Goats gestation and goats pregnancy explained
Goats gestation and goats pregnancy
Breeding goats is something every goat lover eventually attempts, and for good reason. It’s the best way to grow your goat herd and increase your milk or meat production, as well as enjoy the company of more and more goats. But you do need to know quite a bit about goats gestation and goats pregnancy to successfully see your does through pregnancy and birth. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to do it.
Goats gestation and goats pregnancy: breeding your does for the first time
Regardless of the breed, most young does go into their first heat when they are around 4 months old. (Going into heat means the young goat is ready to procreate). However, it is not recommended to bread does when they are so young. A doe should weigh at least 64 lbs during her first breeding, and a lot of goat owners wait for their does to reach at least 80 lbs before breeding them for the first time. Depending on how the does are fed, they may reach that weigh around 7-9 months old, but even that is too early to safely breed your young does.
Normally the does aren’t bred until they are 12-18 months old, which is when the breedings become more successful and the does can handle pregnancy and labor better and easier. Some owners think they will get more milk the earlier they breed their doe for the first time – and this may be true. But earlier breeding can significantly worsen the goat’s health and reduce their lifespan, which in the end will rob you of several years of your doe’s life and potential health issues with the foe, which will ultimately result in less benefit than if you bread your does later. When the does are bred before the age of 1.5 years old they also tend to gain too much weigh, which results in further breedings being more complicated and less successful.
An overweight doe may even have difficulties going into heat: she may completely miss her heat cycles, or, on the contrary, go in heat every 5-7 weeks which is extremely unhealthy for the doe and stressful both for her and you as the owner. Another issue overweigh does tend to have is cysts in their ovaries. Even if the does go into heat and get pregnant, pregnancies may be complicated and the babies may not survive. To get a doe like that into successful breeding again, you would need to optimize their diet for them to lose weight and then wait for the doe to get back to healthy weight and overall health.
Goats gestation and goats pregnancy: heat cycles and heat seasons
Most of the does go into active heat in the fall-winter time. September to March is when they are most successful at getting and staying pregnant. This is also a good time to breed your does because you will get the litters during spring time, which is a great time to raise young kids. From end of March-beginning of April and until the fall time, most does don’t have active heat cycles and are not eager to breed. This makes sense: the does don’t want to have newborns during the rough winter time when it’s hard to find food and survive the cold temperatures. Our job is to follow nature in its wisdom and let the does become pregnant when it is best for them: during fall and winter time.
Your does’ diet will affect how often and when they go into heat. For example, lack of copper and phosphorus in the diet may lead to delayed or reduced heat cycles, as will magnesium deficiency. Vitamin A deficiency will cause issues in the developing fetus and may lead to loss of pregnancy.
Weather can also majorly affect your goats gestation and pregnancy: very hot weather can even prevent the fetus from attaching and cause loss of pregnancy.
Some pasture grasses can also affect your goats gestation and fertility. For example, grasses like clover contain excess estrogens which can cause cyst formation in the goats ovaries as well as uterus, which can prevent the goat from getting pregnant.
Signs that your doe is going into heat
To breed goats successfully, you need to know what to look for to see when your does go into heat. As I said above, most goats will go into heat most often during the time from September to around February. Outside of these months, does can also go in heat but the heat cycles are less pronounced and the breedings during these months will be less successful.
The length of a heat cycle (from the beginning of one heat cycle to the beginning of the next one) may vary from 20-25 days and is highly individual. The heat itself can last around 12 hours to 4-5 days. During the months of October to December does generally have the most active heat cycles and tend to get pregnant easily.
What should you look out for to see if your doe is in heat?
- The doe is unrestful and bleats a lot (or at least more than usual if you have a very talkative doe).
- The doe is attracted by the smell of the buck and tends to act excited around bucks. Sometimes you can even increase the does desire to go in heat by rubbing a rag behind the buck’s horns and then having the doe smell the rag.
- The doe will wag the tail more than usual
- The doe will have have unusual excretions from her vagina: the exudates will be thick and white at the beginning of the heat and transparent during the heat.
- The doe’s vulva will get larger and red so it almost looks inflamed.
Does often go in heat together: one goat in heat will “pass it on” to the others. Some goats display more signs of heat than others: this is highly individual.
You can vary when you breed your does depending on your goals. If your purpose is maximizing milk production, it is best to breed your goats earlier – around September or so. This way the litter will be born around February. If you breed your does later around February or March, the litter will be born around August. In general, a doe that births her kids in February, will have much more milk than the one that has her litter in August.
Goats gestation and goats pregnancy: what to expect during pregnancy
How can you tell that your doe is pregnant? Well, the easiest way is to watch whether or not your doe goes in heat again. If it’s been around 3 weeks or more after the last breeding and your doe is not in heat – congratulations! That means she is pregnant. If your doe does go into heat after 3 weeks, it means the pregnancy didn’t happen or the doe lost the pregnancy. You can breed the doe again unless there are some obvious health issues that may have prevented successful breeding the previous time. In which case, you will need to investigate those issues and find a solution before breeding your doe again.
During pregnancy, the goat will steadily gain weight. This means you will need to increase the amount and quality of feed she is getting. This is especially important during the last month of pregnancy.
Some other ways to see if you doe is pregnant is to test progesterone levels in her milk, which can be done by your vet. You can also do a scan but it can be expensive and unnecessary. Some experienced goat owners can confirm the pregnancy by palpating the goat’s abdomen to see if the uterus is enlarged and the uterine walls are thicker than normal. If this is their first pregnancy, you will notice your does’ udders grow significantly, especially around the last month of pregnancy. You will also clearly see the enlarged abdomen.
Goats gestation and goats pregnancy: the development of the fetus
Goats gestation period normally lasts around 150 days (plus-minus 5 days, depending on the breed). Does usually have more than one eggs ready to be fertilized and each one will implant into the uterine wall after fertilization. Each embryo will develop in their own placenta.
By the 60th day after fertilization, the embryos become fully formed fetuses. From then on and to the birth day, the fetus continues to grow and develop. Its mass grows quickly, but especially so during the last 5-6 weeks of pregnancy. Every fetus is fully supplied with the nutrients required for its growth by the mother. This is why it is so important to feed your does healthy and well balanced nutrition during pregnancy.
What should you keep in mind so you can best prepare for when the new litter is ready to be born? Here are a few things to remember.
The last 8 weeks of pregnancy is the critical time when the fetuses mature and grow and require lots of nutrients. This means you really need to think hard about your does menu and make sure she gets everything required for both her and her babies. Some of the minerals to keep in mind are selenium, vitamin A and vitamin D. You can supplement selenium as injections or add it to the feed at least 4 weeks before labor. Vitamin A is often deficient even on luscious pastures of fresh green grass, so it often needs to be supplemented.
Vitamin D is also very important. You can make sure your goats are making enough of it by letting them spend as much time outside as possible.
A good way to make sure your goats get enough nutrients is to gradually increase the amount of grain in their diet during th progression of their pregnancy. This is especially important if some of your pregnant does aren’t gaining weigh or are losing weight. This can cause loss of pregnancy and even the death of the doe!If you notice any of your pregnant does losing weight, consult with a vet immediately.
The birthing experience
Experienced goat owners can always tell when their does are about to go into labor. You can learn to do that too. How can you tell when your doe is getting ready ti bring her kids into the world?
The doe can start refusing food right before labor (although this isn’t always the case).
The doe will act agitated and uncalm. They will try to make a nest for themselves by getting away from other goats and people and rearranging their bedding. They will also express agitation by looking around themselves often, following you around the barn and trying to lick your hands. You may also notice the doe experiencing contractions and “pushing”.
Experienced does that have had a few litters already, may not display any signs of impending labor. Sometimes you can only tell they are close to Day X by their enlarged udder and teats. (While younger does will have their udders increased long before labor).
About 7 days before labor, the does pelvic ligaments and joints will get looser. The goat may seem to lose some weight at that time but that is only due to the changing anatomy.
A few days before birth the does vulva will become red and enlarge. You can often see transparent excretions. If the excretions are white or yellow, that may mean the doe has vaginitis. You will have to consult your vet about that.
About a day before labor the doe’s temperature may drop a few degrees. This is another sign of the upcoming birth.
During normal birth, after a few hours of contractions you will see the placenta appear through the birth canal. After it ruptures, you will see the kid’s front legs and the head tightly bent to the legs. This is if the kid is coming correctly. If there are several babies, they appear within 20-30 minutes from each other. Normally the doe is perfectly capable of handling the birth on her own. You may need to assist your doe if the kids are coming back legs first or if the head is bent backward with front legs coming first. Experienced goat owners can often help their does during birth, but if you don’t have much experience, it’s good to have a vet technician assist you.
About three hours after the last kid is born, you will see the afterbirth come out. You can never pull it out, it has to come out on its own. If you haven’t see the afterbirth come out after 6 hours since the birth of the last kid, please contact the vet.
If the kid is born in the intact placenta, it needs to be freed from it immediately, or it can suffocate. If the labor is long and difficult, the kids may be born weak and suffocating. In that case, you will need to clear their mouth and nose from mucus and make sure they can breath fine on their own. It is also a good idea to wipe the kids with a towel until they are dry and warm. After that you should encourage them to feed on mother’s milk and make sure they are able to do that. If the kids aren’t feeding, you may need to feed them manually. Getting some nutrients in right after birth is extremely important for the babies to survive and start gaining weigh after birth.
A few words about the umbilical cord: it normally falls of on its own after the kid is born, but if it doesn’t, you will need to cut it around8 cm away from the kid’s body.
Goats gestation and goats pregnancy: after the birth
After the kids are born, mama doe will lick them, which is very helpful in getting their blood flowing. It’s important that the kids are dry and warm, so if they are still wet, you may help out by drying them with a towel. You can also use heating lamps to warm the kids up.
For the first 30 minutes to an hour after birth the kids should be sucking on the mother’s milk. This first milk is critically important as it has some very beneficial nutrients to start up the kids’ digestive and immune systems to work correctly. This is why it’s so important to make sure the kids are sucking successfully: if they aren’t, you need to help them find the teats and make sure they latch. If they are unable to, you will need to feed them manually.
The mom will be very thirsty after the birth. About an hour or two after the birth of the last kid, she needs to get 1-2 L of clear warm water. Make sure she drinks!
Your newly born baby goats will feed exclusively on mother’s milk for the next 2-3 weeks. After that time, you can start introducing concentrates and grain to their menu, starting with small amounts at first. You can also start adding green grass and hay to their diet.