I’ve seen several searches by people wanting to know how to tell whether or not their goat is bred. This is not such an easy thing to tell sometimes. With cattle, the vet comes out and does a physical exam to feel whether or not they have a calf. With goats, you can have the vet do an ultrasound to check for a fetus, but outside of that, it might be hard to tell until just before it happens. There are, however, some signs you can check for.
First, keep track of your doe’s heat cycle. They should come into heat about every twenty-one days. I really do keep a chart that shows the dates of when all my girls are in heat. Most times, I know they are in heat because they hang out by the buck pen, they flick their tales a lot, have more discharge, and sometimes become very vocal about their desires.
If you are keeping track of their heat cycles and know when you put them with the buck, you can usually have a decent estimate of when they might be due. There is the possibility that she won’t settle though. I have ten girls that were exposed to bucks between October 12 – October 19. All were in heat at some time while they were with the boys. That dirty hip on Kizzy below is a good indication she was bred. You can actually buy a harness to put on the buck so he will leave a mark letting you know if the doe has been bred.
None of them has shown any sign of coming back into heat. That would be my first sign, which is another good reason to keep track of their heat cycles. Not seeing them in heat is not a guarantee they are bred. They are only in heat for a couple of days and it’s easy to miss if the weather is wet and they don’t feel like standing in the rain to flirt. I had one doe that went several months without me seeing her in heat, and I finally did have the vets check her, and she was open (not bred).
Another indication would be shape of their belly. Some goats carry straight out from their sides. Some goats have longer bodies and are not as noticeable. Most of the time they will start to look rounder at about three-and-a-half to four months along. Of course, the degree of round will depend also on how many babies they are carrying. This is just another clue because some goats are just fat.
About a month or so before birth, they will begin to make an udder. When this happens depends on whether or not they’ve had babies before and weather. The new moms don’t start making an udder as soon, and they tend not to have their milk drop until birth when the weather is cold. Honestly, my girls due in March are so hairy right now that you can’t really see if they are making an udder, so I had to reach under for a feel. If they are making an udder, it’s pretty certain they are bred, but again, I can tell you about the exception. Goats have been known to come into milk even when not bred.
As they get closer to giving birth, they will start springing. Honestly, their privates begin to get puffy and look swollen. When they lay down, there is pressure from the kids that will make them look like they are beginning to open up or push their rectum out. Not all goats will do this either. Sorry, but this is the best picture I can come up with for springing.
You might be able to feel a baby move, but this can also be just their stomach working. In the final stages of pregnancy, you can sometimes use a stethoscope to hear fetal heartbeats. If your goat looks like this, you can assume she’s bred and ready to kid any second.
Of the ten girls exposed and possibly bred for spring break babies, I’m pretty much positive seven are bred, I think another one is, and I think two are open. I’ll keep checking those udders and watching for more signs for me to be certain.