When to Breed Your Goat

When are goats old enough to be bred? How do I plan when to breed them?

It's autumn and my goats are ready to be bred. More than ready to be bred. My buck has been in rut since late June. His face is sticky and dirty and he stinks. (And you don't want to know why.)

My does began cycling about a month ago. The cool mornings and shorter days signal the does to begin cycling.  

I know who's in season: the goat that's standing next to the buck's fence when I go out in the morning to feed, with the buck wishing he could get over or through that fence.

You have to breed a goat to have milk

Goats (and cows, and all other mammals) only produce milk if they are bred and bear young, so a dairy goat must have a kid in order to produce milk. 

A goat's gestation period is five months, from breeding to kidding.

Your does will begin cycling in late summer and your buck will be in rut. When should you let them breed?

When should you breed your goat?

I like March kids. Some breeders prefer January kids, or winter kids in general, still others like fall kids. I prefer spring kids, born when the weather is more or less decent, but it's a personal decision and every breeder has his or her own reasons for when they breed and when their goats kid.

My reasons include the weather and the fact that I no longer have a barn to protect newborns from the worst of the winter's cold. Also, I have an annual weekend away from home in the summer, and I want the kids to still be nursing so that I don't have to find someone to milk goats while I'm gone.

So, with a five-month gestation period, I count back from March, and breed my does in October.

When should I breed my goat? When can I start milking her?

When can you breed a doe for the first time?

It depends on her size more than her age. Many goat owners breed their almost-yearlings. A friend told me she does this so that the doe will kid for the first time while her bones are still soft, and I see the wisdom in that.

I personally wait until the doe is about eighteen months old. I prefer to let her mature a bit more before she kids. Again, it's a personal decision.

Several years ago we had an "oops" breeding. One morning when I went out to feed I found a tiny infant goat when I wasn't expecting any. I had to check everyone's tail end and discovered that Lavender, barely a year old, had kidded.

I hadn't even known she was pregnant, and I felt terrible that I hadn't given her any prenatal care and special feeding, especially since she was so young.

The mom grew up to be just as big and healthy as her herdmates though, in spite of it all, and the baby was healthy. So I know I can breed them earlier, but I still prefer to let them mature a bit more than that.

When is your goat old enough to be bred?

How long can you milk a goat?

As soon as a doe kids, or "freshens," she begins producing milk. The first milk is colostrum, full of antibodies for the newborn kids. You can milk her to bottle feed the kids if you wish, or to relieve her overfull udder, and to get her used to being milked, but wait a minimum of three days before you begin consuming her milk.

I've found that milking her right away helps her to accept me as one of her kids, and helps her to think that I have a "right" to her milk. I don't milk her regularly yet, and I leave plenty for the babies, of course.

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When the kids are three weeks old I start milking my does once a day. I separate the kids from their mother overnight, with their own hay and grain to nibble.

I prefer to have more than one kid to separate from the herd, so if there's a single kid, sometimes I wait an extra few days or a week until there is a "buddy" old enough to keep the other one company overnight. Then I milk the mothers in the morning, and reunite the moms and babies for the day.

The kids nurse all day and I don't have to milk in the evening. If I know I'm going to have an early morning without enough time to milk, I just leave the kids with their moms overnight and don't have to milk the next morning.

Read more about milking your goat once a day in this post.

The accepted rule is to dry off a doe two or three months before she is due to kid again, so that she can focus on growing a healthy baby instead of producing milk. So, since I breed in October, and my does kid in March, I can milk my does from March until December or January, about nine or ten months.

The Rut

As soon as the days begin to shorten and the mornings are cool, the buck goes into rut and the does begin to come in heat.

The buck is, of course, determined to get into that doe pen. You need to be prepared to keep him out until you are ready to have the does bred.

It isn't as easy as it sounds.

My bucks have gone over the fence and through the fence. If they could, I'm sure they'd have gone under the fence too.

The portion of fencing that separates the does from the buck needs to be the strongest fence on your homestead. Make it tall, and make it sturdy.

One year I redid my fences and put two fences between the buck pen and the does' pasture. If he got through one fence, he still wasn't in the pen with them.

The importance of keeping track

If (when) I went outside to feed in the morning and found the buck in the doe pen, I wrote down the date on my calendar. If the "fling" did end in a pregnancy, I knew when the kids were due.

When the time came that I was ready for the does to be bred, I moved the buck into their pen.

But I wanted to know - as accurately as I could - when each doe was due to kid, so I kept an eye on any activity and wrote down those dates on my calendar too. Pasture breeding can be more difficult to notice, but I did my best.

In the spring I was glad I did make those notes, so I could be prepared and watchful as their due dates came closer. I'd have my kidding kit ready and be on high watch when the time came.

Here's hoping for beautiful doe kids and plenty of milk next spring!

When should you breed your goat? Here are several things to help you decide.

Related Posts:
Train Your Goat to the Milkstand
Goat Horns: to Disbud or Not to Disbud?
How Changing my Milking Routine Changed my Life!

This post has been shared at some of my favorite blog hops.


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  1. So much to learn and do when you raise animals. I liked the sweet little baby goat.

  2. Ida, you are so right, there is always more to know!

  3. Anonymous12:35 PM

    Thank you for such an informative and “basic” article! I have wanted to start with goats for awhile, but most books on the subject assume you know a lot.
    I raised cows for awhile, but had some financial issues, and had to sell them, so I know about cows. I’d like to visit a working goat farm, but most only want you there on Saturday, and I work Saturdays. I don’t want to get an animal that I don’t know how to properly raise and care for, so this was a great article and answered some of my ‘stupid’ questions.
    Thanks again!!

  4. I'm glad it answered your basic questions, Anonymous. I don't think there are any "stupid" questions though. I really appreciate that you want to learn as much as you can about goats before jumping in. Your future goats are lucky indeed!

  5. Thanks for sharing your reasons for the timing of kidding and milking. It really helps to understand the whole process. Sounds like you have a system that works beautifully!

  6. This next year I plan to put the kids in the barn for the night and milk a bit in the morning. This will be the first year I have a barn to do that in :)

    1. That barn will be a blessing to you, Delci!

  7. It is amazing how much you have to learn about each and every animal you raise. Your post was very informative. We don't have goats but my husband brother does and they keep adding more and more goats - having babies and buying. They also show some of them.Congratulations on being featured on Homestead blog hop and thanks for sharing all the details of goat raising. Have a healthy, happy & blessed day.

    1. Marla, thank you for featuring my post on the Homestead Blog Hop! That was a fun surprise this morning. Yes, there is SO much to learn about every species on the homestead. I definitely don't know it all!

  8. Thanks, great post... I am planning on raising goats and sheep down the road (in a couple years) and I will definitely want to breed these animals. Right now just getting my feet wet with chickens.

    1. I'm glad it was helpful. Have fun with your chickens - the "gateway livestock" that leads to bigger animals. :-)

  9. Oh all the details! It's so hard when first starting out to know you're doing the right thing. Thank you for sharing this :-)
    And thanks for sharing on the Homestead blog hop. Hope to see more this Wednesday.

  10. Hello. Could you help me with something. How do I assure that my does have girls instead of boys once they are bread? Thank you

    1. Once they're bred there isn't anything you can do, Tom. There is folklore about giving the does apple cider vinegar for several weeks before breeding to encourage doe kids; you can probably find something about it on Google. It's folklore though, not scientifically proven.

  11. Nice tips, Kathi. I have always had summer kids, and definitely think I would prefer Spring/Summer kids over having Winter kids. I wouldn't want to have to house them in the barn and provide extra heat if needed. So I'm with ya on having Spring kids!!

    Thanks for linking this post with us on the Homestead Blog Hop!

    Have a great day!

  12. Hello! I was curious if you could breed a doe while she is still in milk. Thank you!

    1. Yes, you can breed a doe while she is still in milk. You can also continue to milk her for up to three months into her pregnancy. You should dry her off (stop milking gradually) so that the last two months before kidding she isn't producing milk and her body can "focus" on growing healthy kids.

    2. Also, I am curious if you know of a good place if you are looking to sell goats to good owners?

    3. Many of the social media channels no longer allow the sale of live animals and that has made it difficult. I've sold a few to blog readers (love you guys!). My last resort is our local auction; a few of my wether kids have gone there.

  13. Great info, I was wondering if you use a teat dip?

    1. I do. I use the same recipe to wash the goat's udder before milking and then to dip her teats afterwards. One quart of water + 1 drop of blue Dawn dishwashing liquid + 1 Tbsp of vinegar. I pour some of this into a container to use as udder wash (putting the used cloth in a bag after using so it doesn't contaminate the rest of the wash), and then pour some into another container to use as teat dip.


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