Checking for pregnancy in goats – African Farming

The ultrasound scan is the only completely reliable and most practical pregnancy test.

An ultrasound machine has a probe that is held against the goat’s belly, near her udder. It emits high-pitched sounds that cannot be heard by the human ear. These sounds bounce back to the machine from various structures in the goat’s belly and the machine transforms the ultrasound echoes into a picture on a screen.

The size, the number and sex of the foetuses can be accurately determined from a scan. However, bringing the goats in for ultrasound examination by a vet may not be a good idea because if pregnant goats are stressed, they may abort.

A much less reliable, but quite practical, method is to stand behind the goat and observe the shape of her belly. Normally the belly is a long oval, slightly bigger at the bottom. If she’s heavily pregnant her belly changes shape, becoming more triangular and sticking out on both sides. She could also look like this if she were very fat, so check does once a week; if she continues to get wider, she’s probably pregnant.

Look at the udder. In non-pregnant does the udder is small and flabby, provided she’s not still suckling a kid. During the last six weeks of pregnancy, it swells progressively and can become quite firm. Don’t try to squeeze the teats to see if there’s milk, because it will break the seal that forms in the teat canal and this could lead to mastitis.

Try to feel the foetus. Kneel behind the doe and make a fist with your right hand. Place it just in front of the udder, low down. Now gently but firmly thrust your fist upwards and forwards, then withdraw it to where you started, but leaving it in contact with the skin. If she is pregnant, you should feel the foetus you have pushed forward, gently move back into position. This technique is called ballottement.

None of these three methods is very reliable but they do give an indication of whether a doe could be pregnant or not. Other less reliable, difficult, or potentially dangerous methods should not be attempted.

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