♫ It’s the most wonderful time of the year. ♪
Kidding time! For many goat owners, they don’t know exactly what to expect when their goat is expecting. We’re going to quickly start at hey, I think I’m ready to get my doe bred and end with the big day. This is not an intensive, detailed, blow-by-blow post but I will be linking to lots of amazing posts that will give you all that good stuff. I just want to let you know what you’re going to be looking for/dealing with throughout the breeding and goat gestation process.
To get started, you’ll need a buck. If you don’t have your own, you’ll need to find someone who offers stud service. Remember, when you choose a buck to service your does, keep this in mind – it costs just as much to maintain and raise a poor quality goat as it does a high quality goat. If your does are registered you should focus on finding a registered buck of good lines.
If you have a buck on the premises, the process is pretty simple. Boy meets girl. He woos her with tongue flapping and bizarre sounds. It’s a real fairy tale. If you are using a stud service you will most likely be bringing your doe to him. The problem is figuring out when to bring her to him. For that we use a buck rag. This is basically an old piece of cloth or towel that has been rubbed all over a buck in rut and covered in his smell. Let me deviate for a moment to tell you a story with a moral…
So I visited Feather & Scale Farm because I suspected one of my does was in heat. While I was there we rubbed an old towel on one of the bucks. We kept smelling the towel to see if it was sufficiently stinky, but when you’ve been in a barn with bucks for any length of time I guess your olfactory senses just give up. All we could smell was laundry detergent. I hoped it was good enough and dropped it in the front seat of my car on top of my fabric purse. It sat there while I chatted and visited with the goats. It sat there for the 35 minute drive home. Then I pulled my purse out and oh my goodness! The smell was unbearable! Lesson learned. Even if you don’t think the rag smells, put it in an airtight container.
Waiting for Juliet
So you’ve got buck smell somewhere on your homestead, be it an actual buck or your buck rag located near the ladies. How do you know when she’s in heat? The average cycle is somewhere between 17 to 25 days, with 19 days being the average. She is in standing heat (aka: breedable) for only two or three of those days. During this standing heat period your goat may show all, some, or none of the following (some just won’t give you any tip off):
- She may gets talkative. We have one who sounds like she’s a single grain away from starvation even if she just ate breakfast.
- She may flag or wag her tail like a little pendant. It’s similar to the flagging you see in kids as they nurse.
- She may have personality changes. My ordinarily cranky doe who merely tolerates me all of a sudden wants to be my new BFF.
- She may get a sticky tail where the hair sticks together in clumps. This is thanks to vaginal discharge. If that freaks you out, you may want to stop now. It gets so much worse.
- She may produce less milk than normal.
- She may act bucky. My little doeling does this and it’s hilarious. Look for blubbering and stomping. For more about buck behavior, check out All About Bucks in Rut.
- She may pee more often than normal.
Calculating Kidding Day
If Romeo and Juliet both did their part, half the battle is done. At this point you can wait for 30 days and do a pregnancy test or you can wait and see what happens. There are certainly signs of pregnancy you can watch for, but most can’t be detected until right near the end and some does never show them.
It’s important to figure out roughly when your doe should kid so you can be prepared. I have Nigerians who have an average gestation period of 145 -150 days. This handy calculator calculates for 145 days. If you have a full sized goat you’ll need to adjust accordingly.
Early Goat Gestation Care
Early goat gestation is the first 3 1/2 months of pregnancy. During this time their care is fairly minimal. Dry does only need hay, minerals, and clean, fresh water. If your doe is still being milked she should continue her dairy rations. Towards the end of early gestation (approximately 2 months before kidding) you will want to dry off your does that are still in milk. We give our goats Baby Mama Herbal Goat Treats during this period because they are loaded with nutrients that promote a healthy pregnancy and good fetal development.
We also make sure at the end of early gestation to trim hooves. Some people wait until later to do this, but we prefer not to stress her out so close to kidding.
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