If you have been on this blog for more than one article, you know how much we love our goats. Seriously, it’s ridiculous. But you may not have heard about the good, bad and ugly that is kidding season. If you have never owned livestock or even had a family pet give birth, you are absolutely not prepared for what is going to happen when your animal gives birth. Even after getting a birth or two under your belt, you’re probably STILL not prepared. And if you’ve got goats? Well, nothing will go as planned during kidding season.
Before we get too far into this, I have a great course on the basics of goat care. I call it Goat Crash Course: Goat 101. In this course, I explain things like types of shelter, types of feeds and hays, basic assessments and so much more! Check it out!
Let’s Start Before Labor
If you know your goat is pregnant, or at least your pretty positive, there are somethings you should do prior to her giving birth. If you don’t have these things on hand, I highly recommend you go and get them quickly. You can buy all of this on amazon, or you can get it at your local feed store or Tractor Supply. All the links here will be for TSC because most everyone has one around somewhere.
- Selenium– If you live in a selenium depleted area, which is almost the entire US, your brand new goat kid is probably deficient. However, if you have been supplementing with high quality minerals, this shouldn’t be a huge problem. We use these minerals and when kids are born, give them the selenium gel that is linked. The selenium will help boost the development of their muscles, brain and more.
- Chlorohexidine or Iodine– So there is some debate about dipping umbilical cords. I am not here to set the record straight or to tell you what to do or buy. I am here to tell you what we do and why. Here’s the thing. In 2007 the DEA said no more to 7% iodine. I don’t know why, nor do I care. What I do know is that unless you have a source, you are not getting the 7% which is what is the best for dipping umbilical cords. You can read all about it here or do your own research (which I highly recommend). But the jist is this: trim the cord to about 2-3 inches so that it does not touch the ground and introduce bacteria and other nasties to your goat kid. Then dip the cord in either of the products I listed. Keep an eye on your kid and make sure that they are nursing and definitely got that colostrum.
- Tums or CMPK– If labor has stalled or if your doe has milk fever, they need calcium. CMPK is what you should have on hand. But good luck finding it. Honestly, we start giving about 3-4 Tums, in the days leading up to labor and then continue to give them for a couple of days after. This to help keeps their calcium up. You do not have to by any means, but it is good to have on hand.
- Ketone test strips- These can be found at your local pharmacy in the diabetic aisle. These will help you determine if you need to start treating for pregnancy toxemia. In order to keep it from happening in the first place, make sure you are feeding plenty of good quality hay and forage. If your doe is acting lethargic or otherwise off, try giving her a little molasse water and try to test her urine.
- Lastly- Puppy pads, towels, exam gloves and lube. That’s really it.
I would also recommend watching as many videos on goat labor as possible.
It’s Kidding Season!
Now, I’m pretty bougie with my goats. Unless my girls drop kids without me knowing (here’s looking at you, Bailey and Oakley), it’s a big production on my farm. I have a cheap 5 gallon bucket that has my iodine dip, towels, scissors, puppy pads, selenium and snacks for me. I will also make up some molasses water and bring them grain.
At night, our does get put in the smaller area of our barn to make sure that they have privacy from the other goats. We also have an outdoor camera in there to check in on them without disturbing them. During the day, they have free reign over the two pastures.
When it’s time for them to labor, I try to get them into the barn. I won’t force the subject, but I do prefer to have them in a protected area. Also, I will usually just hang back and watch. I get my gloves and lube ready so if I need to go in I’m not fumbling around. Then we wait.
The best thing you can do is not panic. I know it’s easier said than done, but seriously, don’t panic. Goats have been having kids for thousands of years. The chances that they or you are going to have a traumatic birth is slim. Unless you have a Bella, then all bets are off.
Once you have decided that you are not panicking, lay your towels down and get ready. Some goats want all of your attention while in labor. Others don’t want you anywhere near them. Both are fine. I have had extremely friendly goats completely freak out on me and I’ve had total terrors turn into lovebugs during labor. The biggest thing is to keep calm and keep them calm. If that means you watch from a distance or stay snuggled in, do it.
Be On Standby
A solid 90% of goats do not require any assistance during labor. That means that you are simply on standby until you are needed. They will start pushing and grunting. If you can, look at their vulva and make sure they are making progress. They should have their kid within about 30 minutes of pushing. If not, start getting prepared to go in. You may have a stuck kid.
If after 30 minutes of pushing, she has still not produced anything. Glove up and lube up, you’re going in. What you are checking for is that you have two hooves and a nose in the birth canal. If you don’t see or feel that, you need to get in there and find it. Out of the 10% of those times that you will need to assist, it’s usually either a big kid or the head is stuck back. You need to get your hand, and maybe arm in there and pull the head forward.
Remember to stay calm. When Champ went into labor, her first and last kids where stuck. I was able to get the first one out. Then Stella came. But the 3rd one was really stuck. I ended up phoning a friend to just talk to me and keep me calm. Unfortunately, Stella is the only kid that made it. That should not be the case with your stuck kids, but it does happen.
You can read about Champ’s labor here and the resulting cuteness that is Stella.
The Kid Is Out, What Now?
The absolute first thing you do is move them out of the way IF mom is still pushing. Be careful of the umbilical cord. It will disconnect on it’s own after a few seconds of pushing. But YOU do not want to rip it.
If the kid is not breathing well, lift the kid up by their back legs and let them dangle. Gently swing them from side to side to help get any fluid that is still in their lungs, mouth and nose out.
If mom is a little busy or not immediately cleaning the kid, go ahead and start drying off the baby with a towel. With Champ, she had zero interest in her babies. I think part of it was that once she went into labor, everything was quick but she was also tired and her body condition wasn’t great.
After the kid is cleaned up, check the umbilical cord. If it has broken, make sure it is not profusely bleeding. A drop or two is fine, we are worried about massive bleeding here. Think about it this way. They are tiny, so they don’t have a ton of blood. If that blood is coming out, they don’t have much to circulate through their body. If the cord is still bleeding, pinch the cord with your fingers as hard as you can. We want to try and control the bleeding. Again, this is extremely rare and should not be a problem. Once it has stopped, you can let go and see if it start bleeding again. You can also tie off the cord with dental floss.
Dip the cord with the solution listed in your buy list above.
Bonus Tip: Sometimes, momma will not allow that solution to stay on. That is okay. Don’t panic. Bella will lick and bite off the cord if I do ANYTHING to it. Since she takes such good care of her babies, I’m not worried about it. To be honest, I don’t really dip anymore. I trim the cord to about 1-3inches and make sure they are in a clean and dry area. BUT you need to make that decision for yourself.
If mama is still pushing, let her do her thing. You can “bump” her to see if you feel another kid in there. Bumping is putting your arms under her, right in front of her udders, and pulling up sharply. You are checking to see if you feel anything hard. If so, she’s got another baby. If not, she’s passing the placenta next. It’s time to nurse if she only has one. Get her up and see if you can get the baby to nurse.
To do this, get mama up and place the baby with it’s head towards the udders. This may take a time or two to make sure that it latches but try. If the baby or mama refuses, try again in a few minutes. Rinse and repeat. Kids need that colostrum within the first hour or two.
After the kid has nursed, I will usually get a weight on it. This helps to make sure that they are gaining weight in the coming days. If the kid is not gaining, you may have to pull the kid and start bottle feeding it.
I hope this has helped you prepare for your goat to go into labor. It can be daunting and scary. But don’t let that stop you. It is awesome to see the birth and the maternal instinct of these creatures. Plus it is heart melting to hear those first cries and mama perk up.