Kidding season is here, and like many things, you should be prepared when it arrives. Knowing which doe is pregnant and when your farm is about to start kidding is important. It’s best make your barn ready for the arrival of new kids beforehand. This will hopefully give you a general guideline of what you need to have ready, how labor in goats appears, and what to do after birthing. Also, it’s very important to know when a doe is experiencing trouble, and how to act accordingly.
Knowing who is bred and when she was bred can be key to getting your farm in shape for kidding season. Gestation for does is 150 days, about 5 months, give or take a few days. A lot of farms will plan their breeding to produce kids at a certain time of year. Doing this makes figuring out when kidding starts very easy, however not everyone does this. There are a few ways to know for certain your doe is bred early on, either thru bloodwork or ultrasound by a veterinarian. Once the doe approaches her due date, you will notice many changes to her body. During the last few days or week you will see her udder become full, sometimes very extended and shiny. The way that she walks will also change. There are ligaments in her pelvis that will begin to loosen and you may see her walking with her hind legs a little more underneath herself than normal and she may appear wobbly in her back end. The ligaments being loose will also make her tailbone and spine stand out and more palpable over her pelvis. Sometimes, the doe will seek out her own space and not stay close to the herd. You may notice her either laying away from the rest of the herd in the pasture, or even staying in the barn while the others go out. Many does will begin to “nest” and dig out an area to lay. Once labor begins to close in, you may notice your doe “murmuring” to herself and her unborn babies. It’s not the usual crying out, and takes on a softer tone. The most important thing is to KNOW YOUR DOES and make note of any changes, physically or behaviorally.
As the due date looms closer, you need to be ready for birthing process and the arrival of new kids. To make things easier, a lot of farms will have individual birthing stalls for every doe so that when the big day arrives, she has her own space that is safe, dry and warm. That being said, some does kid in the pasture and do great. However, there are risks if she is out unattended. If she kids in the pasture, she may attract the attention of the buck, who may try to breed her while she is in labor, and either hurt the doe or the kids once they are born. Or, maybe your livestock guardian dog is a little TOO attentive, and cleans the kids. Afterwards the mother will not want to take them because they do not smell like her babies anymore. Having the does up in their own special place allows her to be able to safely go into labor in a controlled environment. Preferably, straw or hay is used for bedding, since it will not stick to the kids as much when they are born and is ingestible. You should also have a Birthing Kit stocked and ready in case you need towels, flashlights or gloves. A general list is attached at the end of this article of things you may need during the birthing process. Depending on the time of year when your does start kidding, you may need special places for the babies to lay to keep them warm. Many people have either 50 gallon barrels with a heat lamp hanging from the top, or a box with a special dog kennel heating pad inside. Choose what works best for your farm, putting safety first.
Ok, so you know your doe is getting close. She is showing all the signs and now she has her own safe place to kid. When the contractions start to hit, you may notice your doe hold her breath for a period of time, then resume panting and/or grinding her teeth. Shortly before or after this she will have discharge from her vulva. Sometimes it’s a lot, but it varies with every doe. When your doe begins to push she will lift her tail, sometimes push her back legs, and may even curl her upper lip. During this time, they often become very vocal, from merely grunting to crying out loudly. Soon after this starts you should see something coming out of her vulva, mostly it is a bubble at first, then you may see hooves inside. Once you see first presentation, things move pretty quickly. If all goes well, she kids unassisted and cleans her babies while you just sit back and enjoy the show.
After the kids are born it’s important to make sure they nurse before too long, with in an hour usually. When they figure it out one time, they seem to get the hang of it fairly quickly and go back for more when they want it. If you are present during a birth, its recommended to tie off the umbilical cord and put iodine on the area to prevent infection. Tying and cutting the cord keeps it from being drug around on the ground if the cord is long, where is can get stepped on, torn again, and allow infection to get into the kids’ body. Also, many farms will deworm their does after they kid, since any stressful event can cause parasites to flourish in a goat’s system.
Let’s go back to the doe being in labor. What happens if she is unable to have the babies by herself? It is important to know signs of dystocia, trouble giving birth. If a doe is actively pushing for TOO long before something presents itself, she may need assistance. If an hour passes from when she initially started pushing and you do not have a kid on the ground, something is wrong. This is where you have to make a few judgement calls. Are you physically able to assist, and will you? If the answer is no, you should call your vet and have them come out immediately. If the answer is yes, then you should know how the kid is supposed to come out and try to feel the body position before helping her deliver. Kids should normally “dive” out, with both front feet and the head coming out together. It is possible for a kid to come out breach (back legs first) and still be ok, but it’s not preferred. Even if you can and have assisted in the past, sometimes a vet is still needed.
Hopefully kidding goes by without any issues, and before you know it you have several healthy kids running around in your pasture. Remember, being prepared and present during kidding can save you a lot of stress. KNOW your does and any changes they exhibit. BE READY with your birthing kit and individual stalls if possible. BE PRESENT during hard labor to know the signs and in case of an emergency. And don’t be afraid to CALL YOUR VET.
Have a happy kidding season