When your goat is due with kids it’s your job to make sure she is as healthy as can be and that the kidding goes as smoothly as possible. I’ve only attended three goat births, so I am a complete newbie at goat midwifery, but I like to share what I’m learning as a good starting point to learn more.
Basic Goat Care
Some other good resources for all things goat are Home Dairy Goats Yahoo Group, Dairy Goat Info, and The Goat Spot. There’s lots of good information to sift through and you can ask questions of the experienced goat people on the forums.
By far my favorite resource so far has been the webinars from the University of Maryland Small Ruminant Extension.
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Goat Pregnancy Care
After your goats are bred, don’t worm until later in the pregnancy. Two months before they are due, dry off them off and give them a break from milking. This is also a good time to give them a hoof trim before the belly becomes bulky. At this point you should start increasing her grain slowly as well, to provide for those growing babies.
Four weeks before her due date the doe will need at CDT vaccination to protect the newborn kids from tetanus, and if you live in a selenium deficient area, she will also need dose of selenium.
About two weeks before she is due make sure you have all your birthing kit ready to go, a birthing stall set up, and that you know what to do in the case of an emergency during kidding. If you have a vet or a goat keeping friend it’s a good idea to get their numbers easily accessible. You may also want to deworm again.
One week beforehand you may want to give your goat a hair cut around the back end. I’ve skipped it before, but then they tend to be messy for a few weeks after the birth, so next time I’ll just give them a quick shave with the electric hair clippers instead. Start watching the goat for signs of labor, and check on her frequently or move her into a kidding stall at night. My goats were right outside my bedroom window, so keeping an eye on them was easy-peasy.
Goat Birthing Kit
Before the babies arrive, make sure you have some supplies ready. Here is a list of what I like to keep on hand.
Some of these supplies you may not ever use, but you wouldn’t want to get caught without! Others are things I used for all my goats’ kiddings.
- Empty feed bags for birthing on with easy cleanup
- Old cloth diapers and towels
- Garbage bags
- Chucks pads for wet slippery babies to stand up
- Scissors to cut the cords
- Dental floss to tie the cords
- Vaseline just in case you need to turn a baby
- Bottle and nipple
- Iodine to treat the cord
- Heat lamp if the babies get chilled
- Bulb syringe to clear airways
- Feeding tube and syringe just in case you have a kid too weak to eat
I enjoy being able to be present for the kidding. The experienced mama’s sometimes were cleaning her babies off by the time I made it out. I make it a point to be there for their first kiddings though. At my very first kidding, I was surprised when the goat started licking everything in sight. Her instincts kicked in to clean the baby and they were strong!
It’s a good idea to be there when the goats kid just in case they get into trouble. Once my goat Aurora had a bit of a hard time. She didn’t understand what was happening, and one of the baby’s legs was tucked backwards. I was able to pull the hoof to the front and it made her job a lot easier and quicker. Sometimes bigger intervention is needed. It’s a good idea to know what to do BEFORE you end up with an urgent situation. There are links below where you can go to learn more in depth about potential issues.
You can tell goats are in labor because they bleat and yawn, which they do when they are uncomfortable. When you think your goat is in active labor, start keeping an eye on the time. If it goes too long that’s a sign of a problem. One of the first things you will see is the amniotic sac, which looks like a big bubble. Two little white hooves come next, and then the head. Birthing the head is the most difficult part, and the rest of the body will slide out after it. When the baby is born, wipe the goop and mess away from its nose and mouth. Now that it can breathe, put it in front of the mother. She should instinctively start licking and cleaning it and this is very important for bonding.
After Birth Care
At this point I like to give the mothers a little warm molasses water, as they seem rather exhausted. It seems to help them perk up and get ready to deliver the second kid. After the kids are delivered, stay until they are nursing. Once, I had a goat that had NO CLUE what the babies were supposed to do. My husband and I had to hold her still because she kept kicking the babies away. She finally got the idea and her babies soon became little tanks!
You will also need to put iodine on the umbilical cords and possibly cut them shorter if they are too long. There are no nerves in them, so you won’t hurt the baby, but it’s a good idea to tie some dental floss around the cord so it doesn’t bleed when you cut it.
I suppose goats have been cleaning up the afterbirth and mess by themselves for a long time throughout history, but in our small property, I take care of this for them. Depending on how messy the doe is I might carefully wipe her down with some warm water as well.
Please take the time to look through the sources below! There is more detailed information from those who have assisted goat kiddings many times before.
What are your favorite pregnancy care and kidding resources?
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