First Breeding Season - Triumphs and Travails

We are just wrapping up our first attempt at breeding the dairy goats naturally. We are not using AI this season. But I won’t bore you with the specifics of all that. This is a time for stories. Stories that are a daily experience of farming.

Gozer, hollerin' at the ladies

In an effort to synchronize the girls’ heat cycles we put them in a paddock near the bucks. They were about 2 feet apart. The boys inside their fortified pen and the girls inside the electro-netting.

Immediately the two boys started going bonkers. Making strange noises and butting the fence repeatedly. Neither tried to jump out or climb the fence. Just a lot of running straight at the fence, trying to plow it down. They know where the gate is, so they focused on that area the most. It also happens to be the weakest part of the fence, so I had to reinforce it twice within the week.

When we noticed a specific doe in heat we would take the rest of the girls away to the milk barn and leave the girl in heat in the pen. She would be wagging her tail, making a strange sound we’d never heard before and have a noticeably moist tail.

Next I would go into the buck pen and let one loose to run in with the girl, meanwhile holding back the other buck until Sweetbreads locked the gate.

Everything went surprisingly smoothly until the last few “dates”. George, the Alpine, had proven himself to be the casanova of the two. He had style and finesse. Upon entering the girl’s pen, George would immediately mount and seal the deal, usually two or three times in the first few minutes. You knew it was a good one because George would end with a big thrust and then fall over backward on the ground! Talk about hilarious.

Then he would go back to the doe and she would pee on his face. To which he would stare up at the sky and snarl his upper lip. At this point it’s impossible not to laugh. This is what he’s been waiting for all year. A doe to pee on his face.

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Bucks Get a Grazing Paddock

The two buddies, grazing together in the forest, makes me happy

Today was a big day for the bucks (and us too). They got a paddock outside of their pen so they could browse and graze in the forest. Prior to today, I would chop down saplings and bring them fresh forage. Now they can harvest their own food.

With the bucks there's some worry about them escaping. We keep them outside the perimeter fence, so if they were to escape we're not too sure where they would end up. At least with the other animals we know they would be somewhere on our property. These boys could end up down the road if they got out. They are also much more difficult to control than the female dairy goats, so we generally keep them in their pen.

However, over the past few months they've gotten more comfortable and I've learned how to manage them a little bit better. I felt I could trust them not to run down I-40 to Nashville and am confident they would remain in or around their pen if they did escape. In fact, one time they busted through the fence and I found them right outside the pen browsing on some trees.

I set up a four strand polywire fence, ran a little chute out to their grazing cell and attached the wire to the electric fencing we ran across the top of their permanent pen. That way they always have access to their pen if they want it.

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The Bucks Get the Machete

On most farms the bucks get the machete long before their female counterparts. Unless, of course, you keep all your male bucks and don't sell any of them for meat. The reality is most male goats born on a dairy farm get sold for meat, or if there isn't a market for meat they are killed at a young age. Luckily, Tennessee is the second biggest meat goat producer in the country, so we have a market for our boys. Although our bucks aren't quite ready for that yet, they still get the machete everyday. Only they love it.

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