Livestock

Are My Goats Bred?

One question I get asked is how do I know if my goats are bred?  Goat breeding season, for seasonal breeders, is coming to a close as kidding season starts.  The question bouncing around many goat owners’ minds: did my does settle?  How does one tell?  It’s not like you can run down the the local grocer or drug store and buy a pregnancy test.  They don’t work on goats, so don’t try it.  However, there are several ways to find out: ultrasound, blood test, physical “eyeing” and touch, and when you find kids walking around your yard (Surprise!)

The most expensive is calling a vet for ultrasounds.  Though many livestock breeders and parents (the human kind) still choose it despite the warnings, concerned farmers and parents are moving away from this option unless medically necessary. [1] [2]   Other than hopefully getting an accurate kid count, or to monitor an accidentally bred doe with a health issue, there really isn’t a purpose for having it done when cheaper options are available unless you’re the type that likes to have every detail known.

A more common alternative is a blood test.  It is low-cost when done through BioTracking, and using your own manpower to draw the blood.  There are videos all over YouTube showing how to do it.  If you’re squeamish or not sure of your abilities, you can have your vet do it all.  Another alternative is having a vet tech pull blood samples, but you send it to BioTracking.   BioTracking is very helpful and willing to answer any question to walk you through it.

You can also go low-tech which is free.  Get to know your goats.  Feel their bodies.  You want your does to be familiar with your touch anyhow.  Learn what they look like when they’ve eaten a lot; her left side should be the largest side. The kids grow on the goat’s right side.  Just like your right arm never leaves your right side, the goat’s kids will grow on the goat’s right side.  The rumen is on the goat’s left.  This seems to cause a lot of confusion.  It won’t change no matter what angle you look at it just as your arm doesn’t change.

Goat’s have a gestation of 145-155 days.  After the third month, depending on the goat and number of kids, you may be able to feel kid movement by placing your hand on her belly just in front of her teats.  For a more experienced goat, you may feel movement better if you slide your hand from in front of her teats and up the back half of her right belly area.   If you don’t feel anything, don’t assume she isn’t bred.  Watch her body and see if it is growing differently.

Our first indicator is when an experienced doe becomes protective of her belly.   I try to touch my goats every day.  When a doe pulls away or hunches over when I touch the area where her uterus is, and I know she’s been exposed, that means she is probably bred.

A few visual examples:

Doe 1 Maybe Bred Maybe Not 212016
This doe is keeping us guessing.  Her left side is large due to eating hay, but her right side is sometimes larger and sometimes not.  Yes? No?  No movement, but we’ll see.  
Doe 2 Looking Bred 212016
This one is a bit on the large side.  Not only is this a “Yes, she’s bred.”, but it looks like multiples since her due date isn’t until April.   This is her second pregnancy.
Doe 3 Looking Not Bred 212016
We’re leaning towards not bred on this one, because she hasn’t eaten the new hay yet and both sides are even.  (She is the lowest in the herd hierarchy, so she has to wait until she can eat without getting butted away.) It is her first time, so again we’ll wait and see.  First-timers can fool you.

Even with medical testing, false-negatives happen as do false-positives.  You’re disappointed, because the doe you really wanted bred came up negative, and it’s too late in the season to try again.  A few months later, you go to check on your herd and SURPRISE – she is laying there nursing a kid or two… or three.   It is rare, but it does happen.  This is why you have kidding supplies on hand no matter what the tests say.

Other herd keepers like to let the goats go naturally and run the bucks and does together.   They maintain their herd health, but they don’t actively encourage or discourage breeding.  What happens, happens.   Finding kids running around is the norm in their herds just as having none of the does bred is.  They let the animals run the way God created them.  I am too much of a worrywart to do that.

Whether you have goats or are planning on getting them, choose what you feel comfortable with and can afford for your breedings.  Some start with ultrasounds and by the third year, they’re more relaxed and fine with doing eye/touch.  Some start with the eye/touch method and switch to blood tests.  It’s your herd; do what you feel is for you.

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