Sheep and Goats: Breeding Season Considerations

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Happy first few weeks of school to all school-age children!! My five-year-old starts school this year (I can’t even believe I am typing that) and it sure looks different than I thought it would. I am sure everyone is feeling the same, but I hope we choose to make the best of our circumstances. As the fall season begins, daylight begins to get shorter and sheep and goats are ready for breeding. I got a 100 percent Boer dapple buck this year and can’t wait to see what he adds to our herd.

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

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

Assess Body Condition Score (BCS) to make sure does and ewes are not too thin or too fat, as these animals will not cycle into estrus and will not be bred. Ideal body condition is a 5 or 6, and should be maintained during 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 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 and prior to flushing.

The breeding season should last at least 40-45 days, allowing 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.

There are a couple of things I want to remind you of as we start to plan and implement virtual programs for the remainder of 2020. I will be sending out dates for folks that need 6-hour animal waste continuing education credits soon. I am also currently planning a Zoom for marketing local meat, so be on the lookout for those dates.

If there are any questions with 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.