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Increasing the Likelihood of Successful Reproduction Among Goat Herds

by Robert Spencer

Reproductive options amongst livestock may vary from natural breeding, to artificial insemination, to embryo flush and transfer, or any combination of the previously mentioned. No matter what reproductive method a farmer chooses to utilize on their farm, there are management practices that should be followed to insure a herd of prolific animals. The primary influence with successful reproduction is a set of healthy animals. Not only is proper nutrition a major factor in a healthy, reproductive herd, but there are some general practices a farmer can do to insure the likelihood of successful reproduction among their animals.
As mentioned earlier, proper nutrition provided year round is a major factor to keeping a herd of animals healthy and prolific. Allowing goats to browse and graze, access hay, and supplemental grain feeding will keep the animals in an overall good condition for breeding. There are other options such as “flushing” breeding animals that will increase their ability to reproduce at specific times. Flushing is the situation where a farmer provides additional grain feed (high protein) for a month prior to time the animals will be reproducing. This increases egg production among the does, and sperm count among the bucks. While such a practice is very effective, as always, it is important not to over-feed these animals, as an obese animal is less likely to conceive and does may be prone to kidding difficulties.
Proper health care is another factor in successful reproduction. This may include practices as worming, vaccinations, and preventative healthcare. If, and only if, your goats need worming, it is probably a good idea to worm them about thirty days prior to breeding time. This will prevent goats from being “pulled down” by a heavy worm burden, and increase the likelihood of prolific animals. Vaccinations to prevent such illness as overeating disorders, tetanus, or pneumonia could be done at the same time. After all, if a farmer chooses to increase the amount of feed their animals consume prior to breeding, it might be a good time to prevent the animals from being vulnerable to over eating disorders. If pneumonia might be a problem on a farm, then this might also be a good time to vaccinate against the potential threat of losing good breeding stock. As always, consult with a veterinarian prior to medicating any animals.
Adequate availability of minerals is important to insuring the likelihood of successful reproduction amongst breeding stock. Trace minerals such as selenium and magnesium (just to name a few) increase the potency of bucks and the fertility of does. A good mineral block specifically made for goats will provide the trace minerals needed as well as adequate amounts of copper to enhance the immune system of a herd. Salt blocks, mineral blocks for sheep and goats, or other general mineral blocks do not provide the specific minerals that enhance the reproductive ability and general overall vigor of goats.
Proper foot care is another way to enhance the breeding ability of a herd. During breeding time both does and bucks are on their feet a considerable amount of time. Healthy, properly trimmed feet will insure their ability to “stand’ for breeding. Gather up all breeding stock a month or two prior to breeding time and check their feet for disease or overgrown hooves. Foot rot, weak pasterns, and overgrown hooves can affect a hooved animal’s ability to walk, run, and stand at all times;, their ability to do so is crucial during breeding season. Take the time to examine each animal’s feet to make sure their hooves are well trimmed and even so the animal stands level and the animal’s weight is well distributed. Check for hoof rot and treat if necessary. Check for small rocks, thorns, or other debris that might be lodged between their toes. Healthy, well cared feet will increase the willingness for an animal to participate in the mating rituals during breeding season.
Fresh water also is important during breeding season. Water troughs free of algae, feces, and rotting vegetation will provide healthy water and will decrease the opportunity for illness to set in amongst breeding stock. Water containers should be checked daily to insure sufficient amounts of water are available, and there are no feces or vegetation floating in the water. Water troughs should be cleaned weekly to remove any algae and dead vegetation that might develop or accumulate. Healthy water insures a healthy animal.
This document provides information on basic practices that should be followed to insure the likelihood of successful reproduction among a herd of goats. Consult with a veterinarian to see what they might recommend, and with other goat producers to see what works for their situation. What works on one farm may or may not be practical or effective on another farm. A healthy herd of animals is more likely to be very prolific. Remember, ongoing health care management and maintenance of animals is more effective and less stressful than last minute or emergency health care. Each goat farmer must understand the impact of effective and efficient farm management as well as the consequence of mismanagement.


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