This is a registered La Mancha buck goat. Like a typical La Mancha, he has no ears.
This is my full Nubian doe, Minnie. Like a typical Nubian, she has big ears.
This is Neda Ulaby shortly after she was born last spring. She is half La Mancha and half Nubian, so she has wee little ears. Awwww…
It’s goat breeding season. This is certainly not my favorite part of goat ownership for many reasons, but for a home dairy (or large, commercial dairy for that matter), you have to have kids to get milk. It’s just part of the package.
I have chosen not to keep a buck (male) goat at home because everything bad you’ve ever heard about bucks is true. They smell, they are hypersexual, and they can be confrontational and dangerous. I would consider having a buck around only if A) I had many goats to breed B) I lived REALLY far away from the nearest buck service or C) if my goats had serious chronic and contagious diseases like CAE or coccidiosis. I only breed one very healthy goat per year, so instead of taking care a buck year round, I pay/trade for a single day of buck service.
This year (as well as last year), I worked out a deal with one of Henry’s clients (who’s actually a vet) that lives about 25 miles away and owns a La Mancha buck. I picked this particular buck mostly out of convenience and not so much because I have a vision for the future of my herd. Some breeders would frown on this approach, but I’m not too worried about it. La Manchas are good dairy goats, and they’re supposed to be friendlier than average. Mr. Kai Ryssdal, a half La Mancha kid from last spring, is actually the friendlies goat I’ve ever owned, and his sister Neda Ulaby looks like she’ll be a good milker someday.
I certainly don’t have a manifest destiny plan for my home dairy. I would like to keep the herd at two does (so I can alternate breeding every other year) and one set of kids at the very most, but I’m retiring Bella this year, and keeping her around, so there will be at least one extra goat in the system. Having goat kids around is cute and fun, but it also means more mouths to feed, more hooves to trim, and more little liabilities. Honestly, I want the milk from mom more than I want the kids. Next spring when I have six or seven goats on hand, I’ll have to scope out the herd and decide who stays and who goes.
A few words about heat cycles…
During the breeding season, does will come into heat every 21 days, and they will stay “hot” for about 48 hours. During this time, a doe will allow a buck to mount her, and she can become pregnant. If you let a doe in with a buck when she’s not in heat, the buck may be mildly interested in her, but she won’t stand and let him mount up.
Most goats are seasonal breeders, meaning they only come into heat and are able to get pregnant in the fall and early winter. Nubians are known to be better off-season breeders, but I have not found that to be the case. I’ve tried several times to breed in August or September, but either my doe was not coming into heat, I couldn’t tell when she was coming into heat, or she got scared out of heat by the car ride over to the buck’s house.
A goat gestation period is five months. Ideally, I’d like my doe to kid in February, which would mean breeding in August. This summer, I started watching Minnie, trying to detect the sometimes subtle signs that she was in heat. I attempted to amplify those signs by exposing her to a “buck rag” (a piece of cloth that had been tied on a buck for a few days, so he could stink it up good mostly by peeing on it). Almost every day, I let her sniff my jar with the stinky rag in it, and then I studied her to see if she seemed interested. For three months, she acted like she could care less. In fact, it seemed like none of my three does were coming into heat at all.
Then at 3 am on Monday night, we woke up to a goat bawling out in the barn. I thought something had gone horribly wrong, but when I went out to check, I realized that it was just my goat Bella telling us she needed a man in her life. I didn’t want to breed Bella this year (after her kidding troubles last spring that I wrote about here, here, and here), so I left her alone, and all the next day, she was super loud, obnoxious (in the way that people tell you Nubians are supposed to be but I have not generally experienced), and she was in the mood to headbutt anybody or any goat that crossed her path.
By Wednesday morning, Bella had quieted down quite a bit, but then I heard a new bellowing coming from the barn. It was Minnie, and as soon as I showed her the buck rag, it was obvious that her time had come. I put her in the back of the car, and off we went.
Here’s my goat transportation set up. I used to have a custom-fitted piece of plywood in the back of my car to keep a goat from jumping into the back seat, but I finally bought a cheap dog barrier off of Amazon. (The cat got to explore the car for a bit, but when we left, she stayed home.)
This is Minnie all loaded up and ready to go. I really love the rubber mat in my car. So useful.
The drive north on Highway 223 was spectacular on a crisp, clear day with all the autumn leaves on full display. I was tempted to pull over and take a few photos, but I had a goat in the back of the station wagon, so I kept on truckin’.
When I let Minnie out of the car and into the pen with the buck, she raced around a bit getting oriented to a strange place, but within a few minutes, she let the buck mount her. We stayed for about a half hour total, and in that time, they copulated at least four separate times.
Buck goats and buck behaviors are so disgusting. Even though it’s a pretty big pain in the butt to have to haul my goat off to get bred, there’s no part of me that would like to have a buck on the premises.
This is a PG-13 video that I took on my phone of a bit of goat courtship. Mostly I wanted to show you what true “flagging” looks like. When a doe is in heat, and she smells a buck or a buck rag, she will wag her tail like crazy. In the months leading up to this breeding session, there were times when I’d show Minnie the buck rag, and her tail would perk up a little or give a slight wag, and I’d think ‘Well…maybe?’, but serious flagging is obvious.
Minnie’s back at home now acting perfectly normal and unscathed from the journey. Generally speaking, does have a very high intercourse to pregnancy ratio, so I’m assuming she is bred, and we’re done with buck service for another year. If she’s not bred or if she miscarries, she will come into heat again in three weeks. We’re actually going to be away for the Thanksgiving holiday then, so I’m really hoping that the first time was a charm. If everything goes well, she should kid March 31 or April 1, which is almost exactly the same time as Bella kidded last year.
If you want even more gory details about bucks and goat breeding, you might want to read the book Goat Song by Brad Kessler (which I reviewed in this post). Breeding was certainly not my favorite chapter, but he does paint a pretty accurate picture of the creatures and events involved.
All in all, I am just so happy and relieved to have this one weird thing crossed off my to-do list.