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Ultrasounds and Udder Signs: How to Tell If a Goat Is Pregnant

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You knew you were pregnant when you started craving sour cream Pringles dipped in Nutella, but your goat won’t show such obvious signs. Unfortunately, even a growing belly isn’t reliable, so you’ll have to think outside the box – and the belly – if you want to know how to tell if a goat is pregnant.

There are many ways to tell if a goat is pregnant, but not all of them are dependable. The most reliable way to test for pregnancy in does is by ultrasound. However, physical signs of pregnancy and blood tests can also be beneficial for determining how far along in gestation your does are.

So, let’s look at the many ways you can tell if a goat is pregnant. First, we’ll tell you about clinical tests and other things you can use to determine how far along your goats are. In addition, we’ll talk about some of the most reliable signs of pregnancy in goats and how to recognize them in does of different ages.

So, let’s get into it!

How to Tell If a Goat Is Pregnant

is-my-goat-pregnant
There are hundreds of myths about pregnant women, like “you’re carrying a boy if your belly is low. If it’s high, you’re carrying a girl.” However, there are also many myths about pregnant goats and when they’re due to give birth. I promise – I’m not kidding! 

Goats are like women in that some will grow an enormous stomach in the first few weeks while others will show nothing at all until the kids are on their way.

Some goats may get swollen ankles and become bad-tempered or fussy about food. Others will blossom into beautiful beings eager for affection and glowing with self-contentment. 

Trying to figure out how to tell if a goat is pregnant is especially hard the first time around, as young females have less pronounced udders and teats and tighter vulvas, making it more difficult to work out just how far along they are. 

At the other end of the scale, older females may look permanently pregnant as their abdominal muscles, teats, and udders have stretched under the strain of so many kids. 

How Many Months Is a Goat Pregnant for?

The average gestation period for a pregnant goat (regardless of breed) is around 150 days or five months. So, after approximately five months from the date of conception, you can expect a little bundle of joy or two to pop into your world. 

Gestation periods vary to some degree, with the shortest gestation period being 145 days and the longest 152. Studies indicate that some breeds, like the Granadina dairy goat, have shorter gestation periods of around 149 days, while Alpine and Toggenburg goats are likely to kid only after 151 days.

The length of the pregnancy may vary slightly depending on when you mated your goats – those mated in summer are likely to have a longer gestation period than those mated in autumn, for instance, but only by a period of around 24 hours. 

The young doe I’m currently keeping a vigilant eye on is showing signs of imminent kidding. Her stomach is tight and extended, and her udders are starting to swell, as is her vulva. It’s been like that for five days now, though, and still no sign of a kid.

I guess she’s aiming for some kind of world record for the longest gestation period known to goats. Although it’s more probable that, like many wild animals, she’s holding on in the hopes that the first summer rains will fall before her kids are born.

11 Ways to Tell If a Goat Is Pregnant

how-long-is-goat-pregnant
It can be tricky to determine if a goat is pregnant, especially when your does are young or have never carried a kid before. However, there are plenty of different ways to help you figure out how far along your does are.

While there are lots of so-called ‘tests’ you can carry out to work out how close your goat is to kidding, none of these will be as accurate as a clinical diagnosis.

Unfortunately, those processes are expensive and rarely used by casual homesteaders. Furthermore, even these aren’t 100% accurate.

There are also other less clinical tests you can perform to determine if your goats are pregnant. Although none of them are tell-tale signs of pregnancy, they are commonly used among hobby breeders and homesteaders alike and can be helpful for determining how far along your does are.

With a combination of several methods, you should be able to tell if your doe is pregnant or not. So, without further ado, let’s look at the best ways to identify pregnancy in your flock.

1. Take an Ultrasound Scan

An ultrasound is going to give you the most accurate information about your goat’s pregnancy and due date. You can choose to get a vet in to perform the ultrasound for you.

Otherwise, if you’ve got a large enough herd to make it financially viable, invest in a portable ultrasound machine.

An ultrasound machine costs anywhere between around $600 to $1,500, while an ultrasound performed by a vet will cost you much less (somewhere in the vicinity of $10 to $20 per goat + call-out costs). 

The best time to do an ultrasound is around the 25th day after breeding. At this point, a trans-abdominal ultrasound can reliably establish pregnancy and, by day 27, will pick up the fetal heartbeat as well. 

2. Track Your Does’ Oestrus Cycles

While it may be very easy to tell when some goats are pregnant, thanks to their big tummies, not all goats show their pregnancies so much.

The best way to tell if your goats are pregnant is to be observant and keep notes on when your doe is in the estrus period, the time of breeding, and, if possible, when she was covered.

Many goat owners believe a doe’s “failure to return to oestrus after breeding… suggests pregnancy.” The problem is that fake pregnancies can also affect oestrus and produce “large, pendulous abdomens” indicative of pregnancy.

Unfortunately, I’ve not been able to be so vigilant on my smallholding as my Dwarf Cameroon/Dwarf Nigerian male is an escape artist who could give Harry Houdini a run for his money. Consequently, my does are pregnant whether they like it or not. 

I’m not suggesting you get your does to note down the first day of oestrus or keep a diary of their romantic interactions with your buck. Unfortunately, as the owners are the only ones with opposable thumbs, this duty falls to them. 

Having said that, if you know when your doe is due to come into heat and when she was last covered, you’ll have a good idea of when to expect your kids.

One excellent resource worth mentioning is the American Goat Society’s Gestation Calculator. This calculator can help you determine when your doe will kid if you enter her exposure date. Very handy!

You can also use another type of goat gestation calendar like this handy wheel to help you plan out your does’ due dates and the best time to bring in a buck:

Ketchum Goat Gestation Wheel
$21.99 $20.35

This handy tool is fantastic to have around when marking your calendar for the ideal times to breed your goats and mark their due dates. It is also great for planning pregnancies in large flocks, which can be tricky without a guide.

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05/25/2024 09:36 am GMT

3. Use a Milk Test to Tell If a Goat Is Pregnant

goat milk for pregnancy test
Goat milk pregnancy tests use milk to determine if your goat’s hormone levels indicate pregnancy. However, these are not always the most accurate tests for goats.

A milk or serum test measures progesterone levels to establish a pregnancy. This test is similar to a human pregnancy test, but it requires some of your goat’s milk. The kit will detect the hormones in the milk and help identify whether they are associated with pregnancy or not.

Still, according to the Merck Veterinarian Manual, “low progesterone levels can confirm a nonpregnant status, high progesterone is not a positive pregnancy test because it cannot differentiate between midcycle, true pregnancy, or false pregnancy” (Merck)

The Best Goats for Milk on the Homestead (Top 5 Dairy Goat Breeds)

4. Use a Home Pregnancy Test

Somewhat more complex than home pregnancy tests for women, these DIY kits are great if you’re confident and comfortable enough around your goats not to balk at taking blood samples.

At this point, let me confess that, while I have no problem taking blood from or injecting a horse when it comes to finding a vein, in a goat, I may as well be looking for a needle in a haystack. 

Assuming you have veterinarian skills that put mine to shame, you can pick up a BioPRYN Early Pregnancy Detection Kit. This will give you enough syringes to test 12 goats, although you’ll have to send these off to an affiliate lab to get the results.

If you want to learn a little bit more about how to safely use one of these tests, here’s a great example from Our Organic life:

How To Get A Blood Sample From a Goat | How To Find Our If Your Goat is Pregnant

5. Use the Pooch Test

This has nothing to do with dogs, by the way, but to do with the size and shape of your doe’s vulva.

Most does’ vulvas will start to loosen and swell days before they give birth but that won’t get you much time to prepare, nor is it an accurate sign of pregnancy. Young females pregnant for the first time may show little to no swelling until just hours before kidding.

6. Check for Abdominal Palpation 

This physical sign of pregnancy takes a bit of practice to use and isn’t an exact science. Nevertheless, experts say that a gentle tummy rub at around six weeks should reveal a tightness to the abdomen that isn’t present in a non-pregnant doe. 

To perform this maneuver, stand behind your goat and place your hands on her abdomen just in front of her udders.

For those of you who, like me, are only just embarking on goat breeding, rubbing non-pregnant tummies as well as pregnant ones will help you start to feel the difference and work out exactly what it is you’re looking for.

7. Check for Loose Tail Ligaments

How-to-tell-if-a-goat-is-pregnant-Loose-Ligaments
A doe’s tail ligaments can give you a good idea of when she will kid.

At the top of the tail, a doe has two ligaments that run from the pin bones to her tail base.

Normally, the tail ligaments feel like two pencils. However, just before delivery time, they loosen to the point that they virtually disappear, leaving a sunken area on either side of the base of her tail. This is a last resort reminder as, once the ligaments have loosened, kidding is imminent.

8. Check for Udder Indications

baby goat nursing from udder
Goat udder swelling is not a tell-tale sign of goat pregnancy, but it’s well worth using as a way to help you determine when your does are getting closer to kidding time.

From around 15 weeks into their pregnancy, most goats’ udders will start to swell. Initially, there will only be a slight swelling but this will increase substantially in the last month or two. The changes will vary from goat to goat.

However, some goats may only exhibit swelling in the udders in the last few hours before delivery. For that reason, udders aren’t all that reliable for testing your does’ gestation stage.

9. Don’t Rely on a Goat’s Belly to Identify Pregnancies

Some people believe they can easily identify a goat’s gestation period by the size of its stomach. But this is a myth.

All my girls look pregnant after a day out on pasture but regain their youthful figures overnight (I just wish I did!). So, it can be tricky to tell a bloated goat from a pregnant one.

Take a look at these images and see what you think:

Goat A – Pleiades

goat-pregnant-Pleiades
This young doe is heavily pregnant and due within the next seven days.

By just a look, I definitely wouldn’t be able to determine that Pleiades is pregnant here. She’s actually due in only five weeks in this picture.

Her lack of rotund-ness is largely due to her age. She’s a younger goat, and that’s why her belly isn’t very obviously bloated.

Goat B – Ngomso

how-to-tell-goat-is-pregnant-Ngomso
This two-year-old doe is due to kid in approximately six weeks.

Unlike Pleiades, Ngosmo really shows her pregnancies. That’s because she’s an older goat who has been pregnant before.

Notice that the older doe looks far more pregnant than the younger one, even though she’s due five weeks later.

Goat C: Star

how-to-tell-goat-is-pregnant-Star
A youngster who was covered just a few days ago.

In this picture, Star looks to be just about as pregnant as Pleiades, the first goat we looked at. However, in the first picture, Pleiades was much further along than Star.

All that to say – belly size isn’t a reliable sign of goat pregnancy or goat gestation. While belly size might be a helpful indicator of how far your older goats are along, for the younger goats, abdominal palpitations, ultrasounds, and the pooch test are the best ways to tell if they are pregnant.

Additionally, it’s very hard to tell a bloated goat from one who is pregnant. So, even if your goats are bloated and look pregnant, you’ll likely want to check for additional signs of pregnancy.

10. Feel for the Kids

Naturally, if your doe is far enough along, you may be able to feel fetal movement in her belly a couple of weeks before goat labor. Kids are usually pretty easy to feel for once your doe is around three months along in gestation, so this is a late sign.

However, if none of the other ways to tell if a goat is pregnant work for you, late pregnancy signs like this one can help you make a diagnosis before your doe delivers!

11. Stay Observant and Use Multiple Tests

pregnant-goat
While physical and visible signs of pregnancy in goats can be helpful for determining whether they are expecting or not, they aren’t foolproof. For that reason, it’s critical to keep an eye on your possibly pregnant does and watch for signs of a developing pregnancy.

When it comes to how to tell if a goat is pregnant, first-time mothers and older does are likely to give you a mixture of confusing indications. Youngsters having kids for the first time rarely show obvious signs of pregnancy until the last few days, whereas older does appear pregnant after a good day’s munching.

Clinical tests like ultrasounds and milk tests are the most reliable way to tell if your goat is pregnant, although knowing how long a goat is pregnant for also helps. For big breeding operations, this is the only way to go, but for smaller herds, a little prodding, palpitation, and observation can go a long way.

Swollen udders, enlarged vulvas, and a lack of oestrus are all fairly dependable methods to tell if a goat is pregnant. As your goats get closer to their kidding moment, these late signs become increasingly obvious and should give you enough time to move your doe into a safe area ready for kidding.

Let’s not kid about, though, these methods are neither 100% accurate nor entirely infallible. You may have goats aborting or miscarrying which makes it even more confusing. 

As with any successful breeding program, observation is key, after all, as the world’s cleverest woman once said, “To acquire knowledge, one must study; but to acquire wisdom, one must observe.”

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Planning your goats’ pregnancies is a critical part of raising them. Not only is it important to ensure your does are not kidding in the midst of a frosty winter. It’s also essential to be able to be there when your does give birth in case any complications arise.

So, let’s take a look at some related questions we’ve heard about goat gestation and pregnancy to clear up any possible confusion you might have:

How Can You Tell if a Goat Is Having a False Pregnancy?

You can tell if a goat is having a false pregnancy by taking an ultrasound. Blood tests can be relatively reliable for determining if your goat’s pregnancy is false, but they aren’t always accurate. An ultrasound will positively reveal if there is a fetus or not.

At What Age Does a Goat Stop Getting Pregnant?

Goats rarely stop getting pregnant, but as does get older, they may have more trouble kidding. Most goats become fertile when they are between 4 and 12 months old. Then, they will stay fertile for the rest of their lives in most cases.

What Season Do Goats Get Pregnant?

Goats generally go “in rut,” when bucks become interested in breeding during the fall time. Fall is a great breeding season since the kids will be born in the spring. However, many bucks can become interested in mating any time during the year when a nearby doe is in estrus or ovulating.

Can You Breed a Goat at 7 Months?

You can breed a goat at 7 months, but it is highly risky and we encourage you not to. While some does may be fertile enough to conceive at 7 months old, few are physically developed enough to carry and deliver a kid. Breeding a doe this young may result in birth complications that may be fatal for the kid and the doe.

How Do You Tell If Your Goats Are Pregnant?

While it can be pretty challenging to tell if a goat is pregnant, if you use a few different methods to test for a pregnancy, you should be able to deduce whether your does are gestating or not.

However, if you only want to run one test, an ultrasound is usually the best method. Unlike other pregnancy tests and signs, ultrasounds can also help you determine if a goat is experiencing a false pregnancy.

Still, you can use a combination of other methods to tell if your does are expecting or not. Just don’t expect any one test to give you the full picture with 100% accurate results.

So, how do you tell if your goats are pregnant? Do you have any tips or tricks that you like best? We’d love to hear about your experiences!

More on Raising Animals:

Ultrasounds and Udder Signs How to Tell if a Goat is Pregnant

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11 Comments

  1. Can a female goat get pregnant by getting a buck only once like 1 day?
    Or how many times should a female goat get pregnant by mating with the male goat?

    1. Hey there Matthew!

      A female goat can get pregnant if she spends just a single day with a buck, assuming she’s in estrus. As the estrus period lasts only 24 to 38 hours, you only have a brief window in which to mate her, so knowing when she’s ready is critical.

      The most obvious signs that your female goat is ready to mate include:

      Redness and discharge around the vulva
      Tail wagging
      Mounting other goats
      Seeking out or calling to a male

      Once you see these signs, you can put your doe in with a buck for just a few hours. You’ll improve the chances of her getting pregnant if you allow the buck to mount her two or three times in a session.

      After she’s mated, you’ll need to wait around 14 to 17 days for signs of her coming back into estrus. If there’s no evidence of her coming into estrus, you can be pretty confident she’s pregnant.

      While young does should not be put to a buck, once they reach maturity at around one year old, you can breed with them every year.

      Although it’s possible for a goat to give birth twice in an 18-month period, this isn’t recommended as it can have a negative impact on both milk production and the goat’s ability to build up nutritional reserves for her next pregnancy.

      Female goats reach maximum breeding efficiency at the age of 5 to 7 years old but can be bred until they’re 12 or, in some cases, 14, assuming the doe is still in good physical condition. In other words, a female goat that produces single babies should give you around 10 babies during her lifetime and one that throws twins, double that.

  2. I have a young doe which was put to a buck about 2months ago. I keep hoping for signs she’s pregnant. Some days I smile when I see her stomach looks large then it often happens she looks pretty normal the next morning.
    Looking for more signs I squeezed her udder and there was some sticky colostrum like fluid. Would this happen if she were not pregnant?

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

    1. Hi there Salehah!

      Have you seen any signs of her coming back into heat? If she’s still showing interest in the buck, chances are, she’s not pregnant.

      The fluctuating stomach is purely related to food. She eats during the day and then regurgitates and digests overnight so her stomach is large in the afternoon and then smaller again in the morning.

      I’m not sure what the fluid is coming from her udders. For the most part, does and doelings, in particular, will only start to show changes to the udder in the last four to six weeks of pregnancy.

      Hope that’s of some help.

      Kind regards Nicky

      1. Thanks Nicky for your reply.
        I don’t have the buck anymore, had to sell him as he was becoming very strong and hard for me to handle. Anyway will keep watching and as she is a maiden doe it may be as you said that she won’t show her pregnancy till late on.

        If not then will have to get another buck, hopefully more of a ‘gentleman’.

        1. No problem Salehah!
          Bucks can get a bit big for their boots sometimes!

          It’s especially hard to tell when it’s their first pregnancy – you have no idea which signs to look out for.

          Once you’ve been with her through a few pregnancies (if you’re having more kids, that is), you’ll most likely get to know the way she acts when she’s pregnant.

          Please let us know in a few months – we’d love to hear if she is pregnant!

        2. Hi Nicky,
          I’m back again with news that the 5 months is up and no baby for my doe????
          Bought a quite young buck, smaller than Lily, she pushed him around on the first day but after that they were smooching and she came into season. So here we are again waiting. I do wonder if she can be fertile as she is polled. But the young buck is horned.

          But I’m glad in a way as she has had time to grow taller and fill out all this while. She’s a Saanen cross with some Jamnapari so I was told.
          Anyway, let’s see!

          1. Hi again Salehah,

            I’m sorry to hear you still haven’t had any babies arrive. How old is your doe now? And how old is the buck? It’s possible that Lily did conceive but didn’t carry to term, especially if she’s still less than a year old.

            Has she been healthy and regularly dewormed? One of our young does aborted a couple of months ago after a nasty worm infestation and, although we found the fetus, I’m pretty sure we’ve lost others in the past and not been aware of it.

            The fact that she’s polled shouldn’t impact on her ability to get pregnant. From what I’ve read, if her reproductive organs are normal and she doesn’t show any signs of hermaphroditism, she should be able to both conceive and carry to term.

            It’s possible that, although the pair were smooching, the actual deed didn’t go according to plan! If they’re both relatively young, it may take them one or two attempts before they manage it.

            Anyway, I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you. If you’re really concerned, you should think about getting in touch with a vet and getting some expert advice. There may even be tests they can do to establish her fertility and put your mind at rest.

            Kind regards,

            Nicky

  3. Very informative and entertaining. I’m never likely to keep or rear goats but look forward to reading more articles if they are as well written as this.

    1. Thank you very much Arthur! Nicky is a wonderful writer – she has just completed an article on the 17 things you didn’t know about goats, and it’s as entertaining and informative as this one, maybe even more so :). It will go live in the next couple of weeks, love to see you back then!

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