Wednesday, October 11, 2017
Fall is the season for making decisions about goat breeding.
Most goats are seasonal breeders, meaning they only go into heat during certain times of the year. In our climate, the does begin to go into heat as soon as the days grow shorter and the nights become crisp, usually in September. Every doe is different - one of mine, Polly, is an early breeder and goes into heat in late July or early August. If we have a buck on the place, she will get pregnant early and give birth in the depths of winter, which is not good for the survival chances of her babies.
For that and other reasons, I have not kept a buck in the farm for several years now. It's convienant to have your own buck, for sure. Finding a suitable buck is one of the more time comsuming and annoying tasks of the year. First you have to find a buck you like, of the correct breed, conformation, and vigor. Then you have to talk about testing for communicable diseases and coordinate worming schedules; negotiate a price for multiple does; and decide whether you will transport the does to the buck or the buck to the does, and who will take on that onerous task. Some buck owners want you to pay for feed or to provide specific hay; some charge boarding fees for your does.
On the other hand, keeping a buck has its drawbacks. They are stinky, in season, and some of them are aggressive. They are generally speaking much harder on fences than does are, and more prone to escape and go marauding around the countryside damaging the neighbor's fruit trees. When breeding season comes around they must be kept separate from the does until such time as you want them bred, and that isn't easy. A healthy young buck will go to amazing lengths to breed an in-heat doe, including jumping a six foot fence. If you are still milking during breeding season, a buck's hormones will taint the milk and give it a rancid, billy-goat odor.
On balance, I've decided that it's better to rent a buck than it is to keep one year round. For now, anyway. This year it was relatively easy to find a good buck. A friend of the family has a lovely, proven, black and white Nubian that he was willing to lend us for the three weeks it takes to complete a full breeding cycle. He isn't registered, but I don't care because neither are my does. Homero went and got him today. He transported him - crazily - in the backseat of our regular car, which means we will all have to sit on clean towels or smell like a billy goat for the next couple of weeks.
But I'm happy - the does seem very happy, very welcoming.
Here's a link to a post from a few years ago about the more historical and spiritual aspects of goat breeding: