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Flushing Does for the Breeding Season

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 continuing on until 30 days after breeding. The purpose of flushing is to facilitate better ovulation rates and increased implantation rates resulting in better conception rates and increased twinning or even triples. 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 poor body condition is usually a good determination of poor overall nutritional status, thin does tend to respond the best to flushing. However, keep in mind that even does in good or excessive body condition can respond favorably to increases in mineral and vitamin status, especially if they are marginal to deficient in one or more nutrients.

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 (See Table 1) will work well.

Body condition scoring is a fairly simple concept. It refers to the fleshiness of the goat independent of the goat’s size or age. The system is based on a combination of sight and touch indicators. Just looking at a goat often doesn’t give an accurate measure of body condition. Fluffy winter hair coat, 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. See Table 1 for body condition score descriptions.

Table 1. Body Condition Scoring Chart for Goats

BCS 1

Extremely thin

Backbone easy to see and feel. Individual spinous processes appear sharp. Ribs are easy to see and feel. Ends of ribs are sharp and easy to press around. No fat covering over the loin area and muscle wasting apparent--appears hollowed out. “Walking skeleton” is often used to describe.

BCS 2

Thin

Backbone easy to see and feel but individual processes appear smooth. Ribs are easy to see but feel smooth and slight rounded. Need to use slight pressure to feel. Slight, smooth, even fat cover over loin with the surface tending to feel flat. Animal appears “angular”.

BCS 3

Good

Backbone appears smooth and rounded and can be felt with pressure. Ribs are smooth and well covered. Need to use firm pressure to feel under and between short ribs. Loin area is full and rounded with smooth even fat cover. Muscle definition is evident.

BCS 4

Fat

Need to use firm pressure to feel backbone. No points on individual spinous processes can be felt. Individual ribs cannot be felt but can still feel indent between ribs. Loin area is full with fat and appears flattened rather than rounded. Muscle definition is absent or hard to discern.

BCS 5

Obese

Backbone is smooth and no individual vertebra can be felt. Individual ribs cannot be felt. No separation of ribs can be felt. Fat cover is thick and may be lumpy or “jiggly”. Loin muscle cannot be felt due to fat. Animal appears flat and boxy when viewed from above – no muscle definition at all.

Using BCS to Determine if Flushing would be Beneficial

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 through pregnancy. Does with body condition scores of 1 and 2 should benefit greatly from a flushing program that includes energy, protein and high quality minerals and vitamins while does with BCS 3 may benefit slightly. Does with body condition scores of 4 or 5 will not benefit from additional weight gain, but may benefit from additional mineral and vitamin nutrition. 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 prior to breeding in order to affect semen quality.

A profit-oriented manager should use BCS information as a guide. 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.

How CRYSTALYX® Goat-Lyx® can be used for Flushing

CRYSTALYX® Goat-Lyx® is an ideal supplement for goats of all body condition scores. Designed specifically to meet NRC requirements for goats, CRYSTALYX® Goat-Lyx® delivers a significant portion of essential minerals such as copper and zinc in the form of BioPlex® organic minerals that are easily absorbed and easily metabolized. Copper and zinc are often deficient in goats’ natural diets and are key nutrients involved in breeding and pregnancy.

Because CRYSTALYX® Goat-Lyx® boasts low, controlled intake, this supplement is safe even for does with higher body condition scores. However, for does needing to add additional weight, added protein helps rumen microbes to more efficiently utilize lower quality forages and convert to additional energy in the diet. CRYSTALYX® Goat-Lyx® should be combined with a balanced energy/protein feed for does with BCS of 1 or 2.

Summary

In summary, the practice of nutritional 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 BCS of 1 through 3 should benefit from a flushing program while scores of 4 or 5 may only need mineral and vitamin supplementation. Many supplement options are available for a flushing program including CRYSTALYX® Goat-Lyx®. 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.

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