The buck is half the herd, we are told, and a lot has been written about choosing him through his milking background, etc. I don’t propose to cover that ground again. Over the years, one fact has repeatedly come to my notice. On every occasion when some delighted goat-keeper has been raving over the newly-acquired buck kid, which is to put his/her herd on the map, I have been treated to eulogies on the kid’s shoulders, legs, back, bone, pasterns, or whatever other part that breeder considers vital. When I inquire tactfully about the state of the kid’s genitals, the resultant gasp of stupefaction shows quite obviously that the owner has never even looked, and thinks I am rather crude for wanting to know.
Well, to put it crudely, NO BALLS, NO BUCK. I have seen beautiful buck kids, and bought one myself in the early days, all from reputable breeders, and one imported from Australia which had been inspected by vets as well, all of whom did not have what it takes between their back legs. I am certainly not blaming the breeders, because in each case the peculiarity had never occurred in their herds before, so they were unacquainted with the problem. But, having seen rather a lot of different types of abnormality, now, I feel qualified to give some pointers to identifying them, so that fewer people will find they have raised a buck kid who isn’t going to be any use to them after all.
The first step is when a kid is born. Turn him on this back (when you are treating his cord, if you like) and check that he has two teats, one each side and slightly forward of the scrotum. If he has more than two teats, or one or both are double teats, or if he has no teats, bump him off. [Diagram 1]
His penis should be just behind the umbilical cord, usually about ½” (1cm) behind. If it is further back, bump him off – even if fertile, he would only be able to serve his first season (once he’s bigger, his penis wouldn’t reach the doe). [Diagram 11]
The tube running between the penis and scrotum, just under the skin, is called the urethra. Sometimes part of the urethra is exposed, that is, it is not covered with skin, and looks like a bubble. [Diagram 10] The kid will be infertile, so bump him off.
Now go to the scrotum itself. It should contain two testicles, which feel quite loose in the scrotum at this stage and can be moved round easily. Each has a cord running from it through the inguinal canal to the body cavity. This cord should feel long enough that you can let the testicles flop around between your fingers. If the testicles are held tight to the body, the cords are too short; he will be infertile, and probably has an inguinal hernia. (An experienced
doe will refuse to clean up, much less feed, a kid with an inguinal hernia; she is your best guide that something is wrong with him). Bump him off. [Diagrams 7 & 8]
If there is only one testicle in the scrotum (unilateral cryptorchid) bump him off. [Diagram 4]
He may be fertile but the fault is hereditary. With a vasectomy he could be used as a teaser. If there are no testicles in the scrotum (full cryptorchid) bump him off. [Diagram 5]
The tips of the testicles may be felt through the inguinal canal. He will not tease. If he has passed this test, feel each testicle in turn and see if it is possible to push it through into the body cavity. If you can feel one or both disappear quite clearly, he has a condition called ‘floating testicle’ and an inguinal hernia. The doe will refuse to mother him. Bump him off.
I have to say here that this type of condition can be treated surgically, but it is considered an ‘unethical’ operation by the veterinary profession. Some bucks have been kept, untreated, with this condition, and sired kids, but the condition is passed on to both male and female progeny, and the gut may at any time fall through the inguinal hernia, strangulate, and kill the animal with great agony. In a doe, because the udder is in the way of palpation, the strangulation appears to be a severe fatal colic. Both tight-cord and floating testicle kids, if undetected, are likely to be colicky and pot-bellied whatever method of rearing you use. If a buck kid is like this, check again to see if he does have anything wrong with his scrotum and testicles. If you are unsure about your findings on the kid’s scrotum (which you will be at your first attempt unless there is something drastically wrong) leave him for a week, and feel him again.
ONE WEEK OLD TEST
All the kids who have passed their birthday tests should be checked again in a week’s time. This time the testicles should be at least ½” long and ¼” thick, and will feel distinct from the cords. If they are smaller than this, he could have undersized testicles. If you are quite sure, bump him off; if not, give him another week and check again. If he still doesn’t feel big enough, compare with other kids the same age, and if you are sure, bump him off. [Diagram 9]
If one testicle is very much smaller than the other, bump him off. [Diagram 6]
Now check your kid when he is standing. A warm day is best, as the testicles will hang lower. If you could easily castrate him with an elastrator because the testicles dangle well, you know he is sound. It is not enough just to look, you must feel. [Diagram 2] If the cords feel wide apart but he still dangles, he is sound. [Diagram 3]
If the cords feel wide apart and tight to the body, or you cannot feel the cords at all, he is too tight and will be infertile. Bump him off. [Diagrams 7 & 8]
Feel along the urethra from the penis to the scrotum; it will be quite a firm ridge by now. It must run straight with no lumps, bumps, or wiggles. If it has a ‘knotty’ bit in it like a milk vein, along any of its length, including in the scrotum, the kid will be infertile. Bump him off.
I have once seen a kid whose bladder leaked into his scrotum. The scrotum was enlarged, and the kid could only urinate in spurts rather than a steady dribble. When the scrotum was squeezed, urine came out of the penis. Such a kid is infertile and the condition is fatal. As it can be a lingering death, the kid should be euthanased. If I was in any doubt about a buck kid’s genitals I would destroy him, and when the condition was new to me I would have a post-mortem done, out of curiosity.
SIX TO TEN WEEKS
By 6-10 weeks your buck kid should start spraying. Some start much younger. They may ride their companions at any age from 3 days on. They usually start to make buck noises at about 3 weeks. All this assumes that the buck kid has companions – kids of either sex, or lambs. If he is kept alone he may never do these things because he has not been stimulated. If he does have companions and does not act buckish, suspect that there is something wrong with him. Check his health first, and when the vet feels he is old enough (probably 4-6 months) have a sperm count done. Actually, apart from total cryptorchids, most infertile males are excessively sexy and for this reason are frequently kept as teasers.
Epididymitis or inflammation of the testicles occurs when the buck is producing sperm but his spermatic cords are blocked or incomplete due to hermaphroditism. The first indication may be oversized testicles or just that his wives are returning to service. Get a sperm test. If the buck kid you are doubtful about is your own breeding you can destroy him without much harm done, but as I said at the beginning, faulty bucks are often sold.
If you are unfortunate enough to buy one, the arrangement you come to with the breeder is over to you. Most breeders will offer to replace the following season, but this is not always practical for you. The breeder will appreciate a veterinary certificate to show the kid is a bad breeding proposition, and proof that he has been destroyed, castrated, or relegated to use as a teaser. (This last may require a vasectomy, depending on the actual fault). This is a courtesy especially if you are a great distance apart, and matters are being arranged by post.
Finally, I would advise anyone buying a buck kid from a distance, sight unseen, to choose either a disbudded kid or one with a horned parent. Then at least you will not have hermaphrodite factors to consider. Cryptorchids occur regardless of the horn factor. Extreme inbreeding also predisposes to abnormalities.
– Irene Ramsay.
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I am acquainted with Irene Ramsay through the Holistic Goats list on Yahoo Groups. I read all of her posts as they are always full of wisdom and natural remedies for healing. I am honored that Irene Ramsay has agreed to allow me to publish some of her articles on my website. I hope they will be as helpful to you as they have been to me. Thanks, Irene! Please note that Irene lives in New Zealand and sometimes the items she recommends won’t be available in the US under the same name. Copyright 1974-2020 Irene Ramsay. All Rights Reserved. Do not copy without express permission of the author. Thank you. Please note that Irene lives in New Zealand and sometimes the items she recommends won’t be available in the US under the same name.