The Sunday Mail
Welcome dear reader to our column where we explore all things farming.
Last week, I examined how farmers determine the best breed or crossbreeds for their farming enterprises and the importance of selecting quality bucks and does to ensure genetics superiority and hybrid vigour.
This week, I am focusing on caring and management of does and bucks in a breeding programme.
One of the most critical aspects of goat production is the care of the does and bucks to make sure they are always kept in good body condition.
Caring for your herd entails putting in place a comprehensive system and a calendar for administering vaccinations and dosages, supplementary feeding, selection of breeding stock, kid rearing and weaning.
It requires varying levels of special care depending on time; that is, whether they are pregnant, parturition or dry.
When deciding when to breed young does, it is recommended that farmers consider weight and physical development rather than age.
Young does should not be bred before they reach 65 percent of the average weight of the older does in the herd.
This is usually when they are between one year and one-and-half years old.
Farmers should remember that good nutrition ensures that animals grow faster and become ready for mating much earlier.
Adequate and balanced nutrition also increases fertility, litter size and multiple births.
If does are mated when they are too young, they risk becoming stunted for the rest of their lives, which negatively affects their reproductive performance.
In addition, smaller does may not be physically big enough to handle kids in their bellies, leading to obstructed labour (dystocia) as the kid gets stuck on its way out.
If a farmer is crossbreeding indigenous does with a highly improved buck or a pure-bred one, it is recommended to use big does that have previously given birth as they can carry relatively bigger progeny in their bellies.
Generally, a well-managed doe can produce kids for about seven years.
Does only mate when they are on heat and their estrous cycle is 21 days.
The heat period for does lasts between 24 to 26 hours and during this time bucks must be served on the does.
It is also important to note that the presence of the buck in the flock triggers heat. After mating, does get pregnancy for five months (about 150 days).
Getting on heat is also dependent on the nutrition and the condition of the doe. There are various signs for heat detection, including shaking of the tail, virginal mucous discharge, continuous bleating and mounting of other goats.
To ensure close monitoring, expecting does should always be separated from the main flock for about eight weeks before kidding.
During this period, supplementary feeding should be served on the pregnant does to enhance feed reserves in their bodies, thereby guaranteeing adequate milk and colostrum at birth, which are vital for the health of the kid.
For bucks, male goats typically reach puberty earlier than females and for that reason, bucks should be raised separately from females to avoid unplanned mating. Bucks with horns should be used in breeding in order to avoid the risk of hermaphroditism or bisexualism, which is sometimes experienced in instances where hornless or polled bucks are used.
Bucks can be selected at an early age using physical examination and focusing on weight, growth rate and multiple births, among other determinants. The choice must be on those bucks with good muscling, sturdy feet and legs, big scrotal circumference and good conformation in terms of how they are put together, skeletally and muscularly.
Apart from physical examination of the buck, the veterinary can also conduct a breeding soundness test through examination of semen for sperm count and motility, which gives an idea about a buck’s fertility.
Bucks should be kept in good body condition and well-fed and nourished at all times.
During mating, often bucks have to chase after does for hours on end without eating.
For the buck to keep pace with the does, there is need to trim its hooves to avoid foot rot.
There should be a fine balance in the condition of the buck.
A fat buck may have too much fat in the scrotum, which can insulate the testicles, causing sperm damage from heat, while an overly thin buck will also not have the energy needed to maintain breeding throughout the breeding season.
In terms of “buck power”, which is the number of does a buck can service during the breeding season, at one year of age, the buck should service no more than 10 does at a time; that is, in one month.
When two-years-old, it should be able to service about 30 does at a time.
“Paswera badza hapanyepi” (results of a noble effort always speak for themselves).
Till next week.
Sheuneni Kurasha is a farmer specialising in stud breeding in boran cattle, boer goats and damara sheep, as well as dairy farming. For feedback, kindly get in touch on email: [email protected] or WhatsApp: +263 772 874 523.