If you will be breeding your goats this season you should know the smelly truth about goat reproduction. More than any other animal on the farm, goats alert your nose that breeding season has begun. The whole process is more complicated than just the perfume in the air, of course. Goat reproduction is a necessary fact of life if you are hoping to have a doe freshen and give you milk. Not to mention that the other result of goat reproduction is absolutely adorable goat kid additions to your herd.
Why Goat Reproduction Smells So Bad
The buck in your herd will begin to notice changes in the does and will respond with some very unusual behavior. Let’s just say that if people behaved this way, there surely wouldn’t be any first dates. The method that the buck uses to make himself more attractive to the lovely ladies is to rub his horns or horn area on something. This rubbing emits an odor from the scent gland. It is a really pungent smell, and he will want to rub on you. Take it from me, it is not an odor you will want to wear to the grocery store. As if that wasn’t weird enough, he will start flehmen with his upper lip after peeing on his front legs, chest, beard, and face. Flehmen is the term used to describe the buck curling back his upper lip and flapping his tongue. It’s very strange to see. The buck is very agile! This behavior is all part of rut. The smell is something you will always remember but apparently very attractive to the female goats. Milking does housed with a buck during mating season will transfer some odor and off flavor to their milk.
Meanwhile in the Girls Area
What are the ladies doing while the buck is in rut? They have their own special behavior too. Most goat owners keep the buck separate from the does, so that breeding can be tracked easily. While they enter their heat, you might see does mounting each other. Bucks housed together or with wethers will also practice this mounting. Does will be even more vocal during heat and also flap their tongues. Thankfully, the does do not practice all the unpleasant tricks involving urine, as the buck will.
Most goat breeds are seasonal breeders. The shorter days in late summer and early fall trigger estrus to begin in the doe. Breeding season can last from late July to December, with seasonal breeds. The females will become more anxious and unsettled. They may not eat as much and may become difficult to handle. Female reproductive tracts will release eggs every three weeks on average but often the cycle is shorter. On our farm, we have only three does. Even with such a small number, during breeding season, there is much drama, goat calling, crying and bleating. Our only remaining buck on the other side of the double fence line, will call back, rub on the fence, pace and generally drive himself crazy trying to get to the ladies. We use a double wooden fence with livestock panels attached to the fence on both sides. The fence is over four feet tall. For some goat breeds the fence may need to be higher. Bucks in rut can be very persistent.
Logistics of Goat Reproduction
During the heat period, the female can be taken to the male’s pen or vice versa. Continue to bring them together for the length of the heat until the doe rejects the buck. If the doe’s cycle doesn’t repeat in a couple of weeks, she has most likely become pregnant. Bucks left with the does will mate them at the time of ovulation, resulting in very high odds of pregnancy. The problem is you won’t know exactly when to expect the birth.
Another point to remember when housing goats is that they remain fertile up until death. So there is not a time where you can retire a doe and a buck together in the same pen without potential breeding and pregnancy. Pregnancies in older does can be problematic. The reverse is also true. Bucklings should be separated from mom and sisters by 12 weeks of age. If you don’t, you run the risk of them impregnating the dam and sisters. We did leave our buck in with his dam and siblings too long and the result was a mini population explosion. I thought four months was about the right time to separate him from the rest of the family. I was wrong! Average sexual maturity is reached between four and five months of age, but the kids can be fertile at earlier ages.
After Mating has Occurred
The whole purpose of keeping a buck is to impregnate the does. If a milking doe does not regularly get pregnant and give birth she will not continue to produce a large quantity of milk. Some of the best goats for milk are repeatedly bred every year, when in good health, to keep the milk production going. Breeding and gestation lead to lactation and the cycle repeats. Knowing when the doe was bred, lets you know approximately when she will deliver her kids. Gestation or goat pregnancy lasts from 145 to 155 days.
Is My Goat in Labor?
Toward the due date time period, you might notice some changes in the doe or dam. And then again, you may not see any goat labor signs before the actual birth is occurring. Look for softening of the ligaments in the tail area and bagging up of the udder. A mucus discharge may be seen coming from her vulva. The dam may become restless, getting up and down frequently, or pawing at the ground. She may remove herself from the herd and stand off, alone. Some of our does waited until I had to take a bathroom break and would choose that ten minutes to give birth. Usually, in our herd, the entire birth process was over quickly.
Normal Birth Presentation
The first thing you will probably see is the amniotic sac, followed by one or two small hooves. The front hooves should be first with the little nose of the kid tucked between the front legs. Once the head and shoulders are through the birth canal, the body will slip right out. Problem presentations include legs not being straight, one leg tucked back, rear leg presentation, or any number of other poor presentations. Most times these difficult births will require you to assist by turning, or pushing back the kid and pulling the leg forward. Being present for the delivery may save the lives of kids and mother if the babies aren’t being delivered in a normal presentation.
How do You Avoid Smelly Goats?
Back to our original question. How do you deal with the smell from the bucks, during goat reproduction? I go to great lengths to make sure I am not used as a rubbing object during the rut season. I am used to the aroma of a buck in rut but that doesn’t mean I want it rubbed into my clothes. When we housed more than one buck in the stall, it really took some effort to not have them touching me. The good news is that the odor washes out of your clothing. In addition to the smell, take care to expect increased rough behavior from both your does and your buck. Goat reproductive behavior seems to bring out the bad manners in otherwise well mannered goats. They may knock you down, even accidentally, while feeling the hormonal surges.
What advice do you have for dealing with goat reproduction drama?