Article Index "Do I Castrate or Not? (Part 1)" Article Index

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By: Jackie Nix
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This is a question that perplexes goat owners industry-wide, whether they be meat, dairy or mohair goat producers. In order for continued genetic improvement, only top quality males should be destined as breeding stock. Those males that are not of high quality should be culled. Keep in mind that "cull" means destroy: it doesn't mean passing on a substandard animal to the first sucker willing to buy him. The most practical use for these cull bucks is as a meat source. It does neither the goat industry nor the specific breed any good to pass on inferior bucks to others who may use them as sires. If you are unsure of the final destination of your cull bucklings (ie. sold at auction), the most ethical thing to do would be to castrate them prior to sale. While this may result in a short-term reduction in income (wethers often bring less at auction than bucks), the long-term benefits to the goat industry and your reputation are innumerable.

How to determine if bucks are of high quality? Quality will be dictated by the intended use of the goat. For example, meat bucks should be thickly muscled with a great deal of body capacity; dairy bucks should be of a genetic line of proven milkers with good udder conformation; angora bucks should have a desirable fleece weight and fiber diameter. Additionally, all bucks should be structurally, as well as, reproductively sound. Any buck that fails to meet any of the set standards should be culled as a herd sire.

If you are sure that the final destination of your buck kids will be the meat market, the decision to castrate or not is a personal one that depends upon your local kid market. Some buyers prefer intact bucks, while others want wethers. It is best to contact your prospective buyers to research their preferences prior to making this decision. An important fact to remember is that buyers who prefer bucks for meat will usually buy wethers if no bucks are available, however, buyers who prefer wethers will not typically buy bucks at all.

The decision may also be based on management convenience. Bucks or billies can reach sexual maturity at three months of age and are capable of servicing young does housed with them. Even though young does may be sexually mature, it is recommended that one wait until doelings reach at least 70% of their mature weight prior to mating to ensure proper physical maturation. For this reason, it is a good idea to separate intact bucklings and doelings by three months of age. Wethers and doelings can be housed together without fear of unwanted breedings.

If you do decide to raise intact bucklings it is important that you not house them with your herd sires. Older bucks will often abuse male kids, butting them in shows of dominance and not allowing them access to feed and water. This will not only increase chances of injury or death, but will also reduce weight gains in these kids.

In order to raise intact buck kids, I would suggest that you separate your herd into thefollowing management groups: weaned doelings, weaned bucklings, does and bucks (outside of breeding season). Many producers do not have facilities capable of separating this many different groups. In this case, I would suggest castrating all market or cull bucklings. This can be done from birth to three months of age.

In summary, inferior bucks and bucklings should not be allowed to breed. If you are unsure of the final destination of your cull bucklings, they should be castrated. A practical use for inferior bucklings is as a meat source. If you are assured that your cull bucks will go to slaughter, the decision to cull or not will be based upon your local market preferences as well as your management needs.

Part II deals with various castration methods available to goat producers.

About the author: Jackie Nix was an Agricultural Extension Agent with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service who now works for SweetLix.
The following sources are cited for this article:
Goat Husbandry Fourth Edition. David Mackenzie. Faber and Faber. Boston. 1990.
Raising Milk Goats the Modern Way. Jerry Belanger. Storey Communications, Inc. Pownal, Vermont. 1995

Agricultural Research Service

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