Last weekend, our 4-H club hosted an ultrasound clinic for our goats. Fifteen presumed pregnant does and their owners showed up at my co-leader’s farm on Saturday morning to determine whether or not they were indeed “with kid”. Each doe took her turn jumping up on the milk stand where the veterinarian placed a sensor on her belly while we all huddled around a small monitor looking for signs of life. It was not only educational for the club members but entertaining as well. And pretty successful, with 13 of the 15 does getting confirmation that they had been successfully bred.
Our family brought 3 of our does – Skittles, Starburst and Lily - and luckily all three turned out to be pregnant. We would have brought Milky Way, too, but she had just gotten home from the breeder the day before so would not be far enough along for anything to show up on the ultrasound. My favorite part of the vet’s explanation was when she said of Lily, Molly’s first-time-pregnant Nigerian Dwarf doe, that she could for sure see at least one baby, but that Molly should prepare for four! In other words, she can tell she’s pregnant but there’s no guarantee how many are in there. We were especially relieved to get this news for Lily after last year’s disappointment when she spent a month at a breeder’s farm only to come home “not bred”. Molly’s huge smile at the news that we’d had success this year was evidence of her relief that finally this spring, she’d get to tend to kids.
We were also happy to know that Megan’s doe, Starburst, was pregnant although by the looks of her, there was little doubt. She is already bulging at the sides and the vet confirmed that at least two very active kids are nestled inside. So, around April 15th, if all goes well, we’ll get to meet them!
Now you might be wondering a little about the breeding process for goats so let me enlighten you. Goats go into heat approximately every three weeks during the breeding season, which varies a bit from breed to breed. For the big goats like our Nubians, the breeding season usually starts toward the end of summer and ends around January or February. The smaller breeds like our Nigerian Dwarfs supposedly cycle all year round, making it possible to breed them twice within one year. Some goats are easy to tell when they’re in heat (like our Skittles who bleats at the top of her lungs for 2 straight days during her time) and some are a little trickier (like our relatively quiet Lily). When they are ready to be bred, they are said to be in “standing heat” which means they’ll stand still for the buck to breed them. Any other time they will just run from the buck, or if they’re particularly bold or a little bigger than the boy, they may head butt him and generally avoid anything that resembles cooperation.
We don’t have any bucks of our own, so each year we scout out local breeders that we like the looks of and drive our girls to their farms. This year, however, Megan chose a breeder for her Nubians that lives in Wyoming and instead of driving to her, she brought her buck to us. Two of them, in fact. We decided to take two so they could keep each other company and we planned to breed one to Skittles and the other to Starburst. The bucks arrived a week or so before Thanksgiving and the arrangement was for us to care and feed for them for a month or two while they “serviced” our does.
We determined which buck we thought possessed the desired traits we were looking for with each doe, and had it all figured out. We’d breed Starburst to Count Jewelio – the longer bodied of the two, and Skittles to Hobokon – the bigger boned boy. Now I don’t know how many of you have ever tried to choose your daughter’s friends, or harder yet, boyfriends, but we had about as much say in who our “girls” would date as you might have in such attempts with your girls. When Starburst appeared to be in heat, we put her in with our chosen mate and of course, the two of them wanted nothing to do with each other. She ran from him and rather than pursuing her, Count Jewelio came over to us for attention and then just went back to eating. We gave it a few minutes with no improvement in their attraction to one another and then we switched bucks. And bingo, love was in the air! Starburst and Hoboken were a match made in heaven. So much for our careful selection and planning. Oh well, the main goal was a pregnant doe, and in that we appear to have succeeded.
Life Lesson: You can’t force love