When I first got into raising goats on our hobby farm, I never really considered all the parts I would need to learn. One of those parts is breeding goats and bucks in rut.
If you are brand new to raising goats, then rut might be a new experience altogether. So, before we dive into all the tips and steps you need to be aware of, let’s first go over the basics.
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What is Rut?
Rut is when a male goat goes into heat. The period when he is able to mate and breed female goats in your herd.
That means he will be very willing and extremely determined to breed.
Here in Northwestern PA, Rut usually begins in early August and continues until late November or early December. This does not mean that the rest of the year your does are safe from breeding. A buck can breed a doe anytime throughout the year. When he is in Full Rut, however, he will be more determined than the rest.
The most important thing to remember is, if a buck is willing and a doe is able…it’s going to happen no matter what time of year it is!
Why do you need to breed your goats?
If you are raising dairy goats, then you will need to breed your female goats to keep the milk coming in. Most goat owners have three options when it comes to breeding.
1. You can send your does to another farm to be bred by their goat. This is usually called line breeding and is more common than you may think. The drawback here is the possibility of bringing worms or other diseases back to your farm. To counter this you will want to thoroughly clean your footwear and quarantine your does for a few weeks upon return.
2. Artificial insemination is quickly gaining popularity but it can be an expensive way to breed. Also, semen is short-lived so you need to be highly aware of your doe’s cycle so you can time things for a more successful breeding.
3. Keep a buck on property to breed monthly or allow him to run with the does during the breeding season. The perks here is the opportunity for you to supervise breeding to better ensure a successful connection. If you do miss and notice your does are in heat a month later, it is usually no problem to try again since all the parts of the puzzle are on your property.
What does Rut mean to a buck?
Rut is when a goat will better prepare himself for mating. He will spray his face and front legs with urine (yes, I know) over and over again. It is a very pungent scent to us, but a sweet and luring scent to the does.
Warning, when your buck is in Rut do not handle him without gloves. That smell is all over him and even though you may be immune to it, your friends and neighbors are not. 🙂 We call that smell “bucky” and it can sink into your skin and stay there long after you stop smelling it. So, always wear gloves and keep your barn clothes separate.
To a buck, Rut also means a time of parading and showing their stuff. Bucks will pace back and forth in their pens, blubbering over and over and moaning or singing to the girls
A word of caution here, sometimes the bucks will become so involved in this show they will not eat or drink as they should. Their desire to breed is a powerful one and they will become so distracted that they forget to eat and drink.
I have seen quite a few bucks lose body condition during this period, some to an even dangerous level. I have since learned to prepare my buck before Rut sets in so he is better able to handle the enduring task of breeding.
Preparing your buck for breeding season is simple. It consists of nourishing your goats inside and out so they can better withstand the riggers of Rut and it ensures he also has the stamina to last the entire breeding season. if you have a large herd it is critical that you pay close attention to your buck and his body condition.
Since our bucks enter Rut in early August, I usually begin in late June, early July.
Disclaimer: Please remember that I am not a vet and this is not a steadfast rule. This is just what I do in my situation with my animals. This is advice only and should be taken as such. Consult your veterinarian for specific guidelines.
How To Prepare Your Buck For Breeding Season
Breeding Tip #1. Increase Your Buck’s Grain
If you have your bucks on grain make sure it is good quality. Increasing the amount of grain prior to breeding season will help build up your goats to better withstand the demands breeding will have on them. It is always important to make sure you do not overfeed. The best way to increase feed without overfeeding is to introduce the increase slowly.
Learn to touch your bucks often so you can feel if they are over or underweight and adjust the amount of feed accordingly. Fir on a goat can disguise more than you might think. Pet, touch, and feel your goats regularly so they become accustomed to it. This one tip alone will go along way to a healthy herd.
Remember, any changes in feed should always be made gradually.
Breeding Tip #2. Offer free-choice minerals 24/7
No matter where you live, minerals is an important ingredient for raising a healthy herd. Free-choice minerals simply mean you goats make the choice to eat the minerals or not. It is said that a goat will eat minerals if their body is craving them. By leaving a small portion out at all times they can nibble as they need them.
If your buck is deficient, you may notice him eating his minerals quickly rather than just an occasional nibble. If this is the case, you will need to do some research to see what else may be wrong if anything. Or at the very least what he may be lacking nutritionally.
Do a health check to be sure he is good to go. If you cannot find anything wrong and more symptoms show up, you will want to contact a vet immediately. Goats are great at disguise sometimes only showing there is a problem when it is too late. As with any animal, prevention is the most valuable way to keep your goats healthy. KNOW your goats so you can quickly recognize when something is off.
Breeding Tip #3. Increase Quantity and Quality of Hay
Where we live Timothy Hay and Orchard Grass is the most common hay mixture for livestock. A good choice, but for goats, Alfalfa is by far the best way to go. Since alfalfa is very hard to come by in my area I feed all of my goats fermented alfalfa hay called Chaffhaye.
During Rut, I will up the amount I give to my bucks just to give them an extra boost. Chaffhaye, in my opinion, helps to put on a little extra weight (if needed) and provides them with extra nutrients. And the goats just love it. Is goes without saying overfeeding a goat anything is not a good rule of thumb.
A fat buck is not a healthy buck.
Breeding Tip #4. Vitamin B
If you notice your buck is run down and sluggish you may need to give a boost. A shot of Vitamin B can help quite a bit but again ask your vet before injecting. Remember each situation is different and before administering anything I would consult a vet. If you are worried about cost, don’t be. Talking to a vet on the phone is free and more often than not they will be more than willing to help. If you do not have a vet in your area that is familiar with goats, then contact your extension office for a recommendation of a local farm or a 4H group you can consult.
Breeding Tip #5. Probiotics
Again, if your buck needs a boost in the eating category, probiotics can help. Probiotics come in a tube as a paste that you administer orally. It helps to encourage eating and also promotes a healthy rumen.
This is the Probiotic Paste I use and is safe to use with goats.
Breeding Tip #6. Apple Cider Vinegar
I love ACV and I not only feed it to my goats but to my chickens and ducks as well. Before Rut I will add about a tablespoon of ACV to a gallon of water and pour it into my buck’s water dish once a week. The goats love the taste and it really encourages them to drink up. Water, in my opinion, is the best way to promote good goat health in does and especially bucks.
When purchasing apple cider vinegar you will want to be sure it is organic and it contains the “Mother” like this. Both should be clearly listed on the label.
Breeding Tip #7. Make Sure Your Buck’s Housing is Secure
If a buck is in Rut and a doe is in heat, your buck will go to great lengths to get to her. It is extremely important to house your buck in a secure and safe pen.
Cattle panels with extra stakes and plenty of room to move around is how we house all of our bucks during Rut.
Once breeding season begins on our farm we will move the bucks in with the does where they will stay until everyone is bred. This usually takes just a month or two at most. This type of breeding is called running the buck with the does and simply means keeping everyone together for 1-3 heat cycles. Since a doe goes into heat every 21 days, 3 months will cover 3 full cycles.
I have a few friends that let their bucks run with their herd year-round. They use goat aprons to prevent unwanted and untimely breedings. I have not used these aprons before so do your research before investing in one. You can see how the buck aprons work in this video I found on YouTube.
Breeding Tip #8. Keep the Bucks Cool in the Heat
Rut is stressful enough without the added discomfort of hot summer weather. Do all that you can to keep your boys cool so they stay healthy for the job ahead. Be sure you have a large shaded area and a cool place on the ground for them to get out of the sun. Be sure you offer them cool water throughout the day and watch for heavy panting or signs of illness.
You can read How to Keep your Animals Cool in the Heat for tips.
A goat’s gestation (or pregnancy) is 148-152 days. If you want to know just when your does will have their babies you can use our Goat Gestation Calendar below.
Remember it is so important to be proactive in your goat’s health. Supply them with the nutrient and health support they need, keep a watchful eye for any changes and provide a safe and loving environment. Just these few steps will encourage your goats to be friendly, healthy and happy.
Since writing this post I was able to interview Kristy from Land Of Havilah Farms. She has some great tips for preparing your does for breeding most of which you can apply to your bucks. You can read all about it here.