When it comes to growing a goat herd there's a few rules of thumb to follow to help your caprines get the job done.
On the other hand, goats are pretty savvy breeders and if the stars are aligned, your bucks and does should have no trouble getting it on.
But let's go ahead and dig into some of the basics of goat breeding so you know what to expect going into it for the first time.
How to Breed Goats
Goats are often bred in three different ways.
1. Pen Breeding: Bringing an in-heat doe to the buck
2. Field Breeding: Letting the buck run with the does
3. Artificial Insemination
You rarely have to intervene in the process of breeding if you have a good buck.
Simply bringing the doe to his pen, when she is in heat, will usually be enough to get the job done.
On the other hand, leaving your buck to run with a herd of does for at least 21 days should also get the job done.
You see, does typically come into heat every 21 days. So, you can watch individual does for signs of heat, or you can let your buck do the heavy lifting on his own.
Lastly, if you prefer not to keep a buck, or have a very in-depth genetic program, AI is a great option as well. The only downfall is the amount of work that goes into the process of uncovering heat cycles, storing the semen straws, and the actual act of inserting the samples.
Do You Need to Keep A Buck?
Unless you're using AI, you'll need a buck to breed your does.
But, there are also plenty of people who are willing to stud their bucks out to those who prefer not to keep a buck on their property.
In order to make this kind of arrangement, both animals must be health tested before breeding to ensure both are disease free.
When to Breed Goats
While many goat breeds come into estrus once every 21 days for about 24 hours, there are times of the year when they are more willing to get the job done.
Fall, for example, is when goats prefer to breed. So if you plan accordingly, you can have plenty of kids in the springtime (a goats gestation period is 5 months).
With that being said, there are certain ethnic holidays that you might want to take into consideration if you're breeding meat goats. If you time it just right, you can sell goats for top dollar during these holidays.
What Age Should You Breed A Goat?
Goats reach sexual maturity at around 8 months, but bucklings can actually breed their mothers much sooner than that.
Just because a doe has reached sexual maturity doesn't mean she should be bred at that age. In fact, goats should be bred when they're at the optimal size for their specific breed. This will ensure the pregnancy will be easy on the doe and the kids will have a better chance of reaching full term and being healthy.
Energetic bucklings will show signs of breeding behavior (or rut) as soon as a few days after birth. But these little behaviors don't mean they can get the job done already. They're just practicing at this age.
In fact, most does will not allow a buckling to breed them. They truly prefer a big stinky buck and an overeager youngster may find himself in a bit of a pickle with the ladies if he barks up the wrong tree.
Signs a Goat is in Heat
It can be easy to determine when some does are in heat.
A doe in heat may:
Become more vocal
Act more aggressive
Become more playful
Flag their tails
Show more interest in the buck pen across the farm
Stand still for a buck to mount them
And some of the physical signs might include a swollen vulva or an increase in discharge.
It’s important to note that not all does show signs of being in heat.
How to Tell if a Goat Doe is Bred
If you’re wondering if the buck was successful in the moment, watch for the doe to arch her back after being mounted. This is usually a sign that the breeding was successful
However, just because the deed was done doesn’t always mean the pregnancy will be viable.
So, the two easiest ways to tell if a goat is bred are through a blood test and an ultrasound.
But other behavior signs that point to a bun in the oven might be:
Growing tummy that sits higher (closer to the spine)
Growing udder (this can happen gradually or quickly)
Slight personality changes
Absence of heat cycle
Nudging or pawing at her stomach later on in pregnancy
Talking to her tummy as the pregnancy progresses
Less lightly to start play fights with herd-mates
More "off on their own"
Laying down more often closer to term
If you know your goat well, you'll pick up on some of these signs as time goes on. Keeping notes on these behaviors and comparing them from year to year can make planning and prepping for kids a lot easier!
Track your breeding, pedigree, genealogy notes, and all your goat herd health information to learn about your herd and make sound decisions as you grow your farm.
Amanda Pieper is an accomplished agricultural writer who owns and operates a small goat farm in Wisconsin. Amanda is laser-focused on raising healthy goats and pasture-raised poultry.