February 2012 Issue



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Subscribe FREE now! Monthly issues with new articles and other educational information on meat goat health, nutrition, and management written by Suzanne W. Gasparotto of Onion Creek Ranch and Pat Cotten of Bending Tree Ranch. In all cases, it is your responsibility to obtain veterinary services and advice before using any of the information provided in these articles. Neither Suzanne Gasparotto nor Pat Cotten are veterinarians. None of the contributors to this website will be held responsible for the use of any information contained herein.


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The most common reason that a doe does not breed is nutritional.

Over-feeding, under-feeding, or feeding a nutritionally-imbalanced diet, especially one lacking in essential minerals such as copper, selenium, iodine, and zinc, will prevent a doe from conceiving. Poor nutrition also includes a diet lacking in energy, protein, and long fiber. Any or all of these conditions can prevent conception.

Overly-fat does may not breed, and if they do, may not be able to carry to term. The hormone leptin is believed to have a role in reducing conception rates in overly-fat does. Fat layers around internal organs (heart, liver, lungs, kidneys, and reproductive organs) and under the skin in goats; goats do not marble fat like cattle do. Boers in America are prone to fat layering, so producers need to watch processed feed input carefully. Overly-fat does definitely have a much high rate of pregnancy toxemia as they approach kidding. Once a goat is too fat, it is difficult to get fat off it, and putting a pregnant doe on a diet is fraught with danger. The much better course is to not allow her to get too fat in the first place. This means learning how to feed properly.

A starving doe will abort her kids or deliver weak kids, if she breeds at all. The hormone leptin is well documented as preventing conception in starving does and in does that are significantly underweight.

During times of drought in areas where pastures are normally plentiful, you must feed both hay and processed grains to your goats to offset these deficiencies. Feeding regimens must be adjusted from season to season, year to year, and even within a season as rainfall, temperature, and plant growth change.

If you are new to raising goats or if you are having problems with your existing herd, the first thing you should do is learn about proper nutrition. The most difficult part of raising goats in any managed herd is getting nutrition right. My website's Articles pages at www.tennesseemeatgoats.com contain valuable articles on mineral & vitamin deficiencies, forage/browse/pasture conditions, long fiber, processed grains, and plant/pasture toxicities.

Find a qualified goat nutritionist and enlist his services. The cost is minimal compared to the problems that you will avoid. The nutritionist does not have to be local, but he must know the nutritional needs of goats in your immediate area. Regional and national feed companies employ such people who should be available to you if you are a purchaser of their products. As a final alternative, contact someone whose knowledge you respect (but not a person who raises show goats unless you also raise show goats) and ask him for a referral.

Length of daylight impacts breeding cycles. A buck cannot breed a doe until she cycles into heat. Most breeds of goats cycle into heat only when the light of day begins to shorten. In the United States, this timeframe is from mid-July to mid-December. This is particularly true of dairy breeds but it also applies to some meat breeds under certain climatic conditions like extended daylight or darkness (Alaska, for example). Does usually come into estrus every 21 days during breeding season. If you wish to breed "off-season," you may have to use powerful estrus-inducing drugs in order to bring does into heat. If this is your choice, then veterinary supervision is recommended.

Occasionally a doe is born that cannot become pregnant. A freemartin is a sterile female sibling of a male. During fetal development, male hormones can be transferred through placental walls and render a female incapable of breeding. This is a relatively rare situation in most herds. In over 20 years of goat raising, I may have seen this one time in my herd, but I'm not positive if that was the cause of the doe's not cycling.

Cystic ovaries can prevent conception. A doe that has not been put with a buck for several years after she has reached sexual maturity may not be able to breed if she has developed cystic ovaries. Breeding-age does need to be bred. Veterinary assistance is needed to determine this condition and determine if it is fixable. In many herds, the cost involved exceeds the value of the doe, so the goat is usually culled.

If the producer pasture breeds, he can incorrectly conclude that breeding is not happening if he doesn't see mating behavior taking place. Some goats in hot climates breed in the cooler night hours. Just because the producer does not see breeding activity does not mean that it isn't occurring.

A doe that is too old will not breed. Just as human females reach a timeframe beyond which they are fertile, so do female goats. When a doe reaches 9 to 10 years of age, she is less likely to become pregnant.

If an older doe does breed, extra care will be needed to make sure she carries successfully to term. She will have special nutritional needs and her udder may have so much wear and tear on it that her kids may need assistance in nursing. Older does tend to have stretched-out udders, teats that have become mis-shapen and difficult to nurse, less quantity and/or quality of milk, more chance of mastitis or congested udder, and a host of other issues common to older females. Commercial producers normally rotate out breeding does at five to six years of age and replace them with younger breeding-age females that are more likely to have less kidding issues and udder problems.

A doe that has been bred too young (less than 10 to 12 months of age) may experience dystocia (birthing difficulties), particularly if she has been unwisely bred to a buck of a larger-framed breed. If she survives kidding problems, she could have a torn uterus or other internal damage that would prevent future conception. You should wait until a doe is at least 10 to 12 months old before attempting to breed her. Always breed her to a buck of her breed or, if cross-breeding, use the services of a buck of a smaller-framed breed. Cattle producers long ago learned this valuable lesson after losing many calves out of cows bred to bigger-breed bulls to birthing problems. Many different abortion diseases can prevent conception or cause a doe to be unable to carry fetuses to term. Some of these diseases are zoonotic (transmissible to humans). Check the Articles page on my website www.tennesseemeatgoats.com for many articles of problems relating to pregnancy and kidding.

Injuries, illness, or heavy worm load can cause a doe not to breed. A doe needs to be in good physical condition and healthy to breed and give birth to healthy kids.

Some does abort their fetuses naturally because of malformation during the pregnancy. Creating a life is a very complex process and lots of things can go wrong. Nature's way of handling these developmental failures is a spontaneous abortion.

Miscalculating a breeding date can lead to the conclusion that the doe has not bred. A sonnogram done at about 30 days of suspected pregnancy can confirm if a doe is bred and how many fetuses are present. However, for many producers, sonnogramming is not cost effective.A doe can experience a drug-induced abortion. The dewormer Valbazen and corticosteroids such as dexamethasone should not be used on pregnant does or does suspected of being bred. Think before using medications on does that may be or are pregnant.

Occasionally a doe can look pregnant (even appear pregnant on a sonnogram) and have a cloudburst or false pregnancy (hydrometra). She carries as if all is normal, even making a milk-filled udder, but has no fetuses and delivers only fluids. If this occurs in your herd, do not be too concerned unless it is a regular occurence, at which time veterinary assistance is required.

To summarize, many things can cause a doe not to breed and not to carry to term. The producer needs to become familiar with all of these possibilities and be prepared to take both preventative and corrective actions.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto, ONION CREEK RANCH, Lohn, Texas 2-7-12



Contact Suzanne Gasparotto at
325-344-5775 for prices and availability.

Tennessee Meat Goats™ and TexMasters™ are usually available year round.
Contact us for ages and pricing by calling
325-344-5775 or emailing onioncreek@tennesseemeatgoats.com


TexMaster™ doe, Sylvie and 12 day old quads
Black-headed doeling is Silkie. Brown-headed doeling is Surprise . . . because we weren't expecting her.


Sylvie's TexMaster™ 12 day old quads. Swayze with the black tail, Sweeney behind him,
Surprise in the background with brown head, and Silkie at far right



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