Last Friday I loaded both of my goats into the back of my little Sentra and drove 40 minutes to a friend’s farm (we’ll just call this friend Sal).
Waiting there was a buck named Jack from a farm 4 hours away. He is visiting for a month to service Sal’s does and his owner has granted permission for Jack to breed my two does as well.
Goat breeding has been one of the most unnerving tasks for me on the farm as of yet. Timing. Is. Everything! I had to make sure the does were in heat and get them over to see Jack pronto, which was made difficult with snow storms that were sweeping through the province.
I was also slightly nervous about driving them in my car. When we first brought them home as kids they rode in a dog crate in the back of my mom’s truck. As luck would have it they both went into heat during the week when there was no one around but me and my silly little economy car to drive them to their love shack.
Luckily they both rode amazingly well in the car. I put a blanket down on the back seat and loaded them in. Both my girls walk very well on leashes so it was nothing to get them into the car (especially since the snow was so deep I couldn’t get the car anywhere near the gate to the barn yard so I had to walk both goats out on a leash.). They laid in the back and just rode along. No crying, or trouble making or chewing my hair. And I felt kind of awesome driving two goats.
Hey random person out walking on this sunny morning, I’ve got two goats in my car! Bet you ain’t never seen that!
I left the girls with Jack for 24 hours. They were romancing and the girls were playing hard to get when I left them. There is only a small window of time when the goats will actually stand for the buck, and until that time it’s all a bunch of tongue wagging ( a buck’s way of saying Hey baby), chasing, and blubbering.
I was a bit nervous the whole day, and especially at night when I went out to do my barnyard chores and there were no goats out there to greet me. The hens really seemed to enjoy the break from the goats, but I sure did miss them. I was comforted by the fact that Jack was a true gentleman and took his time to woo them before making his move…if ya know what I’m sayin’. But the fact that they weren’t out there in my yard, in their safe little shelter, and were in a strange barn with a strange boy made me feel sad. I wasn’t sure if I was proud or horrified about what they were there to do.
Now it’s a waiting game. We are patiently (well sort of) waiting until their next heat is due to see if they need to go back for another date or not. Lord willing both does are pregnant and we will have kids in the spring. As it stands right now Wednesday April 15th, 2015 is their due date.
Here’s a few tips I picked up and or learned the hard way to make goat breeding and getting ready for kids a little bit easier.
1. Nigerian Dwarf goats, unlike other dairy breeds, go into heat all year round starting at 4 months old.
This means that you have a little more choice as to when the kids will arrive. We bred our girls last week, which means that if all went well we should have babies come April. This will ensure that the weather is warmer (meaning the kids are more likely to survive. In Canada it gets pretty darn cold at night), and I *hopefully* won’t be trudging out to the barn at 3 am in the middle of a blizzard.
2. We bred our does at 8 and 7 months old.
There is tons of debate over this among goat people and both sides have very good reasoning. As long as the doe is 40 pounds (80 for a standard sized goat), and is around the 8 month old mark there shouldn’t be any problems. This is completely your decision though and you are the best judge of your goats. I felt that mine were able to handle being mothers, both are healthy, very active, and the recommended size.
3. Goats will either be really telling when they are in heat or not give you any signs at all.
Phoebe is really obvious when she is in heat, but Sophie likes to keep me guessing. Signs of heat are: tail wagging, head butting more than usual, loud or calling especially if there are bucks nearby, can be more affectionate and moody – doesn’t want you to leave her, discharge, swollen or red/pink vulva, mounting other does or letting other does mount her.
4. Females that live together usually have heat cycles that will be close or line up.
This makes taking them to a buck easier on everyone when they can go together.
5. If you only have a couple of does like we do, it might be better to just rent a buck.
This can save you a lot of money if you use a good quality buck. The fee to stud him is way less than the fee to buy him, plus you don’t have to worry about the added expenses of housing him and feeding him when he is not “in use”.
6. Keep track of your goats heat cycles.
I just put a mark on the calendar when they go into heat. This helped me guess when Sophie was due as most times she has a silent heat. This also lets me know when to expect their next heat, and will give me an idea if they are pregnant or not. A goat’s cycle can run anywhere from 18 – 28 days long, with a heat lasting anywhere from 6 hours to 3 days. My does run at the 17-18 days mark with a heat lasting about 2 days (usually the first day is “going into” heat and the second day is the actual raging heat).
7. Be sure to know the breeding date of your goats.
While it seems easier to just put a buck in with the does for a month and let him do his thing, this makes it very hard to determine when the doe is actually due to kid. Being prepared for kids means less chance of you losing either kids or your doe as you will know when to expect them. It also means you will have time to make necessary arrangements with a vet (should something go wrong), getting a kidding stall prepared (other does may attack or kill kids, a kidding stall will provide a nice safe and clean environment for the kids to be born in), and trim your finger nails…you know in case you gotta get in there to help Mama.
8. Goats are ninja’s when it comes to pregnancy.
They like to keep you guessing. Both of my does went into “heat” again when they came home (excessive tail wagging, bellowing, and mounting each other. Even Sophie my quiet heat gal was raging away out there). Sal warned me of this (thankfully or else that would have been another panic attack). She said it was likely hormones, and while anything can go wrong or change with a pregnancy (especially this early on), this was a good indicator that their hormones where changing meaning a possible pregnancy. We will see what happens when they are actually due to come into heat again but for now we’re keeping our fingers crossed and praying like mad.
And thus concludes our first attempt at goat breeding. We are beyond excited and nervous. Jack is only around for one more heat cycle, but Lord willing his services for us are done. Please pray for pregnant goats!