When is a Goat Too Old to Breed?

As a goat breeder, ensuring we’re doing the right thing for our beloved goats is vitally important. However, one factor that often stumps many goat breeders is the topic of age – or, more specifically, what’s the best age to breed goats, and when is a goat too old to breed? These questions are vitally important to ensure the well-being and health of your goat, and with this thought in mind, we’re looking at some of the key things you need to know to answer this question.

My Personal Thoughts on When is a Goat Too Old to Breed

Personally, I don’t think there’s a specific age cut-off for questions such as “when is a goat too old to breed.” Instead, when a goat is too old to breed will be determined based on body condition, ability to stay healthy and fit, and so on. After all, some goats will continue breeding for years; meanwhile, other goats may need to be retired from breeding earlier. 

Many factors will play an influence when a goat is ready to retire from breeding aside from age alone. So, this really ought to be a judgment call on whether your goat is capable of handling the rigors of breeding. After all, breeding can really take it out of a goat, especially as they get older. But breeding might not always be bad if they are still fit, healthy, and well. Some goats may even benefit from breeding, such as goats that are too good at holding weight (in other words – they’re always obese!) 

In these cases, giving them a job rather than sitting around doing nothing may help them maintain a healthier body condition. However, if your goat is struggling to hold weight already, breeding is almost certainly not the right thing for them.

How We Manage Breeding

Personally, with our herd of Boer goats, we follow an eight-monthly kidding schedule, with kids being weaned at around six weeks of age.

Our bucks have a small number of does every four months, which spreads out the work for them; meanwhile, the does are weaned before they lose too much condition. This system ensures that an eight-monthly kidding structure – though seemingly harder – is manageable for the girls.

Our oldest doe was eleven years old before we retired her. Our current oldest breeding doe is ten years old and absolutely loving life! 

What Factors Influence When a Goat is Too Old to Breed? 

As we’ve already clarified, the age when a goat is too old to breed will depend on many factors. For example, the factors influencing the last age to breed goats may include how hard he/she has worked in their life, breeding history, current body condition, ability to eat well and sustain a good condition, status in the herd, and so on. We’ve elaborated on how each of these points influences the age to retire a goat as follows.

Factors to Consider When Deciding When Your Goat is Too Old to Breed

1. How Hard They’ve Worked

We all experience burnout when we work too hard. The same can also be said for your breeding goats when they’ve worked incredibly hard. A goat that’s bred often or heavily may need to be retired earlier than one that’s not bred as often.

2. Breeding History

Every goat is different when it comes to breeding, which may influence the toll it takes on them. A doe/nanny who pops out triplets every time and makes enough milk will have worked a lot harder than one who typically does singles! 

Plus, it’s worth noting here that bucks also vary in the amount of “effort” they put in. Considering this will help you decide whether your old goat will likely work harder than he/she can sustain. If your goat has historically drained itself with each breeding, you may want to retire them earlier.

3. Body Condition

A goat can absolutely breed if it’s in poor body condition – but that doesn’t mean you should let it. Ideally, goats should be a healthy weight before being bred, which older goats may have slightly more difficulty maintaining. If your old goat is struggling to keep its weight balanced, breeding from him/her again may be a bad idea.

4. Ability to Eat

As your goat gets older, its teeth will become weaker. This may prevent your goat from eating well, which could risk losing a significant amount of weight. Don’t risk it. If your goat is broken-mouthed (wonky or missing teeth), it may be time to retire them from breeding.

5. Status in the Herd

If your goat is an under goat, she may face even more of a toll breeding at an older age. By contrast, if she’s old but still the herd queen, she’ll likely face less pressure from her peers and may be able to tolerate the rigors of breeding more easily.

6. Slowing Down Breeding Versus Stopping Breeding 

If you don’t think your goat is necessarily capable of managing regular breeding, but you don’t want to retire them yet, you could consider slowing things down. For bucks, giving them just a few nannies or does may take the pressure off. Meanwhile, for breeding females, leaving just one kid on them, or kidding her every other year, might be a little easier.

Final Thoughts

Breeding goats comes with numerous challenges, as any goat keeper will tell you. However, understanding the optimal age to breed goats and when a goat is too old to breed is crucial for the health of your stock. What’s more, breeding a goat that’s too old can also have a negative impact on her offspring, too. So making this all-important decision of when to stop breeding them is vital. Of course, this will vary depending on numerous factors, including genetics, the amount the goat has bred, and the like. And every goat is different; always consider your goat’s breeding history when deciding whether they’re too old to breed for the first time.

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