At a goat conference a long time ago, maybe in Oklahoma, one of the goat doctors from Australia (was it Barrie or Restall?) brought down the house, starting his lecture on the reproduction of goats by putting up a slide with a quotation from (I think) William Blake: "The lust of the goat is the bounty of God."
I have had occasion to ponder this over the past few months, with 51 kids born in January and February hopping around the barn. This was not planned by me. It happened because the nature of my bucks changed. I had gotten along for 10 years with 4-foot non-electric fencing for everybody. Ok, there was the Sundance Kid who jumped, but he was sent away to breed at another farm and then dispatched. Our bucks did butt the fence, so we reinforced it with sturdy planks, extra thick, at butt level, and that did the trick. I have heard of bucks who squirm under the fence, but we never had that problem. To make sure it does not happen in the future either, I dump wheelbarrowfuls of manure where there is a gap between the ground and the fence. But jumping? I figured you just build the fence taller.
When Matrix started to jump in August, we put him in a smaller buck area, where we could watch him and fix the places where he jumped. We kept fixing and he kept jumping, getting better every day. He finally cleared well over 4 feet straight off the ground, better than the best basketball players according to my husband, climbing the last bit if he had to. Fortunately he is very sweet and trusting, so we would just go out and get him, put him in a secure indoor pen, and "fix" where he jumped.
A few of our other bucks also figured out how to jump, but they were eventually contained by our ever taller fence. Not Matrix. I eventually agreed to an electric line offset from inside the fence. It made no difference, since the shock we could produce was not that strong. The men on the farm (my husband and Brendan) dug in grounding rods and fiddled, but to no avail. We finally brought in a consultant. That afternoon, while I was busy on the comparatively easy task of treating psychiatric patients, we had two Ph.D.s, one lawyer doing graduate studies in physics (our son-in-law), and Brendan working on the electricity. Finally, Matrix was contained.
I had watched many does being bred. I thought I had a pretty good idea of who they were, since we have an excellent view of the field from our house, and when I take the herd for walks in the woods, I can pretty much see what is going on. So I armed myself with lutalyse, dino prost tromethamine, that would prevent implantation of the egg if given 7-10 days after impregnation. But what was the dosage? The package insert says 5 ml for a cow, 2 ml for a pig, and 1mg/1000 lbs. for horses. Since it comes in a 5mg/ml mixture, that would be 2 ml for a 1000-pound horse. No mention of goats. But we know that they are cantankerous and different.
Linda Cortright wrote in Cash Mirror 2 years ago that her stand-in vet recommended 5 cc per goat, but didn't Lydia Ratcliffe a long time ago say 0.8 cc? Since I had a lot of does to treat and lutalyse is not that cheap, I went for 1 cc per doe, except on 2 occasions when a bit more than 10 days had passed and I gave 1.5 cc. I figured I would have missed a few does and could expect 10-15 kids in January. After the first 20 or so arrived, I started to wonder about the efficacy of my lutalyse dosage. These are the facts:
A total of 25 does delivered and 20 of them got no lutalyse. This is humbling - 20 impregnations took place practically under our noses and we did not see it. What happened with the other 5?
Black Swan was observed being bred on 8/6 and 8/7, got her injection on 8/19, and delivered twins on 1/14.
Bridget and Satara were bred 8/14, got the lutalyse on 8/24, and delivered 1/20 and 1/22 respectively (both had triplets).
Kittiwale and Nyx were bred 8/12 and 8/13 respectively, and got lutalyse on 8/20. Both were first kidders and delivered twins on 2/8.
Looks to me like the lutalyse worked for Nyx and Kitttiwale, but they got caught on the next heat cycle. For the other 3 the injection either did not have the desired effect, or they got caught on the heat that usually happens 1-2 days after a lutalyse injection. So the dose was effective in 12-15 cases out of 15. Not bad.
I recently had the bright idea to call my vet and ask what the lutalyse dose for goats should be. He said 0.5 to 1.0 cc, but I have no idea what he was basing it on.
The fertility was amazing - 7 sets of triplets and only 2 singles. One single was from a doeling that kidded at 10 months of age. Fortunately she is very big for her age. This makes me think that fertility increases if you let them make their own decisions about timing and partners. Why should we mess it up with our breeding plans?
Most of the kids had to cope with subzero temperatures in their neonatal period.
We lost 3. One little triplet, born as the temperature was falling to 20 below + windchill could not keep up with her bigger sibs and refused a bottle. She died at 13 days despite my efforts with tube feeding, heat lamp, and antibiotics. One 9-year-old doe, who had never had triplets before, retained a kid in her birth canal for 48 hours and in the meantime (I think) lay down on one of her others so we lost 2 of them. We had to put down the doe because of uterine infection. Hatie Klingerman is bottle feeding the survivor plus another little buckling.
The others are doing amazingly well. We are bottle feeding 3 little doelings (all the smallest of sets of triplets) and 1 buckling who did not connect with his mother (Nyx) before he got too cold. I made use of a heat lamp, heating pads, and the turtleneck coats provided by Tia Rosengarten via Marilyn Ackley. I also cut off one side of cardboard boxes so the kids were protected on 3 sides but could get in and out at will. They really liked that arrangement.
The tiny newborns often needed help staying warm at below zero temperatures, but it seemed that nothing fazed the 7-pounders. I found one little family at 8 p.m. in the snow, zero degrees, all dry with their little umbilical cords frozen but sound and healthy. I will never forget the night when it was 20 below and I was trying to tubefeed colustrum to make sure the kids got it in time, and it froze in the tube under the heatlamp.
Friends showed up to help when I was at my most overwhelmed, took bottle babies, sent turtleneck coats, sent their sons and daughters to help, oohed and ahed about the fertility rate and said "how cute" - all important factors in my surviving the crisis. I lost only 12 pounds, my husband 5 or 6, and I have enormous respect for the lust of the goat and their athletic abilities.