Fall Buck Care
Maxine Kinne

We are fortunate to have polyestrous does that cycle pretty much all year, unlike dairy goats and sheep. Pygmy bucks follow this pattern, too, and are even eager to serve does on the hottest days of the year. Hooray for tropical origins!

Autumn is the start of the traditional breeding season for sheep and goats. Pygmies display stronger breeding capability in fall and winter which corresponds with the seasonality of the other breeds. This has to do with photoperiod, or shortening day length, and melatonin production in the pineal gland.

Before breeding season arrives, the buck should be evaluated for conditions that might interfere with breeding and fertility. Early care will enable him to be ready when you are. This is also a great time for routine maintenance.

Routine Care

Hoof trimming is one of the most neglected chores, especially where bucks are concerned. If you want him to breed eagerly and painlessly, start with a good hoof trim. While he's restrained for this, you can check several other things as part of the physical exam.

If your buck's CAEV status is unknown, this is a good time to test him, along with the rest of your herd. While this virus has not been demonstrated in semen or seminal fluids, other routes of transmission are suspected. Breeders offering buck service may find this of special concern.

Check for biting and sucking lice and treat if necessary. If he needs to be dewormed, do that, too.

Update his routine vaccinations. CD/T is basic. Selenium supplementation may be necessary if your area is deficient. Selenium deficiency lowers sperm quality and affects libido. If your buck makes lots of false mounts, he may be low in selenium. It takes about six weeks for selenium to improve sperm quality, but libidio improves fairly soon. Selenium is especially important if you plan to have him collected for A.I.

Breeding Soundness Exam

Start with the teeth. What do teeth have to do with breeding? The buck's high level of physical activity during breeding season will require a good level of nutrition. A diet formulated to keep him in breeding condition needs to be eaten before it can do him any good. Overgrown molars can usually be felt through the cheeks as hard lumps. If you suspect overgrown molars, your veterinarian can float (file) them into the right configuration.

Check his body condition by feeling his loin, the bones of the spine between the ribs and the hips. The sharp bones of the spine should be palpable, not buried in fat, but she should not be too thin, either. Fat bucks make sluggish breeders, and thin bucks lack the reserves to get them through the combined stresses of breeding and winter. The Goldilocks Principle, not too much and not too little, is important in the buck's body condition as breeding season approaches.

Inspect the Official Breeding Equipment. The skin and hair on the buck's prepuce should look healthy. Sores or scabs may indicate a condition called pizzle rot which is caused by too much dietary protein in combination with surface bacteria. Bucks with these lesions exhibit all the right attitude and breeding behavior but make many false mounts because extending the penis is too painful. Wash the sores and apply medicated cream as often as necessary to clear this up. A high protein diet that contributes to pizzle rot can be reduced by substituting grass hay for alfalfa and feeding a lower protein concentrate.

Both testicles should be equal in size and have a firm, resilient texture. Scrotal circumference changes throughout the year and with nutritional status, but you may not be able to notice this change. The skin of the scrotum should be free of lesions.

Last, but not least, evaluate the correctness of his conformation, especially the hindquarters of mature bucks. They need strong rear legs for breeding, and structural defects that contribute to arthritis will be passed to his kids.

When you're all done, it might not hurt to give him a big apologogy for all these indignities...


Related Reading
The Plight of Adolescent Bucks
Ready to Serve


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