Written By Janice Spaulding, founder of Goat School
Kidding time is the most exciting time on the farm! Will it be a doeling or a buckling? What will its markings be? What color? How many?? Such fun!
The big kidding question always is: How do I know when my goat is ready to deliver? Watch your does. The poor girl may get crankier as she gets closer. Some does produce copious amounts of mucous, very stringy, hanging down, and even dragging on the ground. This is a sign that labor is imminent. Our Boer doe, NanC, used to go 4 or 5 days with a drippy butt, other goats do not have any mucous at all.
Watch their udders. You will see changes as their delivery date draws near. In some goats the udder expands greatly over time, others will expand just a few hours before delivery. As labor gets closer the udder gets very big, solid feeling, and almost shiny in appearance, often called “strutted” udder.
For Angora’s, (or any longer haired goat) make sure, if the goat hasn’t been sheared, that you crutch her well ahead of time and also trim around the udder. Crutching is cutting away all the hair on the back end and down the back of the legs and around the udder and teats. It will get ruined during birthing process anyway. Make sure the teats are easy to find for those little ones.
One of the best indicators of impending labor is “calling”. Your doe will walk around looking like she is in a panic, searching for something. She will call out over and over again. Sometimes it’s a very soft call, sometimes a gentle talking to her belly and sometimes a really loud yelling. She is calling to her baby which hasn’t been born yet. At this stage, she should be kidding fairly soon and should be put in a kidding pen.
If your doe has been calling, it will get more frantic and the calls could end with a prolonged grunting noise. A water bubble will often be visible and will usually break. She will get up, lie down, squat, get up, pee, lie down and so on; so many times it will make you crazy.
When we hear the sounds of labor beginning over our baby monitor, off we go to the barn. If you have a close relationship with your doe, she may not want to have her kids without you being around! They can hold back their labor for quite some time.
Once you see that the goat is actually in labor, you will want to put down clean hay in her area and get your gloves ready. DO NOT put your fingers or hands inside the goat unless absolutely necessary! If it becomes evident that the doe needs some help, put some K-Y Jelly on your fingers and insert one finger, massage the orifice of the vulva gently from inside. This will usually relax and lubricate enough for the baby to slide out.
The kid’s position should be a nose between two little hoofs. This is, of course, the perfect position but it doesn’t always happen. Don’t be alarmed if you see a little tongue hanging out of the kid’s mouth! They sometimes are born this way, and it’s really quite cute!
After the kids are born, they need to be wiped down quickly. I usually bring the baby around to the front of mom and wipe along with her licking. We work together to keep baby warm and get it dried off. If there is more than one kid, make sure both or all of the babies are kept in front of the doe. You certainly don’t want her to reject any babies.
Be aware that sometimes the kids are bright yellow when they are born. This will be more evident in the Angora’s. They look like little yellow chicks! This is normal. It usually happens when a baby is a day or two over due. The baby’s internal organs are beginning to function and the baby passes some of the meconium into amniotic fluid, thus coloring it and the baby with it.
Sometimes the goat’s teat will have a little waxy plug in the end of it, or over the orifice. This is more common in Angoras. This plug needs to be removed so the baby can nurse. By milking a small amount from each teat you will be assured that the teat is free from this plug. If nothing comes out, gently scrape the end of the teat with your finger nail. In stubborn cases, warm cloths will help. Some kids can nurse the plug right out, but others can’t so always make sure you have taken this step.
Once you are confident that kidding is complete, this is the point where your doe needs a reward. We fill a small bucket with warm water and molasses (1 gallon of water, ¼ to ½ cup of molasses. It gives the doe some extra energy, plus most of them love the taste. They are also very thirsty at this stage.
During the three or four days that the doe is in her kidding pen with her new kids, I give her extra grain. About 1 ½ times her regular ration along with some supplement.
Normally the afterbirth (placenta) usually will be delivered in an hour or two. (However, it can take up to 24 hours ) Try to watch for it. We dispose of it in empty grain bags unless the doe decides to eat it. I know this is gross, but there are all kinds of nutrients and vitamins in the placenta that is good for the doe and helps in her healing after birthing. There are also hormones that trigger milk production. Some will eat it and some most definitely will not.
One of the reasons to sequester your doe during labor and afterward is for her and her babies to bond. Very rarely, but it does happen, a doe will reject her kid. You will have to take the upper hand here. The mom will have to be held while someone else gets the babe on the teat. A 4X4 kidding pen is very adequate for even the biggest of goats.
We weigh the babies immediately after birth, and again when the babies are 24 hours old. This will assure you that they are nursing properly. We weigh very often during the first month, just to keep track of what kind of gain the kids of each mom has.
Mom will get a very yucky, crusty area on and around her tail. Once she is finished streaming (getting rid of what is left in her uterus) it gets all dried up and cakey. You can trim it off with some scissors. Some of it will pull off and parts will just brush off. It is best to clean her up especially in fly season!
Let’s address the kids and their poop. The first poop is a black tar like substance called meconium which hopefully, mom will clean up for you! Otherwise, it’s difficult to clean up. Warm water and a good butt soak will work nicely to soften and loosen up this gooey substance. I also use baby shampoo if necessary.
Once the meconium passes, the next bowel movements will be bright yellow, about the same color as yellow mustard. Mom will usually clean this up too, but if she doesn’t you will have to. If this yellow poop cakes over the anal opening, it will get hard and make it impossible for the little one to have a bowel movement. This will eventually cause death. Through the years, I have found this tends to be more of a problem with Angora’s. I think it’s more difficult for the mom to clean up all those little curls around the butt area.
Most of the time you can pull the cakey mess off, other times it will take a butt soak.
Want to learn more? Come to Goat School! Our spring class will be held Saturday, May 24th and Sunday, May 25th with a Goat Milk Soap and Goat Cheese Making Class on Monday, May 26th! Go to www.goatschool.com/id28.html for more information!