The Plight of Adolescent Bucks
Maxine Kinne

Baby bucks can start rehearsing for breeding at a very young age. I've seen it happen in twins that were 12 hours old. Even so, sometimes his first attempt at breeding can end in frustration. Don't let that get your goat. Junior probably just needs a little more growth. Before you know it, he will be ready, willing and able.

Good physical health of the buck and the does he is to serve is the first criteria.

Heat Detection

A normal buck is eager to breed, and the doe must be in heat. Some breeders get the doe, take her to the buck and return her as soon as the deed is done. This kind of breeding requires good heat detection skills (see Heat Detection for Hand Breeding if you are new at it). Record your does' heat cycles, the dates of service or attempted service, and the buck's name. A good reproductive history often points the way to the source of a problem. Bucks, even young ones, are rarely to blame for conception failure.

If young Lothario really isn't settling does, watch them for five-day cycles. Some does have another heat period four to six days after normal estrus. Experimenting with this in the early 1980's, I found that my maiden does always settled on the first cycle, never on the second. My previously freshened does never settled on the first cycle, just on the second. Of course, this is true for my herd and may not be universally applicable. Some people think that the doe can ovulate on both cycles. Breeding on both estrus cycles may increase litter size, although it never has for me. Conception is enhanced if you breed on both cycles.

Physical Size

The first few breeding attempts speaks volumes about a young buck's stature and libido. Give him time to grow if he's not tall enough to penetrate a doe. However, bucks that are just a little too short of the mark can be helped. Put the romantic couple on more even terms. Back the doe to a gentle slope on the ground or a ramp. When the buck approaches from the rear, he will be slightly higher to give him the few crucial inches he needs.

When he is unable to copulate, a young buck will stalk away in exhausted frustration. It is useless to continue to try. At that point, remove the doe and try again later. Luckily, most bucks have short memories.


Take care when breeding during very hot weather. A buck can overheat, especially if he is overweight. He will tire more quickly before he gets the job done.

Monitor the buck's entire breeding performance. Foreplay includes blubbering, pawing and flehmen (lifting the upper lip). Does he mount, thrust, and ejaculate? At the brief moment of ejaculation, the buck's head jerks back abruptly, then he dismounts. It's not uncommon to see a virgin buck fall off the doe onto his back and lay there like he'd just died and gone to heaven. You may not see this again, and it won't permanently damage his psyche if you laugh.

Infrequent mounts with ejaculation or repeated false mounts without ejaculation may indicate low libido, which doesn't necessarily indicate low fertility. A healthy buck with good libido should be able to breed a doe three times within a 5-minute period, although young bucks can't be expected to do quite that well. Low libido often means that the buck isn't up to par for some reason. Selenium deficiency can cause low libido. Although deficient bucks can still settle does by natural service, semen quality is poor. A definite improvement in breeding behaviors can be seen within a couple of weeks after a deficient buck is supplemented. Consult your veterinarian about the necessity or advisability of giving a selenium supplement in your area of the country.

Structural Problems

Some problems with rear legs and feet can hamper a buck's breeding. Firm footing and well-trimmed, healthy feet ought not be overlooked. Posty-leggedness is very uncommon in young bucks but deserves mention. This lack of angulation in the rear legs hinders movement and worsens with age. Structural defects can be passed to offspring.

Learn to palpate the testicles to know what is normal. Feel them for symmetry of size and firmness. One is usually carried slightly higher than the other. They are both carried higher in cold weather and lower in warm weather for temperature regulation.

Bucks fed high protein diets can develop posthitis (pizzle rot) an inflammation of the prepuce. The signs of it are scabs, ulcerations, and accumulations of urine and dirt. These lesions make breeding very painful or physically impossible. Medical attention is required, along with a modified diet and clean bedding. Venereal diseases aren't usually present in young bucks.

When a buck kid is born, a membrane called the frenulum adheres the penis to the inside of the sheath and prevents penile extension in kids. Along with the influence of testosterone as he grows, practice mounting helps weaken the frenulum until it finally breaks. This can happen as early as six weeks old. When he can fully extend his penis, he is capable of causing pregnancy. Pygmy bucks can mature quite early. Monitor them closely during periods of sexual activity to make sure they're only practicing and not really breeding. The little devils can sire a litter as early as six weeks old.

An occasional buck has a persistent frenulum, one that doesn't break and free the penis. Repeated mounts and failure to ejaculate are signs of this. Your veterinarian can examine the buck to diagnose a persistent frenulum. Corrective surgery is simple.

Strength & Alignment

An experienced buck can push aside the tail of an unwilling doe, but youngsters may not be able to. You may have to hold up the doe's tail during breeding. A reluctant doe may be more receptive if you give her time to get used to the whole idea. Don't leave the breeding pair unobserved. An excited buck can ejaculate anywhere and deplete his supply of mature sperm or get just worn to a frazzle. Immature sperm are found in the fourth ejaculate of mature bucks. Young bucks deplete more quickly, so use them sparingly. Also, aggressive older does may attack and injure a young buck. This may make him reluctant to attempt a later breeding.

Some bucks need help with positioning. He may be too excited to decide which end to mount. Lead the doe away from him a step or two to present her business end. After his first successful ejaculation, he will rarely need help in figuring it out. My bucks are used to me holding the doe on a short lead for breeding, or at least being very close by. Most of them have also been trained to mount on my command.

Related Reading

Heat Detection for Hand Breeding
Pizzle Rot


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