Love is in the Air
Love, sweet love. That's what comes with the breeding season. This is our first time breeding goats, and we're all pretty excited over here.
I am a beginner, not an expert, so I'm sure my account of the whole process is riddles with inaccuracies, but if you are as clueless as I was, this will still be interesting.
Step 1: Your doe must be in heat.
This is not rocket science, but it is a little complicated for a first timer like myself. You look for flagging, which is just some serious tail wagging. Some does bleat themselves hoarse. There may be some swelling and moisture, er, down there. Other goats, even other does, will start mounting the doe in heat. But if you've never seen it for yourself it can be a trifle mystifying. Does go into heat every 21 days, but if you're on a schedule, you can try to hurry things up by exposing them to a male. That will put them into heat.
If you have a lot of land it might make sense to keep a buck, but they have some quirks that make them undesirable for your backyard. First, they have a goat-y aroma that appeals only to other goats. Second, they urinate all over themselves to enhance their appeal. If you are milking, they make the milk taste weird. All bad. So we had to bring our ladies for an introductory meeting at a farm that keeps bucks.
The transportation, at least for my tiny little adorable goats, wasn't too bad. Both girls fit into a big dog kennel with no problem, the only issue being that we had to pick them up and put them in there. (Fortunately, I had help from a very kind backyard farmer since that is not my forte.)
We got to the farm and introduced the girls to the buck. Goats are friendly and it went pretty well. The first trip was to put them in heat, so mostly there was a lot of running around. Roughly five days later the girls are expected to go into heat. It isn't an exact science. I kept checking, and it was really hard to say. There was inconsistent flagging. There was some discharge, but I had to ask myself if I'd ever looked closely enough at a goat butt before to know what it looks like normally. I tried grabbing their tail from on top (the clean, hairy side) and if they stand still for you that is another indication that they are in heat. Neither goat moved, but I don't ever do that anyway, so no way to compare.
Step 2: The doe stands for the buck.
So off we went to the farm again with high hopes of milk in our future. Our first trip out I'd been so excited to meet all the animals I didn't pay much attention to what was happening with my girls, but this time around I stayed to watch because I needed to know if they were bred or not.
At first the buck struck me as really gross. I can see where all the jokes come from about a dirty old goat. He did some weird stuff with his tongue, and his intact portions hung down like engorged udders. Bucks also sample the urine from a doe's urine stream multiple times, and this one was no exception. Not in good taste perhaps, but the girls didn't seem to mind.
In the buck's defense I will say that he, unlike a rooster, was quite a gentleman. If the doe isn't in heat, if she doesn't smell right, if she doesn't want to stand for him to do his business, he leaves her alone. Buttons wasn't in heat. Calypso clearly was, and they followed each other around flirtatiously while he nuzzled her and she wagged her little tail suggestively. There was quite a bit of courtship, but the breeding itself is brief. Blink and you'll miss it.
Step 3: Wait and prepare.
There's a possibility Calypso was bred on her first visit, so I recorded both dates and expect her to kid in 145-155 days. We will supplement her orchard grass with peas for extra protein, and she has minerals available to her. (The minerals are just a bucket of loose sand which almost smells appetizing.)
We will watch Buttons for signs of going into heat and bring her back. We're going away next week and we could possibly miss it, but some time in the next month we hope to get it done.
Incidentally, I finally got over my fear of picking up goats. It turns out that if you hold them from the side their back legs fold up into a neat little goat package and your arms don't come into contact with anything unsavory. I almost like it! Almost.
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