L.L.C.

G.A.T.G. ~ Breeding & Birthing

Goat's 101    Breeding & Birthing    Kid's Korner
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For your information

This page is for information in general on goats. Some if not most was information and lessons I have learned along the way. I have over ten years of working with goats, including a few years when I was a girl and since 2004 with my own herd. My intention with this page is to help you understand the basics of goats. Hopefully to help some folks understand that its like having any other pet or farm animal...... Take care of them & they'll love you and give you sooo.... much in return! Whether you get a goat as "just a pet" or for dairy use or raising them for meat. Maybe you are here because you seek to know a bit more about another animal. Great either way. I hope I can help to answer some myths, fibs or even help you in your quest if you are raising or thinking of raising goats. Please remember; I am not a vet. Nor will I pretend that I know all about goats! I myself am still learning and that's what makes it even more interesting! If the day should come where you know everything there is to know about the animals you keep, well, it becomes boring I guess. As for goat's they seem to always keep you guessing!

If you have any questions regarding goats, please email me.


Breeding

When deciding to increase your herd by breeding your does. The factor exists to use a buck from someone else that has one, or to keep a buck on your place. Having a buck is not for everyone. When considering this take into account some of these things;


The Buck.....

Keeping a Buck usually requires a separate pen. This way you don't get your does pregnant at unplanned intervals. Some does will come into heat as early as July, this means you would get December kids. Or they may come into heat in January or February then you would get June - July kids. These conditions(the weather) are not always ideal. Depending on your area. To hot or too cold can be hard on your does even risk losing her kids. Ideally, the best time to breed is in September or October, even as late as November. This will put your kids being born at spring time when the weather is warming.

When keeping a Buck, at a young age 4 to 6 months old he's still young enough to be cute and very easy to handle. As the buck gets older and is around does, especially if having bred them, he becomes a bit different. Bucks will start to have an odor that is VERY different than does. This mainly happens for 2 reasons. One factor being that they have musk glands on their head. Musk glands are a way for them to have a nice fragrance for the does to love at breeding time. Another factor is a habit of bucks to pee/urinate on themselves, especially the front legs & their nose. This may be odd or gross even, to say the least, but its the way they are. (If standing next to a buck you might want to watch yourself, so you don't get some on you!) When handling a buck that has his "odor" it might be a good idea to have a pair of gloves on that you may want to use for bucks only! Maybe some coveralls also. The smell doesn't wash out of clothes very well!

Bucks reach their height at about 2 yrs old. They will finish filling in with bulk for the next year or so. As in the neck & head. At age 4 a buck is usually at his peak size. The life span of a buck is about 8 years. When it gets close to breeding time, a buck can get very anxious. Especially if your does are in heat or come into heat and his pen is next to theirs. He might; pace the fence line, bristle up when you walk into his pen, threaten or even challenge you.  Some have been known to charge their owners. At this time I always keep in mind--Watch your back!

* We don't keep a buck if he is bad tempered! A mean buck is no use to me!


   Buck. 3 year old.

   Pictured-Silver, Saanan/Sable cross.


Does.....

Breeding does at what age..... This is really a preference to each owner! To start off with lets take into account a goats life span. Most does live up to about 9 to 10 years old. This has many variables ---- type of breed they are, how often they kidded, feed & care, even weather conditions they live in. So if you have a goat past 15 years of age it is probably slowing down or maybe not able to breed anymore. A dairy goat is considered old at the ripe age of 8 or 9 years!

Generally speaking if you are raising goats in a healthy way and they are growing good you can breed does at 5 to 6 months of age this puts them at 1 year old for their first kidding or you can wait and breed them at 1 1/2 years old, which then puts them kidding at 2 yr. old. Now the question may be; "Won't breeding them at a younger age stunt their growth?" No, not unless they were lacking in growth already (i.e., runt, poor background breed, or sickly). Most does will reach their size by age 2. By age 3 they have filled out and up all they are going to.


Gestation or pregnancy

Takes 5 months for goats or 146 days to 153 days. Some does will come into heat as early as July, This means you would get December kids. Or they may come into heat in January or February then you would get June - July kids. These conditions(weather) are not always ideal. Depending on your area. To hot or too cold can be hard on your does even risk losing her kids. Ideally, the best time to breed is in September or October, even as late as November. This will put your kids being born at spring time when the weather is warming. This is generally the time when most goat owners choose to breed their does.


What is heat cycle & how to tell

Heat cycle is when a doe is in estrus. This is the time when the egg is ready to be fertilized by a buck. This usually occurs naturally because of the shorter days & longer nights of fall. Nature has it this way so that it will put babies on the ground when grasses come up in the spring and food is more abundant. When a doe is in heat she will show indications by any or all of these; wagging her tail a lot, bleating a lot, pacing, riding other does or acting "buck like." If a buck is in a pen next to the doe she will "hang out" by his fence and he will talk to her, paw at the fence or even jump the fence! Heat cycles last about 36 hours. However, some does can show signs of heat for 1 week from start to finish. The actual estrus or time she will permit the buck to breed her is very short..... usually 24 hrs to 36 hours. Then she will go another 17 to 24 days before her next heat cycle.

*Keeping track on a calendar or in a notebook is very helpful to know your does. Young does may be harder to tell their heat cycle. Sometimes they may even have no signs or appear to come into heat 1 week then the next week. This is not uncommon. Just a bit harder to tell. If you have bred your doe with a buck. Then in another 17 to 24 days if she doesn't have another heat cycle, then she "took" her breeding.

*If you have a doe that keeps coming into heat and never takes a breeding then you might want to look into if she is the problem or is the buck infertile. In many cases the doe won't take a breeding because she may be too old. If that is not the case & the doe simply won't "take" and you know your buck is fertile, then the doe may be sterile.


How often to breed

Again this is a matter of preference. Usually with goats, once a year is enough. Especially if you are raising them for milking or just pets. Some folks will breed right after a doe kids to get another batch of kids on the ground, but this is usually done with meat goats or resale purposes. (And yes, some will come into heat right after kidding) It is advisable to let the doe wait until next breeding season to get her bred again. This way she has time for recovery & healing. Also it maintains her health better. If using your goats as a dairy herd & wanting better/longer lactation, then try staggering the breeding of your does. This way they don't all "freshen" at the same time.


   Doe, pregnant. 6 year old.

   Pictured-Pearl, our current herd leader.


How many kids will a doe have

The normal amount is 2. However, this varies from doe to doe. A doe could have any where from 1 - 4, and in some cases 6 (this is more apt with pygmy goat's). We've had does that will have 1 one year then 3 the next year, then 1 again and so on. We also have some does that will give twins every year or some that even the first kidding have birthed 3 (triplets! That was a surprise!). First timers don't normally have triplets. But her Momma always had triplets..... so it is somewhat genetic. However one of her half sisters only has twins every year.


Birthing

This is the exciting part of raising goats! Though a bit tense at the same time. I find myself making a gazillion trips out to the goats pen checking up on the girls to see if anyone has started labor! Is there any signs of labor going to start, did one of them kid while I was gone. I have their due dates wrote down, so it should be today, right? I'm very anxious to get the babies on the ground. I like being there when they kid. I've been doing this awhile and its still a wonder to me. One moment you're wondering what color its gonna be, a buck or doe, or how many. Then you find yourself smiling ear to ear when they first try talking to their momma.

You can find a video of one of our goats giving birth here. Please be aware the content contains bodily fluids, including blood.


Labor & Birthing

How to tell when your does is in labor. Hopefully you have gotten to know your doe before her due date. This will make it somewhat easier to tell if she is in labor. Each doe will handle labor & delivery a bit different. Just like women do. Some want to cuddle up to you, some pull away & don't want you near them. Some are yellers while others are extremely quiet. Indications of labor can be very subtle or very noticeable. One of the things I look for is udder fill. This is especially noticeable on does who have kidded before. Generally they will have some udder filling the last week of pregnancy but the udder will get very full and tight! This is a sure sign they are in labor. Though it may be a light labor. You can almost always expect to have babies within 12 - 24 hours at this point. Another sign may be a discharge. Though I have had does have a discharge for a month before off and on, if there is a lot of upsets in the herd.

Most does will pull from the rest of the herd and go off by themselves, usually to a quiet stall or corner. If standing back and watching your doe, try to see if she hunches her back, the tail will come up during a contraction or tilt to the side. She may stand up and lay down ALOT! Usually you don't need to assist the birth, so with this assumption..... what to expect!

First you will see a bubble of fluid, clear to amber colored. The doe will usually be doing a lot of pushing & may cry out some, or grunting. This first sack of fluid will break and she will most likely start licking at it. This is good actually. It helps her start better lactation as well as it gets her familiar with her own babies smell. Also in nature its a way to keep the smell down, from predators.

Now a larger bag of fluid will appear with the kid in it. A hoof will/should be visible, followed closely by another front hoof. To tell if its a front hoof the point of the hoof will be pointing upward. If it's a back hoof it will point down. Ideally frontwards is better, however goats can deliver kids backwards if labor is not too long. The nose will appear next laying on top of the legs. Sometimes the tongue will be out -- don't worry this is normal. The hardest part for the doe is delivering the head. She usually will rest for a moment after the head is out. At this point if the bag of waters has broken, if you want, you could clean off the nose with a clean towel/rag so the kid doesn't get too much mucus in its lungs. However if the bag of water has not broken then leave well enough alone. As the doe delivers the shoulders then the kid will slide out very easily at this point. Remember at any time of the delivery process the doe can or may get up and down a lot. Some stand to deliver some will lay the whole time others may get up and down at the darndest times, even with the kid hanging partly out. Once the baby is out you can help the doe clean her baby with a towel. She should lick it clean.

After all the kids are delivered. The doe will deliver the afterbirth. It's a blue pink color. (This is the sack that contained all the babies) This you can scoop up and throw out. It is harder for the doe to clean this up. You might want to stick around to make sure the new kids get to nurse within the first few hours. They absolutely NEED this colostrum milk. It's imperative for their immune system. You may have to help them find the teat, I usually start it for them. What I mean by this is, the teat will have a waxy cap like on it. So I give it a test squirt on each teat. This is usually a very thick & sticky yellowish color.

After a couple of hours you can spray iodine on the umbilical cord right up to the belly. This keeps germs down. Especially if they were delivered in a dirty area. We spray all our kids no matter. Even when they have been delivered in a fresh bed of straw. If at any point of delivery you think something is amiss..... call a friend that knows about kidding/lambing or call a vet.

Enjoy the new kids!


   Doe w/ newborns.

   Pictured-Precious (doe) with newborn triplets.


After Birthing

After kidding a doe will have bleeding for a few weeks.(3 to 6 weeks) This is normal. It's natures way of cleaning out her uterus. This actually helps keep infections from entering while her uterus shrinks back down and the cervix goes back to normal. This bleeding starts out bright red and then changes to a brownish red. Eventually stopping all together. Some times it will seem more pronounced or heavier when the doe gets up from laying. The amount of activity will also make it heavier. After about a month or so when it has stopped we usually take a pair of scissors and trim off the hardened blood wads from the does tail. If you plan on milking the doe at this time you can also take advantage of using clippers on her udder and trim around the teats, sides & back of the udder to make it easier to milk her without pulling hairs! We take this time to do a hoof trim too. (usually the doe gets so big in the last two months of pregnancy that we don't get them up on the stantion, so this is a good time to do a complete check on her! Then we end it with a good brushing.


Goat's Milk information

A bit of interesting facts about Goat's milk. Goat's milk is one of the easiest milks for humans to digest. Why? It's in the fat globules. Goat milk is naturally homogenized. In other words the fat globules are smaller in goat milk than in cows. In cows milk these fat globules cluster together, hence the homogenization process. In goat milk they are so small and don't cluster.

Are you "Lactose Intolerant"? Have you been drinking goats milk because of this or thinking about drinking it? All animal milks contain lactose (this is the milk sugar) Yet, some people can drink Goat's milk and supposedly be Lactose Intolerant..... so it has nothing to do with "Lactose intolerance". It's all on how our body can tolerate or process certain milks & their proteins. (My opinion)

For instance; Cows milk contains Alpha S1 casein proteins..... Human milk & Goat milk do not have this protein. This is the protein that usually causes a problem with most people.  It can not be digested easily, it usually sets in your stomach to ferment then causing problems, with symptoms such as; belly ache/pain, cramping sensation, gas or bloating.

Goats milk is digested in 20 min. where as cows milk can take up to nearly a full day!

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