Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Pregnant Does and Kidding Season

I took these pictures about a month ago and at the time thought the does all looked obviously pregnant, especially from behind and above. The brown doe looked like this last spring at kidding season, but her udder never filled up and she never kidded. She was huge though, just as she is this year, so we won't be certain she is expecting until her udder starts filling. Both the white doe and the black and tan are filling their udders already. The black and tan doe pictured in the last photo is Xoe. She is due any day now. Gestation for goats is 145-155 days. Xoe is on day 146. The last two years she has kidded on day 149, so my guess is that she will kid on Friday. She had two kids her first kidding and three for her second, so I'm guessing three kids again this year.

We have had nothing but trouble with Xoe's kidding, but I can't blame her completely so this is her year to come through for us. We bred her too young in our eagerness for milk. Her front legs started to buckle under the pressure of her pregnancy but I was able to wrap them for support. She was fine after she kidded. Except for the fact that she rejected both of her kids. We had to keep her kids separate from her and hold her so they could nurse. After a couple weeks she finally came around to them. Last spring we were attending Xoe's labor and it didn't seem to be progressing as it should. We finally went in and it was just a mess with all the kids tangled inside. After hours of struggling and pulling and turning we finally pulled the first guy out, then we had to pull the next kid out which was a doeling that never started breathing, and a very weak buckling who died that night. This was our first kidding of the season last year. Needless to say my anticipation dimmed and was replaced with caution and dread. After such a traumatic kidding, Xoe rejected her kids a second time and again we had to hold her for the first several days so her son could nurse.

Xoe is easy to work with and has a great disposition. I would like to keep her in the herd. It was not her fault that her kids were tangled. For both of our sakes I'm hoping for a smooth kidding and a good relationship between dam and kids this year. In the world of dairy goats, it is common place to separate the kids from their dams at birth and raise the kids by bottle with pasteurized milk as a method of preventing the disease CAE. We took great lengths to start our herd with CAE negative goats. For a dam to reject her kids when we are trying so hard to have dam raised kids, is.....ironic. In our experience the does udders fill out completely to the point of a shiny tightness, painful to see. The other sign which I am just starting to get a grasp on is feeling for their ligaments which when they disappear means that kidding is hours away. Xoe's udder is not filled out completely and I can still feel her ligaments, which means I should have a couple days, but I'm still keeping a close eye on her.

I have been debating on whether to pen her up on her own or not. The three pregnant does are on their own. They have been sleeping outside the barn in a covered area near the feeders. I want her to be comfortable and to be able to come and go as she likes. In my experience when a doe is in labor and in obvious pain, the other does want nothing to do with her. However I would worry that if the kids were on the ground the other does then may want to check them out and they aren't gentle with other does kids. We are checking on the does at bed time and again in the morning and throughout the day. We have a security camera set up and wired to our TV so we can keep an eye on them inside. As Xoe gets closer I may put her in a stall, or more likely, I'll just turn on the TV every couple hours.

I try and get the does out for walks a couple times a week. Lately the trails have been treacherous, slippery as can be. I've been hesitant to let three awkwardly pregnant does out on the icy road for fear they'd slip. But I got them out today and as I watched them trudge along I was reminded, that they are goats, sure footed even during their final days of pregnancy.

Rose and Xan, white and brown doe, are due in a couple weeks. We won't know until everyone kids who we'll be keeping, if anyone, and who we will be selling.

As far as advice to anyone entering their first kidding season, I would say BE THERE, no matter what. Our first kidding season we had four does kid, one of those does had her son come head out and get stuck there. We were present we just were not experienced and had trouble getting him out, finally the vet came through and pulled him out. If we hadn't been there Xanadu would have died. Last year Xoe would certainly have died if we hadn't been there. That is two of our four senior does in the space of two years would have died in labor if we hadn't been there to assist. These complications were not caused by feeding practices, but I believe that goat breeders have focused on looks and milk production and not hardy goats that kid easily. I don't know enough about goats in history to know how much better their kidding rates would have been. But I do know that by assisting births and continuing to breed does that consistently have complications in labor, that we continue the cycle. I for one admit that when I purchased my does I was shopping for looks, quality genetics, good looking udders, high milk production, high butterfat levels. It never occurred to me to ask how their dams did in kidding and how often they had complications or needed assistance. It is now my responsibility to be there for my does.

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