment-
    ” When you say, ‘they can leave more than a kid behind’, what do you mean? (Please don’t make me regret asking!)”

    The other stuff they might leave behind are parasites or disease. When you host a buck, they will leave their poops behind with whatever parasite eggs and nymphs. I would also be concerned about any communicable diseases. Johnes, CL, Sour Mouth and Pink Eye are some. Unfortunately, there are lots.

    Taking your doe to the buck is actually less of an exposure. I do mine as a “drive way” breeding. That means on the day of a strong heat, I drive the doe over the buck. And litterally in the driveway, we introduce the buck and the doe. If she is receptive and he is in rut, it takes about five minutes. My doe doesn’t enter their pens and it minimizes everyone’s exposure.

    It’s not uncommon to board a buck or doe for breeding. It’s not my preference, but there are good reasons for it. If you end up hosting the buck, do whatever you can to limit the exposure. Ask the donor farm about health history, do they test for anything or vaccinate? Check over the animal before you bring him home. Try to keep the time period short. Use facilities for the buck that you can disinfect, leave fallow, etc. Anything else you can think of to limit your exposure.

  4. I echo what MMP says, and with cows the other cattle will mount (both males and females)so you can tell someone is in heat even if the signs may not be obvious to the human. When the animal stands for mounting that is a standing heat and they are ready for service. Good Luck!

  5. Jo

    I have no experience with goats but my pigs have taught me that introductions, even of the loving kind, lead to arguments that are not pleasant to watch. When he arrives, put them together and leave them to it.

  6. LittleFfarm Dairy

    MMP is absolutely spot-on:

    sound advice ref minimising exposure & ensuring you can clean up thoroughly after the visiting male; & it echoes the advice I gave you in answer to your questions, on my Blog.

    Of the 50-or-so British Toggenburg goats we have on the Ffarm, we have the luxury of owning three pedigree Stud Males: one we bred ourselves & two others carefully selected from other pedigree herds to improve the bloodlines (& hopefully the qualilty, robustness & of course milk yields) of our future progeny.

    Each chap is of the highest herd health status, CAE-tested & Scrapie monitored; fully Heptavac/BTV8 vaccinated – the same as all our goats, of course. Owing to this we neither loan the goats out nor allow people to bring females here, to be served; as you can imagine for us it just isn’t worth the risk of introducing any ‘nasties’ onto the Ffarm. And if a male caught something it could be potentially disastrous – he could himself become impotent or could transmit the disease to the other goats & their offspring. So it’s worth being extremely careful!

    During the quiet season the two junior boys share a pen (they were both 2008 kids); only one has been used for breeding so far & they’re great chums. When the season begins again they will work with their respective groups of young ladies – hence won’t get into any testosterone-fuelled arguments.

    Our senior boy, Merson, shares a pen with a wether & a barren female. They’re all large goats & do not tend to challenge one another so the arrangement works well. All the boys are in the same building (in adjacent pens) with half-height solid walls to double mesh above so that all five goats can be sociable & see one another; but cannot get into a fight.

    Do you have the facilities to segregate your female & simply keep her permanently with the visiting stud, rather than all four goats having to shack up together? If she’s in season you shouldn’t have any rows between her & the visitor, & it minimises the chance of battles with the others.

    Before you bring the male home, spend some time getting acquainted with him & ensure you can handle him easily. As I mentioned males can be very ‘fired up’ during the breeding season & you need to make sure you can manage him safely. Also, you don’t want to risk breeding bad temperament into any kids you keep….!

    As Fatty-Fat appears to already be in season you might have ‘missed the boat’ for this month. If so it might be worth returning the male for a few weeks & then bringing him back just before she is due her next cycle. Again, that way you are minimising exposure to your goats & reducing the risk of introducing any unwanted parasites or diseases etc.

    There are a couple of great videos I’d highly recommend, if you can get them (& I’m sure they must now be available on DVD – but check compatability before ordering!). Both by the famous Hilary Matthews, they are entitled respectively ‘Goat Husbandry & Health’ (ISBN 1-903366-53-4) & ‘Goat Breeding & Kid Rearing’ (ISBN 1-903366-52-6). They’re absolutely brilliant & we still regularly dip into them for a refresher (especially about now, when the kids are soon due!); I’m sure you’d find them on Amazon. And MacKenzie’s book is still very much considered to be the goat keepers’ “Bible”.

    If you have any female kids, are you intending to keep them so you can continue the line? If it’s a question of space perhaps Gordon or Malcolm could end up in the pot instead….hope that doesn’t sound harsh but you were talking of eating the results!

  7. Thanks Everyone for the sound advice!

    Jo– Malcolm is not mine to eat! (but I’m going to have a talk with the owner about space and the like), and Gordon, well I was noticing lately that he has put on some good weight…I think I’m working up to the idea of ‘offing’ Gordon. Ugh, that is hard to say. He’s kind of become synonymous along with Pavarotti and Mrs. Mallard, with Howling Duck Ranch.

    Also, I was thinking the kids also because (I presumed) they would be more tender than Gordon, he’s now 4 years old. He’d be a bit tough, no?

    Thanks for the video and book advice! MacKenzie’s book? Does it have a name?

  8. LittleFfarm Dairy

    ‘Goat Husbandry’ by David Mackenzie (ISBN 0-571-16595-8).

    As for the question of ‘Tough Gordon’ I suppose it’s much like mutton: if the meat is cooked long & slow enough it should be tender & flavourful. Having personally never eaten one of that age I wouldn’t know – but I’ll see if I can find out for you.

    Sorry, I didn’t realise Malcolm was a ‘guest’ (we have five similar, here – one of which is an enormous wether who is eating us out of house & home! Grrrr….).

  9. dowhatyoulove

    Well if you do get her bred, I hope you enjoy the experience. Having little ones around the farm is always an enjoyable experience. Sounds like your farm opperations are going pretty well. Winter is always a bit tough, but hopefully spring shows up soon, and the freshness of the season brings joy and life to you and your creatures!

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