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. (You don't want to know why.)

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

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 checked 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. She 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 bottlefeed 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 her 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, 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 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.

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!

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