As we work towards rebuilding our site in its new home, please bear with us. The "Lessons in Kidding" will be back up before kidding season commences in 2018 with perhaps a few more stories to add! Thanks for your understanding.
One of my favorite things about raising kids is bottle feeding them. Their little tails wiggle so fiercely and they look at you like nothing else in the world exists while slurping milk as fast as they can!
Many people ask me why not just let their moms feed them constantly? There are several reasons. If they are to be sold and you break the bond with their mothers sooner, the separation will be much easier on them. Second, that bond will be formed much stronger with humans. They are much easier to work with when they trust and get along with humans. Without bottle raising, they have a higher chance of being kind of “wild” and evasive. Last, if they are drinking from a bottle, you are controlling how much milk they receive and therefore, how much milk you can start saving for yourself or your family.
If you have ever tried to give a bottle to a creature who has no experience with it then you know how frustrating it can be. There are a few tricks that we use to ease the process for both the kid and you. Here’s how we do things here at Oats & Ivy Farm.
To begin, the kids will spend either 1 or 2 days with their mothers after being born in a private pen where mom can recover and the kids can have access to as much milk as they like 24/7. Too long away of the main pen and the rest of the does will gang up on the new mom. After this time, Mom goes back with her herd and the kids get three feedings with mom daily. 7:00am, 12:00pm and 5:00pm. This first day of separation is when the training begins. Each time the kids are picked up and carried over to mom for their milk, we rub their noses (everyone has a different way) and they will start to learn that when their noses are rubbed, they are about to nurse. After a few days of this, the kids will start to root(thrust their noses as if to stimulate milk flow from the udder) on your hand while carrying them over. Smart little critters. We do this until they are about a week old or a little more.
The next step is, in my opinion, the hardest step. The kindest term for it is diet day. The kids will have their last feeding at night and then no milk for the entire next day. 24 hours of hunger. This day will break your heart but be strong. Everyone, does and babies, will be yelling for each other through the fences. It is a NOISY day so it isn’t a bad idea to bake a batch of bread for your neighbors the day before. Like I said, stay strong and it will make the transition much easier.
On diet day,you have an opportunity to milk your girls out. Keep their milk separate. This way, the kids will receive only their mom’s raw milk in their first bottle and it will be more familiar to them, and likely more successful for you.
After your long diet day, the kids should be ready and eager to take the bottle. It has been said to me that the more you fuss with them, the less likely they are to take the bottle. That being said, stay patient and don’t be hesitant. With the milk in a bottle(Empty Dasani bottles works great) fitted with a Pritchard nipple, warm the bottle in a pail of warm water to the temperature it would be straight from the source. You get a feel for it after a while. If it isn’t the right temperature, it will be more difficult. Now you’re ready to try. Take one kid out of the kid pen and rub his nose like you have been the past week. From a kneeling position, put him between your legs so you can hold him in place, lean over him(Mom is covering him while nursing) and get the bottle in his mouth. For me, it is easiest to stick a finger through the side of his mouth then slip the bottle in and gently hold his mouth closed on the bottle, rocking the milk back and forth gently in the bottle. It will take a few seconds for him to realize this is milk but should start sucking away. Keep your hand kind of covering his eyes like he is beneath his mom. Do not squeeze the bottle, the nipple allows air in as milk is sucked out. The kids won’t allow themselves to die of starvation so as long as they have had that full 24 hour period of hunger, the chances they will take the bottle is very high.
If you just purchased a kid from another farm who hasn’t had any pre-training for the bottle, just wait out the 24 hours. It will be more difficult (We learned that this year with little Galileo who was a month old and had not been trained with the nose rubbing) but with sure movements, you can do it!
Be sure to feed the kids from the bottle all three feedings that day to make sure they have the process down. After manually putting the bottle in their mouth a few times, they should start to do it willingly and before you know it, when they see you with a bottle, you’ll get mobbed by all the kids at once. From here on, it is up to you how much you’d like to bottle feed. Here at O&I, we bottle feed in the morning and then put them with their mothers for the lunch and dinner feedings.
Speaking of bottle feeding, I’m a few minutes late to get out and bottle feed our kids! I can hear them all yelling for me! Good luck with your first training and remember to be patient.
I consider myself extremely fortunate to have been able to learn under a pro. Kidding is scary business even if you kind of know what you are doing. It is true that usually the goats can handle everything themselves. They are resilient creatures. The way that I see things is that since I am the one who got them into the predicament of being pregnant, I’d better be there to make sure they get out safely.
I realize that most of us can’t take a couple of months to intern at working farm. It is my hope that these diaries can help someone to believe in themselves and their goats to try what they can before resorting to calling the vet, thereby, saving themselves potential lives and money. So, without further ado, here is the story of Nova’s kidding.
As I mentioned in my last post, there are many ways to tell how close a goat is to kidding. With Nova, all the signs were there. Her udder had filled up the day before, her ligaments were gone (not really gone, just such mush that I could not find them) and her rump angle dropped. We moved her into the kidding barn earlier than necessary but with the rain and mud that we had, I didn’t want to take the chance that she might drop her kids in terrible conditions. The kidding barn had been freshly bedded with shavings and straw and partitioned in half so I could stay with her through the night. Of course, nothing happened that night. I was way too excited.
We worked outside all the next day closely watching her for contractions and though it seemed that she was getting closer, she wasn’t quite ready yet. Around 7pm, we had just returned from walking our dog and when I looked in on her, she immediately threw both back legs straight out. This is usually a fool-proof sign that she is ready to push. I quickly put some gloves on and waited for a push. No push came. Scott and I didn’t leave her side knowing the action was about to begin. She continued to chew her cud, have contractions, and occasionally was grinding her teeth. This is a sign of pain. She would also shake her head and whole body like a dog trying to dry off which is also a sign of pain. Other than that, she was acting normal and healthy. We put small handfuls of grass and Chaffhaye in front of her to make sure she still had an appetite. She did. A good sign.
Having hardly slept the night before, we were both tired and curled up in the pen with her nodding off to sleep for a few minutes at a time. At exactly midnight, I noticed an amnion (baby bubble) sticking part way out of her. Show time.
I’m a pretty hands-on kind of person. I like to make sure things are done efficiently. When I see am amnion, I reach in to make sure the kid is coming out an acceptable way and is not stuck. This is very non-invasive as I don’t go past the cervix. Just a quick feel for hooves and/or noses. I didn’t feel a kid. I didn’t feel anything but a bubble filled with fluid. Odd, I thought. With a gut feeling that things weren’t going according to plan, I decided to investigate further. I mixed up a solution of Betadine(see kidding essentials) and water, threw some new gloves on my hands, dipped my hand in the solution halfway up my forearm and made sure the solution went into the glove as well in case I had to go deep.
Feeling inside a goat is a very odd thing to do. You can’t see what you’re feeling and everything feels weird anyway. It helps to close your eyes and imagine a kid. Sometimes, if you have one on hand, it helps to have someone hold a kid in front of you to have a better visual to match what you feel. In this case, I could feel a second amnion but no kid in that one either. Gently navigating further into her uterus, I went left and found a kid. A spine, a hip, a hock, and finally, a hoof. It is OK for kids to come out backwards so long as they exit quickly enough that the cord doesn’t break before their head is out. The hoof was curled under so I simply followed the body to the other hoof, straightened them out and boom. The second the hooves touched her cervix, Nova knew what she had to do. Within a minute or so, the first kid was out. A beautiful little doeling with a grey cape and finger paint markings on her sweet little face. It is important to be very careful with the cord and allow it to break naturally by slowly stretching it. As her head came out, I quickly wiped the mucous from her face to allow her easier breathing and guided her (don’t bend the spine the wrong way!!) towards Nova’s head. The cord stretched and snapped on its own. Nova began to lick her clean. She was so happy to be a mother again! After a minute of letting Nova lick, I grabbed the kid, cut the remaining cord to about an inch and gave it a good dip in iodine before returning her to mamma.
Nature is an incredible thing. If the kids are positioned correctly, things usually work just fine on their own. The cervix opens, the goat starts to push and the kids fly out. If the kids are in the wrong position, that signal to push may not come. In Nova’s case, having the empty amnions not really pushing correctly on the cervix the way a kid would, she didn’t get the signal that it was time.
The empty amnions were hanging from Nova which was not something to worry about. I had figured that by the one kid being out of the way, the rest could pass through with ease. The time limit I learned on was 30 minutes. If you”re certain there is another kid inside and the goat doesn’t start pushing again within half an hour, it is a good idea to check what the hold up is. Once again sanitizing in the iodine solution, I reached in. I could feel a second VERY long spine. Oh no, I thought. A BIG kid. I couldn’t tell which way the spine was going so I ran my fingers along it to find the ribs and their direction. The kid was positioned vertically with his head curled towards Nova’s head. What do I do. Think quickly. I knew sometimes if you push on the kid, they will kind of flip or rotate. That didn’t work. The kid wasn’t going further inside. I kept feeling and decided it would be easiest to rotate the kid so he would come out head first by pulling gently on his rib cage.The bottom half of him was stuck below her pelvic bones. I followed the spine up towards his head, felt for the hooves, and straightened them out. He started to move but got stuck. His head was folded along side his body. With his hooves straightened, I grabbed his head in my hand and rotated it taking care that his teeth would not scratch the walls of her uterus. Once his head pointed straight, she could push him out.
Nova had been huge from about 2 months before her kidding. This is unusual as they typically don’t start getting big until the last 4-6 weeks. I knew from then that she had four kids. But, after the large second kid came out, I thought it was possible that was it. One normal kid, one large kid and a whole lot of empty amnions. There couldn’t be room for any more kids. Since I’d already been so invasive, I knew it couldn’t hurt to check again. Low and behold, I felt another LONG spine….. Here we go again. By this point, Nova had already been through a lot and was exhausted. Scott helped keep her in the right position so I could work while also keeping me calm and handing me whiskey to keep my head on straight. I recommend having something on hand for these stressful situations! It gave me the confidence I needed to carry on.
The third kid was also easier to position in a way that he would come backwards. At this point, Nova was laying down which really limited the movement of my hand. The contractions and pushing are restrictive and painful enough but laying down, it makes even less space. Don’t be surprised to have bruised hands after something like this. When I tried to push the kid forwards to rotate him, she stood up giving me much more room to work. It was then much easier to find his back hooves, straighten them out, and ease him into the world. She had given up on pushing so I had to put pressure on her cervix to encourage her to push again. She did. He came out backwards and healthy as can be. I should mention that while trying to maneuver the kids around, you feel like you are doing so much damage. I felt like I was killing these kids with the pressure needed to reposition them. Your fingers are pushing on their eye sockets, organs in their gut, ribs along their body. At a point, you decide it doesn’t matter what happens to the kid so long as the doe is alright. The kids are stronger than you think. They aren’t as fragile as they seem.
You can push up just in front of their udder and feel if there are more kids inside. If there is a lot of give then she is likely empty. Occasionally you’ll feel the firmness and think there is another kid when it is actually just a contraction. With Nova, she still had a little firmness.
Three kids out, two of which were large. There couldn’t possibly be any other kids inside. Better be safe than sorry and do one final check. Another kid. Of course. All I could feel was the spine positioned like the second kid. Once again, I rotated the kid to come out forwards but had to do exactly the same thing by straightening the front hooves and rotating the head to face outwards. With more help to encourage pushing, the last kid emerged, also healthy. This time, I was certain there were no more kids but did check one more time to validate that certainty.
With this kind of kidding, you find yourself worrying about a retained placenta or scratches and rips in the uterus. A few minutes after the last kid was born, her placenta started coming out which was a great sign. Never pull on it to try and get it to come out. If it doesn’t all come out within a day or so, you can try giving Oxytocin which starts contractions again to help release it. By morning, Nova’s had all been delivered but she opted not to consume it. Eating the placenta is a normal and healthy thing for them to do. Perhaps a little unappetizing to watch but in nature, they would “hide the evidence” so to speak and minimize threat of a predator picking up on the delicious scent of goat. There are also tons of good nutrients within.
This was very invasive and traumatic for Nova. It was traumatic for me but poor Nova! I gave her an injection of Banamine to help with the pain. I should have given it to her after the second kid came out. At about 3:30am, we decided to try and get a little sleep. It was not good sleep. I kept worrying that Nova would be too weak to nurse or accidentally roll over on one of her kids. Two hours later, I went outside to check on how she was doing. She is an incredible creature. I found her standing up, eating hay and nursing those kids like she hadn’t just been through a terrifying and exhausting labor. I administered some probiotic paste to ensure she kept her health up and watched her throughout the day.
So, that’s the long and terrifying story of Nova’s kidding. Had it not been the middle of the night, I probably would have called for a vet. Since that was not an option, I had to power on and get Nova through it. I am so grateful to have had this experience. Next time I’ll be able to tell myself that I can do it. It really gave me some confidence that I’m stronger than I thought. Just keep calm and carry on. It won’t always work out as well as it did on this night so it is always a good idea to be emotionally prepared for tragedy. We can only do what we can do, which I’ve found is quite a lot.
One last little side note. Warm/hot water is such a treat for the girls, especially while they are in labor. They’ll thank you with a smile.
Kidding season is both a wonderful and stressful time.
Rarely have I been described as a patient person. This year the universe is teaching me to cool it. Stay calm and wait. Patiently. Seemingly forever.
We had set the first possible due date for the ladies 145 days from the first witnessed breeding up in Oregon where four of the girls and I stayed for just over a week. Three of them came into heat and had a LOT of action during that week. They came home pregnant which we confirmed one month later with a blood test. Leading up to kidding is exciting. We wonder how many they will have, what they will look like, if they will have waddles, elf ears(if they are a cross), if there will be any girls….. Watching the pregnant ladies grow more and more round as you close in on the final 6 weeks is so much fun. They start to waddle and sway as they walk.
It has been a week since the first potential due date and still no babies. Let me share my experience so that you may be able to benefit from my lack of patience.
To begin with, there are many ways to gauge how close the ladies are to kidding. Their ligaments right beneath their tail soften to a point where you can no longer find them. Their udders fill up a couple of days prior. Their rump angle (from their hip bones to tail) will drop to a steeper angle. The lady bits(that’s P.C., right?) will stretch out very long vertically. As things progress further, you’ll notice contractions. What does that look like? I’m glad you asked. Their tail will suddenly stick straight up in the air, their ears will go back like wings on their heads and they will have that “deer in headlights” look in their eyes. Mommy talk will begin which is a softer noise that is undoubtedly different and much more sweet than their normal singing/yelling voice. They may get very licky and start trying to lick anything in front of them including your face.
From my interning experience and training with a pro, when the ligaments are completely mush, it is time to move them into the kidding pen where the kids should be born within about 12 hours. IF they are completely mush. Learning how to feel for this can be tricky if you are as excited about babies as I am. Your fingers feel the slightest hint of a ligament but your brain says, “BABIES BABIES BABIES!!!!!” With Nutella, her ligaments were smush so I put her in the barn and Scott(my wonderful husband) volunteered to stay the night with her, agreeing to call me at the first sign of baby time. The night came and went. No babies. The next morning, I determined that I could still feel her ligaments and put her back in with the rest of the herd. That night, the same thing happened but I stayed with her this time.
I found that sleeping in the bark yielded a better night’s rest. In the house, I’d be awake all night wondering if I should go and check on her. In the barn, I would wake and hear her still chewing cud and know she was fine. Then I’d drift back off to dream-land.
P.S. Straw makes a VERY comfortable bed with proper blanketing. I’ll gladly be doing it again in April with the next girls if need be.
Any normal person would notice that one of the determining factors (though it wasn’t completely there) isn’t enough to assume that it is, in fact, baby time. The fact that she was still acting so normal (chewing cud, moving around, eating, etc.) means that PROBABLY nothing is wrong. However, your mind starts to wander and does crazy things to your sanity.
It is one week past the first due date and we still have no babies. I am certain (though I was before, too) that Nova will have her kids today. Her udder was full as of yesterday morning, the ligaments are if not completely gone, VERY VERY soft, and I’ve seen a couple of undeniable contractions. We will keep you posted. The countdown to cuteness begins NOW!
There’s something that I’ve learned since beginning this chapter of our lives. I suppose the concept has always been part of my life but never in as much obviousness as lately. Love has so much power to heal. Especially if you believe in it. Here are a few recent stories where it has become apparent.
This past spring at Pholia Farm, during the thick of kidding season, one little 2 or 3 week old doe named Greta suddenly became VERY ill. She was trembling and jerking and turning her head to the left. She couldn’t fixate on us with her eyes and had stopped eating and ruminating. We noticed something wasn’t right around 6pm and brought her upstairs where it was warm and we could keep an eye on her. By 9pm, she was looking worse. I volunteered to stay with her through the night and was told to prepare myself to find her dead by morning. With the Fireview burning through the night, I slept on the couch, spooning her close under a blanket. It was not great sleep. She had mostly stopped shaking and every time I opened my eyes worried that she had passed, she gently turned her head and looked right at me. I would kiss her nose and keep thinking happy thoughts that she would be fine. .
We did treat this little doe with some real medication too. She was given a pain reliever, some penicillin in case it was Listeriosis, and B vitamins to boost her system. We didn’t discover what the true cause of her illness was. Stroke? Trauma injury from an accidental run in with a puppy? Listeriosis? Something else? Either way, I believe that if she was alone that first night, she would not have survived until the morning.
This happened again a few days ago when I noticed Stella not quite herself. She had a wet cough, tummy troubles, and fatigue. We quickly dosed her with a squirt of probiotics to help her tummy and sat scratching her neck for a long time. By night, the fog was rolling in, there was a chill and we thought it best to bring her inside where the air is warm and dry. We all ate dinner together and afterwards, parked her crate at the entrance to the bedroom. I wasn’t worried that Stella wouldn’t pull through. It seemed a fairly minor ailment at this stage. Regardless, we called out to her through the night letting her know we were there and we care. She would respond with a tiny mumble. After only two nights of this routine, she is back to her old self. Bouncing around and playing with her sister.
Perhaps the most drastic heal of all came from Nova. Little Nova was not a social goat from the moment we met her. She had been partially dam raised and who could blame her for loving her mother more than us? Trying to show Nova how much we love her always felt like we were torturing her. She would yell and run away as fast as her little legs would carry her squatty little body.
Early April, she was about to kid and I suspected it would be a challenge if she needed me to help. I was terrified by the image of a kid hanging half way out while Nova ran around the pen trying to stay away from me. I was wrong.
The night before she kidded, it was clear that her kids could arrive at any time. Scott volunteered to stay in the barn with her (I had slept in the barn the night prior with Nutella’s impending kidding) but she kept her distance. We were too early and by the time Scott had to leave for work at dawn, the kids hadn’t arrived yet. He passed the torch to me and I sat accross from her in the barn ready for it to begin. Just a couple of hours later, the kids were on their way. To my surprise, she didn’t fuss at all! In fact, I’m not sure she even really pushed. With such grace and ease, one boy entered the world. I quickly wiped his face and guided him towards her head where she could kick into instinct and clean him up. But she didn’t… She took one look at him and turned her head. Anxiety filled me that Nova would be a horrible mother and reject them from the first moment. About two minutes went by pleading her to please look at him. “He’s your baby, girl! Look! He’s beautiful and he is yours!” Finally, she realized what was happening and began to clean him up. Such relief. She was in love at last. Her second boy arrived a few short minutes later and she loved him too.
Nova transformed into the most wonderful mother of her two boys. So protective, so nurturing. She even changed her opinion of us! It has been almost 6 months since we met the real Nova. Nowadays she sticks right next with us while we’re in the yard and if we sit down, she most certainly will sit herself down in our laps. The love she gained when she met her kids changed her for the better. It healed her and made happy and accepting.
I’ve always believed in optimism and the power of happy thoughts. I also believe in the true healing properties of natural medicine and veterinary medicine too. All I can say is that showing your love to those in need has a very obvious and powerful effect. Anyway, it couldn’t do any harm.