Wednesday, November 6, 2013

November Topic: Is my goat in heat?

If you have to ask that question, then your goat is NOT in heat! Most goats are very blatant about their heat cycles. Around the middle of August you will notice your does getting noisy and obnoxious. They will scream their heads off and drive you nuts even though they are fed, watered, and out to pasture for the day. You may or may not see reddening of the vulva or mucous discharge. If you have a buck on your property, the doe may become very interested in him and even escape from her pen to go visit him. Watch your buck! He will be driven mad by the smell of a doe in heat and may escape to go courting. 

If you don’t have a buck, then it may be harder to tell when your goat is in heat. The absence of a buck to trigger the doe’s hormones can make her less likely to come into heat or she may come into a “silent heat” where she doesn’t show obvious signs of heat. If you want to breed your doe and you don’t have a buck, you can help her come into heat by getting a buck rag from someone that has a buck. A buck rag is simply a rag that is rubbed on the buck to obtain his smell. Take the rag to your doe and rub it on her and leave it in her pen where she can smell it. She should start coming into heat after exposure to the buck rag. 

If you do have a buck and you do not see your does come into heat, then the most likely reason is because your does are already pregnant! This is true if your does are allowed to run unsupervised with your buck. Bucks are quick and many goats are shy about getting caught in the act so you may never see mating occur. Also be super vigilant about escapees during mating season. Bucks will get crazy and can hop a 5’ tall fence to get to a doe in heat. I have heard about some bucks who hop out of their pen, mate all the does they can find, and then hop back in their pen without the farmer knowing! One good rule to follow is to castrate any male goats that you don’t want to use for mating. It’s usually the one buck that you aren’t interested in using for mating who gets loose and breeds all the does.  

A doe will come into heat for 24-48 hours every 19-21 days. The egg is ready for fertilization when a doe is in a “standing heat” and she will stand for a buck’s mounting attempts. Trying to force mating by holding an unreceptive doe or by putting a doe and buck together when she isn’t in heat, will not result in pregnancy because the egg is not in the right spot for proper fertilization. You can bring a doe into heat artificially by using uterine implants. This method is commonly used in preparation for artificial insemination in order to make sure the doe is at the proper stage of ovulation for the procedure. 

If you notice any change in your doe’s personality during the fall, mark it on a calendar and then wait 19-21 days to see if she acts weird again. The calendar is your best tool for this time of year because you can track changes and trends to help pinpoint when your doe is ready to breed and when she is pregnant. If you breed your doe, wait three weeks and see if she comes back into heat. Some goats need a few attempts with a buck before they get pregnant. A doe not coming into heat is a good way to know that she is pregnant.

Hopefully your mating season will be uneventful and you will have a good crop of kids in the spring. Happy goating!