Ultimately, the reason most folks have dairy goats is because they want the milk; and for this the does need to be bred and have
kids. Standard size does can generally be bred after they reach 80 lbs. or seven months of age; but breeders often wait until does are older for miniature breeds like Nigerian Dwarves. In our case, we’ve waited until the does are 1 ½ years old (Honey and Tinker Bell) and 1 ¼ years old (Jewel); both because we wanted springtime kids and we’re sure the does are mature enough now.
We don’t own a buck, so it’s important to know when each doe is in heat so they can be taken for breeding at the right time. The best way to know this is to observe the does carefully starting months before breeding time, and track their cycles. Tail flagging, constant talking, discharge, and mounting are all signs that a doe is in heat – or, generally any behavior that’s out of character for a particular doe. Goat heat cycles range from 18 – 24 days, and should be recorded on a calendar for each doe monthly.
Selection of the buck for breeding is very important; obviously it’ll be half of the kids’ genetic makeup. For dairy goats, it should be a buck with a terrific milking background. Ideally, his dam would have a star milking designation in her name; and multiple star milkers (3*D) are even better (see Understanding Goat Pedigrees). If show quality kids are desired, then ARMCH or MCH in the buck’s name; or Grand Champion (GC) or Reserve Grand Champion (RGCH) wins are important. Of course, the better the bucks genetic makeup; the more stud fees will be and the better the sales potential of the kids.
Irrespective of titles, the buck should have strong, straight legs; should be long and level, and should appear elegantly “dairy” but still masculine. It’s also important to choose a buck that won’t transmit diseases to the does – make sure they come from a herd tested to be free of CAE, CL, Johnnes, etc. In our case, we’re using Nigerian Dwarf bucks from Wild Wind Farm, where we originally bought our does. Honey and Jewel are being bred to Old Mountain Farm Palindrome (who was RGCH Buck at the AGS 2011 National Show), and Tinker Bell to NC Promisedland RC Obama *S*B (see Bramblestone Farm Kidding Schedule). Both bucks have great milking and show backgrounds.
It’s also important for the does to be current on vaccinations and in good health prior to breeding. Does should receive CD&T & BoSe vaccinations (see Annual CD/T & BoSe Injection for Goats) and be dewormed prior to breeding (deworming during pregnancy has been tied to birth defects). Also, their Body Condition Score (see Body Condition Scoring) should ideally be in the 3.0 – 3.5 range; does that are too fat or too thin often don’t settle. Starting with healthy, fit does goes a long way in helping to prevent issues during pregnancy.
Honey, Tinker Bell, and Jewel have been vaccinated, dewormed, look to be in good condition, and are due to come into heat during the last two weeks of October. Therefore, they’re currently vacationing at Wild Wind Farm, and since the gestation period for goats is 145 – 150 days, we’re looking forward to some gorgeous springtime kids next March!