It is Fall. And in this season, the breeding for Spring milk happens. There are several ways to accomplish a milk supply. We choose to own, breed, milk, and nurture our own goats, producing all our own milk for our cheeses. We breed the does every year, resulting in a kidding season each Spring.
|Smelling a Doe|
Goats are seasonal breeders at our latitude. The does “heat” cycles are triggered by decreasing day length. The bucks know this is their one season of “work” each year. This is why we keep them, love them, and plan oh so carefully all about them. A goats’ gestation period (length of pregnancy) is about 5 months, or 145-150 days from breeding. We have all LaManchas and ours tend to kid (have goat babies) closer to the 145 day mark.
A good dairy consists of good dairy animal stock. There is probably no absolutely perfect goat out there. We know what traits are desirable to us, so we plan and breed to enhance those traits that have worked well for us. All of our goats are registered with the American Dairy Goat Association. With that they have a program whereby we can put in the registration numbers of each animal, and it will give us a % inbred profile, and also list the common ancestors that Planned Breeding will share. Pretty slick, eh? This is one of the tools used to plan who gets the honeymoon suite with who in the goat yard.
We don’t put the bucks in with the does for extended periods of time. We know our goats quite well, and we detect their heats (trust me, the bucks know WAYYYY before we do). When a doe is determined to be in an amorous mood, the pre-selected buck is let out of his usual pasture and put in a seldom used one. This is no small task here. We run our bucks as a group, and they know what pulling them means, and they all push the gate trying to be the chosen one. We just can’t get them to read the breed list! When the doe is bred, she is taken back to her pen and the buck is returned to his. Again, great gate pushing ensues. Year after year, we use the same technique. To get the bucks distracted from the gate to accomplish the return, a doe is walked down the buck fence line. Year after year, they fall for this and all follow the does down the fence line. This makes the return so easy! For obvious reasons, this is a task better suited to two humans, but can be done by one.
|Waylon & Willie, Zydeco hanging back|
We have never noticed any off flavors in our milk based on buck encounters. I think our clothing probably harbors more smells than the does seem to. Bucks do have a distinctive smell in the “rut”. They urinate on their own faces, drink the urine of their pen mates, do some head butting, and generally become a different species. Our guys are tame, generally pretty easy to handle, and are loved. Even in this season, I put on gloves and still give them head pats and scratches, etc. They almost stop eating this time of year. Truly a one track mind! They then spend the rest of the year eating, looking good, and not causing much trouble.
And these guys are big! We estimate them at about 300 pounds. They could easily pull me into the next county if they wanted to, but they don’t. Disposition is one of my mandatory traits! Now you see why.
|So Much to Learn!|