Thursday, November 12, 2009

Is Your Goat In Heat?

Leta was in heat yesterday but my schedule did not permit the introduction of a tall, half dark stranger. How did I know she was in heat? I noticed a gel like discharge. This isn't apparent every minute of the day but is a frequent sign throughout the heat cycle. Since Leta wasn't showing any other indication of being in heat, I hoped she could hold her legs together, or what ever, until the next day when I expected her behavior to change due to elevated estrogen levels. That's when the goats act kind of crazy like I'm feeling the last few days as the hot flashes have been rolling in almost on top of one another. I wonder if I'm the Alpha female and the girls are cycling around me. No... erase that thought. Goats have a twenty-one day cycle and I'm well, I'd say when ever the wind blows but it blows about every day so let just say with many pauses (menopause) knocking at my door - I never know what's up next.

If your wondering what crazy behavior estrogen causes in a goat, read a little further. I'll do my best to explain and feel free to ask questions or share a funny story of your doe when she came into heat.

Here in Wyoming, my Saanens first cycle in October or November and I've never bred later than February before so I thought I'd better look up the average dairy goat heat season. They said August to January - so we're pretty close. Since it is the sun light that shines through the pupil that stimulates the Hypothalamus, that talks to the Pituitary, that signals the hormone release - when your does come into heat varies with where you live and to a degree your weather. The northern breeds such as the Saanens and the Alpines have shorter breeding seasons than the Nubians and I believe the LaManches. If there are any LaMancha breeders reading this please let me know on that one as I didn't find an answer when I searched.

When I looked up the Nigerian goats heat season I croaked, twelve months of the year. The same as it is for Pygmy goats. The article said that breeders often try for three kiddings in a two year period of time. That's a different mind set than dairy. Our main focus is milk production. Cross out two to three months to give the doe a break before kidding, then the milk the kids consume before they're weaned, and that's lots of milk we've missed out on.

And that's not mentioning the energy spent keeping Mr. Buck and Mrs. Doe from conjugating every month. Well not every month because one of those times she's sure to be in the motherly way and hormonally not interested for at least five months. I was feeling sorry for you Nigerian goat breeders but then I saw the heat cycle for a mouse on the list, every four to six days. Then I switched my feeling sorry to Mr. Mouse. Think of the mood swings he must have to put up with.

I want you to know it took great restraint not to research further about Mr. and Mrs. Mouse as I was intrigued since my husband fed for several days the unwanted mouse visitor in the kitchen. He first tried cheese in the trap and when the mouse ran off with it he laughed and said, "I wonder what the mouse would like to dine on next?" It was peanut butter that he lost his life over. Poor mouse he chose the wrong house.

Oh Sorry, we were talking about goats. The first thing you have to do if you want to know if your goat is in heat, is to lean back against the fence, watch the clouds go by, and gaze at your goats. In other words, you have to know what is normal behavior for your goat to know what is crazy. They are an individual. One that hasn't taken any classes on how to act during a heat cycle. So I'll give you some common signs and your goat will choose which ones she feels like using.

Leta especially looks a bit panicked, her eyes wide open. This is often displayed by a doe during her first few heat cycles as she is thoroughly bewildered at what's happening to her. All goats I've known bleat more frequently and food is hardly their main concern. In fact they may refuse to eat their grain when you milk them and not want to get on the milking stand. They're milk production will go way down during these couple days and that nice goat that walked beside you while you held her collar may act like a run away freight train especially if she smells a buck anywhere in the vicinity. Mine about dislocated my shoulder today. They are normally so well behaved.

Younger goats in particular will often ride each other and act in a similar manner as a buck.

If you have a couple goats that won't leave each other alone but yet act irritated with each other like Leta and Pudge are in this picture, then they might be in heat. Since goats in the same close proximity eventually cycle close together like a mother and daughter or a dorm of girls. So if one of your does is in heat look closely at the others.

Here's Leta smelling the high estrogen levels emitting from Pudge much like a buck does but they are too old and sensible to go around riding each other. Poor young Chicory wouldn't dare. Not with these old matrons.

This is tall, half dark and handsome, he whispering sweet nothings to Leta. It's probably the same line he uses on all the girls. The tongue flickering and lip curling exhibited by this Boar goat is normal and sometimes young does will do the same thing when in heat.

Leta has been flagging with her tail all morning as if she is trying to catch someones attention and hitch a ride. Luckily she's not one of those goats that leaps tall fences and flies off to the neighbors for a one night stand with their buck. Instead she spent the day with her tail waving in short rapidly bursts especially when another goat walks by or I ran my hand down her rump. She wags enthusiastically when this buck is near.

Leta is keeping her tail up as an invitation and she is remaining close to him, not quickly moving off to get away. If the doe slaps her tail down when the buck comes sniffing she's telling him no, in no uncertain terms, no matter how much he sweet talks her. She will exhibit the same behavior with another doe.

A young buck is dumb and at first he won't get the hint when a doe says no since they are all testosterone and no brains or finesse. But after a few ladies slap their tail in his face and forcefully tell him to take a hike with a hard head butt or two or three depending how bright he is, then he'll learn when to advance and when to retreat.

So in summary the signs are:
1. Gel like discharge.
2. It is the season for heat cycles.
3. Hangs around other goats and has a irritating cranky behavior.
4. Panicked look in their eyes.
5. Ma... more frequently (or are vary vocal and the tone changes)
6. Test the air by curling up their top lip to smell for a buck.
7. Mount other does.
8. Lack of interest in feed and being milked.
9. Flags or wags tail in short rapid burst and frequently, especially when another goat is nearby.
10. Dramatic drop in milk production for a few days.
11. Keeps her tail up when a doe or buck comes sniffing.
12. Allows the buck to mount her.

Number twelve isn't always so with a yearling doe during her first few cycles. I always hand breed. That is hold the does collar while the buck says how de doo or hello depending on where he hails from and breeds her. This keeps the rough housing at a minimum, the does that might be in his pen away, and those same does from distracting the buck and your doe.

I've experience where the buck and doe given time together develop an intense dislike. Hormones may rage but they aren't mating. Hand breeding eliminates this not common but not unusual problem since they don't get to know one another and the buck invariably mounts after a quick hello as I've brought the girls over while they are in standing heat. Also I am steadying my doe so the buck does not slide off before the task is done.

Sounds easy? It is if your doe is older but those young eighty pound does that are cycling for the first time or your one year olds like Chicory, our new goat, don't show as intense heat signs as your older does. I'm watching Chicory but I'm not positive when she is in heat yet as she has been more vocal but no other signs have emerged that I've noticed. The first time in the season that a goat cycles is sometimes lighter on signs and not as noticeable as later cycles where they seem to act more desperate to meet Sir Handsome Buck.

For now, Chicory and I will be taking some walks by the bucks in our area so I can observe her behavior and make sure when she is cycling. That is why some breeders who don't keep a buck have a wether in with the young does. He is harmless but will usually act like a buck telling you when your young does are ready to be bred.

Is it clear as mud, which is what my husbands says, or have you gotten the heat cycle picture?

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