Pack Goat Does: the benefits of packing and breeding
Pack Goat Does
There are many benefits to having does as part of your pack goat herd. Check out this article on sexes of goats and packing. Everyone knows that wethers make the largest, strongest, and best all around pack goats. There are, however, several benefits to owning does as pack goats too.
Does can work well as packers in several cases.
- When you don’t have enough large wethers to complete the string and an easy pack to use with them is this one. Does still make great packers! Our training packs also make great Doe and dwarf goat packs.
- If you aren’t packing goats every weekend of the season, or never pack large loads, does still make great pack goats too!
- Large does over 160 lbs can even fit some cross-buck saddles
- Though they carry less weight because of their smaller size, their temperament and personality often make them great to pack with. They’re so sweet and fun to have in camp!
- If in milk, does are amazing! There’s nothing like stream cooled milk in the back country. It’s like ice cream! Just be sure to strip them out before hiking to keep their bag small. I milk morning and evening in the back country to keep them less full. Also, know they will likely produce less milk in the back country due to exercise and lower quality forage.
- Does keep wethers in line. Goats live in a matriarchal society and though wethers are larger and may be bullies it’s does that get them out to feed and stay strong. I often find my wethers are in better shape cause they eat more often when I have a doe in with them all summer (does are feeding machines).
Does in the Pasture
Now, we’ve highlighted how does make great packers, but they also make a great addition to the herd and pasture. First of all, does can be used for dairy. Anyone with a hobby farm, off grid setup, or interested in farm to table should look into goat’s milk. The health benefits alone should be enough to make anyone consider a milking doe or two. Particularly for those with allergies to dairy, goat milk can be a substitute. Does also don’t have to be ‘renewed’ by birthing kids as often as cows do. As for nutritional value, I know of someone who lived entirely on goat milk for over 3 months! Don’t jump in just on my word though, do the research, google goat milk vs whole cow milk and make your own conclusions.
For anyone who is interested in milking does, though I drink my milk raw, both pasteurizing and milking are not complicated processes. If you have more than one doe, a simple pulse milk machine is a life changer. They are amazing for anyone with multiple does or those with limited strength or mobility in their hands and fingers. Here’s a video review I did on mine. Something else that’s very important to consider; owning does for milking marries you to your land. If does are to be kept in milk they must be milked regularly. For some, this is prohibitive enough to not get does for milking. For others, it’s not a big issue and they have people around that can take over the chores once in a while in their absence.
One of the greatest benefits to owning does as part of the pack goat herd is reproduction. Owning a doe with proven genetics means owning the future of your pack goat string. Much has been said about trying to purchase adult pack goats and the limited success of unproven genetics (about 30% in my experience). Owning a doe for breeding lets you know the proven genetic lines and have the ability to manipulate them through selective breeding. Imagine the best pack goat wether you own. Now imagine that statistics say he likely has a twin sister with the same genetic makeup that can mother future generations of packers, even as good and better than your best wether!
It’s important to note that yes, the best active pack goats are wethers and can’t reproduce. It’s also important to note that inbreeding, crossing bucks and does with the same family genetics, isn’t healthy. What this means when crossing does means you take the best of your doe’s genetics and find a breeding buck outside their line to cross with. Thanks to advancements like the Pack Goat Registry, this process is much easier and keeps proven genetics alive and multiplying.
My solution for crossing is owning at least 2 genetic lines. Each kidding season I pick 2 bucklings and keep them intact till the next rut in the fall and cross them oppositely to keep genetics fresh. After the breeding season I call the vet for those boys to be cut and they grow to be great packers. For anyone with only one doe or without access to diversity in their own herd, the registry is an amazing resource for finding quality and proven packer genetics in bucks. Rather than purchasing kids every year to complete your string AND have younger goats to train up, you can complete the process in house.
Also, when it comes to feeding baby goats to grow large and strong there’s nothing like mother’s milk! Get all of your bottle milk right from the mother, just milk her and bottle feed it to the babies. It’s very important to remember if you plan on feeding your kids goat milk you MUST test for the diseases like CAE and Johne’s that often pass from the mother to the kid via the milk. We’re also currently working on a co-bonding technique that combines both bottle feeding and dam raising (or nursing from the mother). This strategy will help relieve some of the hands on investment in raising packers while still bonding well.
Protecting Genetic Lines
A final note: anytime you breed any buck or doe, it is of the UTMOST IMPORTANCE to test the breeding pair for diseases like CAE, CL, Johne’s, chlamydia, and others. It is imperative to know your breeding pair is clean. In the worst case scenario, it could mean losing your entire herd, at best, it might just be higher vet bills. Also, we strongly advise keeping genetic lines proven and registering all pack goats with proven genetics in the pack goat registry database. This helps the entire pack goat community as a whole and furthers the goal of an officially recognized pack goat breed.