This time of year is difficult on a goat dairy, there is very little milk being produced as the goats are at the end of their lactation cycle. Thus there is not much product to sell and not a lot of income. And input costs are still high with alfalfa for the goats to eat, straw for bedding and labor costs. So to produce a consistent stream of milk year round, Toluma Farms is doing some out of season breeding.
Goats naturally breed seasonally; as the days shorten in the fall, does naturally cycle and can get pregnant. In order to breed out of season it becomes necessary to simulate that shift into shorter days.
To accomplish this, we have a string of bright lights that we hung in one side of the barn. We rigged up pens held together with twine for the youngest group of does (all born early in 2011) and for two bucks so they would be exposed to the lights.
The lights are on a timer and are on from 5am to midnight each day, simulating summer-like length of light. After two and a half months we will turn off the lights completely and totally separate the does and bucks. And within six weeks of removing the lights the does should come into heat. We'll introduce the bucks back in with the does and out of season breeding commences.
|The bucks in their own"summer" pen|
|A lot of our farm is held together with twine|
If all goes according to plan, these does will breed in May and kid in October, supplying the farm with a fresh wave of milk for the winter months. While this will make the farm more financially viable, it also means increased labor and no slow down in the winter months.
Toluma Farms bred out of season several years ago and had a 100% conception rate; I am very interested to see if those results will be repeated.