We borrowed Little Bit, one of Dale and Merrily Carroll’s Dwarf Nigerian bucks, on October 14 to breed our two milking does, Essie and Snowball. He went to work right away pursuing Essie, who was just coming into heat at that time. He spent the next 45 days at our farm trying to woo her and Snowball. As a result, he became the eighth goat and second buck that we have kept for an extended period of time at Peeper Pond Farm. He also earned his title as our most odiferous goat. In order to make themselves attractive to female goats, bucks have a nasty ritual of urinating on themselves to generate a very pronounced scent. Oddly enough, the females are attracted to that odor when they come into heat. It is this distinct and strong odor that dissuades us from keeping adult bucks of our own, so that our dairy goat farm will not generate objectionable odors to our neighbors.
The average heat cycle for a doe (the period of time when they can mate) runs about 21 days. Within that span of time, there is a 24-hour period of peak when they are most likely to become pregnant. This heat cycle repeats for most goat breeds throughout the fall season, beginning sometime around August and ending about the end of the year. If we want to breed Essie, an Oberhasli goat, we need to get her bred during the mid-fall mating season, so that she would give birth sometime in March or April (when the weather is more conducive to birthing) and we can subsequently begin milking her for the first time. Snowball is a Dwarf Nigerian, and they are one of the few goat breeds that can mate at any time throughout the year during their repeated heat cycles. We kept Little Bit at our farm for a total of 45 days, ending on Monday, November 29, when he returned to his original home at the Carroll’s farm. By keeping him with us for that extended period, we can be relatively sure that he had two complete heat cycles to mate with our goats.
We feel confident that he successfully bred Essie shortly after he first arrived. She has not exhibited signs of being in heat and he has not tried to pursue her since that time. That tells us that she has completed at least one full 21-day period without going into heat, which is the best sign we can have that she was successfully bred. That hope is important to us, because Essie is likely to produce more milk than Snowball (up to one gallon per day), and we need her volume to provide the milk we need to satisfy our drinking, cooking, and soap-making needs throughout her productive period (roughly seven months to one year).
Snowball is another story. She is younger than Essie at roughly one year and five months of age. While goats are capable of mating at seven months, Snowball has never been bred before. She was not as receptive to Little Bit’s overtures during her heat cycle. We saw Little Bit spending a lot of time chasing Snowball during her late October heat cycle, but we thought he managed to impregnate her. However, I noticed that he was taking renewed interest in pursuing her on the morning of November 23, one week before we finally sent him home. We can only hope that he managed to service her during that second heat cycle. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to know for certain that your goat is pregnant until the baby’s heartbeat is strong enough to be heard with a stethoscope—and it often requires the trained ear of a veterinarian to be certain. Since goats only have a five-month gestation period, it is difficult to be certain they will give birth until they are nearly ready to do so. I only hope I have not jinxed our chances by buying a “birthing chain” (used to loop around a baby’s front legs to assist a struggling mother with birth) this month, but I wanted to be prepared.
Now that Little Bit has returned to his home, roughly three miles up the highway from our farm, our goat-keeping activities can return to normal. Although I wanted to muck out our goat barn earlier in the fall, I decided to wait until Little Bit left so that his odors would not remain in the bedding throughout the winter. That means I now have to replace the goat barn bedding in December, when the weather is far less conducive to the work. If that’s the only price I have to pay throughout the year to breed our goats, I’m quite satisfied by that. Life on a farm is far from perfect. Once again, I wish to thank our good friends, the Carrolls for lending Little Bit to us. He was a very gentle buck to work with, and we appreciate their continued assistance with our dairy goat operation. We now look forward to the spring birthing period and eagerly anticipate our second opportunity to produce the farm fresh milk we so enjoy. To all our website followers and especially our good friends Dale and Merrily, we wish everyone a joyous Christmas and a much happier and more prosperous New Year. We certainly can’t do much worse than 2020!