Monday, February 28, 2011

Kidding Preparations and Assistance

We've got about a week until our first doe is due. The gestation period for dairy goats is around 150 days. Our goats tend to kid around day 146-147. A local goat owner shared with me that his goats tend to have the same length of gestation each year. I've found this to be a valuable bit of information, as it has often been remarkably true. I've been giving the does extra flax seed, kelp powder, dried raspberry, nettle and dandelion greens, in the hopes that these extras will provide all the vitamins, minerals and fatty acids their bodies need for growing healthy kids. I'm still feeding COB, BOSS, alfalfa pellets, along with a handful of wheat berry, oats or barley sprouts, as a way of slowly introducing sprouts into their diet.

This week I will be setting up our goat camera, so that we can watch the goats whether inside or outside their shelter. Last year we had two locations for the camera and we'd move it back and forth depending on who we were watching and whether they were more comfortable in a stall on their own or out with the herd. I will also be clipping udders and around the backside of the does, so that they are easier to clean up after kidding, and so the teats are easier for kids to find, and easier to milk without pulling hairs.

My kidding bucket is ready with latex gloves and "goop powder" a lubricant that you add to water for lubing up when you have to go in to pull kids out or investigate. I've also got some iodine and plastic cups for dipping umbilical cords.  Other supplies include paper towels for wiping the kids off when they first come out, grubby cloth towels for drying them off, and molasses for making the doe a yummy electrolyte rich water for after kidding. We leave the placenta for the does to eat if they want it. Otherwise it gets buried in the hay and ends up in the garden and compost pile.

Our farm apprentice/ close friend/ newest family member: Becca, is on call for kidding season. With the exception of the last couple months, Becca has been working with the goats, milking and helping with other chores since last kidding season. Hopefully she'll get to see some goat births this season, as last year the goats didn't know her well enough to feel comfortable around her while in labor. A goat's labor will stall if there is too much commotion or strangers present - I can say from experience.

Our first kidding season, the vets advice was: don't try to help or interfere, they rarely need assistance, most likely you'll wake up in the morning and there will be kids on the ground all dried off and nursing already.

Well, it was a good thing that I had prepared by reading Molly's kidding section over and over again. My kidding bucket was ready, my nails trimmed, various kidding presentations studied. Our second doe who kidded rejected her twins, who we had to put in a kennel and it took two people to hold her and help the kids nurse, as she was bent on pummeling her kids into the ground. After a few days she came around and decided to be a mom. Our third doe due, Xanadu, had one large buckling who came out head first and then remained there for several hours, with just his head sticking out. My husband, my mother-in-law, and myself all tried reaching in to pull the little guy out and none of us were successful. It was three in the morning. I was in tears. I thought Xan was surely going to die. I thought I'd killed the kid by pulling too hard as I'd felt his neck give a pop. I was calling and waking up all the vets in town, to no avail. Finally Tamara Rose answered her phone on the third try. She was stranded due to car issues, so my husband drove out to pick her up.

This is what happened: In a couple minutes within entering the stall, Tamara pulled on her gloves, mixed the lubricant with water, slimed her hand, thrust her hand in on one side of the bucklings head, then to the other side and back again. Then she reached in further, hooked her hand behind his leg and pulled it forward till his hoof was forward, then did his left leg. Then she grabbed both legs with her right hand and yanked him out with one big jerk. It was over before I'd remembered to take a breath. I couldn't believe how rough she had been. I felt silly at how timid and cautious I'd been. She continued to give both dam and buckling some shots, anti-inflammatory, antibiotics. The bucklings neck was so swollen I had to feed him with a drenching syringe for the first couple days, he could hardly even swallow at first. I learned so much this first kidding incident, the most important being, to keep lubricant on hand as it makes a big difference, and to be more assertive and forceful if needed.You can only prepare by reading so much. Nothing can compare to hands on experience.

Since our first kidding season, I have had to "go in" several times. The easiest scenario is when the head is first and I just have to pull the legs forward. The scenario that I am most intimidated by, is when their are multiple kids and they are tangled up. Another important lesson I learned our second kidding season, is that if you have to go in and the first kid is tangled, you go right back in for the second kid. Do not wait for the second kid to come out on it's own, as it has already been in the birth canal for too long and needs to get out.

Once the kids come out, we dry them of and help the kids find their dams teats. We make sure that the kids all get several good sucks before we leave them alone with their dam. We return two to four hours later to help the kids nurse again. Usually after this the kids have the strength to find the teat and nurse on their own. Rose had three bucklings, two of which looked a lot alike initially. So, in the confusion of D and I both helping different bucklings nurse, I believe one black and white buckling nursed much more than the other. The following day one of the bucklings seemed weak and was still having a hard time finding the teat and latching on. I think that we got the kids mixed up, and this one didn't get enough nursing early on as his stronger brothers did. The weak kid took several days to catch up to his brothers and I even ended up drenching him with a syringe as he was so weak he wasn't even trying to nurse.

I cannot disagree more when I hear people say that they just leave it up to the doe to deliver her kids and care for them on her own. So again this is my most important to do list:

  1. Make sure you know when your doe is due and be prepared with lubricant, gloves and knowledge.
  2. Keep a close eye on your doe and clear your schedule so you are there when she is in labor.
  3. Once the doe is laboring hard and beginning to push, check your watch, she should have kids out in an hour, otherwise lube up and prepare to investigate. Determining whether to go in is the most challenging part for me. I tend to error on the side of going in early, as I've lost kids from not going in soon enough.
  4. If you see a nose before a hoof, lube up and go in, it is way easier to get your hand in before the head is all the way out. Sometimes a kid can still come out head first, but I don't wait around to find out.
  5. If you have to go in once be prepared to go back in. If labor hasn't stalled and the first kid is strong, wait a bit, but if the labor has stalled and you are overdue for going in and things are not progressing, don't wait, go right back in and check for another kid, and another just in case. 
  6. Dry kids off, let mom help clean them.
  7. Make sure kids get several good sucks before leaving. 
  8. Make sure that you see kids nurse every few hours the first day or two, when in doubt, help them out just to make sure. 
They say to dip umbilical cords in iodine to prevent infection. I don't feel strongly about this as I don't always do it and have never had any issues, but I do keep an eye out for redness and swelling. Also, we give the doe fresh hay, a little grain and some molasses water after she is done kidding. Make sure she is bonding with them, she should be licking them - not ignoring them.

I highly recommend Molly's Fiasco Farm site, for new or preparing to be new, goat owners. Her kidding section is great, including detailed kidding photos, prenatal care, various kidding presentations etc.

And so the countdown begins. I bought our first half a gallon of store bought cow milk last week. I am so looking forward to having fresh milk. The break has been good for us.  I realize how heavily we depend on fresh milk for hot cereal, baking, yogurt, chevre, buttermilk and other cheese projects. I feel good about my kids drinking raw goat milk. I don't feel that pasteurized, homogenized, ultra processed cow milk is a healthy food for us. And thus why we are raising dairy goats! I can't wait to share this seasons kidding stories with you!


Jewel said...

I am learning so much by reading your posts, thanks for all the information. I'm looking forward to your kids being born, and seeing them all. A question, do you have LaMancha's because other goats ears would freeze in your cold weather, just curious why you chose your breed?

Emily said...

Jewel, although I had heard that Lamanchas might be hardier, or at least you didn't have to worry about their ears freezing, that was just an extra bonus. I don't think that ears freezing would be a problem as long as they have access to indoor insulated shelter. I've been meaning to do a post on why I chose Lamanchas. The main reason is I'd heard they have great personalities, good milk. I like full size goats and I like that they come in all colors. That is it in a nutshell. Emily

Anonymous said...

Do you give your goats selenium injections? Molly looks like she does based on her site...

Emily said...

Yes, I do give a selenium supplement, but I give the paste orally. Supposedly we some areas in the interior test low for selenium, but not all. So whether it is necessary is unclear, but for about twenty dollars a season I can give all the pregnant does a few doses of selenium just to be safe.

Unknown said...

Emily, you are so very correct about not just leaving the does to do their business on their own! The first kidding at our place was great - checked on the doe at 2 pm, all's well, not much happening. Went out about 45 minutes later, there's a big buckling laying in the straw, all cleaned off! Checked doe, no more babies. Buckling nursed well, everyone happy! Next afternoon, another doe goes into labor. First baby pops out, nose over toes, beautiful! (this according to my 11- and 17-year-old kids, who were home alone) Baby number two came out about five minutes later, rear feet and butt first. Son gave a tug, and out he slid. Okay, still going well. Now doe's getting up, pawing, obviously not done. Kids call me at work - get home! It takes me nearly an hour. No other kids born. I lubed up to check - feel a spine across the birth canal. Uh-oh. Had to go in past my elbow to turn the remaining kid and pull her out. Took about 20 minutes, and I was amazed she was alive! Doe and all three kids recovered just great, but if I hadn't been there to go in after #3, probably all would have died. Lesson learned!

karmadillo said...

Thanks for the great blog post! I am the author of Goat Health Care and Raising Goats for Dummies,so I am always learning. Have been helping my does since 1998 and it's always something new. In the only Cesarean done on my goats, I had a kid born 4 hours after his naturally birthed brother and he did fine, too. You can read some of my birth stories at

Emily said...

karmadillo, I'll be checking out your birth stories- thanks, Emily