by Robert Spencer
It’s interesting how one word can have several different meanings. For those who raise cattle, sheep, or goats, "flushing" often refers to flushing embryos from pregnant females and surgically implanting them in recipient females. In this article, "flushing" refers to increasing the amount of feed an animal receives in order to enhance their reproductive capabilities or fertility.
The practice of flushing has an impact on both male and female goats. I’m not advocating over-feeding your animals, but modestly increasing the amount of feed your goat receives on a temporary basis prior to breeding season. No more than a maximum of half their normal feed for about a week or two. Dividing it up into two feedings per day instead of one is a good practice. This technique should be applied to does prior to coming into heat, and to bucks prior to and during times they are used for breeding.
Let me clarify what is meant by feed. Quality feed is essential, not just a few extra handfuls of corn, soybeans, or hay, but well-balanced quality feed. The diet of a goat consists of protein, fiber, minerals, vitamins, fats and water (yes, I said water; it is an important part of the diet of any animal or human). Instead of using your preferred hay, you might try feeding alfalfa hay on a short-term basis when flushing.
Nutritional intake and quality affects the ability for a goat to reproduce. A malnourished doe is more likely to birth singles and less likely to produce twins or triplets. The reason being without adequate nutrition, the ovaries (inside the reproductive system of a doe) do not produce as many eggs or healthy eggs if the doe is undernourished. When the semen from a buck enters the reproductive tract of a doe there are fewer eggs to be fertilized, and the eggs that do exist may not be healthy enough to be fertilized.
The amount of nutrition a buck receives affects the ability for the reproductive system of a buck to produce healthy, viable semen. A malnourished buck is unable to effectively service as many does during a breeding season; and the semen he produces is lower in quality and has less potency, therefore unable to fertilize eggs waiting in the doe during breeding time. Proper nutrition allows for the production of strong virile semen that is able to survive in the reproductive tract of a doe and swim all the way to meet those eggs waiting in the fallopian tubes.
Increasing the nutrient availability for any doe or buck for short amounts of time substantially increases the reproductive capability of your brood stock. There is a direct correlation between nutritional intake and quality, the reproductive ability of any animal, and the offspring it produces.
As a manager of your operation, you are responsible for the results of your management practices. If your animals are prolific, the number and quality of offspring is to your satisfaction, and you do not feel flushing is necessary, then do not implement this practice. Flushing is a sure way to increase the likelihood of more productive animals.
Robert Spencer is Agribition Center Facilities Manager at Alabama A&M University.