Boer Goat Guide 4




About Marc MacDonald

I’ve been raising goats for nearly 20 years now. Over those years, I accumulated a lot of information about goats and what works and what doesn’t.

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Boer Goat Profit Guide

Boer Goat Profits Guide-Section 4

The Essentials of Breeding

Breeding right can make the difference between a Boer goat operation that is solidly profitable, and one that loses money. After all, your goal is to steadily increase your herd with healthy, productive Boers.

This section of the guide describes what you need to know about breeding, from the basics of pregnancy to tips on how to choose good breeding stock.

25. What is the length of pregnancy for female Boer goats?The female Boer gestation period is 5 months.

26. What is the best age and weight to breed a doe?

When deciding when to breed your does, it’s better to consider weight and physical development than age. Breed them when they are about 65% of the average weight of the other does in your herd. This is usually when they are a year and a half old, sometimes a year if they are a very good forager.

If you breed does when they are lighter, you may stunt them because they are still growing actively. Also, lighter does may not be physically large enough to have her kids, leading to dystocia (when the kids get “stuck” on the way out).

27. Will Boer goats breed more than once a year? If so, are there any “tricks” to getting them to breed more frequently?

On paper, it looks good to breed a doe 3 times in 2 years. But the increased feed and management costs may make this not worth it for your farm.

In terms of the doe’s health, breeding once a year is ideal. It gives the doe more time to recover and gain strength and nutrition after weaning. That chance at better nutrition makes her healthier and more fertile for the next cycle.

The season in which kidding will take place should also be considered. Most farmers kid in the spring, so you may put half the herd on a spring kidding rotation and half on a fall kidding, to target certain markets. Breeding more 39 than yearly means you will sometimes have kids in the winter, when there is less food, or summer when there are more parasites.

28. What does it mean to “synchronize” the breeding season, and how can I do it?

“Synchronizing” the breeding season means getting your does to give birth during the same stretch of time. The biggest benefit of synchronization is that the births happen together, so it’s easier for you to plan.

The simplest way to synchronize the breeding season is to keep bucks and does in separate pens until they’re ready to mate, then let them out together into the pasture. Bucks should be left with the does for about 35 days (1½ breeding cycles), to ensure that the kidding season is “clustered” within a month, which makes it easier to manage the does and kids at kidding time. Gestation length is about 5 months (145-150 days), so does bred in the fall will kid in the spring, and vice versa.

29. When choosing breeding stock, what should I look for?

Choosing a Good Breeding Buck

A good physical examination is a good way to make sure that your buck is going to be able to perform well during the breeding season.

Sound feet and legs are critical, because he’s going to be very busy visiting all the does, checking to see if they are in heat, and breeding the receptive does. If he is sore from arthritis, foot rot, foot scald, or anything else, he is not going to want to walk around and breed does.

Body condition is also important. A fat buck may have too much fat in the scrotum, which can insulate the testicles and causes sperm damage from heat. He may also be out of shape and not physically fit enough to get the job done.

On the other hand, an overly thin animal will also not have the energy needed to maintain breeding through the entire season. Pick an animal with good muscling, sturdy feet and legs, and good conformation (how he’s put together, skeletally and muscularly).

For their size, goats are one of the most well-endowed animals, in terms of testicle/scrotal size. Scrotal size/circumference is important. The bigger the “package”, the more fertile the buck is likely to be.

Scrotal size increases with age; more mature bucks will have larger testicles and be more fertile. Testicles should be the same size, firm but not hard, contain no lumps or swellings, and he should not mind if you gently squeeze them (it should not elicit a pain response), once he is used to someone being back there handling him.

The scrotal skin should be dry and clean, not crusty, and there should not be a “split” or division between the two testicles (called “split scrotum” and is not a desirable characteristic in a good breeding buck).

If you spend a lot of money on a buck, you may consider a “breeding soundness exam” performed by your veterinarian, which, in addition to a thorough physical exam, will get a semen sample from the buck and look at the number of sperm and the motility of the sperm, to give you an idea of his fertility.

Breeding records are a good way to know the productivity of a buck. Information on his birth weight, weaning weight, and information on his progeny (number of offspring he has sired, their birth and weaning weights, etc) are a good measure of his productiveness.

Information on the buck’s mother is also a good measure on his potential; if she is a good producer of quality kids, he probably will sire good kids, too.

Libido is the measure of a goat’s sex drive. He should be on the constant look-out for does to breed. A good breeding rate is four to six breedings or more in 30 minutes. Acceptable is two to three breedings in 30 minutes. Less than that is not acceptable libido.

A mature male buck can service about 30 does. The older and more mature a buck is, the more does he can service effectively. A younger buck may only 41 be able to breed 20 does. Putting 3-4 bucks per 100 does assures that all the does will get bred by one buck or another. Bucks may have “preferences” for some does and just not breed others, for no obvious reasons. Having multiple bucks eliminates this problem.

Choosing a Good Breeding Doe

Goats are polyestrus, which means they have multiple heat cycles throughout the breeding season. And they’re “seasonal breeders”, which means they tend to cycle during the “short day” times of the year, fall and spring.

Like the buck, a good physical exam will ensure you start with healthy animals. Make sure the doe has two well-developed teats. If she has kidded before, the udder will be more developed than a doeling’s. It should hang evenly and not be lumpy or hard, which can mean she has an udder that was damaged previously, by injury or mastitis (infection of the milk glands).

As mentioned previously in this guide, try to get a history of the herd. Look at health records, which a breeder should have. Ask how many times they have been dewormed and what kinds of problems they have had.

Buying goats from people you know directly is far more reliable than buying goats at an auction sale, where prices are lower, but goats may also come with unseen health and behaviour problems, which can damage the herd.

30. What are the most important factors in increasing successful multiple births?

Flushing is one of the most important factors in getting multiple births.

Flushing is a system where, starting about 4 weeks before the breeding season, you put the does on a good quality pasture (or provide quality purchase feed) so you give them extra energy, which makes the ovulation rate go up.

Continue that during the breeding season and for about 40 days after the end of the breeding season, after removing the bucks, so that the embryos are going to implant well in the uterus.

Group does into groups of 20-30, which is how many does one buck can handle. With quality fencing, put the buck on the other side of the fence for 7-10 days before letting the buck into the does’ area.

It’s not uncommon that the first heat is “silent” (i.e. without ovulation), and a doe may have another heat shortly thereafter that is fertile.

To discourage kidding at night, feed the does hay in the evening.

Once the kids are born, put mother and kids in a small fenced in area to bond for 1-2 days.

Calculate ahead of time when you want to kid, and feed accordingly. This nutrition is going to increase ovulation rate, and flushed goats most commonly give birth to twins; occasionally singles or triplets, and very rarely, quadruplets.

Does are best suited to raising 1 or 2 kids. Any more than that can deplete her nutrition, making it hard for the doe to feed the kids, and also deteriorating her own body.

31. How can I prevent my Boer does from having a miscarriage?

Miscarriages are sometimes just natural embryo death early in the pregnancy, and there’s nothing you can do about that. Sometimes they may occur because the older does were mean to each other, butting each other in the stomach. And there are some diseases that can provoke abortion.

Animal handling in late pregnancy can also cause problems. Goats are very sensitive animals. So if you need to deworm them or round them up, be careful not to stress them out. If you bring them into a chute, handle them very quietly in a non-threatening manner.

Make sure the does have access to high quality food, and plenty of it. If a pregnant doe runs out of food, she may go into ketosis and lose her baby. So do not let a pregnant doe run out of food.

32. What treatments must the mother and kids receive after birth?

It’s extremely important to keep a close eye on mother and kids, especially during the first few days. The most important thing to do after the doe gives birth is to have the doe and kid examined by your veterinarian, who can give advice if something goes wrong. The mother requires plenty of good quality forage and water. For the kid, clean the nasal passages, put iodine on the umbilical cord (if you find it before it dries), and make sure that they nurse: the sooner the better. This is the best thing you can do for your kids.

For the weak ones that don’t seem to find the teats, try to help them. During the first 12-24 hours of life, they should eat about 10% of their live weight in colostrum. Their bellies will feel tight like a balloon (not flat). The colostrom gives antibodies to help them develop their immune systems. For goats that produce a lot of colostrum, freeze extra in ice trays for use in the future.

If they still struggle to eat, even with help, milk the doe into baby milk bottles and give it to the kid. At the extreme, your veterinarian would have to tube the animal, which means to put a tube all the way down to its stomach and pour milk in it. This is a last resort, and should be done only if the animal is very weak, lethargic, and is not drinking. Watch to see the tube go down its throat. If you cannot see it, it may go into the lungs, which can kill the kid.

It’s not known why, but on occasion a doe will not accept her kid. Kids can be fed thawed colostrom frozen from other does. Sometimes, other does take them in. To encourage this, find a doe that birthed a single (vs. twins) and cover the rejected kid with this doe’s afterbirth. The doe will accept it.

After kids are born, separate your herd by nutritional needs and match it to your farm to decrease feed costs. Put yearlings, weanlings, and nursing mothers on high quality feed, and put other adult does on mature forage. It won’t hurt them, and will make sure they cannot steal the good food needed by the weakest.

The Business of Being in the Boer Goat Business

“Failing to plan is planning to fail”

Alan Lakein, Author

It’s a well-known fact that many businesses fail within the first five years of their existence. But many of those businesses fail because they didn’t think through their business before they got started.

Take a look at the following list of 10 leading causes of business failures:

  1. Insufficient business/enterprise planning
  2. Lack of adequate capital in the start-up and growth stages
  3. Going into business for the wrong reason
  4. Manager gets worn out and/or underestimates the time requirements
  5. Family pressure on time and money
  6. Being at the wrong place at the wrong time
  7. Lack of market awareness
  8. The manager falls in love with the enterprise and cannot make objectivedecisions
  9. Lack of financial responsibility and awareness
  10. Lack of a clear focus

You can see in the list above that many of the reasons why businesses fail is a lack of planning.

Having a plan helps you develop a vision of what you want your business to be, define how you will build it, and determine if it’s working.

To start, proper identification and written descriptions of a mission and goals for a Boer goat operation will provide a strong foundation for the development of a complete business plan.

Take a moment to write down your mission and goals for your Boer goat operation:

If you want to raise Boer Goats, ask yourself these questions:

Questions to Ask Yourself About Your Environment:

  • Do you have sufficient fencing to keep your goats in and predators out?
  • Will you need any cross-fencing to separate some animals?
  • Will you need some type of guard animal?
  • Do you have sufficient shelter for your animals during bad weather?
  • Do you have the ability to pen up sick animals?
  • How will you transport animals?
  • How will you pen animals to doctor?
  • Will you have to supplement grazing with grain/hay?

Questions to Ask Yourself About Your Animals:

  • Where will you purchase your animals?
  • Where will you sell your animals?
  • How will you track breeding sire if you will be registering animals?
  • How close will you monitor and participate in birthing?

Medical Questions to Ask Yourself:

  • How will you gain knowledge about medical requirements?
  • Is the vet in your area that is knowledgeable about goats?
  • What type of maintenance program will you have for goats?
  • What type of medical supplies will you need and where will you get them?

General Questions to Ask Yourself:

  • What type of record keeping will be required?
  • Will you join any goat associations?

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