One of the greatest joys of raising animals is to watch new life come into the world. I don’t want to ruin the magical moment by being stressed out, but want to enjoy it. Although I know that it’s almost impossible to be “stress-free”, kidding can be rewarding and less anxious with just a few steps. Read on to get my tips!
Know your Goats
It may seem simple, but get to know your goats. Spend time with them during all times of the day. Find out how they act, how and what they eat, how they sleep. This may sound too simple, but it is very important. Goats do not always act sick until its too late. If you know your herd well, you can notice little things that are “off” and be alerted to a potential problem. If I hadn’t noticed that my herd queen was not her usual bully self a few years ago, I might not have caught her milk fever in time. Some does are very subtle about their kidding and the clues are barely noticeable, while others will be very dramatic about the whole birthing process.
If you are new to goats, you may want to steer clear of pregnant does. There are so many details about her that you don’t know. Even if you do buy a doe that is open (not bred) and she comes from a farm that has a buck on site, always be on the lookout for signs of gestation or labor. Gates and fences do not always hold goats when a doe is in heat!
When it comes to breeding, I always advise that you plan them. Anything can happen, but it is always best to plan when kids will arrive. I have another post that is about how and why I plan my breedings. Knowing a date, or approx date of breeding will get you another step ready for the big day.
Gather your gear
Always have a kidding kit ready! About a month in advance, I get my basket ready for kids to arrive. I usually always have these items on hand and assemble it when the time comes. The items that I pack are:
- Puppy pads – essential for “catching the babies” and cleaning them up.
- Paper towels
- Scissors to cut the umbilical cord (if necessary)
- Iodine/Betadine for the umbilical cord. Having this in a small container for dipping works best.
- Garbage bags to contain the mess of puppy pads and towels
- Flashlight (even if it’s not night time)
- Disposable gloves
Another item that I have found essential is a wireless security camera. I have used one for 2 years and it has saved me so much anxiety and sleepless nights! Webcams don’t have to be expensive, so look for one like this one on Amazon, and have it mount it in your barn. An app is downloaded on my phone that allows me to watch what is going on. I can set my alarm to wake up every 2 hours and just look at my phone instead of walking out to the barn. It’s also lots of fun to watch the goats to see what they do when I’m not there! If you don’t have good wireless signal in your barn, consider getting a range extender. I have also been told that a simple baby monitor is helpful , although I have not personally used one.
Research and don’t panic!
I know that saying don’t panic is easy to do when I am not waiting and watching your goat in labor! Doing research about what to expect will help to get you ready. Every doe is different and every birthing is different, even from the same doe different years. Most does do not need assistance, and if we panic and try to help when it’s not needed, we make things worse. The best thing you can offer her is patience and understanding.
When researching, make sure to study birthing positions. Here is a handy chart from Goat Vet Corner on Facebook that shows possible kidding positions. I recommend you join the Goat Vet Corner to learn everything you can. Also learn all the possible signs of kidding that can show in a doe.
About a week before I am expecting kids, I separate the doe into her own clean pen. I watch her every few hours in person or on my webcam. When labor is starting, usually the doe will be very restless: sitting down, standing up, pawing at the ground. It’s at this point that I go to the barn with my kit and sit with her. I have found that usually a kid will be born within 2 hours of the first signs. That is why I check my webcam every two hours in the middle of the night.
Sit back and enjoy the process
Once the contractions start coming harder, a large bubble will appear. I always stay with the doe and encourage her during this time. As she is pushing and the kid emerges, I have my puppy pads ready to catch the babies. Sometimes the doe will stand, most often they will be laying down when the final push happens. The kid will land on the puppy pad, then I will take another puppy pad and run it down the length of the kid starting with the nose/mouth area. This removes a significant amount of goo (technical term) and helps them breathe. I will then slide the kid on the puppy pad around to mom so she can start cleaning. This is also a great time to check gender and marvel in the new life that you just watch being born.
I wouldn’t dream of not being present during one of my doe’s labor, offering encouragement and praise. I want to be the first human they set their eyes on. It’s important to not get stressed or try to hurry her, but just offer encouragement. Goats have been having babies for a lot of years all by themselves, they probably don’t need our intervention.
Your doe will do most of the hard part at this point, so give her some warm molasses water to enjoy. It’s now time to help her new babies get up and start nursing. They need colostrum as soon as possible and if you are the one showing them what to do, they will love you forever!