Nov 14, 2012

Is She or Isn't She?

It is that time of year again...the bucks smell fabulous (to the girls, at least), the girls are flirting at the fenceline and my favorite past-time is standing in the pasture staring at the girls and wishing that pregnant goats were more obvious!

Goats being ruminants, they have very developed digestive tracts including parts of their stomachs that act as large composting vats breaking down the leaves and twigs that goats love to eat.  These well-developed rumens are a big part of what makes goats look so large around the middle, as Cinnamon models so well in the picture above.  We have had milkers that have not seen hide nor hair of a buck in over a year and invariably when farm visitors see them they point with delight and exclaim "That one is having twins for sure!"  Nope, just digesting their dinner, thank you very much.

When we only had a handful of goats we watched for heat, put the girls in with the boys when they showed that they were ready and willing and thirty days later drew blood and sent it off for a pregnancy test.  (No, home pregnancy tests made for people do not work on goats.  I wish that they did!)  This method worked when we had three, then eight, then sixteen goats.  Our plan is to reduce our herd size over the next few months, but for now we have 45 goats that we would be pregnancy testing.   If each test costs $6.50, and we assume that perhaps twenty-five percent of them did not get pregnant and we repeated the cycle and retested, assuming repeating the cycle again perhaps for the next twenty-five nauseum.  This is a cost that we really cannot handle this year while we are still recovering from a very challenging period of time, business-wise.

So this year we decided that we would not test but would instead just do this the old fashioned way.  As goats come into heat, put them in with the buck, write date on calendar.  Watch calendar and goat and cross fingers that she does not come into heat in three weeks, which would indicate that she did not get bred.  It works for many, it should work for us...

it just makes me crazy!  I want to know that the goats are (or are not) bred.  I want to be able to plan.  I want to be able to tell our customers "the first babies are due on thus and such date and we have blankety-blank number of goats due within the first month and blahblahblah goats due the second month, so we should be up to full production by the vernal equinox..." not "well, the goats should start kidding in the Spring...I hope..."  I do better with facts and the fact is that without seeing on paper, neat rows that state "Cinnamon--pregnant.   Joplin--pregnant.  Aggie--pregnant.  Mesquite--pregnant.  Lottie--open (not pregnant).  Sydney--pregnant...I am not ever sure.  I lay awake at night and think "what if NONE of them are pregnant?  What if all of our guys are shooting blanks?  What if we don't have ANY babies this year, if we do not get ANY milk?"  

It is going to be a very long Winter.

EDITED TO ADD...I really do not think that our guys are all shooting blanks.  It is more that I am beset by a generalized anxiety that something will go wrong and none of our "girls" will get pregnant this year!  We were actually reminded that it is theoretically possibly to use a doppler such as I used to listen to midwifery client's babies on the goats so we will be giving that a whirl later today.  Wish us luck!

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