Goat Breeding 101; Nubians to New Beings
Our first farm breeding experience (not counting winged inhabitants) started with a Callaway golf towel rubbed over “Mr. Fields'” face and ended with an artificial insemination that made a 20-foot putt look easy.
The smelly towel was a mood setter. To a female goat, the smell of a buck is like dimming the lights, pouring a glass of pinot grigio and turning up Eric Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight.” To us humans, the smell is musky. The only odoriferous goats are bucks.
“Mr. Fields” is a Nigerian buck who belongs to neighbor friends Julie and Steve DeMilt at Past Ur Time Farm. Our Nubian dairy goat “Lacy” needed to be in the mood to encourage her to go into heat.
For “Mr. Fields,” this was strictly a vicarious affair. “Lacy” was being artificially inseminated by Dr. Laura Boggs of Cloverfield Veterinary Hospital in Columbus, N.C. Dr. Boggs is a native of Texas who has been practicing in our area for more than a decade. She specializes in small animals and has an affinity for sustainable agriculture.
On January 7, one week before the main event, Dr. Boggs inserted a CIDR (controlled internal drug release) device which would continuously deliver the female hormone progesterone to “Lacy” to promote ovulation at just the right time.
On the big day, Dr. Boggs and veterinary technician Nicole Haynes arrived with their equipment and a nitrogen tank containing the semen we had ordered from Biogenics LTD, a semen clearinghouse, in Salmon, ID. The semen was produced by a majestic-looking buck named “Relentless,” whose bio described him as “a stylish buck who excels in dairyness and strength.”
For our farm, “dairyness” is an important trait. “Lacy” was an excellent milk producer this year (1 gallon daily), and the soap and cheese made from her milk were superb. Our hope is that she will produce highly marketable offspring, but beyond that her birthing will return her to the milk-producing stage. In goatdom, that’s called “freshening” the doe.
In laymen (that would be us) terms, the artificial insemination process goes something like this, with apologies to the medical profession. You insert a clear tube with a light in it, then you insert another smaller tube inside that, and then you insert an even smaller tube, called a straw, containing the semen. Then, an even smaller stainless steel plunger goes into the tiny straw and you push the semen inside.
To us, it was like piloting a cruise ship through the Straits of Gibraltar, so Dr. Bogg’s clinical explanation of needing to push through a series of muscular ridges that form the protective cervix in order to reach the uterus was met by a chorus of, “Uh, oh, right. Yeah, got it.”
All of this occurred while “Lacy” was on her milking stand, which had been given a last-minute pinball machine tilt to elevate her derriere. A small container of food and encouragement by her customary milker helped until the moment of insertion, whereupon she decided it was time to squat. Holding her up for the remainder of the procedure was like interminably holding three 50-pound bags of grain in your outstretched arms.
But it was soon over and Nicole looked at the remaining semen through a microscope to determine the alive rate, which she deemed to be about 80 percent.
So now we wait 21 days for a blood test to determine whether “Lacy” is pregnant. If not, we will repeat the process (shhhh, don’t tell “Lacy”!). If so, the gestation period, which is 150 days, will end in June with a barn birthing.
Think there’s a barn monitor in our future?