Love'em or Hate'em Bucks seem to get the short end of the stick no matter where they go. On our farm, however we love our boys as much as the girls.. our most popular boy being the infamous 'Duke-Bronson,' who was kind enough to provide us with the pictures below.. All joking aside, a buck is necessary if you plan on having milk, and want to avoid the hassle of stud servicing your does. But before you run out and buy a buck there are some things about them you should consider before purchasing a buck for your farm...
A Buck is not just a Buck:
When my parents were younger, the most valuable goat on the market was a doe.. many argue that this is still the case today and they might be right. However, unlike today, bucks back then were considered largely useless on the homestead except for breeding to put milk on a doe. This lead to the neglect of bucks, and fueled many of the misconceptions producers are still fighting with today. ‘Back in the Day’ if you or your neighbor had a buck, he would be passed around the community earning his keep by breeding with all the does across town. People would loan out their buck to be used for breeding just so they didn’t have to feed him that month. And the thought of the day was that 'a buck was a buck', you could practically get one for free so why pay money? The doe was all that mattered, and back then everyone knew only good does produced good milking doe kids… so it didn’t matter where the buck came from. Getting a doe pregnant was the sole purpose of any buck… bucklings/bucks were just good enough for filling the freezer.
Today, however, bucks are rightfully earning their place as the MOST important member of the herd. Bucks, as it turns out, set the pace for the future generations produced in your herd. They have the largest role to play on the genetic field for determining the inheritance of udder attachment, teat size/ placement, udder capacity and milk production. If you want or need high production does, you need to start improving your herd with a buck who is founded in high production genetics. “Any buck will do” is not only an irresponsible stand point, but it is also reflective of a genuine lack of concern for the betterment of future herds. You may not care about your herd today, but the genetics you are passing on to other people WILL affect future genetic pools tomorrow.
When breeding any breed of goat, you always want to breed-up. Crossing excellent to fair quality does with excellent quality bucks will yield improvements in the herd. However, crossing excellent to fair quality does with a poor quality buck will always yield poorer and poorer quality animals. No matter what your life situation, or stand point on breeding goats may be you always want to purchase or use the best quality buck you can afford. Breeding to a poor quality animal simply because you like their color or personality is not a good enough reason to use that buck in your herd. He needs to be the leading example of what your herd’s purpose will be; be the best dairy buck you can find/ best meat buck you can find etc.
TIP: How to Select a Buck:
When looking for a Buck to add to your breeding program you want him to be subject to the same rigors as you would when selecting a doe. Most importantly you will want to look at the udder of his mother and grandmother to better see what his daughters will be inheriting. Assuming you are considering an adult buck, you will also want to look closely at his conformation. Young bucklings often go through many awkward growth stages, and can sometimes be difficult to judge what they will grow-up into...
The buck in question should have a nice level top line (back), a level rump, wide hips ( from each peak of the hip bones), good-straight-long legs, a nicely blended neck, and a smooth ‘uphill’ stance. This means when he is standing his shoulders are slightly taller than his hips. And also, when viewed from behind, his hind legs should naturally fall wide apart. Having a wide ‘escutcheon’ is important so that when his daughters inherit this trait they will have plenty of room for their udders to fill in.
The escutcheon on a buck is the same point on a doe. If you follow the curve of the hind legs up to the peak of where the vulva would be on a doe you will notice that instead you have a point where the testicles of the buck connect to his body. This point should be wide and form a perfect arching pyramid down to the hooves of his hind legs.
When viewed head on, you want your buck to also have a nice wide chest. His front legs shouldn’t be rubbing on one another, and you should be able to place your hand flat between his fore legs. Reviewing the conformation standards for the breed of goat you are interested in purchasing will help to further guide you in selecting a soundly built Buck suitable for adding to your breeding program.
Understand, that these ‘show’ standards were not only made to help distinguish the different breeds from one another, but to also help all breeders avoid selecting traits that lead to harmful defects. Whether you are breeding your goats for meat, dairy, homesteading, or even show; you do NOT want animals with crooked arthritic legs, twisted spines, crooked jowls that cant chew food, etc. Instead, you want strong animals that will pass on strong genetics to their offspring, and that will better serve you in the future.
Hands down the number one reason why people try to keep their bucks on the furthest most isolated corner of their property. Bucks have a naturally repulsive smelling odor that only female goats seem to appreciate. Also, unfortunately, the musky odor of the buck can taint the flavor of the milk produced by our beloved goat does. But if the smell weren’t bad enough, it’s the way the musk is applied that gets most people’s stomachs to turn inside out…
Bucks liberally apply the musk to their faces, backs of their legs, and to anyone standing close by. They gargle it in their mouth, and will gleefully rub it on their owners. The source of this musk you may wonder? Well, it just so happens that the musk comes from the urine of the buck. Bucks also have glands on their heads around their horns that they use to mark their territory with pheromones.. ever wonder why your buck loves rubbing his head on everything?
A buck in full rut can be quite the sight, as well as stench. An all-white buck will turn into a dingy yellowish brown monster, whose smell will carry easily up to a half-mile away in his efforts to let every doe know that he is in the neighborhood.
Temperament and houseing:
If narcissism, arrogance, aggression, tongue flapping, and strutting are things you look for in a man you might be a goat. But to the rest of us, these charming antics are not so charming. Especially not when a buck goes into full rut.
So, here are some Buck basics... Bucks are like stallions in the horse world. They live to 'get the girls' and become sexually active as young as 8 weeks of age. Some become fertile at this time, and are capable of impregnating their young female siblings. It is because of this that bucks should either be castrated or separated into a pen with other bucks of a similar age as soon as they are able to be weaned. Very few, if any, doelings impregnated at 8 weeks of age ever survive the pregnancy, so it is to your benefit to protect your does.
Bucks also love to strut their stuff, and show all the does just how tough they are. The like to rub their heads on fences, head-butt their shelters and fellow herd mates, and even on occasion prove to the humans on the property that they are top dog. Smaller sized breeds of goats are easier to contend with than a full-sized 200lb Boer buck, but that doesn’t make them any less dangerous. Changes in testosterone hormone levels contribute to the transformation that your once sweet, mild-mannered, buck undergoes as he prepares to attract and defend his does. Some bucks will ignore humans during rut, while others can be so down-right nasty that it is impossible for their owner to safely enter the pen with them.
There are some aggressive bucks out there, but it is equally as important to note that there are many more bucks who are just as sweet and friendly as does.. they just stink! Bucks prefer to exert their dominance over other bucks to prove their position in the herd, so if a buck knows and respects you as the leader of the herd he will not attack you. If there are any doubts in his mind however, or if he has been spoiled and allowed to become a very dangerous charging-head-butting-rotten-little-goat, then you have a problem. This is why it is so important for a goat owner to spend time with their goats, especially their bucks. And why you must not be afraid to discipline (sometimes harshly) bad buck behavior the moment they step out of line. A buck is a more serious animal than a doe, and they need strong willed leaders to follow.
Sadly for many bucks, in order to avoid the responsibility of Buck ownership, some people opt to avoid dealing with their bucks altogether. They would rather isolate them in a tiny pen by themselves away from the herd, throw food over the fence, and never enter their pen. This is willful neglect and abuse no matter which way you want to try and slice it. Bucks in these isolated conditions are hands down the most dangerous, and almost always become human aggressive; not something you want to have on your property if you also have children around!. As a result of this detrimental treatment, often times these poor bucks cannot be introduced to the herd. In their isolation, they receive little if any socialization, make up their own ‘rules’ for social interaction, generally do not know how to function in a herd, nor do they know what goat behaviors are acceptable.
We need to remember that bucks are herd animals too. They have emotional needs, and mental stimulation requirements just like any other goat. Many of our goaty boys love to be pet, brushed, and doted upon just like our girls. And if it weren't for their musky odor that clings to everything they touch, you would find out rather quickly that bucks are arguably more affectionate than the does as well! Keep in mind, that in the wild they are the protectors of their families, and when they are forced into isolation it is no wonder why they become neurotic to the point that aggression develops as their frustration grows. A buck has no way of understanding WHY he can not talk to his does, or WHY you wont even give him the time of day.
Bucks thrive on the companionship of other goats, but for us humans trying to regulate breeding, housing a buck with companions can be difficult. One solution to this dilemma is keeping bucks together in a buck pen. This ensures that your does are not being bred on accident, avoids musk tainted milk, avoids wethers (castrated male goats) being bullied, and keeps your boys feeling like they are still part of a herd. On our farm our bucks are kept individually next to our does so they can still visit through the fence, but unplanned breedings do not take place. We have also found that our bucks are much more calm, and do not cycle into rut as often.
So, can you put wethers with bucks? You can put bucks with does, but then the question becomes should you? I would say no, as would many of the other breeders I have spoken with. Wethers are a neutral party. They are easily bullied, and yes even raped by bucks. In turn, the buck learns that he can bully and molest whoever he wants, and again develops no social manners because the wethers will not stand up for themselves. When bucks are with other bucks certain behaviors are just not going to fly, and everyone takes a turn being at the bottom of the pecking order.
As an example of the differences between the way two bucks were raised; Our first buck we purchased was kept with other bucks and has great manners with the does and even humans… Our second buck however, was kept alone with wethers and thinks he can bully everyone including people—he has been learning otherwise, but his rehabilitation back into a herd has been a slow process. He is still a little ornery toward our does, doesn’t really get along with the other bucks, and unfortunately still has to be kept separate from the herd unless he is being supervised.
How to deal with overly Human Aggressive Goats?
Dealing with a rutty buck or aggressive goat is actually quite simple... YOU become the most terrifying, pain inflicting, hell-on-wheels-force that goat has ever seen in its life! You can use a rolled up newspaper or section of rubber hose, but whatever you choose; you torment and literally have to beat the goat back until it runs away from you. And from that day forward if he starts to charge, or rear up to head butt you, you yell at him “NO!” then proceed to give him the ass-wooping of his lifetime.
It sounds cruel to the faint of heart, but if you think that your aggressive goat will stop bashing into you while you are on the ground with a broken knee you are sorely mistaken; and if you cannot justify this type of punishment for any animal that has the intent to beat you till you’re dead, than you do not need to own a goat. Even nice goats, not just frustrated-angry-hormonal-bucks, can get a wild hair toward someone they don’t like, and you will need to be prepared to protect those people from your animal. You wouldn’t let your dog attack you or someone else, so why would allow your goat do the same thing???
So how about animals who are not overly aggressive? Do you have to be as extreme for them? For animals that are normally well behaved, a firm ‘NO!’ and/or squirt with a squirt bottle of water seems to do the trick in any situation.. If the spray bottle has no effect, out comes the newspaper. A single swat accompanied by an angry ‘NO!’ gets the point across. The more severe method described above is for animals who have been allowed to run the show, or otherwise become too dangerous for you to safely enter the pen. After a few humbling sessions most goats learn rather quickly that the insane human is not worth fighting with. And look for some other creature to bully instead. And for the few animals who are too blinded by their hormones to be of any use to anyone, there is always freezer camp.You do not want overly aggressive goat genetics in your herd, there is no reason for it in a captive environment, and this is something we absolutely do not tolerate.
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