REPRODUCTIVE PROBLEMS OF DOES
Reason #1 that a doe doesn't breed: improper nutrition.
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. 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. The Boer breed is especially prone to layering fat, so you need to watch processed feed input carefully. Overly-fat does have a much higher 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. Don't let her get fat in the first place by 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 improperly fed does, i.e. starving does, fat does, and does that are significantly underweight.
During 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 daylight 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. Since I began raising goats in January 1990, I may have seen this one time in my herd.
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, but only once each year. Veterinary assistance is needed to diagnose 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 your breeding program involves pasture breeding, you may incorrectly conclude that breeding is not happening if you don't see mating behavior taking place. Some goats in hot climates breed in the cooler night hours. Just because you don't 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 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 can 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. Don't breed her back while she is nursing kids. Breed does only once per year.
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.
Many things can cause a doe not to breed and not to carry to term. You need to become familiar with all of these possibilities and be prepared to take both preventative and corrective actions.
Suzanne W. Gasparotto, ONION CREEK RANCH, Texas 9/7/15
Important! Please Read This Notice!
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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