Basic goat management practices need to be followed by every goat breeder. On a low investment and following well management practices, goat farming business can be profitable. The complete list of management practices is discussed below.
Determination of Age
The age of a goat is judged from its front teeth (incisors) on the lower jaw. There are no teeth on the upper jaw. The kid at birth, or shortly afterward, has teeth on the lower jaw. These are known as suckling teeth. They are small and sharp in kids.
When the kid is 12 to 14 months old the central pair is shed and is replaced by two large permanent teeth;
when 24 to 26 months old two more small teeth arc shed and are replaced by two large teeth, one on each side of the first pair;
when 36 to 38 months old there are six permanent teeth; and when 48 to 50 months old a complete set of four pairs of permanent teeth are present.
Occasionally teeth develop) much more quickly and the goat may have all its permanent teeth by the time it is three years old. Once all the permanent teeth have developed the degree of wear and tear gives a rough indication of age. The teeth start wearing four to six weeks after the eruption.
Wearing of teeth depends upon the type of feed and care given to the animals. Some may mature early and others late. The age of eruption of teeth serves as a reasonable and dependable guide for judging maturity.
Each goat in a herd should be marked in the same manner by using some identification marks such as tattooing, metal ear-tags, or notching of the ears. The tattooing system is used almost universally.
Disbudding and Dehorning
This should be done when the male kid is two to five days old and the female kid is up to 12 days old.
The hair should be clipped from around the horn-bud, and this area covered with petroleum jelly to protect it from caustic soda or potash, which should be thoroughly rubbed on the bud until the horn-bud is well blistered. Caustic soda should not come into contact with the eyes.
An electric de-horner can also be used safely. The kid should be muzzled gently so that it can breathe freely; otherwise, partial suffocation may occur.
Mature goats can be dehorned by sawing off the horns close to the head with a meat saw. This should be done in winter when flies are not troublesome. The wound should be dressed.
Male goats are raised mainly for meat and not for breeding. For this reason, males are castrated with an emasculator or torsion forceps.
The best time for castrating bucks is when they are six months old with the Burdizzo instrument. This avoids all risks of infection. Castration improves the flesh of the adult buck. A castrated male is called a wether.
The goats require exercise for maintaining themselves in good condition. Stock on range receives sufficient exercise while grazing. Stall-fed goats should be let loose in a large paddock for at least three to four hours a day.
The bigger the paddock, the better they enjoy. Goats should not be let loose in the paddock or sent out for grazing until the dew has dried up, i.e. not until one to two hours after sunrise. Grazing on wet grass with dew is likely to result in tympanites and intestinal inflammation.
Hoof trimming is necessary for the well-being of goats. If neglected it can weaken legs, ruin feet, and lower milk production.
The goats soon become used to trimming as a monthly routine. Sharp pen-knives or curved hand-pruning shears can be used effectively.
The normal body temperature of a goat is 38.9° to 40°C (102° to 104° F, respiration rate 12 to 20 per minute, and the pulse (heartbeat) 70 to 80 beats per minute while at rest.
The pulse may be taken by placing the fingers on an artery lying near the surface on the inside of the lower jaw (near the angle) or by placing the hand over the heart.
Selecting the Doe
An outstanding doe is the nucleus of a productive herd. The selection of a doe should be made with great care. Good body development is essential for high milk production. The doe should be well grown, healthy in appearance, and stand squarely on her feet and not down on the pastern.
The body should be wedge-shaped and sharp at the withers. The depth of the ribs denotes the capacity for consuming large amounts of food. The thighs should provide plenty of room for a round, well- attached udder of fair size.
The skin should be loose, pliable and free from dryness. Poor condition of flesh may be an indication of a good milker, while a poor milker may be in good flesh. The neck should be thin and the head narrow. The eyes should be clear and bright.
Does should be truly feminine in appearance and mild in temperament. It is difficult to handle, milk, feed, and manage nervous goats. The milk potential cannot be estimated from the size of the udder.
The udder of a good milch goat should be soft and pliable rather than meaty. The teals should be pointed slightly forward. The udder in a freshly milked goat should have a collapsed appearance.
Selecting the Buck
The buck should have a strong, well-developed frame, and good conformation and breed characters. A good depth of ribs is essential. Legs should be straight and well placed under the body.
The buck should be healthy and free from external and internal parasites. He should be chosen from a good milking strain and should be the progeny of dams having a good performance record.
The poor condition of the flesh is not a serious drawback, since bucks usually worry a good deal, especially during the rutting season. Many herdsmen prefer the bucks to be hornless.
A well-grown buck kid may be bred to five or six does during his first season at an approximate age of six months. When 18 to 24 months old he may be permitted to service 25 to 30 does, and when fully mature 50 to 60 does in a breeding season.
Care of Bucks
Buck kids, unless from highly pedigreed does or from does with good performance records are rarely worth retaining. They should be castrated shortly after birth or within two weeks.
Male goats are fertile when quite young and if left with young females are capable of breeding and causing early kidding. Goats for slaughter should be raised on milk for the first six weeks. They can be sold or slaughtered when 3 months old for meat, which is considered excellent
The buck, to be in good condition and well suited for breeding, should be kept on the range and made to cover 3 to 5 km each day. Bucks often become sluggish and slow breeders for lack of adequate exercise, because they are kept confined in small enclosures. For giving exercise, they may be yoked to small carriages used for hauling light loads.
A buck is very active during the breeding season. The buck’s hooves should be regularly attended to as otherwise foot-rot or lameness may develop. Bucks should always be kept separate from the does. They become unduly restive or excited and waste more energy when kept with does.
The does are more or less continuous breeders. The signs of heat in the doe usually are uneasiness, tail shaking, pink and swollen genitalia, frequent urination, restlessness, bleating, and a little mucous discharge for one to three days.
The period between heats varies from 18 to 21 days. It is better to inseminate; the doe on the second day of the heat period. The sperms survive in the female genital tract for 22 to 42 hours.
Mating should be so timed that the kids are born in a season when mortality among them is at its lowest and an adequate amount of food is available for their nourishment and growth. Breeding seasons will, therefore, vary with breed, locality, and climate.
Mating of the Doe
Does may be mated when 10 to 15 months old so that they kid at the age of 15 to 20 months. But as a rule, a goat should not be mated until it is one year old. The average gestation period is 151 ± 3 days. It is better to breed the female once a year.
Some goats can be made to kid twice in 18 months. The goats reach their maximum efficiency at the age of five to seven years. In exceptional cases, they continue to be serviceable even up to 12 years and in rare cases up to 14 years.
A well- maintained doe may continue to be milked until a month before she is expected to kid again. The condition of the doe during gestation will have a very great influence on the quality of kids at birth.
A doe in good condition will produce strong lively kids, whereas a doe in poor condition may produce ungainly kids, weak in the constitution. Does must be fed well, allowed liberal exercise, and protected from rain and cold.
Goats in Kid
A temporary increase in milk yield after mating is considered to be an indication of pregnancy, but the first sign that a doe is in a kid is the cessation of the periodical return of oestrus. During the first three months of pregnancy, there is a little alteration in the shape of the in-kid does. The head of the kid car. sometimes be felt from six to eight weeks.
An old doe or a young doe which is to give birth to one kid may be very misleading in appearance and show no sign of pregnancy. Six to eight weeks before kidding, young does commence to show udder development, but this is by no means a sure sign of pregnancy as they will frequently show such development and even have milk in the udder when they are not in the kid.
An average goat can rear well two kids. Goats are known to give birth to as many as five kids at a time, but the birth of such large numbers affects the health of the goat. The incidence of twinning varies with the breed, environment, and a number of kiddings.
The Beetal goats at Hisar Farm produced in a year, on average, 35 percent singlets, 54 percent twins, 6.3 percent triplets, and 0.4 percent quadruplets. In Jamunapari the percentage of twinning varies from 19 to 50 with an average of 35, and in Barbari from 47 to 70.
The doe should be put in the pen a few hours before parturition. She becomes fussy about two or three hours before actual kidding. The udder becomes engorged with milk, the belly appears shrunk and the flanks appear rather hollow. The tail head is raised higher than usual as the ligaments of either side relax. There is a thick, white, starchy discharge which soon changes to a more opaque substance.
The water-bag appears first. Soon afterward, within 15 minutes, it breaks and the feet of the kid appear with the head resting on them. Since the doe is fussier and noisier than any other domestic animal during kidding, it is not necessary to care for her unless she is obviously in trouble.
In the case of undue delay in the appearance of the kid after the bursting of the water-bag, the position of the kid may have to be adjusted. If twins or triplets are to be born there is usually a short period of rest between the appearance of kids.