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
- 11 Ways to Tell If a Goat Is Pregnant
- 1. Take an Ultrasound Scan
- 2. Track Your Does’ Oestrus Cycles
- 3. Use a Milk Test to Tell If a Goat Is Pregnant
- 4. Use a Home Pregnancy Test
- 5. Use the Pooch Test
- 6. Check for Abdominal Palpation
- 7. Check for Loose Tail Ligaments
- 8. Check for Udder Indications
- 9. Don’t Rely on a Goat’s Belly to Identify Pregnancies
- 10. Feel for the Kids
- 11. Stay Observant and Use Multiple Tests
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- How Do You Tell If Your Goats Are Pregnant?
How to Tell If a Goat Is Pregnant
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
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
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:
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.
3. Use a Milk Test to Tell If a Goat Is Pregnant
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)
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:
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.”
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:
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.
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.
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.
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!
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