Want milk? Then your lady goat needs to have babies. Want babies? Then you’re gonna need a baby daddy.
Or are you?
Whether (ha!) or not to keep a buck is one of the big questions the new goat keeper needs resolve for herself, and her particular situation. It’s not as simple as just keeping one more goat. A buck needs his own enclosure and shelter, away from the does, and has slightly different nutritional requirements. During the mating season (fall and winter), bucks stink, and their aroma can affect the flavour of the milk. Even did they not, keeping them in with the does would result in haphazard breeding, to say the very least.
That looks a little like this, by the way, at the risk of being puerile:
And, while I’m being twelve, check out the low-hangers on this guy:
I’m just sayin’.
So, let’s say you do decide to keep a buck. His enclosure needs to be stronger and more unbust-outable than usual, so “they” say, and I’m not about to test that assertion. And, he can’t be alone, because goats are highly social, so he needs a buddy.
Okay, you’ve built Fort Bux, a distance away from your does, and your buck has a wether buddy. On the upside, you have a breeding buck right there when you need him, when your girls come into heat for a couple days (or hours). You don’t need to drive anywhere, you don’t need to pay a covering fee, and he’s close to hand if your doe doesn’t settle the first time.
On the downside, you have one buck. Very soon, you’re going to run out of ways to use him. Linebreeding has its limits.
Okay, so you don’t keep a buck. You free yourself from the cost and labour of keeping separate housing, and open yourself up to genetic options. There is no danger of accidental breeding happening on your property. But, when you want to breed your doe, you need to a) assert that she is in heat, which can be tricky; b) locate a reasonably local, genetically suitable buck to “date”; c) schlep your doe out there and either have her covered in the driveway of the buck’s owner, or leave her there for a month-ish; d) pay the covering fee. Your doe might or might not settle.
Until recently, these were the goat keeper’s options. Now, there is a third option, as AI is becoming more and more an option in the goat world. I am just tiptoeing into reading about this topic, so I’m sure I’m, as yet, full of misinformation. Please bear with me.
AI has downsides: a) the initial set-up is expensive, as you need all the equipment; b) some people feel it shouldn’t be performed on maiden does; c) you need a vet/inseminator who knows what s/he’s doing, or you need to; d) it is a relatively-new thing in goat breeding, and buck options may be somewhat limited.
And, upsides: a) the setup costs are quickly defrayed by not having to either keep a buck or pay covering fees, as straws of frozen semen generally come at a fraction of the price; b) you have access to many of the finest bucks in the country, as distance is no longer an issue c) it is the finest bucks in the country that are more likely to be available by AI.
I’m thinking I’d like to try for door number three. I was slowly learning the equipment I’d need when I came across a video on youtube (oh, youtube, how we love you!) showing how a goat doe is inseminated. Please be advised: this is a very graphic video which may be too much for some viewers. If you choose to view this video, know you will get all up in a lady goat’s lady business. And, when I say “all up in”, I mean all UP IN. You have been warned.
Some of you may find this disturbing, even cruel, from the doe’s perspective. Please allow me to reassure you, what she endures is no worse than your average pap smear, if drawn out for the purposes of instruction.
I am looking forward to learning more about this process, and its viability for Dúagwýn. The prospect of having access to great bucks is an exciting one for this newbie.