Getting the Best Results from a Breeding Season
Breeding goats for best results requires a thoughtful and strategic approach to ensure the health and productivity of the herd. Whether you are a seasoned breeder or just starting, achieving the best breeding results involves careful planning, proper management, and a commitment to continuous improvement. In this article, we’ll explore key considerations and practices that contribute to maximizing breeding success in a goat herd.
And you are the biggest factor in this entire scenario.
- Are you willing to learn everything you can about confirmation and what makes the breed you chose the very best it can be?
- Are you willing to spend the time needed with your goats so that you know how they operate and what they think and when they are sick?
- Are you willing to do the hard things and make the hard decisions that will make your herd better each year you breed?
- Are you willing to have all necessary supplies and medications on hand and have the knowledge to use them when needed?
If you’re willing to do all of that, then keep reading!
1. Selection of the proper location and set up
If you are established in your home, farm and area, you most likely won’t uproot your entire life to live in the perfect conditions for a goat.
Goats do best in very dry climates. The biggest reason for this is because worms do not do well in dry climates. Join any goat group on Facebook and you’ll see that many people living in areas that are very wet and humid are dealing with many health problems in their goat herd. The barber pole worm will be your dreaded enemy if you live in a hot, wet and humid climate. And pneumonia will always be lurking.
BUT I do not agree with producers who say that you can’t raise goats successfully unless it’s Africa or southern Texas. I know this personally because I’m raising a herd of goats successfully in the heart of Montana. Do the winters bring challenges? Oh, yes! But after 12 years of raising goats, they are acclimated to our climate and do just fine.
In your current setting then, you need to be able to look at your surroundings and make wise decisions and set things up as best as possible for your goats.
Goats do need to be out of the weather including, wind, snow and rain. They do need to have adequate protection from predators–a goat I sold to someone got eaten by a bear! So, yes, these things do happen. If you have bears, coyotes, mountain lions, panthers or even the random dog that runs through your neighborhood, then you need adequate protection for your goats. And they do need to have enough room so they aren’t in overcrowded conditions.
You will also need to continually monitor their health so that you keep their worm load under control. Some producers will tell you that you need many, many acres of free range access and forage for your goats to be healthy. But my goats do not get that privilege and our area doesn’t even grow grass for 8 months out of the year, so I supplement with hay for most of the year.
2. Selection of Breeding Stock:
Begin with selecting high-quality breeding stock. Look for goats with desirable traits such as good conformation, strong genetics, and proven reproductive performance. Consider the specific goals of your breeding program, whether it’s meat production, milk production, or other characteristics, and choose breeding animals accordingly.
And when you have a goat that doesn’t do well and thrive, you must make the hard decisions to cull. You will need to cull the goats that can’t handle a worm load. But also remember, it can take years to build a herd that really has adapted to your climate and region.
Your main objective is to breed offspring that is better than the parents.
3. Health Screening:
Before initiating the breeding process, conduct thorough health screenings on both male and female goats. Ensure that they are free from infectious diseases, parasites, and other health issues. Healthy breeding stock significantly increases the likelihood of successful reproduction and improves the overall vitality of the herd.
4. Nutrition and Conditioning:
Optimal nutrition is a cornerstone of successful breeding. Provide a balanced diet that meets the nutritional needs of your goats, paying particular attention to key vitamins and minerals essential for reproduction. Ensure that breeding stock is in good body condition, as both underweight and overweight conditions can impact fertility.
Goats need top quality nutrition and won’t thrive on low quality or stemmy hay. And they won’t even eat stemmy hay…they must know it’s not good for them! They have a really fast metabolism and access to quality feed is very important.
Read more about what goats eat here.
5. Appropriate Breeding Season:
Understand the natural breeding season of your goat breed and plan mating accordingly. While some breeds may breed year-round, others follow a seasonal pattern. Timing breeding to align with the natural reproductive cycle increases the chances of successful pregnancies.
And you’ll want to breed for seasons that won’t make kidding difficult. Several years ago, I remember producers across the state of Montana lamenting that their February kidding was the worst they’d ever had in losses because we had a very severe cold snap that killed many new kids that had just been born. Cold and wet kids do not do well, no matter how good of a mother is present. For this reason, I will not kid during January, February or March. And I still have to be vigilante if I have kids in April and May.
6. Buck-to-Doe Ratio:
Maintain an appropriate buck-to-doe ratio to avoid overworking the bucks and to ensure that does receive sufficient attention during the breeding season. A ratio of 1 buck to 25-30 does is generally recommended for efficient breeding without causing undue stress.
You can read more about breeding goats here.
7. Observing Estrus Signs:
Be vigilant in observing signs of estrus in does. This includes changes in behavior, increased vocalization, and a willingness to be mounted by other goats. Timely detection of estrus allows for precise breeding timing, increasing the chances of conception. And when you know the breeding dates, you can document them in your record keeping binder and be adequately prepared when they kid.
You can read more about goat heat signs here.
8. Record Keeping:
Maintain detailed records of breeding dates, outcomes, and health information. Accurate record-keeping aids in identifying successful breeding pairs, tracking the gestation period, and evaluating the overall reproductive performance of your herd. These records are invaluable for making informed breeding decisions in the future.
Most producers don’t keep good records. If you do, you’ll be a step ahead.
Remember, your main objective is to breed offspring that is better than the parents. And you can’t do this unless you’ve kept good records and are analyzing the data from every goat you own and produce.
Get the best record keeping system out there:
9. Genetic Diversity:
Avoid excessive inbreeding by introducing new genetics into the herd. Genetic diversity contributes to the overall health and vigor of the herd, reducing the risk of hereditary disorders and promoting desirable traits. But remember, you have to make careful selections of breeding stock as mentioned in number two.
10. Veterinary Care:
Establish a relationship with a knowledgeable veterinarian who specializes in goat care. Regular health check-ups, vaccinations if you chose, and timely intervention in case of reproductive issues contribute to the overall well-being of the breeding herd. But also remember, you are very blessed if you can find a vet in your area that is knowledgeable about goats. In many areas, it is very difficult to find someone who actually knows the intricate details about goats. So choose wisely.
Read more about setting up an emergency plan for your goats.
Conclusion: Breeding goats for best results
Achieving the best breeding results in a goat herd requires a holistic and proactive approach. By focusing on the selection of quality breeding stock, maintaining optimal health, nutrition, and breeding practices, as well as keeping meticulous records, breeders can enhance the overall success and sustainability of their goat breeding programs. Consistent monitoring, adaptability, and a commitment to continuous improvement are key elements in ensuring a thriving and productive goat herd.