Cashmere goats require some management in order to maximize the production of cashmere. They are not as delicate as dairy goats but neither should they be expected to grow kids and cashmere at the same without some care and management. Both activities require expenditure of energy and it is to the goat herders' advantage to space these two most demanding activities out over the course of the year to minimize stress to the animals.
JOINING - Joining is the mating of one animal to another. Normally, the buck/doe ratio should be between 1:25 and 1:50. A buck should not be expected to breed more than 50 does in a six-week period. Keeping the ratios low will allow the buck to do his work quickly, resulting in a kidding season that is compressed into a 6-week period, five months later. This will also shorten the combing season.
Beginning in late August to early September, does with sufficient stored body fat will cycle every 18 to 21 days and will remain receptive to the buck for 2 to 3 days. Goats are seasonally poly-estrus, meaning they will cycle regularly for six months. If they remain unbred by the end of that time period, usually in late January, they will stop cycling until the following August. If during the summer the does are not exposed to bucks at all, meaning the bucks are out of earshot and more importantly, the does are not able to smell them, the sudden introduction of bucks to a group of does that have not yet begun to cycle will stimulate them to naturally synchronize themselves. Then they will all cycle within three days. Keeping the bucks apart from the does for the first two days will stimulate the bucks to greater semen production. Does bred to bucks that are not allowed to "warm-up" will have lower fertility rates and may not be successfully bred the first cycle due to the presence of immature sperm.
A more challenging feat would be to keep the cycling does and the freshly introduced bucks apart for one month, breeding the does the second time they cycle, instead of the first. Does will naturally ovulate more eggs during their second cycle than during their first resulting in a higher percentage of twins. If a vasectomized or "teaser" buck, one whose epididymus has been severed, but the testicles retained, is available, he can be used to stimulate the does to synchronized cycling. He can then be left in with the does to keep them happy until it is time to put in fertile bucks. However, if the does' condition is not good enough to enable her to carry twins to term, she should be bred during her first cycle to bucks that have been warmed-up. In Mongolia, bibs are used to physically prevent mature bucks from breeding does out-of-season. This method can be ineffective if close watch is not kept on the condition of the bib. The bib itself is made of heavily woven materials and is suspended around the buck's midsection.
Nutrition in the weeks preceding joining is very important. Last years' kids should be weaned and removed from the doe so she can dry up and put all her energy into building fat reserves and ovulation. A doe that is in good shape when bred is more likely to have multiple ovulations than one that is in poor condition. Giving the does extra feed in the weeks before joining is called "flushing". In areas where extra feed is not available, joining should occur at the time of year immediately after the most productive season for native grass production. Bucks should be removed from the doe herd or bibbed after two months of joining. Does that have not settled by then are probably too stressed to carry kids to term especially if the buck:doe ratio is low. Additionally, does bred in December will not kid until May and wean until September, giving them no time to recover their resources and begin a new cycle with enough fat to successfully breed and kid the next year.
GESTATION - Gestation for goats is 150 days. Does bred on the 18th of October will kid on March 17th. For the first two trimesters, meaning the first 100 days, the fetus or fetuses within the doe will not put much of a nutritional strain upon her. They remain small and relatively undemanding. It is during the last trimester or the last 50 days that they begin to grow and develop. Most importantly, it is during this time that they begin to develop their hair follicles, the small openings in the skin through which will grow guard hair and down. If a doe is nutritionally deprived during this time, the fetus will not develop as many individual down hair follicles as it otherwise might resulting in less dense fleece.
If additional feed is available, the last 30 days of gestation is the time to provide it to the does. During the last 30 days, the doe's resources will be taxed to the maximum as she carries one or two growing fetuses and begins to produce the life-giving milk. Now is the time to give the does vaccinations against Clostridium perfringes Types C & D and Tetanus, if the vaccine is available. This allows the does' immune system to produce antibodies against these diseases in time to provide the newborn kids with extra antibodies through the colostrum.
PARTURITION - As the time for kidding approaches, does will become swollen and slow. The maturing kids are using her remaining energy reserves and she needs as much care as possible. Most important is plenty of drinking water as that is the major component of the amniotic fluid and of milk. Goats in general are very water conservative, able to go up to three days without water. But during these last few days, water intake by the pregnant does is very important. The last trimester is not the time to perform any management activities such as foot trimming or moving over long distances.
Does about to go into labor will normally seek a secluded spot. If possible, freshening does should not be allowed to go out with the herd and should be kept close to the barn or camp. They should be left alone during this time and allowed to birth their kids without interruption. Labor is characterized by heavy breathing, bearing down and the occasional bleat. The doe will most often lie down. Straining for more than 20 minutes may indicate that there is an abnormal presentation that may require the intervention of the herder. Normally, goats are able to birth their kids without intervention and this is a trait that we must strive to preserve during our intensive breeding and selection program. Does requiring intervention during kidding should not be part of an elite herd.
Birthing usually begins with the tips of one or two front feet peaking through the vulva. The hooves are covered in a waxy/rubbery shoe that protects the birth canal wall. A tiny muzzle and head should closely follow the feet. Once the head is out, the rest of the body should follow easily. Usually the impact of the kid upon the ground breaks the amniotic sac, clearing the nostrils for their first breath. If not, the doe is usually right there to clean the newborn, although her methods are somewhat random and she may not begin at the nose. If there are twins, the second will closely follow the first. Once the placenta is passed, there will be no more kids born.
The does will eagerly lick newborn kids and she may even eat the hormone-rich placenta and amniotic sac. The stimulus of her licking not only dries the kids, but also stimulates them to try to stand. Once upright, they will instinctively seek the teat, although they may begin the hunt at the does' brisket. During this time period, it is very important to leave the doe and kids alone. They should not be disturbed until the kids have had a chance to fill their bellies with colostrum. Colostrum is THE KEY to kid survival for it contains antibodies against the diseases most likely to kill the kid during the first 30 days of life. Kids are not born with antibodies and must get them through the colostrum.
Colostrum is the thick, yellowish milk that the doe produces the first few days after delivery. As stated above, it is rich not only in antibodies but also in fats and protein that will give the kid a head start in life. The most important thing to remember is that there is a short period of time during which the kid must eat the colostrum or else it will do no good. This is because the antibody molecules are very large physically and they must pass through the kid's gut wall during the first 6 to 8 hours of life. After the first 8 hours and definitely after the first 12 hours of life, the large antibodies become physically unable to pass through the shrinking apertures in the kid's gut wall and they will exit ineffectually or be broken down by the activating gut acids instead of being absorbed into the bloodstream. Separation of the kid from its dam during these first 6 to 8 hours is to be avoided at all costs. If a doe looks as if shemight kid that day, do not let her go out with the rest of the herd. Keep her nearby and keep an eye on her. If a kid does not get colostrum from its mother, milk from a doe that has very recently kidded should be manually fed to the newborn via a bottle and the kid returned to the natural mother as soon as possible. Bonding between the kid and its mother will occur during these first critical hours. Reasons to intervene in this bonding and feeding cycle include inclement weather and life-threatening situations such as predator approach or relocation. But kids and dams should be reunited as soon as possible after separation.
Kid bucks born to does that are not part of the elite herd can be castrated during the first week of life or castrated later at age 1.5 to 2 months of age. This can be accomplished by cutting off the end of the scrotum, opening the elastic bag that encloses each teste and removing both testicles by severing the epididymus with a scissors/blunt pincher device called a burdizzo. That device crushes the epididymus, not only severing it but also seals off its blood supply. Alternatively, a rubber castration band can be placed around the scrotum above both testicles but close to the body wall. This technique is faster, less stressful to the bucks and reduces the risk of infection and fly problems, but is best used on animals less than three weeks old. Does that are not part of the elite herd may give birth to very nice male kids, but in order to accelerate the progress in a breeding scheme, only bucks born to superior does should be used as breeders. The best way to keep inferior bucks from breeding is to castrate them. They will also spend less energy on "male" play and will eat more and be in better condition.
During the first week of life, the kids are not able to cover long distances but are really very quick if necessary. They are also practically odorless and will tend to remain perfectly motionless if threatened. This makes them invisible to predators. If the doe runs or wanders away from her kids, she will eventually return to them, if not prevented by the herder, or get close enough so her calls will attract their attention. Every doe knows the voice of her kids and visa versa. Some does will return to the kids only once or twice a day, preferring to stash them in a safe, warm place. Others prefer to stay with their kids even if it means segregating themselves from the herd. As the kids get older, large groups of them will band together and remain in an entertaining area to play with one or two does remaining nearby as baby sitters.
COMBING - The hormonal change associated with parturition seems to be the signal for the does to start shedding their cashmere. Unfortunately, it is the finest fibers that are shed first; so close watch must be kept to begin the harvesting process before shedding becomes noticeably advanced. This is also a good time to collect data that describes the fleece quality. If the goat has guard hair that is more than three times the length of the cashmere, the guard hair should be trimmed off before combing begins. There is no commercial use for guard hair so all the trimmings should be removed and not included within the bag of harvested cashmere. Not all the cashmere will be released from the skin follicles at the same time so it is preferable to comb each goat multiple times during March, April and May. Goats in good condition will not shed as many guard hairs during combing, thereby increasing yield. If a doe is an elite doe, fleece from each individual should be bagged separately and the bags from each combing session combined in order to assess the total cashmere production.
Traditional cashmere combs have long, sharpened tines with a bale that moves back as the comb becomes full of cashmere. This is an effective method of harvesting cashmere, and it is much better for the goats to have some cashmere and guard hair left on them after the combing season as protection against spring weather.
WEANING - Kids born in March will be ready for weaning in June. By this time they should be eating grass on their own. Kids should be penned up away from the does or removed to another area for at least two weeks. Wet does can be milked at this time. When the female kids are reintroduced to the doe herd, they will seek out their dam. This is a lifetime attachment most often and the does and their adult daughters will even cycle together. The does need the summertime to recover from the stresses of winter, parturition and combing. Does with a greater percentage of body fat going into the breeding season will conceive twins more readily and will have a greater chance of carrying those kids to term. Kids will double their weight during the summer. Kid does chosen to remain in the herd should not be bred their first year to allow their bodies to mature and grow to their full genetic potential. Maiden does that are bred too young have a greater chance of aborting especially if their fat reserves are low. Even if she delivers a kid, it is likely to be underweight and she may abandon it. It's just not worth it. Milking does after the kids are weaned slows their rate of gain. Milk is 80% water and up to 6% fat; the same fat that the doe would have stored for her own use had it not been harvested. If the doe herd has more wet does, then each doe will not have to be milked for so long in order to satisfy the basic needs of the herder family. Then each doe can dried up sooner and be able to start tending to her own needs. This will result in a better conditioned doe, more kids and more milk the next year.
Order Form Click here for the most up-to-date information available including Power Point presentations.
Capricorn Consults!! | What is Goat? | More About CaPrA