Are you ready to breed your goats? Learn all you need to know about breeding goats to help you keep your goats healthy and breed successfully!
On our farm we have chickens, ducks, goats and a cow. Hands-down the chickens are a favorite of the kids, but the goats are my soft-spot. I love their personalities and all their little stubborn quirks.
Around August each year-when summer is starting to wind down and fall is in sight- things start to get a little interesting in the goat pasture. The does start coming into heat and the bucks go into rut and we start keeping an extra special eye on them so that we don’t have any surprises come winter and spring.
Goats will breed easily and readily if left alone, but here are some of the most important things to be aware of when it comes to breeding goats.
The Ultimate Guide to Breeding Goats
When you’re just beginning to raise and breed goats it can feel a little overwhelming. But just remember breeding goats is a natural thing, so all you need is a little information and knowledge to help you breed your goats at just the right time for you and your farm.
Here are some answers to the top goat breeding questions to help you better understand how to breed goats.
When Is Goat Breeding Season
There are 2 types of goats when it comes to breeding. Seasonal and Year round. Most dairy goats are seasonal breeders.
When it comes to goat breeding one of the first things you need to know is which type of goat you have.
Most “Alpine” breeds of goat will only breed during their breeding season. This is usually between the months of August and December. These breeds include most of your large dairy goats such as LaMancha, Saanen, Alpine, Oberhasli and Nubians.
Sometimes Nubians can be forced into year-round breeding, but that is unpredictable. Your miniature breeds such as Pygmy and Nigerian Dwarf, as well as meat breeds, like Boer, will breed year round.
When you are planning for your kids and milking, keep in mind this goat breeding season time restraint.
How Old/Big Should a Goat Be Before Breeding
When it comes to breeding, it’s not so much age as it is size. Most of your standard sized dairy goats will need to make the weight of about 80 lbs before they are bred. A healthy, well-fed doe should make this weight by about 8 months. Some people like to wait until they are about 1 1/2 years old before breeding, but it isn’t necessary if the goat is over 80 lbs.
I have seen no reduction in growth between breeding 8 month old does and 1 1/2 year old goats.
Nubians particularly are known for being a little on the slower size when it comes to growth. We often have does that don’t make weight in their first year, so they aren’t bred until they are closer to 1 1/2 year old.
Be sure you have a reliable way to weigh your goats to make sure they are a good weight before breeding. We don’t have a livestock scale and for years we’ve made do with our bathroom scale. My husband just weighed himself and then picks up the goat and weighs himself again. A goat weigh tape is another good option that is very accurate- and is actually on my list of must haves for goat owners.
Start keeping an eye on weight in August so that you can give additional nutritional support to any does that need it so that they can make weight before the season ends.
Note: If you are breeding Nigerian Dwarf goats, or other miniature breeds, they will obviously have a lower weight to reach before breeding. For example, Nigerian Dwarfs should be about 40 lbs before breeding.
Related Reading: 10 Medications No Goat Owner Should Be Without
How Often Do Goats Go Into Heat?
A doe’s heat cycle is every 18-21 days
A goat buck will be it rut almost 100% of time throughout the entire breeding season.
Starting in August your doe should start coming into heat every 18-21 days. Depending on the doe, she will stay in heat anywhere from a few hours to a couple days.
How do you know your goat is in hear? Here are some signs to look for:
- Tail flagging
- Clumped/Wet hair on the side of her tail
- Mucous discharge
- Swollen rear end
- Yelling (more than usual)
- Most obviously- interest in your buck or a “buck rag”
If you have a buck on site, you should be able to easily tell when your does are in heat. On our farm if the doe is not in heat, she hates the buck and runs away from his advances. If she’s in heat, she is the one making the advances and will stand for anything the buck does.
How to Breed Goats: Dating vs Living in
When it comes to the actual breeding process you have a couple choices. You can take your doe and buck on “dates” or you can house them in the same pasture for a set period. There are pros and cons to both sides, but some things to consider are:
- Dates will give you much more control over the due dates and assurance that the deed did get done
- Sharing a pasture will reduce the risk that you miss the breeding window by not seeing the signs of heat soon enough
- Some does won’t stand for a buck without help. In this instance, taking her on a lead to the buck will force the breeding to occur
- I’ve had a doe that showed ZERO signs of heat- unless the buck was present. By pasturing them together I could ensure that she was bred.
What is the Gestation Period for a Goat?
When you are planning your breeding keep in mind that the gestation period is 145-155 days. The average is 150 days or about 5 months, for your standard sized breeds. If you live in a cold climate with harsh winters you probably will not want your kids being born in a snowy and cold January- which means don’t breed your doe in August!
I like my kids all born sort of close so that they grow up together and in case of a single birth the lonely kid will have other kids to play and sleep with, so I don’t stagger my breedings very much. But many people prefer to stagger so they have a good supply of milk all year long.
When you notice your doe in heat, write it down in your goat management binder, then calculate the possible due date and jot that down as well (Here is the link to a goat due date calculator). As long as she doesn’t come into heat again, you can use this approximate due date to plan her prenatal care.
Do You Need to Own a Buck?
If you have just one or 2 goats you may opt not to keep a buck on hand. But if you plan on breeding many does or there is not a suitable stud to rent in the area you will most likely end up with a buck on the premises.
And here’s the thing about bucks- or at least a buck in rut- They stink. Let me say that again: Bucks STINK! Seriously. Young bucks aren’t so bad, but the smell ripens with age.
Once breeding season hits and your does go into heat and your buck goes into rut they will start some rather amusing, and unsavory, behavior. Such as:
- Urinating. I know, that doesn’t sound so bad. But they pee on their faces, on the back of their legs, in their mouth….It’s rather amazing the reach they can achieve. Eventually their faces and legs will be covered. Good thing that the does find this irresistible.
- Blubbering, tongue flapping and lip raising. All these behaviors happen towards the does. Very amusing to watch his mating rituals!
- Aggression. Bucks will be more aggressive when they are in rut. If you have more than one buck take special care when there are does around so that they don’t end up fighting. Also never turn your back on a buck in rut- even one you may have raised from a bottle. Even if they are not meaning to they can potentially hurt you- especially if they decide to “practice” on you
I find our bucks some of the sweetest of our goats. But when they are in rut, I feed them last and have a special coat I wear over my clothes to help minimize the smell contamination.
Related Reading: Raising Bucks in Rut
How to Care for Goats During Breeding Season
During breeding seasons your goats will need extra nutrition to support the stresses on their bodies. Heat, rut, and pregnancy takes its toll on their bodies, so be sure to support them with extra grain, high quality hay and lots of forage.
Your bucks in rut and your does will need about 1 lb of grain a day. I give hay depending on the amount of forage- if it is rich and plentiful, I do not give much hay. If they are on a dry lot or small pasture, they will need more supplemental hay. I also add black oil sunflower seeds to all of our goat’s feed.
In addition to their grain and hay, goat breeding season is also a good time to make sure they are not deficient in any vitamins and minerals. We keep loose minerals out free choice for our goats, but if you live in an area that has deficient soil you may also have to give the following supplements:
- Copper– prevents kids being born with copper deficiency and gives your goats a stronger appetite and a healthier growth rate
- Selenium/Vitamin E– this prevents white muscle disease in kids and can increase fertility. Learn more about BoSe and how to give it to your goats.
- Nutridrench– All-purpose vitamin for any goat that may need a little extra nutrition
You should also keep a close eye on your goat’s health during breeding season. Keep an eye out for things like anemia or parasites so you can deal with the situation and make sure your goats are in the best shape to support a pregnancy.
If you need help keeping track of all of this, check out my Busy Homesteader’s Goat Management Binder! It has a Breeding and Pregnancy Checklist, a Newborn Checklist and to-do lists to make sure you don’t forget anything!
Line Breeding vs. Inbreeding
When it comes to breeding, you want to make sure your keep a variety of genetics in your herd. There’s a saying something along the lines of: It’s called line-breeding if it works, in-breeding if it doesn’t. And that pretty much sums up the topic in a very simple way.
The buck is actually a very important part of the breeding process. He is the easiest way to add in good genetic traits to your herd. When it comes to line-breeding there is no set rules such as breeding daughter and grandfather, except never breed full brothers and sisters. Mother bred to son isn’t usually a great ideas either. Occasionally you can breed father/daughter but it’s not ideal.
Line-breeding goats will accentuate the good qualities- and the bad. If your buck has any negative traits (aggression, mother had low milk production,etc) those traits will be accentuated in his offspring if they are a product of line-breeding. But on the other side- good qualities will also be accentuated, which can be a very big plus.
The best way to get around this is to only keep or breed high quality bucks and if you keep your own bucks keep at least 2 on hand for the purpose of genetic diversity in your breeding program.
Related Reading: Kidding Kit- Everything You Need to Be Prepared for Kidding
And there is your run down on breeding goats. It’s an exciting time of year with all the promise of next year’s kidding season! Are you a seasoned breeder or just getting started- leave a comment with your experiences or questions!