Monday, December 16, 2013

December Topic of the Month: Ethical Considerations When Breeding Goats



Something to consider when deciding which goats to breed this time of year is the question of: Is it ethical to breed these animals? When considering ethics in farming, you have to think about the components, and the products. The components are the buck and the doe that will be mated together. The products are any kids produced from the breeding. 

The components should be chosen carefully. You should not simply breed a doe just because she is of age for breeding and available. Almost every doe will come into heat and be fertile, but those should NOT be the only deciding factors in your breeding strategy. Other factors, like her potential to carry kids to term, her udder and milking potential, her temperament, her health and her genetics should all be considered carefully. If the goat gets bred but dies or aborts before the kids are born due to avoidable reasons, then the breeding should have not proceeded in the first place. If she kids but has a useless udder that can’t produce milk, or the kids can’t nurse, or she is known to be prone to mastitis, then breeding should not be considered unless you are prepared to deal with those complications. If the goat can produce kids but she has a terrible personality, the choice of breeding her should be weighed against the potential for the kids having terrible personalities too. Health at the time of breeding is a huge consideration. Even sick does will come into heat and get bred. There are some common diseases that does can carry during gestation and pass easily on to the kids at birth. Creating a new generation of unhealthy kids is not ethical. Genetics of the doe should be considered highly in the choice to breed her. Crossing a poor quality, ugly doe to a high quality handsome buck will only produce kids that are ½ as valuable because you can only clean up bad genetics with good breeding to a limited extent. The doe will have the potential to pass on her broken pasterns, turned out toes, lumpy back, fat head, and small udder to any kids she creates. 

The buck must also come under these same considerations. He is, after all, ½ of your herd. Bucks of all qualities are easily available during breeding season, so just using whoever happens to be easiest to get is not a good idea. The buck should be carefully inspected and his family tree should be evaluated closely for its good and bad qualities. If every doe in a family line has poor udder attachment, then using a buck from that line is a good way to have doe kids with poor udder attachment.

The products from any breeding must also be carefully considered. You have to evaluate what you are going to do with the kids even before they are a twinkle in the buck’s eye. When deciding on your breedings for the year, you must have a plan in place for the kids. Take time to think about how many kids you need, what you will do with them, what you hope to keep, what you hope to sell, what you may have to cull, what to do with the bucklings,  and what to do with the doelings. Unless you are independently wealthy and have lots of time to dedicate to your goat herd, you will probably not be able to keep every single kid that is produced. So if you have to sell some, be sure to evaluate the kid market in your area. Find out what breeds people are buying, what the average price is, and what level of quality is selling. It does you no good to breed expensive, high quality, specialty breed goats in an area where no one is interested in paying for them. The same goes for low quality, ugly, mutt goats. Be sure to plan on what to do about their horns. Most people buying dairy goats do not want them to have horns. If you are not prepared to disbud kids to stop horn growth, then you might want to reconsider breeding animals that will produce kids that require disbudding. Keep in mind that butchering is a viable and humane option for many excess goat kids. Think about the market in your area for goat meat and decide if you plan on selling kids for butchering or butchering them yourself. If you have moral issues with butchering goats, then it’s best to be careful about producing kids who may be sold to people who will be butchering them. Not producing those kids in the first place is the best way to ensure that they will not be butchered in the future. As the saying goes, “Abstinence is the best prevention”!

In conclusion, to be ethical in your breeding strategy, you should breed only the best animals to each other. They should embody good qualities that are an advantage to the goat species. Their kids should be positive additions to the future of goat farming and not contain qualities that detract from the species as a whole. We also have an ethical responsibility to provide care for the product of the breedings. Overproduction of kids that will not be raised humanely or treated with respect is not ethical. It is our ethical obligation as farmers to understand that since we are making the choices to breed these animals, then we are responsible for the future of the goat species. The creation of life should be taken seriously and all of the implications of that should be weighed carefully.  

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