October 29, 2014

Determining Pregnancy in Goats

Is she or isn't she? That's always the question after an attempted breeding. Even a seemingly successful mating can turn out unsuccessful. One year I thought I had kids coming and dried up my does only to have no kids. It was a disappointment to say the least. This year I'm hoping Surprise is bred to Gruffy. If she is, it would mean my first homegrown Kinder kids! The blessed event would take place around March 13. That means I need to dry her up in January. If she isn't, I want to know too, so I can continue to give her and Gruffy a chance. And if all else is a fail, there's no sense drying her up at all.

So, I've been researching pregnancy testing for goats. The only ways to positively confirm a goat pregnancy are either with a laboratory test or an ultrasound. If the doe doesn't go into heat again, there's a good chance she's pregnant, but I've seen Surprise flirt and tease the bucks when a later delivery date showed she was already pregnant. The signs and symptoms visible to the goat keeper (increased girth size and abdominal movement) are not accurate because a full, active rumen will cause the same things.

One way is to have a blood test done by a veterinarian. We had one done about 2.5 years ago for $25. In addition, there are labs out there which will do the testing for less if you provide the vials of blood. That means you either have to draw the blood yourself or have someone do it for you. Here are a few options for those wishing to go that route, along with links and other relevant information.

Labs which perform blood tests:
  • BioPRYN by BioTracking ($6.50 plus blood tubes. For an additional fee can have the same sample tested for CAE.)
  • DG29 Complete Test Kits by Genex (6 kits for $32)

Labs which test blood serum or milk:

Home test kit for progesterone (blood or milk):
  • BOVIPREG by TwilCanada Inc. (10 kits for $50 plus shipping)

How to draw blood on a goat:

Ultrasound machines usually run around $4500, plus require training to learn. One that is often mentioned by goat owners is Preg-Tone. It costs about $475 and some say it gives accurate results.

Over at  The Goat Spot Forum, I found a discussion about goat pregnancy tests and several "folk" tests for which there were varying opinions about accuracy. 

Bleach Test. Add 2cc of urine to 1 cup of bleach (WARNING: do not add bleach to urine). Bubbling or fizzing will occur as a reaction to the pH differences in the two liquids. Results are positive if the solution continues to foam, negative if it stops after about a minute. This is said to be 95-97% accurate, but would obviously require several trial attempts to learn about the foaming.

Dandelion Test. Place half a dozen dandelion leaves on a sheet of newspaper. Pour urine over leaves and wait 10 minutes. Results are said to be positive if the leaves form reddish blisters, negative if they don't.

Pine Sol Test. This one seems to be the most vague in terms of specific amounts and time. Add a bit of urine to a small jar filled with Pine Sol. A color change may indicate a possible positive result.

One thing that won't work is a human home pregnancy test kit. This is because it measures human chorionic gonadotropin, which goats obviously don't produce.

As you can see, there are quite a few choices available. I purchased red top blood tubes last year but never used them. I may give it a try this year on Surprise. I may try the folk tests on her too. I'll let you know what happens.

All of this and more is available in my The Little Series of Homestead How-Tos eBook How To Make a Buck Rag: and other good things to know about breeding your goats.

27 comments:

the Goodwife said...

This was very interesting! I just purchased my Kinder does back after a moved forced me to sell them 2 1/2 years ago. I missed my girls so, and it's fantastic to have then back home with me. They were both bred about 5 days ago and I'm hoping they "stuck". Is there a waiting period before trying the "home" tests?

Harry Flashman said...

Wow, when we had goats we had two males so I never had to worry with this issue.

I would have thought a human pregnancy test would work on goats, but maybe not, eh?

I'm no scientist. :-(

Leigh said...

Goodwife, that's a very good question. I'm thinking I'll try the bleach test, but will probably repeat several times just in case. That's so great that you got your girls back! Here's hoping for Kinder kids for you!

Harry, well you don't know until you ask. I had to look it up 'cuz I wasn't certain what it measured. At least there are other ways to find out. :)

Sandy said...

Leigh,

I'm learning more today with your post on goats and pregnancy. All great information to keep as reference for when I get goats.

Sarah said...

Under you learn something new every day! As I was reading the post it reminding me of different ways people try to tell if they're having a boy or a girl. Draino test anyone? Hope you get the Kinder you're hoping for! :)

Leigh said...

Sandy, there's no better way to learn about goats than having your own!

Interesting you should mention the boy or girl thing. Another topic of discussion amongst goat owners is how to have more girls than boys. I've been meaning to start collecting these for fun. One popular one is that adding apple cider vinegar to their drinking water is said to produce more girls. However, there was a discussion on the holistic goat group of folks who tried that. Turned out almost everyone of them had more bucklings that year!

Theresa said...

LOL, I have no idea if any of this works, although I am always reminded of the nail test some try on their mares to see if the foal will be a boy or a girl. When I paid attention to those sorts of things in horses, it always seemed to me younger stallions throw more colts and older ones produced more fillies. Have no clue if this is proven out over a larger sampling.

Farmer Barb said...

Wow. I love having the goats, but breeding is a whole other ball of wax.

One step at a time. The Goaties are only six months old. I have a year to study up!

Leigh said...

Theresa, it's interesting you should say that about younger stallions, because the same is said about younger bucks, i.e. they throw more males than females. My own experience can't confirm that though. Last year my two yearling bucks did all the breeding. I ended up with 4 bucklings and 6 doelings.

Barb, studying up is a good idea! If you take your girls to a breeder, however, that should give you a resource person to help. :)

Leigh said...

Sarah, I somehow mentally combined your comment with Sandy's. My apologies to you both!

M.E. Masterson said...

I am happy you posted this. My girl and her boyfriend are trying to make a go of it. hope she takes. i was wondering about this very thing..thanks leigh for the info

Mark said...

Wow! Nice post, and more in my continued goat husbandry education. I'm quickly coming to the understanding that beef cattle are far easier than goats (other than the obvious potential problems that come with 1200 pound cows and 2000 pound bulls, I suppose) to get through their lives. Beef cattle just seem to be more "obvious" about things. Goats - Maybe not so much!

DebbieB said...

Leigh, I'll probably never have goats or pigs, but I love hearing about the methodical way you go about your research into every available bit of knowledge concerning your critters and your homestead. Endlessly informative, thank you! I'm living the homestead life vicariously through you, until we get a larger piece of land in a more rural setting. In the meantime, I'm growing most of our veggies (again, thanks to your inspiration!)

Renee Nefe said...

wow, sounds pretty tricky to get any samples for these tests. Hope that you're able to find out soon.

Ailsa said...

Thanks for some more ideas. I had my 3 first time kidders with a buck earlier this year. 2 got in kid and one just played along. She showed all the signs enjoying long lazy afternoon rests with the other girls, but her tummy didn't grow as the others did. I did a gentle bump test on her lower abdomen. If there is a return bump it is said to be the kid. No suck luck unfortunately. Good luck with your goats.

rabidlittlehippy said...

Our ladies have caused dramas on this front. 8yo Anna came to us quite malnourished so we hit her up with everything possible to fatten her up (it worked) but she surprised us with being clearly pregnant (she looked different one morning and we figured she must be). Preparations were made but as she had been so malnourished she dropped stillbon prem twins (buckling and doeling) on a freezing August morning. We bred her about 8 months back (drove her to the farm from where she had come, put her to run with the buck for a month) and brought home our stinky lady. 150 days later and she looked plump and we had hopes but the days sailed on by with no kids. Frustration tot he max as we bought her for milk and even after her stillborns she was too unwell to produce any. :(
We added Pandora to our mini herd last Xmas and she is now nearing 11 months old so I'm planning to breed her and keep Miss Anna for a companion goat only. Anna is British Alpine though and Pandora is Toggenberg cross Boer so I have no idea if she will milk well or not. Drama from start to finish!
I now need to find a buck to whom we can breed her. The buck we have best access to is her sire. The other buck we know thinks he's a horse and doesn't seem to come into rut very much. *sigh*

Leigh said...

Mary, I hope it helps. Most of the time I just wait and see. Easier with Kinders because they can breed year around!

Thanks Mark! I think we're most comfortable with what we're used to. I'd be totally lost if I had to deal with a cow!

Debbie, well, you never know. :) I appreciate your encouraging words and hope you have your larger piece of land someday soon!

Renee, usually I don't bother! I'm kind of anxious about Surprise this year though.

Ailsa, more kidding stories! Thank you for sharing. It's amazing how different goats can be. I've heard of the bump test after the first kid comes, to check for more, but not earlier in the pregnancy. Another one to ponder.

Rabidlittlehippy, sounds like a difficult time. Stillbirths are always sad, as is no milk! That buck who doesn't go into rut often may do just fine with a doe in heat under his nose. But, maybe not! No one can tell with goats; they have minds of their own. I hope your upcoming breeding is a success!

* Crystal * said...

Wow Leigh! Thanks so much for sharing my blood draw post... I feel like I just got an autograph from a famous celebrity!! :) :)

Blood testing via Biotracking is the cheapest ways I've found to accurately determine pregnancy.. Bleach test didn't work for me... Said 5 does who were due in 2 weeks were not preggo & 3 open does got conflicting results back to back..

One thing I wanted to add...Ultrasounds can be pricey at the vet, BUT we have dairy goat clubs here who host "ultrasound parties". They are usually held in November/early December and the club has a technician come for the day and if you bring your goats it's $5 per goat for a pregnancy check :) I've seen friends in other states do this as well so it might be worthwhile to check out goat clubs in your state and 4H livestock clubs to see if any host something like this that you could attend :)

Great post, as always :) Wishing you a happy, doe kid filled kidding season :)

Leigh said...

Crystal, LOL, and here I've learned more about goats from you than anyone. I've said it before and I'll say it again, you should write a book! As you can tell, this post was a prelim, because I always get such good feedback from readers. Like the idea about the ultrasound parties; fantastic! I don't even know if there are goat clubs in my area but now I'm going to look.

gamom529 said...

How do you catch the urine? : ))

Leigh said...

gamom529, I lost track of your question, my apologies! It takes a little patience! They squat to pee, so having a paper or plastic cup at the ready means simply catching it when the opportunity arrives!

Kim Daily said...

Yes you are absolutely right. I just got into the goat business and they have been so much more work than any other livestock that I have ever had before.

Connie said...

AAAAAAAAAA---MENNNNNNN!!!!!!!!,

Booboo Modest Maiden said...

I've got a doe that I've had for a little over 3 months. I got her May 17th and noticed she started developing an udder June 8th. I was told if it was a precocious udder she would reabsorb it, but it has continued to get larger. In fact I tried to get some milk out to make sure it was normal and not chunky, and make sure she didn't have mastitis. It was normal runny milk and I only got a few squirts before I stopped. Then I put an udder wash on her and have left her alone since. She was kept with two wethers I was told, and my ND buck has an apron on. He has gone into a rut since I got her. He tries to mount her or bother her rubbing on her butt and doing his goatie things. She just stands there and lets him. Maybe they keep each other stirred up.

Leigh said...

They might be! I've never had a goat with precocious udder, but I've seen them discussed on the Holistic Goats Yahoo Group. Some of them continue to make milk and can be milked out regularly. There are even cases of bucks producing milk. Fortunately I've never had that either.

Unknown said...

The bleach test seems easy until you spend 2 hours walking behind a goat trying to collect a pee. The home test comes out to $10/ doe because you need to do 2 tests, meaning collecting 2 bloods. The easiest one is the BioPryn. I haven't used the DG29 because there is not enough information on the website (how long after breeding can you test? what is the accuracy, days to receive the results, etc.)

Leigh said...

I should really try some of those folk tests this fall, just to see.

I found some information in the DB29 at AgSource Cooperative Services that says you have to wait at least 35 days after breeding sheep or goats (29 days for cows).