As summer turns into fall in Tennessee we get ready for goat breeding season! This is a very important part of our year because goat breeding means there will be goat kids in the spring. Spring kids mean mamma goats will begin producing lots of fresh goat milk which we use in every batch of our goat milk soaps.
During goat breeding season our bucks obsess on creating the nastiest personal cologne imaginable, the main ingredient being their own urine. Yes, it’s pretty disgusting. Male goats can do things with themselves that no animal should be able to do. When bucks display this type of behavior we say they are “in rut”. A buck in rut is typically covered in pee, especially his face and beard. He has little appetite for food and will display signs of masculine aggression. His only reason for living during rut is to attract potential mates which he spends one hundred percent if his time doing, or at least giving it his best effort. In addition to peeing on himself, he will spar with the other males, blubber at the passing does (see our buck Blaze in the very short video clip below), and display his goat breeding apparatus to all who care to take a look (a behavior that is thankfully not featured in the video).
One might think this type of behavior would be a total turn off, in particular the constant urinating. But oddly enough the does seem to really like it. When the bucks are in rut, often the scent they produce will trigger the does to go into heat. When a doe is in heat, she will allow a male to breed her. If the goat breeding is successful, she will conceive and she will not go into heat again until after she gives birth. During goat breeding season the does will go into heat every month until they are successfully bred. A doe’s monthly heat usually lasts for a day or two. During heat, she will flirt with her favorite bucks by standing close to them, wagging her tail. This type of tail movement during goat breeding season is called flagging. Some of our does are very vocal about being in heat, which can be quite comical at times. A doe in heat might also be more playful or enjoy sparring with her fellow does. When we see these signs, we know we have a doe who is ready and willing to be bred.
On our farm, we do our very best to control every aspect of goat breeding. We house our males separately from our females. We also plan when and with whom we want to breed each individual doe. Controlling our goat’s breeding allows us to breed for certain characteristics, like higher milk production. Developing desirable traits through our goat breeding program allows us to improve the overall quality of our herd and its future offspring. We are also able to plan when our does will give birth, which occurs about five months after a successful goat breeding. Timing is important. We want our inexperienced moms to give birth at the same time as some of our more experienced does so they can learn from the pros. We also like to buddy up our does who have had trouble producing milk with our heavier milkers, just in case extra milk is needed when the kids arrive. Pairing them up and spacing their breeding insures that we always have enough goat milk to go around. All this to say that goat breeding is an important aspect of animal husbandry on our farm and one that we do not want to leave to chance.
And so goat breeding on our farm officially began last week with Daisy and Rango, our first goats to breed in 2015! Their kids will be closely followed by Windy and Rango’s. We are hoping to breed Orange-y, and Magic in the coming weeks and then some of our younger does will get their first chance. It is exciting but a little sad to see them growing up so fast! Thankfully we still have The Nuts to baby and pamper for another year before it will be their turn to breed.