Goat kidding season lessons you need to know (part 3)

I have been fortunate to have very few major problems with my goats. I try very hard to be diligent about timing my kiddings and keeping my kids healthy. Your does need special care also since they are giving so much of themselves to their kids.

You should get to know your goats, watching and observing their habits closely. When your goats are not feeling well, they will show it in their behavior and sometimes very subtly.  My first year, 2 days after my Saanen had twins, she did not come running for her grain and did not act like herself. Knowing her habits, this was a sign that something was very wrong. I called the vet right away and found out she had hypocalcemia. I had never even heard of this very serious condition which can cause death quickly. Thankfully she was treated right away and made a quick recovery.

Hypocalcemia and treatments

Hypocalcemia is also referred to as “toxemia” in gestating does and  “milk fever” in lactating does. Both conditions are a result of low blood calcium. The doe may be getting the proper amount of calcium in her feed but the requirements for calcium and phosphorous go way up when she kids and starts lactating. Heavy producing does like my Saanens are especially at risk of low blood calcium because they can go from no milk to 8-10 lbs. of milk per day.

My Saanen doe in her last 3 weeks of gestation. She is a very heavy producer.

Symptoms of Hypocalcemia are loss of appetite, lethargy, and weakness. If the doe is down and cannot get up, the doe is in serious danger and you should call your veterinarian immediately. The vet will probably take a blood sample to confirm a calcium deficiency, then will administer calcium directly into her blood stream. This is a very dangerous procedure that you should not try yourself.

After my doe came down with milk fever, I started researching what exactly it was and how to treat it. I found a lot of conflicting information that dealt with goat nutrition. Many people don’t believe that dry does should get alfalfa hay or any grain. I usually only give grain to my lactating does and then also my does in the last stages of gestation (last 30 days or so). I do however always give alfalfa hay to all my goats. The first year that I had goats, my hay was not very good quality and did not contain very much alfalfa. This was the year that I believe my goats were not in the best condition and also the year that my best doe came down with milk fever. Since this time, I have always fed the best quality hay that I can find.

Newborn goat kids

Always keep a good loose mineral mix out for your goats. Supplement your does in late lactation with extra calcium: good alfalfa hay, human calcium tablets or tums with their grain. One of the treatments is calcium gluconate which can be found at most farm stores. If a doe shows early signs of milk fever, multiple injections can be given of calcium gluconate. It can also be beneficial orally so I will usually squirt some of this solution on their grain the last 2 weeks of their gestation. As soon as the doe kids, give her a warm molasses drink and offer grain with NutriDrench on it.

The best advice that I have found is from Molly at Fiasco Farm. This is where I learned about the treatment and prevention that I have been using for the last 5 years. My favorite time of year is kidding season and I learn something new each year.  I hope that you will have as good of experiences as I have with your goats.

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