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SPRING/SUMMER VS. FALL/WINTER KIDDING

By: Gary Pfalzbot
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Opinions on the best kidding season time (for those not familiar with the term "kidding", it means "giving birth" in goat terms) vary from goat owner to goat owner. There are a number of reasons for this; weather or climate is generally at the top of the list.

For most breeds of goats, the Pygmy goat being the most popular exception, the gestation period of a goat is 150 days, or 5 months. From this number one can easily see that a March (Spring) breeding will yield kidding in July (Summer)...a July kidding will result in a November (late Fall) kidding...and so on. Of course the goats themselves, if kept together as does and bucks, will be the ultimate determining factor in what season the kidding will result.

There are a number of breeders who raise goats for the sole purpose of show...that is, they raise goats for fairs, 4H and FFA projects, most of which take place in the spring and summer months. For that reason, they generally prefer to breed in the late fall, early winter months for a spring kidding; a time when the demand for goat kids (for their specific purpose) is at its highest point.

There are also a number of breeders who raise goats for meat production. Generally these breeders time their kidding to coincide with holiday demand for goat meat. It should be noted that the seasonal demand for goat meat can be throughout any time of the year based upon the various holiday seasons many cultures celebrate.

Any of these breeders may live in either type of climate; harsh winters, mild summers or harsh summers, mild winters. They breed for their own specific purpose and often do so with excellent results. This very much proves that the particular season, harsh or mild doesn't really matter all that much. However, certain precautions must be taken in any given situation.

From my experience with raising goats in various climates; mild winters, harsh summers, harsh winters, mild summers, etc., my opinion is arrived at by dealing with kidding in a variety of climatic factors. In regions that have harsh summers, the pregnant goat is carrying her kid(s) during the heat of summer and must be kept in such a fashion that the heat isn't going to be an extremely stressful factor. In my experience, flies seem to be a big problem during the warmer months. Flies can carry and transmit such things as Pinkeye. Even so, I have had kids contract Pinkeye in winter months when no flies are present.

In dealing with cold winter kiddings, it is best to have your facility prepared to keep the pregnant goats inside or be prepared to otherwise deal with kids being dropped on frozen ground or snow in below freezing temperatures. The advantage of cold weather kiddings: parasites and insects and many forms of bacteria do not thrive in cold weather as they do in warm weather. The disadvantage of cold weather kidding is just that - the cold temperatures and hypothermia.

Somewhere in reading this you might be asking yourself, "isn't there a way to breed for kiddings when the conditions are just right"? Yes and no. Mostly no.

Certain breeds of goats appear to follow their own schedule of breeding and kidding. South African Boers for example, appear to prefer breeding in the late summer (July and August) which of course culminates in a winter kidding. Perhaps this is based upon their background of originating in South Africa where the summers are very harsh and the winters milder. This would appear to be the case for each distinct breed and area of origination.

I have tried over the years to alter the breeding cycle of my goats (a variety of mixed breeds) and it generally ends up the same: kidding in winter and kidding in spring. Rarely have I had kiddings occur in a timeframe that I had planned for or made every attempt to make possible. In fact, for a number of years, I tried very hard to "force" a November kidding season. Only one goat that I ever owned kidded in November; an Alpine/Toggenburg mix.

When goats are kept together, many or just a few, it has been my observation that the does go through their estrus cycles in tune with each other. It has been proven that many females in the mammalian species synchronize their cycles after being (kept) together for a length of time.

The practice of Artificial Insemination (AI) has increased in popularity in the goat industry and could perhaps be considered the ultimate guarantee of the exact season (time and date) when kidding will occur. For the small time producer - one who raises goats for the sheer pleasure of having goats, AI may not be a viable option. Even if AI is used to pinpoint kidding seasons, there are still basic kidding guidelines that need to be followed.

No matter what method is used, what kidding season is targeted, it still boils down to having the proper facility to rear kids safely despite the season. In addition to adequate facilities, I will briefly touch upon the subject of nutrition and how it may apply to the best season for kidding.

Since goats can be raised in a variety of situations such as on pasture, or in a barn or feedlot, my thoughts for the most part here are focused on goats raised in the more natural setting of pastures, woods and fields. For the doe that carries her kids in the spring through fall months, she will have a greater variety of browse (food source) to satisfy her nutritional needs. This would essentially provide for stronger, thriftier kids at kidding. A doe not receiving adequate nutrition through barren winter months, the nutritional demands will be greater and the chances of stronger, thriftier kids declines somewhat.

A perfect example to use is the doe that kids in winter and is more interested in finding food than taking care of her kid(s). It can and does happen. The answer of course is to ALWAYS provide proper nutrition to ANY goat no matter the circumstances.

In closing, I must say that choosing the best time of the year for planned kidding can be somewhat complicated since many factors are involved. I encourage readers to carefully go through many of the articles found here on GoatWorld and determine what works best for them. I will periodically update this article to reflect new information and my thoughts as well as I continue to learn and experience about this joyful time in raising goats. Until then, happy kidding!

About the author: Gary Pfalzbot is the webmaster of GoatWorld. He has raised goats over the years, been involved with 4-H (as a young boy) and currently resides in Southern, CO, situated within the High Plains of the Rocky Mountain region. He began raising a few breeds of goats, mainly precipitated for the control of Kudzu vine. He now primarily authors the GoatWorld web site to continue to inform, educate, and promote the industry and those persons who are interested in goats.

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