Most people purchase dairy goats because they want milk! Therefore, does must be bred. There are many ways to breed goats; some methods are laid back and have a hands-off approach, and other methods, such as ours, are detailed and extremely planned.
Because we breed ADGA Registered Nigerian Dwarf Dairy Goats, our goal is to produce offspring that are superior to their parents. We select bucks for does that will improve the weakest genetic traits of the doe. We do NOT breed for coat color or eye color.
What does a "good" Nigerian Dwarf Dairy Goat look like?
We use the ADGA Linear Appraisal System to determine what counts as a "good" genetic trait in our goats. The charts below are very helpful in evaluating dairy goats and we reference them often when making breeding decisions. (the higher the numerical number, the more desirable the trait)
We plan our breedings a year in advance to ensure the kids will be fully weaned and vaccinated BEFORE they, or their dam, attend the upcoming shows. We feel this is the most responsible method for our goats and reduces unnecessary stress or risk. This also means we have to decide which shows we will be attending a year before they happen, and we have to pay careful attention to our does' heat cycles.
Note: We do NOT take goats under 8 weeks of age to any shows as we feel their immune systems are not fully prepared to travel, as well as we believe the first 8 weeks are crucial for the dam and kids to bond and thrive at home.
Below is our breeding method:
1. Selecting Shows:
Our first step is to decide which goats we want to take to which shows. We are fortunate that Arizona has several sanctioned show opportunities and we split our breedings in half so that we can attend sanctioned shows throughout the year, as well as have a continuous milk supply. Does are pregnant for approximately 5 months, we dam raise our kids for 2 months, and we allow an addition 2-6 weeks for our does to become adjusted to the milking cycle before they attend their first show. This means we have to breed our does approximately 8 months BEFORE the shows start!
2. Detecting Heat:
The first step to our breeding method is to detect our does' heat cycles. Does will flag their tails, their vulva will become swollen, they will mount each other, become moody or unusually friendly, or start calling to the bucks when they are in heat. When we see this behavior from our does, we mark it on a calendar. Goats go into heat about every 21 days, and we can start to plan the breeding date based off of a marked heat cycle.
During the month that is approximately 8 months before the show, we breed the does that will be attending that show to the buck we feel will produce the most improved offspring. When the doe enters her heat cycle and is in Standing Heat, we bring her in to the buck's pen and allow them to breed. We STAY nearby to witness the first ejaculation so that we know she is bred. If they are friendly with each other and the doe seems content, we leave the doe in with the buck over night and remove her in the morning. If she seems unhappy, we allow them to breed a total of three times and then remove her from the pen. If the doe and buck are healthy, they are eating correctly, and they are not nutrient deficient, she will take. We have never been unsuccessful with this method except once: a doe that we knew had fertility problems and was potentially sterile, and yet we tried anyway.
Once the first successful breeding happens, we make a note on our calendar with the buck and doe information. We then count 145 day forward and put a second mark on our calendar as the doe's due date.
4. Preparing for kidding:
Goats are hardy but require a few extra things when they are pregnant. We monitor their feed intake and offer the highest quality hay possible when they are pregnant. We keep their stress level to a minimum, and we do NOT feed any additional grain once they are bred. Grain produces larger kids at birth, and we do not want to make labor any more difficult for the dam. By feeding a high quality hay and mineral diet, our kids have been born strong and hardy, but small enough to be born without difficulties.
5. Day 145
Goats can kid five days BEFORE or 5 days AFTER their due date and it be considered "safe". This means there is a ten day period that a doe can kid. We start checking ligaments a week before the doe's due date and we also keep an eye out for the mucous plug a month before her due date. The mucous plug surrounds the entrance to the cervix to keep dirt and bacteria out of the uterus while the doe is pregnant. The mucous plug will come away as early as 30 days before the due date, to as soon as an hour before the first kid is due. Some of our does consistently lose their mucous plug a month before their kid, and some lose it right before they go in to labor. By keeping track of it, we know if things are "going to plan".
When a doe is far from giving birth, her ligaments near her tail head will be hard like pencils. As she gets close to going into labor, they will begin to soften. This allows her pin bones to stretch apart so a kid can be born easier. Once the ligaments are so soft you can no longer feel them, the doe will generally go into labor within the next 24 hours. We do not leave our does unattended for any length of time once this period starts. When we see her separate herself from the herd and become post legged, we wait until the kids are born.
Once a doe separates herself, stars pawing at the ground, has ligaments that have "disappeared", and has back legs that become posty and straight, we know she will be kidding very soon. We stay on the farm and wait for her to kid. We let her do all of the work and only intervene when needed. We allow the dam to clean her kids and nurse them on her own. If she is neglecting a kid, will not clean it, or will not let them nurse we step in and help. Only once the kids are completely dry and we have witnessed them nursing from their mom, we leave.