Flushing Does for the Breeding Season: Is this right for you?
By Jackie Nix
As breeding season quickly approaches, goat owners should think about whether or
not to flush their breeding does. What is flushing? Flushing in simple terms refers
to putting the animals on a higher plain of nutrition 30 days prior to breeding and
30 days after breeding to cause the does to gain weight and body condition. After
30 days the does are returned to a maintenance diet.
The purpose of flushing is to facilitate better ovulation rates and increased implantation
rates resulting in better conception rates and increased twinning rates. Flushing
normally involves using a supplement high in energy and/or protein. Under the correct
circumstances the practice of flushing can reap many benefits; however, it is not
ideal for every situation.
How to Determine if Flushing is Necessary?
Since the goal of flushing is to gain weight and body condition in the does, thin
does in poor body condition tend to respond the best. Does in good body condition
will tend to respond favorably too. However, does that are in excessive body condition
will likely have no response or may actually respond negatively to flushing. The
question now is how can you tell where your goats fall in terms of body condition?
Body Condition Scoring
The terms thin, good and fat are very subjective and mean different things to different
people. For this reason a standardized system has been developed to quantify the
body condition of animals and discuss them on an apples-to-apples basis. There are
several established body condition scoring systems. For our purposes, the 5-point
graduated scale of scoring on a combination of sight and touch indicators. Just
looking at a goat often doesn't give an accurate measure of body condition. Winter
hair coats, mud, etc. can fool even experienced goat producers. For these reasons
it is always best to physically handle the goats, paying special attention to several
key indicator areas. These key areas are the backbone, the ribs and the loin. Do
not be fooled by a large belly, which only indicates a full rumen.
How to Determine Body Condition Score (BCS)
For first-timers it is usually best to first start with an animal at either end of
the scale to get a firm feel for the extremes. As with most things, this technique
takes time and practice to master. Animals should be standing in a relaxed position,
either free or in a chute. The goat shouldn't be tense, held by a squeeze gate or
crushed by other animals.
The following are tips on how to evaluate the key areas.
Backbone - Run the balls of your fingers down the goat's spine from the shoulders
to the tail head. Feel the spinous processes (the individual vertebra) as you go.
If you feel sharp, distinct points you'd rate that a BCS 1. If you feel lumps of
smooth flesh, the BCS would be 3. If you feel no individual lumps the score would
be a BCS 5.
Ribs - Locate the last rib and using the balls of your fingers and thumb and try
to feel the ends of the short ribs. Feel down over the sides of the ribs and feel
between individual ribs. Slightly rap on the ribs with your knuckle. If the edges
of the ribs are sharp and easy to press around the BCS would be 1. If the ribs are
well rounded but visible and rapping provides a dull thud, the BCS is a 3. If you
cannot feel the ribs at all and rapping on the ribs sounds like hitting flesh, the
BCS would be 5.
Loin eye - The loin eye is the area you feel if you place your thumbs on the goat's
spine while standing behind the goat. Curl your fingers down as if you were going
to pick the goat up. In doing so you now have your hands around the loin eye muscle.
Remember that the amount of loin eye muscling (thickness of the muscle from your
fingers to your thumb in the position described above) is determined largely by genetics;
however the amount of fat covering the loin eye is determined by diet.
Now that you have an idea of where your goats fall in the body condition scoring
spectrum, this will allow you to make smart management decisions regarding nutrition.
Ideally does should be in a BCS of 3 throughout pregnancy. Does with body condition
scores of 1 and 2 should benefit greatly from a flushing program while does with
BCS 3 may benefit slightly. Flushing does with body condition scores of 4 or 5 will
not likely be of economical benefit and may actually harm the health of the does.
Does with BCS of 4 or 5 should be monitored closely for possible pregnancy toxemia
(ketosis) as the pregnancy progresses. Don't forget your bucks. Bucks should carry
a BCS of 3 or 4 into the breeding season, aiming for a BCS of 2 or 3 immediately
after the breeding season. It is important to increase their plain of nutrition at
least 60 days (preferably 90 days) prior to breeding in order to affect semen quality.
A profit-oriented manager should use BCS information as a guide when planning new
nutritional programs and when evaluating a current program. While it is unrealistic
to feed each goat within the herd individually, you can use body condition scoring
to determine the average BCS for the herd and then make plans to supplement accordingly.
BCS information will allow you to supplement according to need, thus allowing you
to maintain productivity while avoiding unnecessary costs associated with overfeeding.
What to Feed if my Goats Require Flushing?
A flushing program may be as simple as placing does on a lush nutritious pasture
3 to 4 weeks prior to breeding. However, many do not find themselves in this situation.
In this case supplements are in order. Supplements high in energy and protein are
best for increasing body condition and thus reproductive performance in thin and
Nutritional supplements come in all shapes and sizes and range from commercially
produced pellets or textured feeds, tubs, and blocks to natural feedstuffs known
to be relatively high in protein or energy such as soybean meal or corn. Choosing
which type is best for your operation will vary according to individual circumstances.
In many cases a variety of supplement products will best meet your goats' needs.
Sweetlix Protein Supplements available
Sweetlix offers a variety of protein supplement products to allow the greatest amount
of flexibility for goat producers. Here are a few of the Sweetlix supplements available
through your local Sweetlix dealer.
Sweetlix Meat Maker. Roughage Balancer Tub (983)
Optimal energy, protein and mineral content make this an ideal supplement for flushing
High molasses content is ideal for does susceptible to pregnancy toxemia in the last
55 to 60% TDN - energy content comparable to high quality grass hay
16% protein from all-natural sources
100% of daily-recommended amounts of trace minerals, including copper and selenium
Convenient, durable 50-lb non-returnable, plastic yellow tub can be placed directly
in the pasture with goats
Handy lids make stacking for storage easier
Superb weatherability - will not crumble, melt or blow away - with minimum waste
No additional salt or minerals needed or recommended
Sweetlix 20% All Natural Protein Goat Block (988)
All natural protein supplements ideal for young, growing kids and lactating does
20% protein level to supplement low quality hay
All natural protein sources - no urea added
Delivers 100% of daily recommended amounts of trace minerals, including copper and
Convenient 33.3-lb pressed block can be placed out in the pasture with goats
Ideal size for small goatherds
No additional salt or minerals needed or recommended
In summary, the practice of flushing can be of great economic benefit for thin does
resulting in larger kid crops and increased reproductive efficiency. However, determination
of thinness can be subjective. A standardized Body Condition Scoring system allows
accurate determination of fleshiness. Does with a body condition score of 1 through
3 should benefit from a flushing program while extra supplementation of does with
body condition scores of 4 or 5 is not recommended. Many supplement options are available
for a flushing program including the new Sweetlix Meat Maker. Roughage Balancer Tub.
Also, remember to watch the goats' body condition as the winter progresses. Low quality
hay and increased nutritional demands of pregnancy can result in a loss of body condition.
In these situations, nutritional supplements are necessary to maintain reproductive
and growth performance. Feed supplements pay for themselves in
added production when used properly. For more information about the Sweetlix line
of supplement products for goats and information to help you create a customized
nutritional system for your goats visit your local Sweetlix dealer, visit us on the
web at www.sweetlix.com, or call 1-87SWEETLIX.
Jackie Nix is a nutritionist with Sweetlix (www.sweetlix.com). You can contact her
at email@example.com or 1-800-325-1486 for questions or to learn more about the Sweetlix
line of mineral and protein supplements for goats, cattle, horses, sheep and wildlife.