How To Know if You Have a Pregant Doe
Breeding goats can sometimes be tricky business. You may find that you played all your cards right and still had a hiccup in the process. That dreaded hiccup can unfortunately come in the form of a doe you hoped and thought was bred turning up open, which is not the most pleasant of surprises.
Though it pays to be vigilant, the fact of that matter is that it is sometimes tough to know for certain that does have been successfully bred. Though other livestock animals can be palpated for pregnancy during a physical exam, determining if a goat has settled is generally done via ultrasound. This can be difficult if you do not have a travelling vet that is so equipped and prefer not possibly stress does during transport into a vet's office for an ultrasound. With this in mind, many of us prefer to watch and wait, but for what are we watching?
The first thing to watch for is signs of heat. Does will cycle right about every 21 days, so keep track of when normal cycles occur and at what exact interval for each doe. If you are expecting a heat cycle but do not see the physical signs (tail wagging, discharge, lingering near the buck), it is possible your doe is bred. However, it is important to keep in mind a couple of things. For one, it is possible that pregnant goats may have a false heat which is a good way to fool us into thinking they are not bred. Secondly, sometimes it is possible to miss the signs for various reasons. You could be having a busy week and or inclement weather may be putting a damper on your does' willingness to flirt. Therefore it is safe to say that a halt in the heat cycles are a good indication of pregnancy but certainly are not a confirmed guarantee. Even so, it is important to track these so it will give you an idea of when to expect kids should they be coming.
Something else to consider is just because does were exposed to a buck does not necessarily mean a love connection was made. For whatever reason, a breeding simply may not occur, but unless you are watching 24 hours a day, this is not information to which you will be privy. Instead of hoping for the best and assuming the buck took care of all of the does, there is a way to get confirmation that breeding took place. The way to do this is to outfit your buck with a breeding harness with marking capabilities. This type of harness is outfitted with a colored block that will rub off onto does when breeding contact is made. It can be quite messy and you may end up with some interestingly colored goats, but it does serve as a clear indicator as to which goats have been breeding.
Photo: Nolan the Vet
As time passes, you will notice a change in the shape of a pregnant doe's belly. Though goats of different breeds and physical stature carry pregnancy less obviously than others, there are goats whose bellies bulge straight out to the side. The shape and size of goat bellies will be determined by diet and the number of kids growing inside. It could be that your goat is eating pretty well or that there are, in fact, babies growing in there. Usually by four months after breeding, these physical changes should take shape, giving you some idea as to whether or not there are buns in the oven.
Another sign of pregnancy is the formation of an udder. Some does will begin to form an udder a month or so in advance of delivery while others will take their time, not forming one until kids are born. Even so, seeing an udder is usually a good sign of a pregnant doe, however, it is possible that she could be faking you out yet again. Some does have been known to come into milk even if they are not bred.
With all of this in mind, you may be thinking that ultrasound is sounding better and better! The fact of the matter is that goats can be tricky and being able to determine if they are actually pregnant or not can be a tough job. It helps to know what is normal for each doe in terms of heat cycle, physical condition, and behavior, but even then you may be fooled. In order to avoid all of this guessing, you may find that conducting a pregnancy test is the best way to go. This can be done at 30 days past exposure to a buck via the BioPRYN test available through BioTracking. This test looks for the Pregnancy-Specific Protein B (PSPB) and can tell you for certain if you have a pregnant doe on your hands which can eliminate a lot of speculation and guesswork on your part.
What signs do your goats exhibit that clue you into whether or not they are bred? Are there any telltale cues amongst your does? Let us know in the comments!