Are you stuck trying to figure out meat goat breeding decisions for your herd?
Meat goat breeding decisions may seem difficult. But they sure don’t have to be. You’ve already made one important decision, which was to raise meat goats. So, now you have to decide how to make your herd better through breeding.
Making your herd better is your ultimate goal for your meat goat operation. There are several small decisions that are pivotal in the direction of making a quality and profitable meat goat herd.
Small Decisions Make Big Changes
While you can see the big picture, it’s important to understand something. It will take time, work, and resources to make the right changes in your herd. Accomplish little goals first before tackling the BIG GOAL you have for raising and breeding goats for profit.
No matter if you’re breeding pygmy goats or wanting to choose the best Spanish goat, knowing what decisions to make can really help you in your question for raising meat goats for profit.
So, let’s talk about those small decisions that can result in big changes for your herd. Here are some smaller meat goat breeding decisions you need to make and why they are important.
Why You Might Be Looking For New Breeding Stock?
I know you. You said that you wouldn’t keep any does back in your herd this year. But now, it’s kidding season and the most beautiful little doeling was born.
Aww…the struggle with goat farming. Now, here’s the dilemma. You will need to breed her later on, but you don’t have another buck.
We all are afraid of the phrase ‘inbreeding goats.” Thus, the reason to analyze your herd, keep great records on your genetics and know if you need to add in some new lines to change your herd.
Finally, knowing and understanding exactly how you want to improve your herd will help you make those difficult decisions.
How Do You Want To Change Your Herd?
This is the main question to ask. What direction to actually take your herd. It’s all a based upon your ultimate goal. And to get there, you need to make quality meat goat breeding decisions.
Your goal might be to raise show goats to sell for competition. Or you might want to raise commercial meat kids for the meat market. These are just two examples of where you could take your herd.
And it all depends on the potential market of your area. So, before you make this decision, put feelers out for how you would sell your product. Being sustainable means financing the herd, which means selling is part of the program.
You also want to make sure the buck or does you choose are easy maintenance. This usually depends upon the breed but can also depends how that animal was raised.
What Meat Goat Breeds To Use?
There are many breeds of meat goats out there. Each breed is known for different qualities and traits that need to be considered before making meat goat breeding decisions.
For a good list of meat goat breeds as well as milk goats, read more here.
First of all, the South African Boer Goat is the obvious one most people know. They are generally large and muscular animals, which brings high meat goat prices throughout the year.
Another popular breed is Kiko. They are excellent for maternal qualities and parasite load.
TexMaster are a hybrid cross. This is the breed of buck I use most often. The breed produces a higher meat to bone ratio in kids, resulting in a meatier kid at finishing.
There are several more breeds I haven’t even mentioned. Sometimes, if you can’t decide on just one, you can just put two breeds together and use a crossbreed buck. It’s the best of both worlds!
Purebred or Crossbred?
A purebred animal is one who’s parents are the same breed. A crossbred animal is an animal who’s parents are two different breeds. Depending on your goals, you’ll need to decide whether to stay with the same breed or go crossbred.
After trying both, I prefer crossbred animals across all species if it’s the right cross. I use hardy crossbred goats for higher meat to muscle conversion, maternal qualities, lower parasite load and durability on pasture.
I thoroughly enjoy letting my crossbred goat herd go out to pasture all summer with very little maintenance required. So, if these traits are more important to you than winning the show, you might be interested in crossbred goats.
However, if you are sold on a purebred herd and chasing the banners, there’s nothing wrong with that. You need to choose your breeding stock a bit differently. The breeding stock you choose needs to meet the breed standard requirements according to the breed association of your choice.
Registered vs. Commercial?
Either way you choose, my advice is to ALWAYS purchase breeding stock from a breeder. Go to the breeder’s facilities and look the animals over from head to tail.
Then, plan to purchase registered bucks or does that are American Boer Goat Association (ABGA) registered if you want to raise purebred goats for show. Purebred or Crossbred, there are classes for both. ABGA does require either the buck or doe to be 100% Boer.
Other breeds, such as Kiko and Myotonic, will have similar requirements. It’s best to check requirements with your breed association.
But, if your goal is to raise goats commercially, papers are no big deal. Registrations are no big deal. A piece of paper is not going to make your goats anymore valuable. Because it is just a piece of paper.
My best producing does are non-registered. So, if the commercial route is where you’re headed, don’t worry so much about papers. You do not need this extra expense if you’re going commercial.
Another way to bring initial cost down is buying younger kids for breeding stock. But there are some risks involved with buying young kids. Breeding age is also a consideration you must make for breeding season. Read more about in the next section.
Age of the Animal
No matter when you buy or replace your breeding stock, their age is a huge factor. One question I am asked quite a bit is: “At what age can does be bred?”
I have tried testing different Boer goat breeding age ranges in my many years of raising goats. I’ve tried breeding them young (six months) to much older (2 years). In conclusion, my favorite age to breed does is 12-14 months to kid when they are 17-19 months. They reach their maturity by then and can generally kid by themselves with no issues.
As for bucks, yearlings and younger is fine to use on a few does. But, I prefer to start breeding bucks at 15 months to 2 years old. Again, this is a decision based on the maturity of the buck.
Size is also a major consideration when choosing breeding stock.
Size of the Animal
Obviously, the size of the animal matters prior to breeding.
Expected Progeny Differences (EPD’s) for goats do not exist. So, it’s up to you to gather the history on the breeding stock of choice. Talk to the breeder to find out all you can about the history of the genetics. It can make a big difference in kidding ease.
If you can’t get this information, then it’s up to you to make the decision. You can generally guess by knowing breed characteristics. For example, Boer kids tend to be quite large at birth. Kiko babies tend to be medium sized and TexMaster newborns tend to be smaller.
By knowing this information, for example, you can plan to breed a Boer buck to larger mature does and the TexMaster buck to your first time does. Think carefully about what your does can handle as you schedule your breeding season.
Goats are bred all year around. Well…to an extent.
Because goats are generally seasonal breeders. They prefer to cycle and breed naturally from the end of July until the first of February. This means, they will kid naturally in the first half of the year.
But, I dislike kidding that time of year because of the Winter cold and parasite issues in the spring. Therefore, I try to breed does out of season for November and December by using CIDR’s to schedule breedings. This has greatly increased our live kid rate because I know when my does will kid.
You can purchase CIDR’s at Tractor Supply or order them here. You’ll notice these are Sheep CIDR’s. They work great for goats because goat heat cycle is similar to sheep.
So, why do I like kidding in the fall? Because, the weather is better in the fall here in Kansas. By the time winter hits, the kids are old enough to take the winter cold like champs. I have found that kids born in the fall have better growth rates through the winter.
It’s also important to schedule around any planned trips. You’ll want to be around when your does are ready to start kidding. The easiest way to make quality meat goat breeding decisions is to decide when you want your does to kid. Then, plan about 150 days backwards.
3 Breeding Method Options
Ok, so now you have yet another decision to make. How will you breed your does? You might be asking, “How many options are there?”
Well, friend…You have three options to choose from depending on your goals. Here they are:
- Artificial Insemination
- Embryo Transfer
So, let’s talk about the pros versus the cons of the three of these methods.
- Visually watch breeding happen.
- It’s natural.
- Generally dubbed as a more reliable method of breeding.
- You’re limited on buck quality due to many factors: Price, feed costs, pen space, etc.
- You have to feed and care for the buck.
- Dealing with a buck can be overwhelming to some.
Artificial Insemination (AI)
So, there are two different AI methods. One is vaginal AI and the other is Laparoscopic AI.
- No buck care.
- You can pick any buck you like – The best genetics out there.
- An easy way to improve your herd quickly.
- It’s really not that expensive. Around here, Laparoscopic AI Service is $45 per doe. Then, semen cost is $75-$100 per straw or higher plus shipping. And that’s it.
- Laparoscopic AI is really effective. I took two does the first year and got a 100% success rate!
- It isn’t always 100% success.
- Something could happen to the semen during shipping, etc.
- The does may not take the process well. But, I’ve been told this is rare. My does did great!
Now, let’s move on to Embryo Transfer.
Embryo Transfer (ET)
I have not experienced ET. I’m just listing it as a possible option for you to further research. And I know many breeders have used this method with great success. Here are the pros versus the cons.
- Like AI, top quality genetics are used.
- You can make even more babies through flushing by obtaining more eggs to fertilize and put into recip does.
- Fairly expensive.
- Somewhat risky.
- Recipient does are usually older and sometimes unreliable.
So, now you have some options and can make decisions. How about a chart to help you make those awesome decisions?
Goat Breeding Chart for Meat Goat Breeding Decisions
So far, I’ve given the main factors for choosing the perfect mix for breeding your ideal meat goat. Now, here are some more factors to keep in mind before breeding season hits:
- When do goats go into heat?
- How long are goats pregnant? (150 days average)
- How to tell if a goat is pregnant?
- Also, how many babies do goats have at one time?
- What is the window of range that I want my goats to start kidding?
Ultimately, your schedule is your schedule. And the wonderful thing is that you can control and plan kidding seasons around you and your life. So, plan for the best and most memorable breeding season yet before goat breeding season begins.
Putting the Pieces Together Before Goat Breeding Season
Ultimately, your goat operation is like a puzzle. Especially if you’re wanting to raise meat goats for profit. All the little pieces need to fit together in order to complete the puzzle of meat goat breeding decisions.
So, you need to consider what type and kind of goats to include in your program when determining those meat goat breeding decisions. Then, you need to consider age and size to keep your program growing.
A good meat goat program foundation is in the breeding stock. As you add in new genetics, it’s important to make the pieces fit by making good meat goat breeding decisions. I know this is a lot to keep track of. But, as you look into the future and see the big picture, making the little pieces fit together and meeting small goals will make your journey seem like a walk in the park.
~ Much Love ~
Meat Goat Breeding Season is Upon Us!
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