Goat breeding. I’m sure you’re wondering why anybody would need to know how to breed a goat.
Well, if you’re anything like me, and you’ve successfully convinced your husband to start a small farm, and that farm includes goats, which means you’ll have to breed goats so you can start milking those goats, and you officially become the weird one in your family who milks goats and actually drinks goats milk…..
Well, you’ve come to the right place, my friend!
In case you didn’t know, goats need to breed & have babies before they can produce milk.
Yes, I’m sorry to say, you can’t just buy a goat and start tugging. I know. Such a bummer. In order for their lactation to start up (often called freshening), you’ve got to get that female goat (often called a doe) of yours a boyfriend to whisper sweet nothings in her ear.
Some facts about goat breeding cycles:
- Male goats can breed as young as 7 weeks old. This doesn’t mean that they should be bred, but it’s definitely possible for him to get his sister and mother pregnant, so it’s important to remove bucks from females at 7 weeks old! Males that you want to be more friendly, sterile companions can be banded easily with these.
- Male goats (called bucks) can breed pretty much any time. They are ready to go 24-7, except in extreme weather conditions. They won’t breed, however, just for fun. They’ll only breed when they can smell that the female is in “heat”.
- Bucks can go into a “rut” which basically means they get a surge of hormones and ready to breed before a doe is ready. Sometimes just them going into “rut” will make the females go into heat. During rut, bucks will show wild dominance and do some crazy hilarious things like snort, spit, urinate on themselves to make themselves more smelly, and even drink their urine. Yum.
- Female goats (called does) go into heat every 21 days and lasts about 1-3 days. Some breeds, like Nigerians, Boers, Spanish & Fainting, Pygmies and (sometimes) Nubians can breed year round. Most other dairy breeds are seasonal breeders, which means they will only go into heat every 21 days in the Fall from about August to January.
- Full-size dairy goats can be bred when they reach 8 months (or 80 lbs.) I usually shoot for around 1 year old before breeding on all my goats (large or small breed).
- Signs of heat can be wagging the tail, mounting other does, letting other does mount her, fighting, clear (wet or dried) mucosal discharge from her vagina, or yelling (bleating) for no reason.
- The goat gestation period is 5 months (roughly 150 days – give or take a few).
- Goats can have anywhere from 1-5 kids in a litter. The average is 2-3. Pretty amazing, huh?
- Most people breed their goats once a year to maintain their milk supply.
- You can still milk a doe while she is pregnant, although it is wise to let her dry up about 2 months before she is set to deliver so her body can rest and build up nutritional reserves for the babies.
- A doe can produce babies for as long as she lives, which is typically around 10-12 years, although there can be more complications as they get older.
- A doe can DEFINITELY get pregnant while she is lactating.
Doing the actual Deed (goat breeding style):
The good news is that goats don’t need training or to be given “the talk” prior to breeding. They have a natural instinct to breed, and they’re pretty fast at at it.
Once you put the buck and doe in heat together, the buck will act interested instantly and being pawing and stomping. If she urinates, he’ll probably put his face in the stream. Yeah, a little gross, I know. The doe will wag her tail and stand still when the buck tries to mount her, although goats do like a little foreplay and may run around together for a while first. In my experience, goats like to breed at night. So while they’ll run around and act interested at first, they may wait till the evening to finally do the deed.
The sex lasts only seconds, and it can be really easy to miss. Most goat owners like to know for sure if their goats were bred, but it can be a pain to stay up all night trying to watch for that special moment. Instead, most owners just check the back end of their doe in the morning. You can tell there’s been a successful breeding if there’s a milky white liquid coming from her vagina. Trust me, it’s really easy to spot.
Problems with Goat Breeding:
In rare cases, even when a doe seems to be in heat, she may refuse to breed and not enjoy her special date. Sometimes you can put her in with the buck and she’ll eventually get used to him, and other times she’ll run away from him no matter what. This can happen in a young doe who is inexperienced or in an older doe who is placed with a young buck who is inexperienced and “not smelly” enough for her preferences.
In cases like this, I like to put the doe and buck in a smaller, more confined area so it’s harder for her to run away.
What about Goat Inbreeding?
We’ve had our fair share of accidental breeding here on the farm, but when doing it purposefully, do so with caution. Fiasco Farms explains it well:
Line breeding (breeding closely related animals) can quickly improve a herd because the good qualities of the animals get accentuated. BUT the bad qualities are also accentuated. Because of this, you have to think about what you are doing, look at the animals and use your head. You can’t just simply go by some arbitrary “rule” like “it’s OK be breed grandfather to granddaughter”, but look at the individual goats and decide if their particular good traits out weigh the bad traits.
Since we only keep very good bucks, we do not worry that much about “bad” traits, since if our buck had discernible bad traits, we wouldn’t use him for breeding purposes. We do do a lot of Line-breeding with our herd.
The only hard and fast rule that I know of is do not breed a full brother and full sister. In some circumstances, it is ok to breed father to daughter, but we hardly ever do that. We much prefer to breed grandfather to granddaughter, uncles to niece, etc. (source)
How to tell if a Goat is Pregnant:
Because goats have a natural fermenting rumen and large belly, they always “look pregnant”. An ultrasound can be done 30 days post breeding and a blood test can be done 60 days post breeding. If you want to go off of looks, you won’t be able to notice a larger belly than normal until about 70-90 days, and sometimes even later. Experienced goat breeders can usually tell when their goats are pregnant, but if you’re new to the goat world, I’d suggest doing a blood test or ultrasound to be sure:) We use a local woman who has a small portable ultrasound machine and can do it at our home.
Want to see how we breed our goats? Watch our YouTube videos below