Using light to extend the breeding season in goats

Author: Iain Dalton (Innovation for Agriculture) - September 26, 2017

Goats are seasonal breeders; thus, their breeding cycle is heavily influenced by daylight intensity and length. If left to natural conditions the milk profile produced is very seasonal. To maintain as level a milk profile as possible in the “off season” - this tendency must be managed effectively. Naturally goats in Europe will start their oestrus cycles as the day length diminishes in the autumn. In order to get more does pregnant in the 'off' season, we need to influence the natural oestrus cycle of the doe so that she can breed when required by milk profile demands.

Figure 1. Goats kidding in light controlled barn, Holland.

The use of remote light sensors and automated lighting systems as described on the 4D4F website are ideal for the management of lighting - both optimising breeding opportunities and reducing labour requirements to control lighting manually. 

The management regime must manipulate the length of time the goats are exposed to light so as to simulate the daylight lengths experienced in the late summer - early autumn period. This requires sufficient light for a minimum of 16 hours per day for a minimum of 45 days, and it is recommended that the light intensity be 200 lux when measured at the eye level of the doe. This can be easily verified by installing a free application on your smartphone. The length of light period is then gradually and steadily decreased by 1-2 hours per week, until 8-10 hours of light per day is achieved. 

Figure 2. Modern Dutch goat farm using sensor controlled lights to manipulate breeding.

It is very important that the breeding bucks intended for use are exposed to the same light regime such that they are equally prepared for the upcoming breeding period. Approximately 6-8 weeks after the termination of the light treatment the breeding bucks should be introduced to the does, with fertile oestrus occurring 10-20 days after the introduction of the buck.

Milk contracts do stipulate milk profile requirements and this is a cost effective, non-invasive method of ensuring such commercially important criteria are met.