Body condition of the animals, correctly recognizing the signs of heat and rut, mating conditions, parasite infestation, vaccination status, hoof condition, weaning of older kids and newborn nutrition are all important aspects of breeding to consider when creating the best environment for reproduction.
1. Body Condition
In farm animals, the term fleshing refers to the overall body condition of the animal. Factors that can result in poor body condition include late kidding of twins and triplets, poor quality of pasture grasses and worm infestation.
Apart from noticing an obviously thin or overweight animal, determining an animal’s body condition takes hands on practice. When learning how to determine body condition in goats, practice should first take place by feeling the bodies of obviously thin and overweight animals.
Knowing the feel for the extreme conditions helps the breeder to learn what is moderate. The most obvious places on the animal to determine fleshing are over the ribs and on either side of the spine.
More practiced hands can detect body condition in less obvious areas such as the backbone, the hooks, the loin edges, the tail heads and the pins.
After breeders develop a feel for their animal’s condition, it is important to frequently monitor the goats and adjust feeding amounts accordingly.
When breeders observe fleshing well before breeding season, there should be ample time to correct any problems. Does that are too thin will produce less twins and triplets and maintain lower weaning rates.
Overweight does usually do not present with problems except for an occasional case of toxemia. Preparing an underweight doe for successful breeding begins one month before she goes into heat.
Flushing, or increasing the animal’s dietary intake begins at this time. Methods of augmenting a doe’s diet include moving her to a more productive pasture, adding corn and cotton seed to the food supply and administering 1/2 lb. per day of a high energy supplement.
2. Parasite infestation
Goats that have a significant worm infestation are not in good condition for breeding. Signs of worm infestation are a thin appearance with an inability to gain weight and rough hair.
An optimal time to deworm both males and females is before the onset of breeding season. Deworming does in the first 60 days of pregnancy is risky and may cause the fetuses to abort.
Near the time of kidding, the hormonal changes in the doe create an environment conducive to worm egg production.
Because of this, does should be dewormed two to three weeks before kidding to prevent the spread to other animals.
3. Recognizing Heat in Breeding Goats
The onset of fertility in does appears early in life, sometimes as soon as two months of age. Normally, goat fertility begins between four to six months old.
The range occurs because goats breed seasonally in the fall. To ensure an optimal outcome, does should not be allowed to breed until they are at least seven months old.
Every 20 days or so, does will enter into estrus, or heat during the breeding season. Adult does display distinctive signs at this time, though the display is not as obvious in kids.
During estrus, the doe will display vigorous tail wagging, the vulva will swell and redden, her normal short bleats will develop into longer cries, she may mount other goats and allow herself to be mounted and she may fight with other goats.
She will also begin to parade in front of the males and rub up against their fence. A decrease in milk production may be noticed due to an increase in activity and less interest in feeding.
At the onset of estrus, the doe will emit a thin, clear vaginal discharge which whitens toward the end of the period. The duration of heat ranges from 12 to 48 hours.
Approximately 24 hours into the time frame, the doe will begin standing heat which means she stands firmly allowing bucks to mount her. Ovulation happens anywhere from 12 to 36 hours from the beginning of standing heat.
4. Determining Rut in Breeding Goats
Male goats known as bucks present with specific behavior during mating season. The behavior characteristic to breeding readiness is referred to as rut.
During rut, bucks emit an unpleasant odor resulting from the animal urinating into his own mouth and spreading the urine on his beard, chest and face.
The urine causes yellowing of the hair and can also burn the hair completely off the skin. An odor is also emitted from scent glands located near the buck’s horns.
Both scents are attractive to does. The males exhibit distinctive facial gestures at this time by curling the upper lip. They also grunt, blubber and snort.
Activity levels are greatly increased while they fight and mount each other and can engaging in breeding up to 20 times a day during rut.
Dietary increase may be necessary due to the extra exertion. Beet pulp, leafy branches and grain are good dietary additives during rut.
5. Mating Conditions
When the presence of estrus is determined in a doe, she may be placed in together with a buck. The sexual activity lasts for a few seconds. The pair should be allowed to mate two or three times during a session to ensure fertilization.
Success is usually determined when the doe fails to enter again into estrus. On occasion, a doe will refuse to mate with a specific buck. Also, some older bucks fail to show interest in younger does.
Enterotoxemia and tetanus vaccines should be administered to the animals to ensure a healthy breeding flock.
Bucks are vaccinated yearly and Does are administered the vaccine approximately five weeks before kidding to allow the immunity to be passed to the kids.
7. Trimming the Hooves
Poorly maintained hooves in goats can be a great impediment to breeding. The animals are often unable to move well and limp.
A doe that is limping may refuse to mate and bucks with hoof problems experience less mating or none at all.
8. Weaning the Kids
Kids that are allowed to nurse and pasture alongside their mothers are relatively healthier than those that are weaned earlier.
As a rule, kids should be allowed to nurse as long as the mother’s body condition does not begin to deteriorate. Allowing the mother enough time to regain good fleshing is essential for a healthy outcome in the next breeding season.
Kids that are weaned may show signs of Coccidia infection. The disease should be treated immediately because it damages the lining of the intestine which ultimately inhibits growth.
9. Newborn Nutrition
Colostrum is the most essential first food for newborn kids. Colostrum contains essential antibodies and a concentrated supply of vitamins and nutrients.
It is extremely important that colostrum is the first food newborn kids receive after a sucking reflex is established. Weaker kids may need assistance from a bottle or tube.
It is imperative that the antibodies are ingested before the kid comes in contact with its mothers bacteria contaminated teats.
A healthy goat population can be achieved by following a few important guidelines. Observation of animal health and implementation of good breeding practices helps to ensure a sturdy and productive herd.