Fertility and Breeding Problems In Goats

The most common fertility problems in goats are those that can be easily fixed and are directly related to herd management practices. The most common problem is minerals or the lack there of, or the wrong kind of minerals. Minerals can directly have an effect on fertility both in does and bucks. Goats need a well balanced free choice mineral designed specifically for them to meet their needs, this mineral must contain copper and should be offered year-round. The lack of copper or insufficient amounts of copper and other minerals can lead to fertility problems, or the inability of a doe to settle, or low sperm count.

Hand breeding can also lead to failed attepts at getting a doe to settle if the buck has not been used often enough. When a buck has not been used in a week or longer, the sperm count is very low. Only about 4% of the sperm cells are still alive if a buck has not ejaculated in a period of 7 days or longer. It will take several ejaculations to rid his testes of the dead sperm cells and generate new ones. Thus the conception rate is very low.

Another very common problem in does is an overfed or overweight doe. An overweight doe will sometimes get bred every heat cycle and never settle or abort even during later stages of pregnancy. Does that are not in production should be fed limited amounts of feed, just enough to maintain their body weight, not enough to add extra pounds. A doe that is not in production should only have 1/4 inch or less of body fat from the rib to the skin. Before breeding begins, it can be helpful to flush your does by increasing grain or protein source a week or two prior to adding the buck. This will cause the does to release more eggs and have higher fertility and birth rates.

A common problem in bucks is poor hoof trimming or no hoof trimming. I know that the bucks tend to have an offensive odor and it isn’t a pleasant thought to trim the hoofs but a buck with bad feet will not breed or will not breed enough. If a buck is unable to stand, or walk without pain then he will not put all of his weight on his hind legs long enough to breed either. Or will not pursue the doe that is in heat.

Another problem with bucks not breeding can also be a lazy buck. If a buck is left with does all the time, they tend to not get excited by the does and could care less if one is in heat or not. If you separate your bucks from your does and only allow a buck to be with the does for a period of 45 days (two heat cycles), the buck will normally have all the does bred within a matter of about two weeks. He will loose a lot of weight and not sleep until his job is done. There are also some bucks that do not want to breed "out of season" and when they do, the sperm count is too low for the doe to become pregnant however, these bucks can breed during "seasonal months" from August - January.

Of course, there are more severe breeding problems that will effect the fertility of a goat for the life of the animal. The most common "flaw" in bucks is an undecending testicle. In rare cases, both testes will not form, only one will form in the sack and the other side of the sack will be empty because the teste has not dropped down and developed properly. This will cause a low sperm count and difficulty impregnating a doe. A doe that will not breed or settle can be caused by cystic ovaries which can be diagnosed and treated by a veterinarian with injection therapy. Or, a doe that has had kids, either a single large kid or multiple births but now will not settle but cycles regularly is probably due to scaring of the fallopian tubes, this is damage that can not be repaired easily and typically an otherwise healthy doe is sold as a market animal.

Breeding and fertility can also be effected by the use of some drugs and wormers. Be sure to use drugs that does not effect the fertility or cause abortions when you are wanting to breed them.

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