We often get questions from people wanting to know what the difference is between does, bucks and wethers and which is the best choice for therm. What you choose depends on why you want goats in the first place. Read on to find out which is the best choice for you.
Bucks are intact males. They have one purpose and one purpose only - to breed the does and make more goats! They do not make suitable pets, especially for children. While they aren’t necessarily aggressive they are big and strong and can be hard to handle when in rut. (Rut is the buck equivalent to being in heat.) They can’t be kept with does except during breeding season so they will need their own enclosure and another buck or a wether for a buddy. (Since goats should NEVER be kept alone.) They have an extremely offensive odor, especially during the breeding season. The reason they smell so bad is that they constantly urinate all over themselves, on their faces, bellies, legs, beards and yes, even in their own mouths! They have longer hair than does and wethers, which makes the stench even worse. They will also urinate on any and everything within reach, including you sometimes, if you stand too close! (Ask me how I know! 😩😆) The smell is really hard to get off once you touch them, so most buck owners keep handling them to a minimum and keep them far away from the milking does (outside of breeding season) and milking area so as to not taint the milk. Sometimes they get urine scald from all of that self-inflicted nastiness and need to be bathed and treated with diaper rash cream. That doesn’t exactly make for a creature that you want to pet and snuggle with so it’s really only recommended to have a buck if you have several does that you breed every year. If you breed but just have a couple of does you’re better off using buck stud service than housing one of these stinky boys of your own all year round!
Does are females. They are smaller than bucks and do not have any kind of offensive odor. They are generally sweet, calm and easy to handle, even by children. They are popular as 4H and FFA projects but what they are best suited for is breeding and milking. They will come into heat about every 3 weeks during the breeding season and may signal this heat by calling out and play fighting with the other goats. Once bred they will have babies in 5 months and can be milked for several months after that. Most well cared for dairy does can be bred to have babies every year and can be milked until 2-3 months before they have their next litter. Of course you don’t have to breed your doe but it’s normal and healthy to do so. That’s what they were bred for! They do also make great pets and many people choose them for that purpose, but they cost more than wethers so you need to keep that in mind.
Wethers are castrated males. They aren’t aggressive and don’t get as big and bulky and hairy as bucks and they have no bad bucky odor or disgusting habits! They also don’t come into heat like does so you don’t have to worry about them yelling for a date during breeding season. 😆 They make great companions for either does or bucks and good weed eaters. But what wethers really excel at is being sweet, loving, entertaining pets. They are also less expensive than does or bucks so you can usually purchase two wethers for less than the cost of one doe. If you don’t want to milk or have baby goats and just want fun and adorable pets I highly recommend wethers!
It’s always exciting when a new kidding season starts and this year is no exception. We did have a few does kid in December, including one litter on Christmas Eve, so it hasn’t been THAT long since babies were born here. And we do have still several fall kids in the barn but still - more baby goats means more fun! The “count” starts over. New year, new tattoo letter!
For those that don’t know the tattoo letter is the letter you see before each kid’s number on our for sale page. Tattoos or microchips are how registered dairy goats are identified for registration purposes. And they (or official USDA microchips) are used for the legally required Scrapie ID purposes instead of ear tags. Each goat has a herd tattoo and a numberletter combination assigned. The herd tattoo goes in the right ear and the number-letter sequence in the left. Even if goats are microchipped instead of tattooed by the breeder they are assigned a tattoo by the registry. (We much prefer to microchip whenever possible.) And the tattoo numbers make a great way to identify the kids. This year the recommended letter by all goat registries is M so the kid count starts over at M1, M2, etc!
Well apparently our first doe to kid this year wanted to bring the new year in with a bang and use up the first 5 numbers in one fell swoop! On January 10th two year old Nigerian Dwarf doe Lotte (Miracle Kids CC Little Lotte) gave birth to FIVE healthy babies! I knew Lotte had looked huge but she’s a pretty small doe and this is only her second freshening so I was a bit surprised at her having 5 kids! The kids were four bucklings and a doeling ranging from 1.8 lbs to 2.7 lbs. Lotte delivered them all by herself with no complications. The babies are doing really well and Lotte is being a very attentive mom to all five kids.
People often express shock at a goat having 4 or 5 (or even 3) kids but actually quads and quints are pretty common with Nigerian Dwarfs and (to a lesser extent) Mini Nubians. Even 6 is not unheard of and 7 is the recently set world record. Three is probably the “average” litter size and no big deal. Most does handle birthing and feeding three kids like it’s nothing, unlike humans who would be pulling their hair out at the thought! Here at the farm we usually end up with several litters of 4 or 5 kids per year. It is a lot more work but is very exciting.
Many breeders immediately pull one or two kids from a litter of quads or quints, only allowing the doe to feed 2 or 3 of her kids. They do this for various reasons and each breeder has to decide what works for them and their goats. Here at Prancing Pony Farm we prefer to dam raise kids whenever possible and large litters are no exception. We usually only completely bottle raise a kid if the doe outright rejects it or there’s some other issue. (Last year we had a KID reject his mom. Go figure!) Otherwise we leave the kids with mom as we feel it’s in the best interest of the kids and does, it’s less work for us and we prefer the personalities of dam raised kids over bottle babies, at least on a large scale. (Bottle babies can be VERY pushy and are not necessarily friendlier than dam raised kids.) As we’re fond of saying, we do have a few goats that were bottle babies, and we love them very much, but a barn full of them would drive us bonkers, lol.
We find that some of our does can completely feed 4 kids on their own and they can even do a pretty good job of MOSTLY feeding 5. But you do want to be sure that all the kids are getting enough to eat! Instead of pulling kids what we do is we leave the kids with the doe if she accepts them all. Then we go in once or twice a day starting the first day and offer a bottle to each kid. Some kids are obviously hungry pretty quickly and take to the bottle right away while others fight it tooth and nail. We just keep offering every day for a while and see what happens. Sometimes the kids never take to the bottle and the doe seems to be able to feed them by herself. This is more common with quads. But sometimes, especially with quints, one or two of the kids will decide they like the bottle eventually. Sometimes it’s a tiny one and sometimes it’s a bigger kid who knows a good thing when they see it! Either way by giving a supplemental bottle a couple times a day to one or two kids it ensures that all the kids have enough milk but they all also still get to nurse and be with mom and live a normal baby goat life, which, we feel, is very important.
We use fresh raw goat milk from some of our other does in the bottles. Never goat formula! Many breeders consider that stuff to be very bad for goats and we agree. Baby goats should drink goat milk, if at all possible. We have mixed goat milk with whole cows milk from the store in a pinch and have bought goat milk from a friend when we didn’t have enough on hand. One year we had a lot of large litters and only one extra doe in milk so we were unprepared. It was rough! Now we try to stagger breeding so we always have a few heavy producing does in milk before the next bunch kid and we also stockpile frozen goat milk and colostrum for later use.
Usually we offer the supplemental bottles for 5-6 weeks, until the kids are eating hay really well. Then we wean them off the bottles so they are just nursing from mom and eating hay and minerals. (Babies that are ONLY getting bottles are bottle fed until 9-16 weeks, or longer, but if they are also nursing from their mom we figure they can be weaned off of bottles a bit sooner.) We find this method works really well for us because the kids get enough milk but aren’t totally dependent on us like bottle babies would be. It’s kind of the best of both worlds!
So far Lotte’s kids aren’t showing much interest in the bottles and are happily nursing, but we’ll keep offering. We often find that does have more trouble feeding the kids on their own when they have several bucklings in the litter than when they mostly have doelings. Those boys like their milk! So much that they will often sneak nurse from other does besides their own dams. The biggest danger in a large litter is that the big, strong boys will push away any girls or tiny boys and those kids won’t get enough to eat. If you’re not paying attention they can die from starvation or malnourishment so we watch them very carefully. Lotte has 3 big boys and a tiny girl and boy so it’s the little ones that we pay special attention to when we offer the bottles. Time will tell who, if any, take to the bottles but so far they are all doing great!
Hi I'm Kim. I love all animals but goats and dogs are my favorites so I built a business around them, breeding miniature dairy goats and Maremma Sheepdogs. I love sharing my passion and knowelege of these amazing creatures with others.