Breeding soundness key to goat producers’ bottom line

OLDS, Alta. — Reproductive failure means loss of profit for livestock producers.

“When I think of reproductive efficiency, I think of money,” An Pieschel said at the Alberta Goat Association’s annual meeting in Olds Oct. 2.

Pieschel, a goat producer and small ruminant specialist at Tennessee State University, explained her holistic approach, in which it is necessary to have healthy, well fed animals, a sound biosecurity plan, clean water and a good working relationship with a veterinarian.

When selecting fertile females, she wants does that can be bred on the first estrus cycle, which is 17 to 24 days depending on the breed. This should result in a 36 day breeding period for a shorter kidding cycle six months later.

Twins are the most desirable, and they are expected to double their body weight within 10 to 14 days of birth.

Mothers need to keep the twins together and wean two live babies.

On a scale of one to nine, a healthy doe should have a body condition score of six and drop down to four. The weight can be regained after weaning. A score of one means emaciated and nine is obese.

A very thin doe may take six months to get back in shape, while an obese one may be difficult to breed and could have only one baby.

Check the pelvis to prevent dystocia problems. The doe should be wide across the hip and wider across the pins, which indicates a wide spread across the pelvic cradle for easy kid delivery.

They also need to have deep bodies with the capacity to eat well and room to carry twins. They should have muscle definition and be able to walk well as they browse in pastures.

Pieschel recommended breeding does at 16 to 18 months of age so the kids are born when the female is two years old. They have grown more by that time and are mature enough to be good mothers.

“I want the bone growth, and I want them to be mentally ready to have kids,” she said.

“I want them to have the patience and perseverance to raise those little guys.”

The does also need to have good dispositions.

“They have to be nice to each other, and they have to like their kids and they can’t hurt the other does’ kids,” she said.

They should be monitored after 10 years of age. Check their teeth.

It’s time to cull once the does are not delivering healthy sets of twins.

Goats need to maintain progesterone throughout pregnancy. They may abort or the kids may be born too early if not enough hormone is present.

Gestation ranges from 144 to 155 days depending on the breed, sex of kids and age of the does.

Males also need to be examined for breeding soundness.

Bucks are weaned between three to four months of age. They can become sexually mature at less than six months of age, so they should be separated from the females because they may attempt to breed.

Onset of puberty is based on breed, nutrition and season.

The scrotum should be pear shaped and rounded at the bottom with a circumference of 28 to 32 centimetres. The testicles should be firm.

A buck should have only two teats. This is heritable, and the daughters could end up with more than two, which are not needed.

Young bucks of seven months of age can service 30 does and at maturity can breed 100.

“If one buck can’t handle 100 does within 36 days, he is pastrami for me because we’ve got to feed them all year and they get to breed a few times, ” she said.

“He is not really of value if he can’t take care of all those does.”

Keep records of bucks’ size, weight, sexual behaviour and number of pregnancies.

The first question to ask when failures occur is what went wrong with the management plan.

Consider whether the animals received proper nutrition or ate toxic plants. The animals may have been under stress. Check back to see what drugs they may have received or find out if they were dewormed with the correct product.

Goats are browsers and eat things other animals may not want, but they still need carbohydrates, sugar, cellulose and protein.

Goat rations are usually balanced for protein rather than individual amino acids. A good source of protein may be green peas, beans, fababeans or distilled solubles.

Test the farm’s water. Clean water keeps gut microflora healthy so goats can handle more roughage.

“If you wouldn’t drink it, you shouldn’t expect your goats to drink it,” she said.

Disease can also play havoc with a breeding program, so it is important to recognize symptoms before animals start dying.

Do a necropsy if kids or does die or consult with a veterinarian to get a correct diagnosis:

  • Vibriosis or ovine campylobacteriosis is an infectious disease of breeding ewes causing abortion in late pregnancy.
  • Leptospirosis is a bacteria disease causing abortion. It is transmissible to humans, so wear gloves when handling dead fetuses.
  • Brucella melitensis is a bacterial disease that causes ovine brucellosis. Make sure animals are tested for brucella ovis, not bovis.
  • Toxoplasmosis is another abortion disease and can also result in weak kids, stillbirths, birth defects and mummification of fetuses. Cats are the carriers of this protozoan known as toxoplasma gondii.
  • Q fever, also called query fever, is a bacterial infection that can also infect and kill people.
  • Chlamydiosis is a bacterial disease that may cause abortion from two days to two months of pregnancy. It can also cause pinkeye and arthritis.
  • Border disease is a congenital virus disease of sheep and goats. It is closely related to classical swine fever virus and bovine virus diarrhea virus.
  • Water belly affects male sheep and goats. The disease occurs when stones lodge in the urinary tract and prevent urination. The belly fills with water if the bladder ruptures.

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