Onion Creek Ranch, Lohn, Texas
Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Lohn, TX
Lohn, Texas
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The most common cause of a buck not breeding is that the does are not coming into heat (cycling). Many goat breeds mate seasonally (especially dairy and dairy-crosses) as daylight shortens; in the northern hemisphere, that time frame is mid-July to mid-December. The same breed may cycle differently under climatic conditions in other locales. Experienced breeding bucks in hot climates often mate in the cooler night hours.

Malnutrition is a major factor in the buck's ability to breed. Malnutrition, as used here, refers more to quality than quantity of feed and forage. Don't overlook the importance of minerals that have been specifically formulated for goats. The buck will lose interest in eating during breeding season, so he needs to be in good physical condition when placed with does. Too thin or too fat -- neither situation is good. Evaluate your nutritional program in advance of breeding season rather than after it begins.

Examine the buck's testicles for defects. Testes should feel "muscle" firm. Abnormally small testes reduce his chances of successfully breeding. Intersexed animals (hermaphrodites) tend to have small testes. Hermaphrodites have both male and female genitalia. Make sure that both testicles are descended from the body into the scrotal sac. A buck with one or more undescended testicles is known as a cryptorchid. Since cryptorchidism is hereditary, these bucks should not be used for breeding. Some chryptorchids may not be able to breed at all. Sperm need the cooler environment of the scrotal sac in order to develop and survive. Body cavity temperatures are too high for good sperm production. Sexually-immature bucks are likely to have abnormal sperm. Small testes can also be the result of malnutrition. Bucks with very short necks can be poor breeders. At first glance, this might sound silly, but think about it. When a buck mounts a doe and ejaculates sperm, at the same time he throws his head back as part of his thrusting movement. If his neck is too short, he can lose his balance, fall over backwards, and not complete his insemination of the doe.

Various infectious diseases can reduce or prevent the development of healthy sperm. Staph, coliform, and pseudomonas bacterial infections, trichomoniasis, granulomas, and herpesvirus can impact the buck's breeding ability. Bacterial infections require antibiotics and topical cleansing of the affected areas. Trichomoniasis is a protozoan that lives in the urethra and/or its sheath and can prevent insemination. Medication is necessary to kill this parasite. Because it is a virus, herpes does not respond to antibiotics and usually must run its course. Herpesvirus can cause abortions in does. Mites can be a major cause of infertility. If a buck's scrotum is infested with mites, sperm production declines because the scabs that form on the surface of the scrotum hold in heat.

Ulcerative posthitis (pizzle rot) interferes with breeding. The pizzle is the curly appendage on the end of the buck's penis. Pizzle rot is believed to be caused by a high-protein diet. Such a diet increases the amount of urea in the buck's urine, resulting in the production of excess ammonia. The ammonia provides fertile ground in which bacteria can live and reproduce. Dense and/or twisted hair around the urethral process, as well as penile ulcers and pustules, can interfere with breeding. Testicular tumors, while possible, are rare in goats. Scrotal hernias, although not common in goats, will impair sperm production. Wounds, cuts, bites, and frostbite are more common problems. Adhesion of the urethral process to the glans penis prevents breeding. While this condition is normal in immature bucks, they should separate at sexual maturity, allowing the penis to extend from the sheath so the buck can impregnate the doe.

Arthritis restricts the buck's ability to breed; if the buck isn't flexible, he won't be able to mount the doe.Urinary calculi is a major problem in many bucks. Stones or crystals block urine flow, preventing the male from urinating. A buck that cannot urinate also cannot breed. A buck that cannot urinate will soon be dead. Refer to my articles on urinary calculi on the Articles page of the Onion Creek Ranch website http://www.tennesseemeatgoats.com . Urinary calculi is quite preventable. Simply feed the buck properly. Do not over-feed sacked feeds and always use a goat feed that has at least a 2:1 ratio of calcium-to-phosphorus (preferably 2.5:1). Occasionally the mineral content of drinking water contributes to causing urinary calculi. For example, water high in sulphur can cause problems. However, most cases of urinary calculi in bucks are the direct result of improper feed management -- specifically overfeeding grains. Hay fertilized with chicken litter can result in urinary calculi because chicken litter is very high in phosphorus. If your hay fits this description, you will need to add extra calcium to your goats' diet. Urinary calculi tends to be chronic (recurring), even when immediate medical attention has been given. Do not rely exclusively on products like ammonium chloride and methigel to prevent urinary calculi. Learn how to feed properly.

The effect of scrotal volume, scrotal circumference, and split scrotums on sperm production are debatable issues in bucks, with arguments to be made on either side. You may decide to have a sperm count done on the buck if all other efforts to identify the problem have been examined and determined not to be the cause.

Producers tend to think that a non-breeding buck is not *fixable.* Illness and injury can be dealt with, as can poor nutrition. If the does are coming into heat, poor nutrition or injury is likely the cause of the buck's inability to breed. Before you decide to demand replacement of what you think may be a non-breeding buck, you should exhaust all avenues of investigation, including sperm count testing. The answer may be as simple as the buck is breeding at night or your calculation of breeding-to-kidding dates is incorrect. Does do not always settle on the first breeding. In my 20+ years of experience, very few bucks are non-breeders. Usually the problem is keeping bucks and does from breeding when you are not ready for them to do so.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto, ONION CREEK RANCH, Lohn, Texas 2/5/12

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All information provided in these articles is based either on personal experience or information provided by others whose treatments and practices have been discussed fully with a vet for accuracy and effectiveness before passing them on to readers.

In all cases, it is your responsibility to obtain veterinary services and advice before using any of the information provided in these articles. Suzanne Gasparotto is not a veterinarian.Neither tennesseemeatgoats.com nor any of the contributors to this website will be held responsible for the use of any information contained herein.

The author, Suzanne Gasparotto, hereby grants to local goat publications and club newsletters, permission to reprint articles published on the Onion Creek Ranch website under these conditions: THE ARTICLE MUST BE REPRODUCED IN ITS ENTIRETY AND THE AUTHOR'S NAME, ADDRESS, AND CONTACT INFORMATION MUST BE INCLUDED AT THE BEGINNING OF THE REPRINT. We would appreciate notification from any clubs or publications when the articles are used. (A copy of the newsletter or publication would also be a welcome addition to our growing library of goat related information!)

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