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General Health : Buck Management by Tim Pruitt

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Buck management should begin with the selection of a good buck.

Buck selection: If you are going to spend money here is where you want to do it because the buck will influence your herd more than any other animal simply because he will produce more offspring. A mistake that many new breeders of dairy goats make is keeping a buck from their herd for breeding purposes. They keep this little buck because it is such a cute kid with wild colors or simply because he will carry their herd name. This is never a good idea. What you want to is to buy or keep a buck because you are just in love with his dam and want a whole herd just like her. It is even better if the buck of choice has sisters who are wonderful and grand parents that you "ooh and aah" over as well! The more excellent animals that you can line up on that pedigree the better. You may want to select a buck that has animals in the pedigree similar to yours. Something "in" and something "out" is the slogan I use. In other words, something not kin to your herd but yet also something in the pedigree that is kin. A buck of this pedigree will add some "new" blood while having something in common to "click" with. If you choose an outcross buck - make sure that the buck himself is linebred by having little or no new blood in his gene pool for several generations. What you are doing here is "stacking the deck" by concentrating the gene pool. This buck will more likely be able to stamp his offspring with his style and type. A good idea is to bring in new blood of the same type of animal that you are trying to breed for. To mix types will give mixed and sometimes even disappointing results.

Once you have the buck and the excitement is over of the selection and purchase, then comes another extremely vital and important part - that is raising that boy to his potential. No matter how excellent the genetics, he will not reach his potential by accident but it will be your expertise in management that will enable him to become a beautiful and powerful buck that will produce many daughters for you in your herd. For example, neglecting his feet or by foundering him with incorrect feedings will cause you to lose years of his potential by his inability to mount the doe in order to breed.

The buck kid should be loved and handled but never played with. Teaching him to play "butt" with the head will teach him that this is acceptable behavior with humans. While this might be cute as a kid there is nothing funny about a 300 pound buck "playing" with you. Do not allow children to ride him or rough house with him. Instead, teaching him to lead and to stand for hoof trimming will make him a pleasure and not a pain. I believe in showing bucks especially while still a kid for this very reason. He will learn to enjoy being handled as you bathe, clip and fit him for the show. Also the show allows you to compare his growth and size with other animals of his age. The judge's reason of placing him in his class will point out his conformation strengths or faults and give you valuable information as to his potential. For example, the judge may point out long pasterns that you may want to be on the lookout for on his offspring. However, just because he has the long pasterns does not mean that he will throw them but you will still want to watch for them or perhaps breed him only to does who does not share that weakness.

Feeding and care of the buck:
My bucks are fed once a day and are given ½ of a large coffee can of 16% goat pellets. To this is added 1 TBS of mineral salt. They are given a 12 inch wedge of quality grass hay. Other breeders feed alfalfa pellets with the same measure of success. A farm I visited numerous times fed absolutely no grain or pellets but only a 12 inch wedge of high quality alfalfa hay daily. Their bucks were beautiful and in excellent condition. This should be in a feeder where they cannot soil it with their feet and manure. If they do not eat all of their hay - it should be removed and replaced daily. Water dishes should be wiped out and fresh water given daily. I suspect that stagnant dirty water and waters from wells with high mineral contents are the major causes of kidney and bladder stones.

My bucks live alone, housed with their own sleeping quarters and their own pens with a long 30 ft run. This way, there is no competition with another buck over their food. They are not lonely as they have a fellow buck in the pen beside them. If you house bucks together, never put bucks together who are not the same age. Mixing old bucks with young bucks is a recipe for injury. Also putting in a strange (new) buck with other bucks can cause serious fighting.

I prefer not having to walk in the pen with a buck whether in rut or not - so the buck is fed and watered on the outside of the pen. Bucks can be dangerous as they will get very large and can cause injury to adults or children. Also running in and out of his pen in order to keep the stinky smell off of you can cause the buck to become aggressive as he interprets your running as fear. While doing your chores, take a moment and observe each buck as he walks to the feeder. He should not limp or lag or look depressed. His tail should be clean of manure. His coat should be shiny and have a bright look in his eye. Does he eat his ration with zest? Did he finish his feed or hay? If not, don't wait for tomorrow - start immediately looking for reasons why. Is he in rut? If so, his appetite may be diminished some. Keep looking, check his worm schedule and parasite control. Look at his nose for drainage, listen to his breathing for congestion. Catching a problem early is your best chances of a cure.

You will want to keep the buck current on all shots and parasite control. BoSE is important to give about 6 weeks before breeding season. This will help him have excellent sperm for collection and breeding. Copper boluses should be given if you are having problems with coat conditions or parasites.
Regular hoof trimming will do wonders by keeping down potential hoof rot and other problems. Giving him a bath and clipping him every summer will help keep lice and tick problems under control. With this care, my bucks live productive lives until they are 10 to 13 years old. Having a good feeding program and giving him loving care will give you many years to see his beautiful offspring.
Tim D. Pruitt
Pruittville Nubians
187 J.O. Pruitt Rd.
Haynesville, LA 71038
(318) 927-6283
[email protected]
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