Sheep and Goats: Breeding Season Considerations

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I hope you all had a wonderful Labor Day! I celebrated with my daughter as she turned 2 years old. As the fall season begins, daylight begins to get shorter, and sheep and goats are ready for breeding. I got a new dapple buck this year and can’t wait to see what color he adds to the herd.

Sheep and goat are typically short-day breeders, meaning they breed when periods of daylight are shorter. The normal breeding season is usually September through January. Gestation is 5 months for sheep and goats. Does or ewes bred in the fall will usually kid or lamb in the spring of the next year.

The profitability of a sheep and goat operation depends on the number of lambs and/or kids raised, weaned, and marketed each year. As the breeding season is upon us, there are a few things that sheep and goat producers can do to ensure that their breeding season is profitable.

Body Condition Score (BCS) should be assessed to make sure that does and ewes are not too thin or too fat. Animals that are too thin or too fat will not cycle into estrus and will not be bred. Ideal body condition is a 5 or 6. Body condition should be maintained during the breeding season and at lambing/kidding. Consider flushing does or ewes that are not in ideal body condition. Flushing (increasing the amount of feed offered) occurs 2-3 weeks before breeding season and provides animals extra nutrition to put on weight prior to breeding. Flushing does or ewes that are in ideal condition will generally not respond. Bucks should also be monitored for body condition. Bucks will lose weight during the breeding season because of the increased physical activity and decreased feed intake.

Hoof trimming, vaccination, and deworming can also affect the breeding season. Animals’ feet should be examined for sores, signs of foot rot or infection, and overgrown hooves. Hooves need to be in good shape during a period of increased activity both for doe/ewe and buck. Producers should consider vaccinating twice per year, at the start of the breeding season and 4-6 weeks before lambing or kidding. Bucks should also be vaccinated once per year. Producers can also choose to vaccinate only once per year,  which should be done 4-6 weeks before lambing or kidding to ensure immunity is passed to the lamb or kid. Kids/lambs should be vaccinated at 8 weeks old, then a booster at 12 weeks old. CD&T is labeled for goats and is for overeating disease and tetanus, and multivalent clostridial vaccine is labeled for sheep. Deworming should be done before the breeding season. If producers plan to flush does or ewes, deworming should be done prior to flushing.

The breeding season should last for at least 40-45 days; this will allow ewes or does to complete 2 estrous or heat cycles. Estrous cycles are 21 days. The breeding ratio is 1 buck for every 20-30 does or ewes.

Please join us on September 26, 2018, at 9 a.m. for a Wildlife Management Meeting at Lowry’s Shop, 8879 Highway 74 West, Pembroke. Topics will include trapping basics and coyote, beaver, and deer management. Please register by September 25 by calling 910-671-3276.

If there are any questions about any of the information above, please contact Taylor Chavis, Extension Livestock Agent, at 910-671-3276, by email at Taylor_Chavis@ncsu.edu, or visit our website.

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