I hope you all had a wonderful Labor Day! I celebrated with my daughter as she turned 2 years old. As the fall season begins, daylight begins to get shorter, and sheep and goats are ready for breeding. I got a new dapple buck this year and can’t wait to see what color he adds to the herd.
Sheep and goat are typically short-day breeders, meaning they breed when periods of daylight are shorter. The normal breeding season is usually September through January. Gestation is five months for sheep and goats. Does or ewes breed in the fall and will kid or lamb in the spring of the next year.
The profitability of a sheep and goat operation depends on the number of lambs and/or kids raised, weaned and marketed each year. As the breeding season is upon us, there are a few things that sheep and goat producers can do to ensure that their breeding season is profitable.
Body Condition Score should be assessed to make sure that does and ewes are not too thin or too fat. Animals that are too thin or too fat will not cycle into estrus and will not be bred. Ideal body condition is a 5 or 6. Body condition should be maintained during the breeding season and at lambing/kidding. Consider flushing does or ewes that are not in ideal body condition. Flushing (increasing the amount of feed offered) occurs two to three weeks before breeding season and provides animals extra nutrition to put on weight prior to breeding. Flushing does or ewes that are in ideal condition will generally not respond. Bucks should also be monitored for body condition. Bucks will lose weight during the breeding season because of the increased physical activity and decreased feed intake.
Hoof trimming, vaccination and deworming can also affect the breeding season. Animals’ feet should be examined for sores, signs of foot rot or infection and overgrown hooves. Hooves need to be in good shape during a period of increased activity both for doe/ewe and buck. Producers should consider vaccinating twice per year, at the start of the breeding season and four to six weeks before lambing or kidding. Bucks should also be vaccinated once per year. Producers can also choose to vaccinate only once per year, which should be done four to six weeks before lambing or kidding to ensure immunity is passed to the lamb or kid. Kids/lambs should be vaccinated at 8 weeks old, then a booster at 12 weeks old. CD&T is labeled for goats and is for overeating disease and tetanus, and multivalent clostridial vaccine is labeled for sheep. Deworming should be done before the breeding season. If producers plan to flush does or ewes, deworming should be done prior to flushing.
The breeding season should last for at least 40 to 45 days; this will allow ewes or does to complete two estrous or heat cycles. Estrous cycles are 21 days. The breeding ratio is one buck for every 20 to 30 does or ewes.
Please join us on Sept. 26 at 9 a.m. for a Wildlife Management Meeting at Lowry’s Shop, 8879 U.S. 74 West, Pembroke. Topics will include trapping basics and coyote, beaver and deer management. Please register by Sept. 25 by calling 910-671-3276.
Taylor Chavis is the North Carolina Cooperative Extension livestock agent for Robeson County. She can be reached by calling 910-671-3276, or by email at [email protected]