Our Dairy Goat Breeding Tips and Schedule
It’s goat breeding time on our little homestead! Today I’m going to share our breeding strategy with you. Enjoy, as we bring you along on this journey!
A little background: about 10 years ago, we sold most of our herd and moved to Nebraska from Iowa. We came over with 3 does. We had them for another 2 years or so and they all ended up dying. That was a very dark time in our homesteading journey and for a while I even thought our land was cursed. Before that, in Iowa, we had been keeping goats for about 5 or 6 years with no major problems.
Fast forward to today, and this is our 3rd year with this new herd and we just finished up our 1st year with everyone freshening. It’s been a long time since we’ve kept goats and I feel like I’m starting all over again. I don’t remember a lot of what we did before and there are some new things to learn that I’ve never done. So, if you’re new, know that I’m learning right along with you! Also, if you’ve been doing this for a while, please let us all know some things we could be doing better in the comments below. Thanks for being here!
I’m going to go through each doe and lay out our goat breeding strategy for her and the “why” behind it. We had problems with almost every single doe last year and I am wanting to mitigate these problems in the future.
I hope this is helpful for you to give you some things to think about with your herd, especially if you haven’t done this before. A lot of homesteading is trial and error, but if I can give you some more things to think about so there’s less trial, then that makes me happy!
We did keep all the kids on the mamas, milking once a day in the morning and locking up the kids at night. For the first 2 weeks, we didn’t take any milk and let the kids have all of it. Once the babies were weaned, we went to twice a day milking for the rest of the season.
Introducing the girls and their problems
Daisy is our herd matriarch. She is our most hardy doe and she rarely makes me worry about her health or well being. I wasn’t concerned at all about her birthing or nursing babies.
However, we did end up having some issues with her this spring. She was our last doe to kid, birthing in May. She had twins, a doe and a buck, and we lost the buck. He was born first and had no muscle tone and struggled to breathe, but was alive. We frantically did everything, from clearing out mucus to giving mouth to mouth. There was nothing we could do and we all cried about him for days. Her doe was very healthy, thankfully!
As we went through the spring and summer, Daisy’s udders became lopsided. Even with taping and other things, we couldn’t get it fixed until we sold the doeling. Once I had my hands on her full time, I was able to get it fixed good enough for fair in August.
I heard that it’s an old farmer’s tale that if a doe loses a kid, she will have lopsided udders. I don’t know, but it was definitely true for us! Otherwise, Daisy remained healthy and in good weight the entire season.
Maple was the first doe to kid, in March. She had one buck, that we ended up keeping as a wether so our breeding buck had a friend. He was so sweet and would sit on your lap like a dog.
As far as Maple, she handled birthing well and we had no problems. Her buckling was strong and even though she was only nursing one, she never got lopsided. She was a strong milker, but put a lot of her weight in the bucket. And like all my does, she had a severe copper deficiency that I was unaware of, but kidding and freshening made it come to the forefront. I dealt with this all spring and summer and now we finally have them back on track.
Holly is our matriarch wanna be. She tries to show everyone who’s boss, but it doesn’t always work out for her. She can be a little stand-offish at times.
Her twins were born on April 1. I will always remember that, because I went to the barn for evening chores and there they were! I knew she was close, and we were watching her like a hawk, but she still had them all on her own. She had a doe and a buck.
She had absolutely no issues with weight, milking or udders. She did beautifully!
Violet gave us the most problems this year. She is so much a diva and is very prim and proper and this didn’t stop with kidding and freshening. For a little bit, I wasn’t sure if she was going to make it.
She kidded second, in March and had twin bucks. Little did I know how they were going to ravage her udders and body. Birthing was fine, no issues and a smooth and healthy birth. But freshening and subsequent milking was very hard on her. She has beautiful udders and perfect teats that made milking so easy! But her boys did not respect her at all!
She could not keep weight on and just kept losing and losing. Her eyes were dull, she had a sore on her teat from her boys that ended up getting infected (we went to the vet for it), and the copper deficiency wasn’t helping. Her coat was thin and turning white (she’s a reddish color), but she kept giving us pound after pound of milk! That girl was our second best milker and she just wouldn’t stop producing, even for her 2 boys and us!
Once I figured out the copper situation, things started turning around and I couldn’t wait to get rid of her bucklings so we could give her a break. She is a show goat, but showing is always secondary to their health, so it was never assumed we would show her. I wanted to keep her in milk even after her babies were gone, to see, but would not have hesitated to dry her up if that’s what she needed.
We went down immediately to once a day milking (when we got rid of the babies, all does went to twice a day milking) and I didn’t milk her out fully. She got extra grain and hay, as well as vitamin supplements and extra herbal supplements. All of this turned her around and we were able to show her in August.
Goat Breeding Plans
I will lay our plan out next, but am going to give you a few kidding requirements for me based on our experiences.
- I will not have kids in winter. No January kiddings for us. The earliest I am willing to go is March. We still get snow and cold temps in March and any earlier than that, I don’t like to do. In fact, we had 6 inches of snow in April this year, but thankfully nobody kidded during that cold snap. It’s also difficult to milk in the winter. I know some people prefer winter because the worms are still dormant and won’t attack a kid. I understand this, but cold babies are also a fear for me, as well as making a doe kid in below freezing temps. I just won’t make her do it.
- I am pulling all the kids this year. Three out of our four does had issues related to their kids nursing. I do not want to do that to them again. We also will be able to sell the kids earlier, as bottle babies. When we nursed them, we had to wait for them to be 2 months old before we could wean. For Violet, that was an eternity. I want more control over my does this year for their health. I can help them if they have problems if they aren’t nursing. I know some people have ethical issues with this, and it will be hard for us at birth, but it’s the best for everyone. If it doesn’t work out, we’ll make changes for next year, but I think this is best for now.
- I don’t want them to kid all at once. I want time in between each one to settle into milking, get everything cleaned up and ready for the next one and to make sure everyone is going to be healthy. Last year we had 2 does go in March, about a week apart and 2 go in April, about a week apart. That was fine, but I’m going to spread it out farther this year, since we are bottle feeding everyone.
- Milking is harder on a doe than pregnancy, so I am considering the length of the milking season for each one. We need them to be in milk at the beginning of August for showing. Since we have that requirement, I am looking at how long they should be milking based on how they did last year.
Based on how she did, we are breeding her first this year. She kept her weight on the best and can handle a longer milking season. We are breeding her in October for a March kidding. She should be able to handle this and show in August with no problems.
While Maple was the only doe with no issues, I’m breeding her last this year, in December, for a May kidding. Maple has a double teat and is unable to be shown. I am fine if her breeding doesn’t take and she does not freshen in the spring. So she’s last based purely on trying to space out the kids and since I don’t need her to kid, if we miss it, it’s OK.
Holly also handled everything just fine, so she’s going second and will have the second longest milking season. We will breed her in November for an April kidding.
She needs the shortest milking season. I want to breed her last, but I am worried that it won’t take, so we may need to try again. Since December is the last month of their heat cycle, that’s my last shot. She is a show goat, so we would like her to kid. Skipping isn’t an option for Violet as it is for Maple. I’m going to breed her in November, as late as possible. I know it may not take and we’ll have to try again in December. If she is bred in November, she’ll have an April kidding with Holly. I am hoping their cycles are such that I can spread them out a bit, but right now they are all cycling together. So we’ll see. I am also hopeful that with me controlling her milking, she will stay healthier. I can go back to less milking or adjust based on how she’s doing.
So that’s it!
That’s our goat breeding strategy for this year and all the reasons behind it. I really hope this was helpful in some way!
Thanks for your support and let us know in the comments how you handle your breeding season and if there’s any tips or advice you have!