Onion Creek Ranch, Lohn, Texas
Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Lohn, TX
Lohn, Texas
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BREEDING 'BIG': RECIPE FOR DISASTER

Cattle producers learned a long time ago what some goat breeders have yet to learn . . . NEVER breed a large-framed male to a smaller-breed female.

Dystocia (birthing difficulties) in female goats is directly related to poor breeding choices made by the producer. The body barrel of the smaller-framed doe is not large enough to accomodate the babies inside her as they try to pass through the birth canal and into the world. Most kids are born head first. The head of a Boer or Nubian kid, for example, is not going to pass easily through a Spanish or Myotonic and certainly not a Pygmy doe's cervix, even when fully dilated. Yet some goat producers, apparently without considering this basic aspect of breeding, are mating very-large-framed bucks to smaller-breed does.

The smaller doe may have difficulty with adequate milk production for the bigger kids. If she produces enough milk, her udder will suffer because it will be stretched to a size greater than normal, resulting in a ruined udder. Kids can get tangled up inside the smaller body, with two or more trying to be born at the same time. The uterus may prolapse. Kids that need to be manually turned for proper delivery positioning will be difficult if not impossible to move within her smaller uterus. There is also the very real possibility of internal tearing occuring during difficult deliveries.

When producing cross-bred animals, the producer's proper breeding regime is to breed a smaller-framed breed of buck to a larger doe. The doe will have the body barrel needed in which to grow medium-sized kids and will produce proper quantities of milk for the offspring. She will also have less chance of having the complications of pregnancy that occur during troubled births. And the buck will pass along his superior genetics to his offspring. This formula produces the best of both breeds.

The goal is not to achieve high birth weights; this only contributes to kidding difficulties. Meat-goat kids who are born weighing more than eight or nine pounds are too big; their dam has been allowed to get too fat. Heavy birth-weight kids are nothing to be proud of; indeed they should be avoided. Experienced producers breed for medium-sized kids that grow fast after being born.

Below are direct quotes from two North American goat producers who have had first-hand experience with "breeding big." One of these ladies breeds both cattle and goats, hence her comments about cattle . . . which are even more applicable to goats:

Janet Sampson, Live Oak, Florida, says: "We went through breeding smaller cows to larger-framed bulls about ten years ago in our commercial cattle herd, which was mostly made up of older proven Brahma and Brahma-mix cows. A (what we believed to be) experienced cowman talked us into purchasing a purebred Limousin bull; he convinced us that this bull would add muscle to the Brahma's hardiness. The next calving season was a nightmare. Calves got stuck inside the cows because they were too big in frame size; uteruses prolapsed from constant pushing to try to get the calves out; and if the calf survived, we lost the cow. Our great experiment ended up with huge vet bills, five calves that had to be bottle-fed, and five dead momma cows. Needless to say, we sold the darn bull, learned from our stupid mistake, and went back to a commercial bull with beef influences. We do not breed larger-framed male goats to smaller-breed does."

Sheri Mitchell, Mountainport Farms, Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada, writes: "I am one of those people who has successfully bred a Pygmy doe to a Boer buck. My Pygmy doe gave me two beautiful and healthy doelings last spring - - - and I would never do it again! Here's why:

Yes, she kidded just fine, but another Pygmy doe had quads, and I had to assist with the delivery because kids #2 and #3 were hung up together in the birth canal. We lost kid #2. Yes, both does survived and I ended up with five healthy kids to sell, but the does' lives aren't worth the risk. If I had not been home when the second doe went into labor, I'm sure I would have lost all four boys and the momma too.

By the time the two does kidded, I was a basket case. I realized about half way through their pregnancies that I had made a huge mistake. When I first bred them, I was told by other goat producers that it was okay. I found out later that I could be facing problems, and since I had very little 'goat' experience at the time, I was scared silly that they would have trouble kidding and I would not know what to do. I'm already pretty paranoid about kidding difficulties, so there's no way I'm going to purposefully do anything that could lead to a problem birth.

Take it from someone who has 'been there, done that.' If I ever get the urge to have half-Boer, half-Pygmy kids running around again, I've got some nice Boer does and a really great Pygmy buck standing by. In fact, the Pygmy buck might even get the occasional Boer doe who's a little too small to visit the Boer buck."

So, folks, BREED SMART, not big, and have healthy kids and dams too.

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All information provided in these articles is based either on personal experience or information provided by others whose treatments and practices have been discussed fully with a vet for accuracy and effectiveness before passing them on to readers.

In all cases, it is your responsibility to obtain veterinary services and advice before using any of the information provided in these articles. Suzanne Gasparotto is not a veterinarian.Neither tennesseemeatgoats.com nor any of the contributors to this website will be held responsible for the use of any information contained herein.

The author, Suzanne Gasparotto, hereby grants to local goat publications and club newsletters, permission to reprint articles published on the Onion Creek Ranch website under these conditions: THE ARTICLE MUST BE REPRODUCED IN ITS ENTIRETY AND THE AUTHOR'S NAME, ADDRESS, AND CONTACT INFORMATION MUST BE INCLUDED AT THE BEGINNING OF THE REPRINT. We would appreciate notification from any clubs or publications when the articles are used. (A copy of the newsletter or publication would also be a welcome addition to our growing library of goat related information!)

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