There Are Advantages To Having Kids Arrive All At Same Time

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A common goal of commercial producers is to have all of their kids born in a short period of time.  There are several advantages to this for the producer.

The first is that kidding season is probably the only time of the year that a commercial producer really needs to check on his goats frequently. Failing to do so can result in unnecessary losses of kids and/or does.

A producer who has good fences, plenty of forage, and no predator problems can pretty much ignore his herd most of the year. The only regular contact the producer needs to have is those times when his goats need to be wormed. If vaccinations or hoof trimming are needed, then those chores can be taken care of when the goats are wormed.

Depending on where you live that might mean spending a day working your goats every 3 weeks in the wettest areas, to once a year in the driest parts of the country.

During kidding season many producers find themselves checking on their herd twice a day, and if things are going badly a herd of goats can easily become more than a full-time job during kidding season.

Ask anybody who tried kidding during the really cold weather in February of this year. Even if your does are perfectly capable of taking care of everything on their own, you will probably be standing there anyway if the temperatures are well below freezing with wind chills below 0.

Needless to say the quicker you can get all of your kids on the ground the less time you will have to spend checking on your goats.

Another reason it is advantageous to compress your kidding season is that eventually you will want to sell the kids. Usually it is easier and less expensive to sell large quantities of kids than small numbers.

This assumes that you are not trying to provide a steady supply of goats to a local buyer, in which case you would probably want to spread out your kidding season so that you would always have the right size kids available.

However, if you are like the typical commercial producer you market your goats through a sale barn, through a broker, or directly to a packer. If that is the case then you will want to sell your kids in large quantities to reduce shipping costs.

The shipping costs are the same to ship one goat as to ship a whole truckload (40,000 to 48,000 lbs), but on a per head or per lb basis a full truckload will be much less expensive. The fuller the truck, the more profitable your shipment will be.

For most commercial producers their entire production for the year will not fill a semi, since you are talking about 600 or more kids, so the last thing they want is to have to make multiple partial shipments. Every additional shipment they have to send is just additional and unnecessary expense.

For these reasons most producers like to compress their kidding season, but the management practices used by most result in kids being born over a long period of time instead of a short one.

I never really had any insight into how to avoid this problem until this year. I believe I have now discovered the key to compressing kidding seasons in commercial herds. The key is how you manage your bucks.

As with most things I know about goats I learned this the hard and expensive way. When I initially got into the goat business I ran my buck with the does year-round. As a result we wound up with kids being born sporadically throughout the year. What a nightmare.

This is the way many commercial producers operate, and most obtain the same result. If you go to these operations you will find some pregnant does, some with newborn kids, some with older kids still nursing, and (if the producer really isn't on top of things) some does with kids as big as they are still nursing even though they should have been weaned and sold months ago.

After a couple of years I bought several new bucks, and had to manage my breeding a little better since we like to be able to register our animals if a buyer wants papers. Kind of tough to know who bred who if the bucks are with the does all the time when you have more than one buck.

My solution to this problem was to build a large pen for the bucks down by the river, and let them live there until breeding season. This pen is over 100 yards to the north of the does' pasture. The does really cannot see or smell the bucks from their pasture because of the trees, and the winds during the spring and summer here blow primarily from the south, or from the does to the bucks.

When breeding season arrives I move the bucks to the breeding/kidding pens and immediately put a group of does in with each buck. This worked great for several years, and in the spring almost all of our kids would be born within 9-10 days.

Then last summer I got tired of the bucks tearing stuff up in their pen and having to feed them everyday, so I decided to put them in a small pasture next to the does' pasture. The two pastures share a fenceline, and all summer long you could tell which does were in heat because they would go hang out by the bucks for a couple of days.

Apparently, that was a really bad idea because this year kidding season wound up being spread out pretty evenly over 7 weeks. My theory is that the years the bucks were kept away from the does, their sudden introduction synchronized the does and resulted in more successful breedings on the first try.

Last year the does started cycling when I moved the bucks to the pasture next to them, and by the time I actually put them in with the bucks 3-4 months later they were all out of sync, and for some reason many required 2 or 3 breedings before the pregnancies took.

The only thing I did differently last year was to move the bucks into the pasture next to the does for the summer. Everything else was the same as the year before.

The only other explanation I can come up with is that right before kidding season a writer for another goat publication came out and interviewed me for a breeder profile article they did on my ranch, and I claimed that "about 95 percent of the kids will fall within a weeks time."

If there is a surer way to make sure something doesn't happen than to brag about it in a national publication, I'm not sure how you would go about it.
  Either way, guess where my bucks will be spending the summer this year.

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This page updated 06/19/03

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