Everybody loves baby goats. Whether you are keeping goats for meat or milk, they are the lifeblood of your farm. Now that kidding season is here, you may wonder how soon a goat can get pregnant after giving birth.
The short answer is as soon your doe goes into heat, she can get pregnant. But just because your goat can get pregnant doesn’t mean she should get pregnant right away.
We’ll explain the ins and outs of goat pregnancy, including seasonal breeding, their gestational cycle, and how lactation affects pregnancy. We’ll even tell you the best time of year for your goats to breed. Keep reading to learn more.
How Soon Is Too Soon?
Goats can get pregnant the first time they go into heat or estrus after birth. Estrus can happen as early as just a few short weeks after she has kidded. However, new goat mamas need time to recover after giving birth, so it isn’t recommended that you breed your does immediately. Pregnancy and lactation are taxing for your goats, so you want them to regain their strength to stay healthy.
Not all goats are the same, though. Wild goats, for example, only go into heat in the autumn. They are what are called seasonal breeders. Many domesticated goats follow the same pattern. If that’s the case with your goats, they will not go into heat until their next season.
However, if your goats aren’t seasonal breeders, they may be able to give birth twice in a twelve month period. To ensure your goats stay in good health, most people recommend you only breed your goats once every year. If you’re concerned with your goats getting pregnant too soon, you can separate your bucks from your does or look into using a goat anti-mating apron.
To better understand the best practice for breeding goats, let’s look more closely at their breeding practices.
As we mentioned, wild goats are seasonal breeders. In the autumn, when temperatures begin to drop and there is less sunlight, female goats go into heat and bucks are in rut. Many domesticated goat breeds follow the same pattern as their wild cousins. In late summer to early fall, you can see signs that it is goat breeding time.
Your does may suddenly become more vocal and start wagging their tales. Your tame buck will suddenly become aggressive and begin demonstrating what can be perceived as gross behavior — he will pee on himself, in his mouth, and drink your does’ urine. Don’t be alarmed. This is normal goat behavior if a bit disturbing to see for the first time.
While most dairy goat breeds are seasonal breeders, this is not true for all goats. Some breeds, like Nigerians, Boers, Pygmies, and Fainting goats, are able to breed year round. These breeds go into heat roughly every 21 days. While theoretically, these goats can be bred twice in one year, advisable to wait at least a couple of months after birth before breeding your goats again. The best practice is for your goat to have two births every 18 months rather than twice in a 12 month period.
To fully understand goat breeding, it is important to understand goats’ gestational cycle. On average, a goat will give birth somewhere between 145-155 days after she is impregnated. The average is 150 days. But factors such as age, breed, size of litter, and environment can impact exactly how long your goat is pregnant.
Seasonal breeders will begin to go into heat around the end of August. Their season will continue until January.
When choosing when to breed your goats, it is crucial to consider when they will be kidding.
If you live somewhere with cold winters and lots of snow, wait until later in the breeding season before you expose your does to your buck. That way, your goat isn’t giving birth in the middle of a January snowstorm.
Now, given that goats are pregnant for only five months out of the year, they theoretically can have two litters a year, breeding once in the fall and again in the spring. However, as we mentioned, it’s best to give your goats at least a few months between breeding, so they have time to recuperate.
Lactating Goats and pregnancy
Now, if you keep dairy goats, especially breeds with long lactation periods, you may be wondering if you can breed your milking nannies. The answer is yes, you can breed lactating goats. But before you start planning a date for your milk goat, there are some things you should know about lactating goats and pregnancy.
First of all, both pregnancy and lactation are hard on your goats. So you want to make sure your goats are getting plenty of nutritious food to eat. I mean, really, your whole herd should always have access to good forage or the best hay for goats and plenty of clean water. But pregnant and lactating goats need more protein than your other goats, so make sure you are meeting their dietary needs, especially if you plan on breeding your lactating goat.
You also don’t want to milk your goat throughout her pregnancy. You want to give her at least two months to dry up and rebuild her strength before she gives birth again. It is essential you know how to tell if your goat is pregnant so you can stop milking when she is about three months pregnant.
There is one last thing you should consider before you rush off to breed your prize milk goat — your stinky buck. In order to breed your doe, she needs to spend some time with your buck for obvious reasons. And during rutting season, your buck is extra stinky. Some people say that your buck can transfer his distinct goaty aroma to your milk, which is unappealing to many people.
If you are worried that your milk may smell (and taste) like a rutty goat, you might not want to breed your lactating doe.
Now personally, I have had a lactating goat with my buck during breeding season, and I didn’t notice any particular change in my milk. If your milk is only for family use, I wouldn’t necessarily worry so much about it. If your milk tastes a little goaty, you know why. However, if you sell your milk to others, this might be something you want to think about.
Also, for additional information, you can watch this video:
Breeding your goats keeps your farm alive. Whether you raise goats for their milk or meat, without babies, you wouldn’t have anything. However, as much as you may always want baby goats around, it is crucial you wait a bit after your goat gives birth before you breed her again.
While some breeds of goats won’t go into heat until their mating season in the fall, this is not true of all breeds. Certain common domesticated breeds, like Boers and Pygmies, are continuous breeders. With these breeds, it is important to keep new moms away from your bucks, so they don’t get pregnant too soon. Pregnancies too close together are taxing on your does and can cause health problems.
Most people recommend only breeding your does once a year to ensure they have enough time to properly recover from birth and lactation, though you can breed lactating does. Just ensure that your pregnant goats get plenty of protein in their diet to stay healthy.
Rachael and her husband arrived on Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua in 2011. There they founded El Jardin de la Vida, a tropical micro food forest, focusing on Sustainable Living Education. She teaches others to build with natural materials, live off-grid, and appreciate slow food.