Bravery in Kidding

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.