for people who love the littlest dairy goats
The longer I have goats, the more I dislike breeding does to kid at a year, and the less I do it. I have five dry yearlings this year and one yearling that kidded, and I'm wishing I hadn't because her growth is now behind the other yearlings. I was reading something recently that made me say, "Aha!" It was talking about all of these management things that would help you get does to kid at a year because you're losing profits with dry yearlings. My personal opinion is that this is one of those times when we're mimicking the factory farms, which want to squeeze as much profit out of an animal as they can, which means getting them to produce as early as possible. I've just recently been talking about not breeding yearlings anymore.
Could you share more info on why breeding other mammals is delayed?
In DHI they keep track of lifetime production, and I wouldn't be surprised if lifetime production were higher if you add in a freshening at age one. That could be what they're talking about when they talk about greater production.
I've only ever had to take two laboring goats to the vet -- one was a seven year old that wasn't dilating, and the other was a 18-month-old that was having trouble because she was too small. So, ever since the experience with the yearling, I'm in the barn with a scale to make sure the does are close to 40 pounds before I breed them.
At least with my goats, it seems that most yearlings would equate to 12-13 year old humans giving birth. A lot of humans are done growing by 16. While it's true that in nature they would be getting pregnant on their first or second heat cycle, I've come to realize that nature is inherently very wasteful. All an animal needs to do is replace itself before it dies, and the species continues. If I let a turkey hen raise her chicks, she's doing good to get one or two to adulthood -- and that's on our farm with fencing around a chicken yard that's about an acre or two. They just loose them in the tall grass, but if we get mama and babies into a movable pen, they all survive. Same with guineas. Chickens are usually better. Long time ago on a goat group someone asked why NDs have so many kids compared to the Swiss goats, and the fact is that Boers and Nubians are also prone to multiples, and both are also from Africa. Someone suggested that NDs might have so many kids because they originated in such a harsh environment, it was just nature's way of ensuring the survival of the species. Rather than each goat only having one or two kids a year, they had three or four because their odds of survival were lower than goats in Europe. It's an interesting thought. I've been paying attention to other animals since then, and there does seem to be a correlation between odds of survival and number born. With poultry, the worst mothers have the largest broods -- guineas can hatch 15-20 keets, turkeys can easily hatch a dozen, chickens usually hatch only 6-9. Cows only have a single calf, and their odds of survival are quite good.
As far as younger goats recovering more quickly, that's not the case here. By six weeks fresh, most goats lose a lot of weight, and in my experience, the yearlings look the worst. Then you don't see much difference between ages until you get up to about eight or nine, and they start to look not so great either. I think genetics plays a big role in this too. I have a buck out of a doe that won the AGS national championship at age 10 and two months fresh. Right now I have a yearling whose dam is seven, and both of them look equally poorly conditioned at two to three months fresh.
I'm starting to think that 18-24 months is better for first freshening. If you look at size of the goats, there aren't that many that are big enough by a year, and I don't just mean weight. They don't have that much depth or width in their body either. Pat Coleby is in Australia, so she has completely different growing condition and different breeds of goats, so maybe they grow faster?
I've never heard of any research on age at first freshening as it relates to the goat's health in the US. Like the article I was reading recently, they all focus on getting yearlings to freshen so you can maximize profits.
I've been reading Goat Science and Production by Sandra Solomain, PhD. (2010) and just thought I'd share what she has to say on the subject:
Yearlings (12 months of age and older) can be bred. The proper weight for breeding usually is 65% of adult weight for cattle, but no benchmark has been established for goats and may differ with breeds.
Adult NDs usually weight about 75 pounds, so if we were to follow the cattle benchmark, we would be waiting until 50 pounds to breed NDs. If we did that, I don't think we'd ever see any yearling first fresheners.
I'm curious at what age these goats first breed in the wild in Africa, would that be a good standard to go by? I have a friend over there whose mom has some African goats, I could ask him.
Nevermind, I just read Deborah's post which already discusses this =)
I didnt breed my does until just before they were two - the one that was covered kidded at 2 years. She did great - and I waited because I just wasnt convinced something so little could benefit from pregnancy at that time. The breeder I bought from told me not before they reach 40 lbs. I also read that waiting to for that 2nd year results in the doe not being as productive in milk because you are a year behind. Think that was the key to "production" I started giving my FF Calf Manna as you suggested Deborah, and the change was awesome! Actually I am still giving some and wonder if I should stop. What is the benefit of a boost in protein? My does look really good presently - with Goat Chow, little Calf Manna, Alfalfa, BOSS, and pinch of hoof/hair horse guard. But that sounds a little hot.....