How do you know if your doe is in heat?
Goat terminology: A mamma goat is cold a ‘doe,’ the papa is called a ‘buck.’ Does come in heat, bucks in rut and when they follow nature’s law, babies will be born 5 months later. These are called ‘kids.’
In temperate climates, most goats will go into heat anytime from the end of August until the end of January. This means that the kids are born in early spring until early summer (gestation time = around 155 days). Given optimally warm and mild temperatures and plenty of new food for mother’s milk, this is best time for the kids to be little and have time to grow big enough for the coming winter season.
The heat cycle lasts from a few hours to a few days and returns, if the doe does not become pregnant, every 18 – 21 days.
A doe in heat frequently exhibits visible physical changes: Her vulva may swell and become red, and she may have some vaginal discharge (a thick white mucous). Besides these physical changes, you might see
•Flagging: vigorous tail-wagging.
•Vocalizing: endless, ear paining bleats and bleahs and maaas should ring a bell for you.
•Parading: she will do everything she can to get the buck’s attention, walking back and forth in his view, and rubbing against trees and fences.
•Acting "buckish": she will mount other goats, or allow them to mount her, and may fight with other goats.
•Decreasing milk production: because she is hyperactive with above signs, and because of loss of appetite and hormone changes, milk production will decrease during the heat.
When you see one or more of these signs, you can assume that your goat is in heat. If she does not return in heat 3 weeks later, you can assume that she is pregnant.
A word about pregnancy toxemia (Ketosis)
Pregnancy toxemia is a metabolic disorder that occurs in does and ewes during the late stage of gestation. It is important for you to know that prevention starts in breeding season with mothers with the right body weight and condition score.
During late pregnancy the energy demand of the rapidly growing fetus(es) increases significantly. At the same time, the doe has trouble eating enough to supply this energy, since the uterus takes up most of the abdominal space and little room is left for the 4 stomachs, the energy-supply-storage space. She will start to break down her own body fats as alternative energy source. If this happens in too large quantities, the result can be a dysfunctional, overly-fatty liver and in ‘ketosis’, a blood intoxication by ketones, the toxic byproducts created during breakdown of body fats.
How to prevent this:
During late pregnancy give only the best of your roughage (hay) to eat, to be sure that the little she can eat, is of good quality. Also supplement with grains or special feeds. During breading season, at the beginning of pregnancy (and that is why I write about this disease now), make sure your doe is in good body condition. This means NOT TOO FAT and NOT TOO SKINNY. If she starts off her pregnancy too fat, she will store this extra fat in her abdomen, leaving even less space for her stomachs, resulting in even less food intake. If she is too skinny, she will be weak during her whole pregnancy, especially at the end, resulting in weak appetite.
Transylvanian farmers save the high quality ‘second cut’ (August hay) from their orchards for their does when they are in the late pregnancy and early lactation stages. This hay contains a wild variety of good rich grasses, clovers, herbs, flowers. Goats prefer this over the more stalky hay of the ‘first cut’ (June) with good scientific reasoning!
Pregnancy toxemia occurs frequently within 1 to 3 weeks from kidding, and is a life-threatening disorder. Be aware of the first signs (some or all may be present):
• Little or no appetite, depression, lethargy or sluggishness, muscular imbalance or poor coordination, grinding of teeth and blindness.
Treatment is possible if treated early enough. It is wise to get professional help.