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 been waiting until the does are 1 ½ years old; both because we wanted springtime kids and want the does to be nearly mature before they kid. This year, we’re planning to breed six does.
Now that we own a buck, it’s fairly obvious when each doe is in heat. 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. In our case, when each of the girls is in heat, they go hang out next to Mighty’s pasture (see Mighty’s page here) and tease the heck out of him. Goat heat cycles range from 18 – 24 days, and can be recorded on a calendar for each doe monthly so breeding time can be planned ahead.
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 pedigree; 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, Brucellosis, and TB. In our case, we’re using a Nigerian Dwarf buck raised on our farm and one from Wild Wind Farm, where we originally bought our does.
Hot Tea, Honey, Jewel, and Taylor are being bred to Old Mountain Farm Field Mouse (aka Mighty – who was GCH junior buck and RGCH buck at the only show we took him to), Calligraphy to Old Mountain Farm Quentin Quinn, and Ruby to Wild Wind Farm Excalibur (see Bramblestone Farm Kidding Schedule). All the bucks have great milking and show backgrounds. Mighty and Excalibur also have the added benefit of being naturally polled (see What Are Polled Goats), so we’re hoping for lots of polled kids.
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 for some dewormers). 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.
Hot Tea, Honey, Jewel, Ruby, Taylor, and Cally 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, since the gestation period for goats is 145 – 150 days, we’re looking forward to some gorgeous kids next March. We take reservations for the kids (for free) until they’re born in the spring, so let us know if you’d like to reserve any!