Goat Breeding Season
As the days shorten from late August through late December, the days shorten in length and temperatures begin to cool. At this time of year, the goat begins to think of mating. Some breeds are seasonal breeders who will only mate in the fall. Nigerian Dwarf Goats go into heat year round, about every 21-28 days. While Nigerian Dwarf goats may be bred and conceive year round, their interest definitely peaks at this time of year. Breading for spring babies is favorable, as the weather is much more forgiving for the new little ones.
The female (doe) indicates her interest in breeding by “flagging” or wagging her tail very rapidly. The males (bucks) are very quick to notice this behavior and respond by urinating on their face, beard and front legs. The resulting odor (your might call it his own personal brand of Ralph Lauren Polo or Gucchi) helps to attract the female. It is this specific behavior and musk glands that gives a male goat the characteristic “bucky odor”. Unfortunately this gives all goats an undeserved reputation as stinky animals, when in reality, it is only the breeding buck that propagates the odor.
When the female in heat and male are placed together, she will squat and urinate. The male will stick his nose directly into the urine stream. He will then raise his head and curl his upper lip to detect the pheromones. This tells him the doe is ready for goat breeding. He’ll follow her around the pen, making raucous noises, pawing at the doe with one of his front legs, rubs his head along her side flapping his lips, tongue displayed and snorting with all the masculinity and grandiosity he can muster. Don’t blink or you’ll miss the show. Goat mating is quick work.
Some farms will “run” a buck with their herd of does to allow free-range mating. But for our farm, we need to know who has been bred to whom. We are in pursuit of excellent udders and top quality milk production.
So we choose who can canoodle with who, based on structure and genetics. (Yes, I know, that makes us goat pimps). We have learned that some goats have their preference for a mating partner. Ebony is a lovely young doe that we have been anxious to breed to Epic. But in no uncertain terms, she HATES him. Ebony will be in the throes of heat and will still aggressively fend off Epic’s affections with angry groans and heat butting. If all else fails, she runs. When presented with a different buck, Ebony pushes against him, rubs his neck, and making soft come hither goat noises, more than willing to stand for him. Freddie was less than pleased when we removed him to another stall before a breeding could take place. Poor guy. Bucks compete for everything in life including food, shelter and the right to breed.
At this time of year, bucks compete aggressively for the females as mating hormones enter the brain. Nutrition is of critical importance prior to breeding season as the male will lose weight and condition very quickly by daily sparring with male herd mates. At most other times of the year, our bucks are quiet, friendly, sweet gentleman who we enjoy owning.
Goat Breeding season is a lot of work, evaluating does, determining pairings, recording breeding, monitoring health and confirming pregnancies with blood tests. But in the spring, it is all worth it with the arrival of baby goats. The excitement in the barn is palpable as kidding season nears. It is a great feeling to deliver a healthy babies and watch them bouncing around the barn a few hours later.