I had every intention of writing this post about a week ago.
Here is my list of excuses:
- I ate so much at Thanksgiving Hubby had to roll me out of my Mother’s house and to the car, where a crane was waiting to lift me up so Hubby could swing me into the car. Once we got home he just pushed me out of the car and let me bounce through the yard. I finally deflated enough to get myself to the computer.
- Hubby got sick, but the animals in the barn don’t care if you’re sick or not they still want to be fed. While I am the main farmer here, Hubby does help me out quite a bit. When one of us is down the work load gets a bit heavier.
- I got sick, so after dragging ourselves through the chores we spent several days in front of the wood stove playing computer games (we’re geeky like that). I blame this sickness on my Nana who was sick at Thanksgiving, but still came and ended up infecting about half of the family. Thankfully I’m healed to the point where I think I can put sentences together.
So please forgive me for not getting this truly awesome blog post to you sooner. Seriously I’ve got what you need to know about goat bucks.
I can feel your excitement.
Goat bucks have a bit of a bad reputation for being mean, pushy, aggressive, and down right terrible smelling. While these things could all be true, I can tell you for certain that the last part is very true. I get an instant headache when I go into the buck pen, and I try to walk waaaay around Oliver. Of course he has to follow me (apparently I’m like his sugar pie or something), to which I respond by kicking my leg out and shrieking GET AWAY!!
It’s a truly tender moment.
And even when he has not brushed against me, or tried to mount me (yes they’ll hump just about anything), or sprayed me with urine (that’s a whole new topic) I still end up smelling like stinky buck.
I remember back before I had a buck and I read all these things about people complaining about the smell, and how they have to change before going out in public because their clothes smell so bad. I thought they were slightly exaggerating. I can assure you they are not.
But despite all of that, there is a case to be made for owning your own buck. I’ve rented a buck and now I own 2 bucks. Here is what I’ve learned.
The Cost: Last year I borrowed a buck. I took my does to him when they were in heat, left them overnight, and paid a service fee, a boarding fee, a transport fee (as the buck wasn’t from the area and was trucked to my friend’s farm.), and of course my gas on top of that (about a 40 minute drive). And after all of that, only one of my does settled (got pregnant). This year I fed a buck all year (remember I bought Oliver in December of last year so I fed him for a year before even using him. Perhaps not the smartest thing to do), made up different housing and a new pen. Cost wise borrowing is cheaper. Since I really only bred once a year Oliver has a pretty lazy life. He is used for a few months of the year, but is a food cost all year. On the bright side, Oliver doesn’t cost much to feed, as he only weighs about 70 pounds and is a miniature goat.
The Smell: Goat bucks go into rut when they are ready to breed. This rut cycle will line up with the does heat cycle, and when they are in rut they smell terrible. There is no way around it. They also engage in disgusting behaviour. Apparently to become attractive to a doe a buck must pee all over himself. It’s nasty ya’ll! Oliver is always spraying his face, spraying the barn, spraying Hiccup, spraying me, and basically anything else that comes by. This can also cause problems as the acid in the urine can cause urine scald on the buck’s face and legs. So far we haven’t had this happen, but Oliver’s white patches of fur on his face are now bright yellow. Nigerian Dwarf does go into heat all year round, and thus the bucks go into rut all year as well. Large breed dairy goats only go into heat in the Fall so with standard sized breeds the smell would only be for several months as opposed to all year. If you’re just renting the buck you don’t really have to deal with it all that much, and even less if you take your does to the buck as opposed to having the buck live with your does.
The Breeding: If you borrow a buck there are 2 different senerios. The first is the buck comes to your farm and you put him in with your does. He will breed them as they come into heat. Usually you keep him for about a month to ensure all the does have been bred. The second is you take your does to him. You have to make sure your does are in heat and get them to the buck so they can do their thing. Sometimes you can leave your does overnight with the buck in a stall. Other times you have to wait until they get the job done before taking the does home again. Sometimes does don’t take right away and go back into heat. This means you have to set up another “date” before the doe goes back out of heat. These can be pretty inconvenient. Sophie went back into heat last year on boxing day. While I knew she needed to go back to Sal’s farm and have another “date” I simply couldn’t get her there because of family gatherings. Not to mention I really didn’t want to inconvenience Sal during the busiest holiday of the year. By owning your own buck you skip all of this and have a safe and easy way to breed your goats.
Disease, Lice and Parasites: Borrowing a buck does come with some risk. There are goat diseases that are very contagious, as well as exposure to lice and parasites. By bringing in a buck from another farm or taking your girls to another farm you risk exposing them. Owning your own buck means that you know his health status and if he has been dewormed and deloused.
Breeding Standards: Most people don’t rent out a really good buck as there is risk involved (the buck can be stolen and sold off, the buck can get sick, the does can get sick, accidents happen, etc). Breeding should be done to improve on the line and make good sturdy kids, as opposed to just breeding for the sake of it. Sometimes it can be hard to find a good quality buck with a good temperament, good conformation, and good lines to borrow. Buying a buck ensures you own the best you can afford.
Companionship: If you decide you are going to own a buck you have to remember that goats are extremely social. They have to have herd mates. They just do. You cannot keep one goat. They have to have someone to live with. A lonely buck is an aggressive buck. A lonely buck will also do everything he can to get out of his enclosure. Running your buck with your does isn’t ideal as you won’t know when to expect kids (a big deal here in Canada. I don’t want kids in February, they wouldn’t survive the cold), a buck can also “breed back” a doe, meaning he can breed her right after she’s given birth causing her to have back to back pregnancies. This is too much for the doe. She needs some down time between pregnancies to rest. Housing a buck separately from the does is the best way, and thus he needs a companion. Some do rotational breeding so that the buck is always living with a doe and there are kids being born all year round. Sadly that isn’t an option here because of the cold winter. Some keep wethers, which are neutered male goats. They do not go into rut, and do not smell. I’ve heard they can be quite sweet as well. We did have a wether, but he was moody and unpredictable (never a good thing but especially not when he has horns), as well as a fence jumper so we sold him. While castrated animals have their place, the argument of having 2 working bucks made sense to us. Oliver needed a companion anyways, so why not have another breeding buck instead of a wether? It’s the same cost in food. So we kept Hiccup. He is also still intact, but still young enough that he doesn’t smell quite as bad. Next year could be interesting.
An Argument for the Goat Buck
I think males have a bit of a bad rap. Both of our bucks are friendly. While Oliver is a bit shy, he isn’t aggressive with us. His horns are impressive but he has never used them on either me or Hubby (unless I’m trimming his hooves. He just hates that! Thank goodness for a milk stand to lock him into.) Hiccup is still very much a cuddle bug, and loves to sit in our lap, and has no problems with being carried around even! He is somewhat like a puppy dog who just wants scratches and attention. They always come to the fence to be petted, or at least talked to (no way am I petting a buck in rut!). They enjoy treats, and laying in the sunshine and making goat buck grunting noises through the fence at my does. If you are considering buying a buck be sure to buy the best you can afford. Find one with a friendly attitude, and be picky. Know what you want to in your future herd, and commit to selling good quality kids. Don’t be afraid of the buck, but respect him.
The best part of it all is when Phoebe is hanging around the fence throwing her head around and flagging her tail, all I have to do is move Phoebe from one pen to another. No stressful car rides. No anxiety from Phoebe because she doesn’t know where she is or who this male goat is. Simple and easy, and way less stressful for all of us.
So after having done both options of borrowing or owning, I’m sticking with owning. The smell and cost outweighs trying to find an available buck for breeding, the driving, the fees, and the possibility of a doe not settling.
Smelly goats, man. They’re just part of the cycle.
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