April showers bring May flowers and … the kick-off to kidding season. And we all know there’s nothing more rewarding than a cuddly baby goat.
But how will you know your doe is ready to kid?
In addition to behavioral changes induced by hormones, a few visuals signs offer clues. When the ligaments around the tail head will start relax and “sink,” they usually paw around in the bedding. At this point they might start leaking milk too.
These are all indications that delivery time is just around the corner.
Mother Nature is skilled at handling the process, but there are several steps you can take to make kidding season smoother on your farm.
Val Lavigne has 30 does preparing to deliver this spring on her family’s farm in Schaghticoke, New York. With the potential for twins and triplets, 30 to 65 kids may soon be arriving. As social as goats are, the does appreciate extra space in advance of delivering.
“We’ve learned over the years that trying to separate out the does that are close to kidding works well,” she said. “They like to have the privacy and extra attention that comes along with it.”
Create a space that is well ventilated and has enough room for adults and kids. Newborns require about 16 square feet and adults need a minimum of 20 to 25 square feet. Lavigne makes sure to use extra dry bedding in the spaces set aside for does ready to kid.
She also provides access to free choice loose minerals including salt, goat mineral and sodium bicarbonate.
Depending on timing and your location, you might need a heat lamp to help newborns keep warm. Installing a basic camera system can also give you a chance to check in on your goats without interrupting them. DIY security camera systems are widely available, making them cost effective and easy to set up.
There is a lot you can control before a kid arrives, but the timing of delivery is out of your control. Having the necessary supplies on hand and organized means you’ll be ready to respond whether it’s midnight or mid-day.
Lavigne recommends stocking up on these items:
- Tube feeder
- Kid start paste
- Selenium gel
- Towels for drying the kids
- Iodine for navels
- Pocket knife
- Powdered or frozen colostrum (in case the doe doesn’t have any to provide)
The Lead-up to Delivery
Good nutrition throughout the pregnancy (especially in the last few months) is the foundation for a healthy delivery process. Dairy goat owners should plan to stop milking a doe the last two months of pregnancy if she is still lactating.
Milk production requires extra energy, so stopping before kidding allows her to build up a reserve before kidding begins.
Sanitation is critical to keeping does and newborns healthy throughout the delivery process. Keeping stalls clean is part of the equation. Trimming around the tail and udder area about a week before a doe’s due date helps her stay cleaner during and after birthing. Some goats have hairy udders, so a trim clears the way for a nursing kid.
Trust Your Instincts
Most of the time, delivery and the first few hours after goes smoothly. But kidding season can be unpredictable, and there’s always the chance that a doe or her kid(s) will need extra help. Chances are if your instinct says something is wrong, there’s a chance that it is.
“The does might have extra stress, or they may be pushing with no feet showing,” Lavigne said. “If there is no kid born within the hour of a doe’s water breaking, there is a problem. You know your goats better than anyone. If they are acting differently they are trying to tell you something.”