As promised here is an update on our kidding season so far this year!
Photo by Kala Godard of Vanessa McKinnon at her Private Goat Snuggling Session
It is my hope to use this as an educational resource. I'll discuss each doe and how their kidding went and any hiccups that occurred along the way. Much can be learned from when thinks don't quite go as planned. I will never claim to know it all because assisting in the birth of goats is always changing, kids can end up too large, tangled up, in the wrong position or mom can just be too tired to get through labor. Breeding can be incredibly rewarding or completely heartbreaking at times. Each year I learn another trick to help with helping a doe in labor, so I add it to my toolbox for another day.
First I'd like to start by explaining our "plan" for kidding, this plan is extremely flexible because it's always a surprise. Does that are freshening for the 5th time might have just as much difficulty as a first freshener, you simply never know what your going to get!
To start with every kidding we prepare the same way, hot towels out of the dryer, heat lamps turned on once we join the doe in the stall and our supplies laid out. Our kidding starts in January/February so we must take the weather into consideration for our supplies.
Photo by Kala Godard of Four Hearts Farm Kidding Stalls and Nursery
Our Supply List:
Soapy hot water - Clean hands prior to assisting and must do before doing an internal exam
Gloves - hand sized or up to the shoulder size, whatever you prefer, I use hand sized
Warm towels fresh from the dryer - (If time allows, some does its over with a blink of an eye)
Stainless Steel Bandage Scissors - to cut the cord if necessary, Boil and Sanitize after use
Thermometer or 3 - Always have a thermometer near by, we have about 7 animal thermometers all over our barns so that one is nearby at all time. Normal temp for a goat is 102-103F. Kids should not nurse or be bottle fed if they are cold. They will be unable to digest. We will discuss warming a little later!
Pee Pads, lots of them - They are great for the initial "slime" that kids are coated in.
Bulb Suction - Just like humans, Suction, Dry Stimulate after birth. I really want my kids dried of quickly due to the cold, often freezing temperatures.
Hot water with Molasses - made immediately available to moms after kidding for energy and hydration. Most our moms will drink at least have a bucket as soon as its offered.
Nutridrench - To give a little boost after kidding when necessary
3cc Syringe - I use this for kids that are taking a little longer to get their sea legs, I give them a couple cc's of Colostrum while we work to get them nursing. Especially with triplets or more, they tend to be a little smaller. It also fits nicely into the end of a pritchard nipple.
Bottle with Pritchard Nipple - It is nice to have available if mom rejects a kid immediately or at disbudding (3-7 days after birth). Many breeders I have met do this to make ensure they have a good latch and are at least exposed to the bottle even if dam raising.
Tube Feeding Kit - Large syringe with a flexible tubing. If you have never used it, please get a demonstration from your vet or a valued mentor. Kids that are too weak to nurse desperately need the colostrum by whatever means necessary.
Preparation H - Some does have very traumatic births, this will help with swelling of the vulva and the pain associated with it.
Heat Lamps - We do not recommend heat lamps 24-7, we personally turn them on at the start of active labor to keep mom warm and comfortable. We leave them on until babies are completely dry. Typically this is about 6 hours. We stay in the area the lamps are on until we shut them off. We have smoke detectors, CO detectors and cameras that alert to the noise of a smoke detector in our nursery at all times. This allows us to come inside, warm up or use the bathroom ourselves. Please do not leave heat lamps unattended! Hay, shavings and wood stalls go up like kindling with just one spark.
Selenium and E Paste - All our does are treated with BOSE before breeding, and 30 days prior to kidding. Maine is deficient in Selenium and Vitamin E. I do not automatically give every kid the paste, but if a kid is exhibiting signs of deficiency such as poor muscle control, bowed legs or ligaments appearing too loose, I will give it to them on day 2 or 3. Due to the dams hormones some kids exhibit these signs, if they persist or don't show consistent improvement you should consider treating, especially if the dam has not received BOSE recently.
We have a portable med kit ready to go outside if we need it.
Here are a few reference images that I found insightful:
Now we are ready for kidding to commence! We breed in hand, which means when a doe comes into heat, we bring her and the buck out either on leashes or into a small pen. I like for them to do the deed three times. Then they return to their buddies and hoot and hollar at each other for the rest of the day! If they still appear ready the next day we do it all over again. Some of our does I can look at for a second and know that they are ready to be bred, others conceal it way to well and we have to keep a very close eye on them to tell.
Gestation for our goats is typically between 145-150, we have had some go on day 143 and some on day 155. Our rule of thumb is we bring them into the kidding pen on day 142 and they stay there till kids are rugged enough to mingle with the others. Starting on day 142 we assess each does' ligaments. It feels like 2 ropes on either side of their tail, connecting the very top of the tail that connects to their spine down to the back of their hip bones. Each goat has slightly different ligaments, feel all your goats when they are not pregnant, at all ages to become better at identifying the ligaments. They tend to start getting squishy at first them disappear entirely when labor is close by.
This year I made a couple of discoveries, when ligaments first seem to disappear, the tail is completely relaxed, it appears to have lost its tone. When early labor starts the tail stands up, but curves behind them, almost like a periscope on a submarine. With each contraction you will notice the tail flip strait up and look as if its being pulled to lay flat on the does back. In my experience I get an hour of very uncoordinated contractions, then they start to become organized about 3 minutes apart, once they are a minute and a half apart, its showtime!
I join the does at this time in the kidding stall, They start to find what position is comfortable, lots of up and down and back and forth. In a "textbook" kidding you would see a bubble and likely a hoof or two and a nose when mom starts pushing. If you don't see anything protruding after 5 minutes, or if mom appears out of sorts, Its time to glove up and with 2 fingers check to see if anything is in the birth canal. If you don't feel anything, there is likely a kid blocking the birth canal. If you feel something but it's not a nose or a hoof, you probably have a breech kid. It's time to slowly insert your hand and try to determine what is going on. Close your eyes and go slow. If its your first time, it can seem absolutely terrifying and like you need to move quick. Better results come from taking your time and have a calm environment. The doe is already stressed at this point, so slow and steady, find a landmark you can identify and picture the kid in your mind. Kids can be born breech but you need both rear legs out. Feel the tail, slide your fingers down one side past the hips, to the top of the leg, follow the joint till you feel a hoof, got it? Pull it out the birth canal, without pushing it back in, go in and do the same thing to the other side. Now that you have two rear feet, just help with a little traction with moms contractions. When labor doesn't seem to be going right, reach out to your vet, or a nearby experienced goat mentor early on, I've had my vet walk me through a dystocia before and she never had to come out. It's better to get help on the way earlier and cancel them than wait till the doe has been in distress for 30 minutes. I won't go into details about every position and what to do because there are just too many. Just remember a breech delivery needs 2 rear legs out first, a normal delivery needs the head and at least one front leg coming out together.
Now onto the tales of our kidding season so far this year! To date 5 does have kidded, resulting in 7 doelings and 6 bucklings this year!
Our kidding season kicked of February 22nd with my personal favorite, SG Creeping Thyme Farm Aphrodite 3*M blessing us with triplets! Even better she gave me two doelings and an outstanding buckling! I consider her my best doe for many reasons, her conformation, dairy capacity and outstanding personality that all of her offspring have always inherited! Aphrodite came to our farm shortly after my soul dog Ginger passed away at 15 years old from breast cancer. She filled a huge void and while she didn't take Gingers place, her personality was so similar and helped me cope with Gingers death. Aphrodite initially was an impulse purchase when I bought Athena from Marie Clement at Creeping Thyme farm prior to her retirement. Aphrodite just looked at me, perched atop her Dam Creeping Thyme Farm Black Betty 2*M. Enough bragging about her though, her kidding was unassisted and she did it effortlessly. Two were born head first the last was born breech all on her own!
Denbow Acres Farm Freya, kidded expeditiously with twin doelings. We sat with her for two hours know she was close then she laid down and rested like nothing was going to happen, I came inside, went to the bathroom, my husband checked the camera and one was already out and the other came out a second later. Freya is a fourth freshener this year and has anything from singles to triplets. She hates an audience, she never wants us to be there for the birth, just the clean up!
FeatherNScale Plain Jane 4*M, she had an odd labor, I was out watching her and she had contractions about every 2 minutes then they spaced out for a bit, then started back up a minute apart. She laid her head on my lap as if to tell me something wasnt quite right. Some goats just know we are there to help. So she started pushing but failed to progress after 3-4 minutes, I assessed and felt a tail in her birth canal, so gently I went in to find her rear legs. I was able to find both rear hooves at the same time, bend the kids legs enough to pull them out together and out came the first kid. She was very attentive to the first as we were cleaning off the slime and suctioning its mouth. Again she started pushing without much progression after a couple minutes, again another breech kid, repositioned and it came out easily. Third was born without any assistance, thank goodness! Janes a good mom, and her kids are wonderful, she kidded a doe and two bucklings.
Ole Humble Acres Bellona was next, She gave birth to twins, a doeling and buckling. She required a little pit of assistance as both were trying to come head first. I pushed the further back one out of the way and used a little traction with contractions to get the doeling out first, the buckling came out easy peasy afterwards!
Last but definitely the most interesting kidding so far was Hermoinie. She is our one unregistered doe, half alpine, half Nigerian. Shes always been an easy kidder, until this year! She started labor as usually and then her contractions became weak, The first she was ultimately able to birth with just a little traction, and then labor stalled, completely. No more contractions, no more wanting to push. I knew that she was pregnant with triplets from ultrasounding her at the beginning of her pregnancy, she also was literally the size of a house. So I went in and pulled the second that was transverse across her cervix. Hoping that was why she stalled out, but she continued to think she was done with labor, so I went in and retrieved the 3rd a giant buckling. All kids survived and are thriving, and I am so grateful for that. We had given her calcium at the start of labor to help, but I'm going to assume that since she is almost a gallon a day producer she was still slightly deficient in calcium due to the demand on her udder this year.
We are now integrating routine Calcium drench at the start of labor, and supplementing calcium through extra strength tums after kidding and for 5 days after. This is a common practice in dog breeding but this year has become a big topic for goat breeders.
Well there it is, we have another doe getting ready to kid around March 12th and a couple more the followin