Article originally published in the Goat Rancher magazine, May 2018.
Every producer strives to breed for the very best and your choice of buck is one of the biggest influences to your herd. When I am ready for new bloodlines to be added to my herd I am often limited in my choices ranging from monetarily to availability of quality stock as well as the driving distance to purchase one.
I am a strong advocate of limiting purchases from other farms due to diseases and other health related concerns. With that being said, this limits my options down even more.
I entirely believe that it's difficult to find (affordable) breeding stock better than what you can raise at home. After several years dealing with the struggle of finding a good buck, I became more open minded to the option of artificial insemination. We A.I. our cattle herd every year in order to introduce new genetics so why not try it with the goats.
Last spring I started purchasing a few straws of semen and by the fall I took a class to learn all about transvaginal artificial insemination with goats. The class was extremely informative and hands on, but much to my surprise it was more difficult than inseminating cattle.
I already knew I was going to need lots of practice, so I purchased semen from four different bucks and synchronized eight does. The day we were to breed was cold and pouring rain which made it miserable for us and the goats.
The first few does I was hesitant on, but my confidence quickly grew. I had some difficulty passing through the cervix and it wasn't until after that I figured I was still too early to breed. I crossed my fingers and sent the does back out with the herd with high that I got at least one bred.
When it came time to turn the buck out I made sure the A.I. does were put with a buck that had a marking harness on. Immediately I scratched out four does the first day that were covered by the buck. I certainly hung my head that day and thought my attempts were futile.
However, by the end of breeding season two does still weren't marked. That's a 25% success rate and I knew my timing was off so I was rather thrilled with the outcome.
In March, the first doe kidded on a cold Sunday morning out in the field. I was rather upset with my doe for only producing a single, but it was a live doeling and I was overjoyed with the fact that this was my first A.I. kid that I bred myself.
The next day I received news while I was at work that the other doe had triplets. My goal was four kids from both does and that's exactly what I got.
By the time it was all said and done, I had $1,500 invested in four kids. That includes the class, semen, shipping, and supplies.
Luckily my two favorite does were the dams to those kids and I got to add new genetics to my herd. I'm already making a list to purchase semen for this fall and plan to breed about ten does again. I hope I learned from my novice mistakes and my success rate exceeds my expectations next year.