The goat heat cycle is when a doe goes through estrus. Goats cycle on average every 21 days during breeding season. This heat cycle typically only lasts 1 - 3 days with the mid-point being when they can breed. Estrus is the timeframe in which a female is able to conceive.
Whether you are raising a type of dairy goat or another goat breed you will have to breed your goats, know how long goats are pregnant and care for them while they are bred if you want to have kids. In order to get a successful breeding, you must know about the goat heat cycle since they can only be bred while they are in heat. Goat heat signs are easy to identify once you know what to look for.
If you are interested in goat heat signs, that probably means you will be breeding your goats. Make sure you have the Goat Breeding Planner so you have all the breeding information you need!
What is the Goat Heat Cycle?
Goats must be in heat, or their estrus period, in order to get pregnant.
So, if you know that you want to get your girls bred, you'll need to know all the details about their cycles, including goat heat signs so that you can identify when they are in heat. This way, you won't miss your window of opportunity and can have a successful breeding season.
Before your goats are showing signs of heat, make sure you decide which goats to pair up and breed by going through the important goat breeding planning steps.
When do goats go into heat?
Some goat breeds, like Saanen and Alpine are seasonal breeders. They typically only go into heat during the Fall months. Although, some can cycle during other times, especially if exposed to a buck. Other goat breeds, like Nigerian Dwarf goats will go into heat year-round, but will likely have the strongest heat cycles in the Fall.
Does can start having a heat cycle as young as 8 weeks, though unlikely. However, by 4 - 5 months, does can definitely be having heat cycles and get pregnant if exposed to a buck. This doesn't mean that you SHOULD breed your does this young.
How often do goats go into heat?
A goat heat cycle is usually spaced out about every 18 - 21 days apart. So, they go into heat about every three weeks.
How many times a year does a goat go into heat?
Seasonal breeder typically go into heat from Aug/Sept to Jan/Feb at the rate of about once every 21 days. So, they go into heat around 6 - 8 times a year. Other breeds can breed year round and they may go into heat almost once a month.
How long is a goats menstrual cycle?
A goats menstrual cycle is about 21 days long.
How Long Do Goats Stay in Heat?
They are only in heat for a short time (48 - 72 hours usually) and they have to be right at the right timing in that heat cycle to be willing to stand for the buck to be bred. This time is called standing heat.
At the start of their cycle, the does will show just a few signs, then towards the middle they are in standing heat - when they will accept the buck breeding them, finally the last part they will slowly show less signs.
What are the goat heat signs?
As you can see, a goat heat cycle is a very short window of time to get your goat bred. So, you really need to know how to tell your goat is in heat so you don't miss it.
First, you want to know what your doe "normally" looks and acts like. This way, when her behavior changes, you will know.
Some girls will get more friendly when they are in heat. Some goats will get more standoffish when they are in heat. We have seen some girls mount other does when they are in heat.
So, the actual behavior may vary from doe to doe when they are in heat. But a good sign your goat is in heat is a change in that does typical behavior.
Reaction to Bucks
Walking the boys through will give you a DEFINITE yes or no if you are in doubt. The boys will be very enthusiastic towards girls who are in heat. And girls who are in heat will be VERY excited about the boys.
If you don't want to take your bucks on a walkaround, you can use a buck rag. Essentially this is just a rag or other object that you rub on your buck to get it to smell like them.
Then let your does smell the buck rag and if they react in some of the ways listed below, they are likely in heat.
Extra tail wagging
You have probably noticed that your goats will wag their tails some while eating, scratching etc. A good goat heat sign to look for is EXTRA tail wagging.
We weren't sure that this would be easy to spot, I mean what constitutes as "extra"?
Well, if you have been doing observing your does regularly, you will likely know what "extra" is. It is obvious that the does wag their tails more. They also wag them at different times than usual. So, as long as you know what is typical, you should be able to easily identify what additional tail waging is.
Often times when a doe is in heat you will notice her vulva ("lady parts" if we are being polite) will be swollen. By knowing what she usually looks like, it is easier to notice any swelling.
Your doe will likely have some vaginal discharge when she comes into heat.
You may notice it just on her vulva, but it can also end up on the underside of her tail and tail hair. It will just look like a little mucous, or some slight dried crust.
Our girls are all relatively quiet (unless they are separated from the herd or wanting bananas!). However, during heat cycles, does will many times become more vocal.
We have one girl in particular who will literally SCREAM at the fence line ALL DAY LONG when she is in heat. This is a VERY clear sign your goat is in heat.
If you have a wether in with your does, they may also be able to help you detect if your does are in heat.
Wethers (even though they aren't in tact) will often start to exhibit buck-like behavior -- curling lips, clicking noises, mounting -- towards the does in heat.
Decreased Milk Production
If your doe is in milk when she comes into heat, you may see a decrease in milk production during her cycle. Do keep in mind though that there can be several other causes for a doe producing less milk than usual.
If you want your does to be bred during a certain time period, or if you have a doe who does not have strong heat cycles you can use a CIDR. CIDR is a small device that has progesterone and can be inserted into your doe. This will release progesterone and trigger your doe to go into heat.
Once your girls are bred, make sure you are prepared for kidding time by knowing all of the goat labor signs.
Want to see a doe who is displaying the signs of a goat in heat?
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