My favorite time of year is goat kidding season! Watching a new life come into the world is something that I don’t want to miss and never gets old. I don’t usually keep any kids that are born on my farm as I don’t have space for more, so I want to enjoy them as much as possible. This year will be our 6th kidding. Although I am not a pro, I want to share with you some lessons that I learned and wish I had known the first year we started.
This post is all about timing. I tell my animals that I don’t want any unplanned pregnancies on our farm, and its for their health. That’s why my cats and dog are fixed and I keep a close eye on my goat breeding. Sometimes accidents happen and a doe gets bred at a different time than you want, but measures can and should be taken to have control of the births on your farm.
Timing your kidding when you rent a buck
I don’t normally own a buck for breeding because of my small space, so renting one is usually necessary. Bucks can be hard to find during prime breeding season, which is normally August through November. Make sure you network with others in your area to find bucks available to rent and start early in the summer in doing this. When I decided to breed my first year, I really didn’t put a lot of thought into finding a buck until late October. I was surprised that a quality buck was so hard to find and most of them were in use at the time.
Many times bucks are only available to bring your does to where he lives. These are normally called driveway breedings. A lot of planning has to go into these types of breedings. Things to consider are travel time and distance, methods of hauling, and heat cycles of your does. When you have only 2 does like I did, it can be done with planning, but just imagine if you had more does that needed to be bred. This is why it is ideal that you can find a buck to bring to your place. When we found a buck and got him delivered it was already late December. This is not too late for your does to go into heat but does put your delivery later than some people like.
You should be observing your does in heat and recording the dates. I have found that my does will all be in heat within a week of each other. Keep this in mind when you rent a buck, since you will want to keep him for 6 weeks to ensure that your does are bred.
Timing your kidding around your schedule
I work a full time job and sometimes travel for workshops. One year I really messed up and didn’t plan properly around a 3-day workshop. I had to miss work because my kids were going to be born during that time.
Missing out on kidding is not something that I want to do. I believe it’s necessary to be there to help and welcome the new babies. And really who would want to miss a new birth! This usually means I take a week off work to be on maternity duty and with my does coming into heat close together that works for me. To help me with timing, I use an online goat gestation calculator.
Timing for the seasons and fun
The first year that I had kids born, they came at the end of May and beginning of June. If you keep the kids until a proper weaning time, this means you have them for 8-12 weeks. We got to enjoy them during the best summer days! Plus since the weather was nice, I didn’t have to take any special measures to keep the kids warm. The following year, I timed them for March. The weather was so cold and snowy that the little babies couldn’t go outside and play. I also did not get to enjoy them as much either. May is much better for their enjoyment and mine, plus it works out nice for milking and for visitors to the farm. May babies are bred in December so I usually have a “handsome buck” visiting around Christmas.
Having babies in late spring or early summer also works better for my sanity. Kids can be a lot of work and I don’t need extra problems. Some does become very territorial when they have kids and occasionally I have to split does up for the safety of kids. It is always easier to create more pens if you don’t have to worry about snow and ice. There is a downside to having kids born later in the season: parasites. We will cover that on the next post so stay tuned!