The Mating Season is Upon Us. Once into September, most goat keepers with breeding stock turn their attention to finding a suitable stud male/s for their breeding females.

Pygmy goat owners don’t have the luxury of considering the use of artificial insemination and unless they are lucky enough to keep their own stud males, have either to buy one in on a temporary basis with the intention of selling on in the near future, borrowing a male or taking their females to another premises to be mated. We have always been fortunate enough to have good quality stud males fairly close at hand, and have been able to leave our females at the premises to be mated when they come into season, or to visit when our goats are actually ready to be mated and taken back home straight away afterwards. The easiest scenario is obviously to keep your own stud males and therefore to be in the position to use them when appropriate.

However, this is not always possible or desirable for everyone, especially small-scale keepers with a limited amount of space. We have always had the space but never the inclination to keep the smelly critters ourselves. Thank the Lord for good friends who have! Taking in-season females to the male can be somewhat hit or miss. There have been the odd occasions when the females are not quite ready and will not stand for love nor money and have to be taken home and returned the next day or so, when hopefully they will play ball. There are rules governing the return to premises for breeding purposes, which I shall explain later. It is far easier to take your female/s and to leave them with the owner of stud males, but many owners are not prepared to have the hassle of observing your goat’s state of readiness for mating and supervising the union, as it were. Others let the female run with the male, hoping for the best. Not always best practice as it is difficult then to know not only the exact date of conception but more importantly, to be able to calculate a kidding date.

Fewer and fewer goat keepers appear to offer accommodation for visiting females, so if you happen to be near someone who does and whose premises and stud males are both acceptable, then thank your lucky stars. Now for the rules governing the taking of females to be mated and here I quote from the Defra/Wag websites. Both are identical. Exemptions for Breeding Goats “ Breeding goats of either gender will not trigger a six day standstill on premises to which they are moved for breeding provided that they are isolated for six days in a Defra / Welsh Assembly Government approved isolation facility before they leave the premises of origin. The recipient of the animals must complete and send to the local authority a declaration that the animals have been received, are intended for breeding on those premises and that they have been confined to an isolation facility for six days prior to the move. Goats may return to the same breeding premises during the six day isolation period on their home premises. The exemption for breeding goats is applied all year round and is not seasonal” The last but one sentence (in italics), in my mind, made no sense at all, so I checked with the Carmarthen Office. In an attempt to further clarify the situation, I was forwarded the following: Livestock: Rules for Livestock Movements (PB8501) “

Individually identified breeding goats of either gender will not trigger a six day standstill on the premises to which they are moved for breeding provided that they respect any standstill or are isolated for six days in a Defra approved isolation facility before they leave the premises of origin. If approved isolation facilities are not available a whole farm six day standstill must be observed before they leave and when they return. Otherwise they may go into isolation on return and thus not trigger off a six day standstill. They may return to the same breeding premises during the six day isolation period on their home premises but must go into isolation for six days on return from their final visit. To qualify for exemption the recipient of the goats must send a declaration to the local authority certifying that the animals are for breeding purposes on those premises” Anyone requiring yet further advice, pleas contact one of the following: Defra Helpline 08459 335577 Livestock ID Helpline 08450 509876 Welsh Government 0845 0104400 Isolation Unit licences are fairly easy to obtain and free of charge. It will mean a visit from a vet to inspect your premises, to advise you of anything that needs to be amended and then he/she will send off the completed paperwork for final acceptance by your local DEFRA/ WAG office.

Every year at kidding time I say “Never again, I have had enough of getting up at all hours and of worrying over the possible outcome for days beforehand” Then I see the healthy, adorable little bundles of life bouncing around in front of my eyes and I know that I shall carry on in exactly the same way next year. Pat Mercer