Goat Breeding: BCS Is Important

— Written By

Goats can be incredibly interesting, and entertaining, animals to work with. For those of you who have goats, you know exactly what I mean. Since fall is approaching, and with it comes the breeding season, this article will focus on body condition scoring (BCS) of your animals and preparing does for breeding.

Body condition refers to the fleshiness of the animal and is based on a 1-9 scale. It is important to gauge your goat’s body condition to verify the usefulness of your nutrition program, to “head off” parasite problems and to make sure they are prepared for the breeding season. When examining the animal, pay close attention to the backbone, ribs/rib cage, shoulder, tail head, and sternum. Just looking at the animal is not enough—you have to touch them too! Thin animals will fall in the 1-3 range, moderate will be 4-6, and fat animals are 7-9.

At the start of breeding season, animals should have a BCS of 5-6 and pregnant animals should not have above a 7. Excessive fat restricts the growth of the kid in utero and increases the risk of dystocia (birthing problems). If does are too thin, the reproductive efficiency drastically declines and twinning rates may also decrease. The weaned kids will probably weigh less, since the doe will not be able to produce as much milk as she would if she were of an adequate size. Does with a body condition score of 5-6 are smooth and the ribs are not visible. The fat cover is usually not more than 0.05-0.08” over the loin and 0.03-0.05” over the backbone in these animals. Does in poor condition look more angular and have visible ribs.

The BCS of bucks should also be taken into account. Overly fat bucks will not want to breed, or if they do, may hurt themselves or the doe while mounting. The increased activity and decreased feed intake that the buck experiences during the breeding season may cause him to lose weight quickly. Bucks should also have a BCS of 5-6 at the start of breeding season.

Several other things may be done to improve the reproductive performance of your goat herd. Hoof trimming should be started a few weeks before the breeding season to ensure good foot and leg health. Lame bucks cannot breed many does. Animals should be grouped together several weeks before breeding as well; they must establish a “pecking order” and this is better done prior to breeding to prevent undue stress. Deworming is important for all goats, and in particular breeding animals. Fighting off infestations reduce the reproductive efficiency of the animals. Goats should be vaccinated against enterotoxemia (overeating disease) and tetanus—at the very least.

These are just a few ideas to get you started when thinking about the breeding season for your goats. Feel free to contact the Wayne Cooperative Extension office if you have any suggestions for other producers, or questions for the livestock agent.