A slight feeling of paranoia creeps in, usually in January every year at the farm, when a little voice whispers in the head of the goat farmer, "What if none of these does are bred?"
Goats are notoriously sneaky about being pregnant, and you can't be involved with the goat world for very long without hearing tales of the doe that no one even knew was pregnant until they found her in the barn that morning, a proud momma of triplets. When you have a business that is dependent on animals' reproductive cycle functioning well, the not knowing feeling can be stressful! We had the opportunity today to confirm which of our does were pregnant. This information is very helpful- we can now make a better estimate of how much milk will be coming through the dairy on a daily basis and therefore how much cheese we will be making. It's also helpful to know when the goats are due, and whether you should expect multiple and/or backwards kids, which you can tell sometimes on ultrasound.
Dr Sandra Ayres, one of my professors at Tufts, and several other students came up to the farm today to check on all the does who were potentially bred. We had some girls we weren't 100% sure on, and some first fresheners doing a pretty good job of hiding their baby bellies, but they couldn't hide from the ultrasound!
Usually ultrasounding goats for pregnancy can be done at around 30-45 days into their 150 day gestation. You look for changes in the uterus indicating the formation of a placenta, and you can sometimes count how many babies are present. All of our girls were much farther along than that, making ultrasound a little unnecessary in many of them, but it was great to confirm our suspicions, and we did have a couple of surprises!
All told, we ultrasounded 22 does this morning, and 20 of them are confirmed pregnant. We could see many of the fetal heartbeats. One of our first fresheners, Sarsaparilla, and one of our grandmas, Gracie are both confirmed pregnant. We weren't sure if Sarsaparilla had successfully been bred, and Gracie continues to be the doe that looks at the buck and gets bred- neither Devin or I thought she was interested in Cayenne when we put her in with him.
I think one of the things I'm most excited about is that Ruth, who has had a history of false pregnancy the past couple of seasons, is definitely bred this year! We are very excited for her babies, as well as to put her back in the milking rotation- she's a powerhouse milker!
Just under a month to go until kids start to be delivered at Flying Goat Farm, and armed with this extra information, we are looking forward to their arrival!