Preparing to Kid
Kidding season has already begun for many of our farm friends around the world. For some, it never ends if they breed year-round. It is the most wonderful time of the year and can be the most stressful as well.
I wanted to take a few minutes to share some insight into how we do things here, at Oats & Ivy. We double check our tool boxes every year to make sure we have everything on our list well before the first due date arrives. Here, I will share with you what is on that list of ours, and how we cope with the stress in a difficult kidding situation. If I have left anything out or you have more questions about anything, please leave a comment below and I will be sure to try and clarify anything missed.
Perhaps, I should first mention, that we maintain a very hands-on approach to kidding season. To us, our animals are our family. There are a lot of different ideas about how to manage dairy goat herds. Some prefer to let nature decide who is strongest and offer very little assistance in a difficult kidding, justifying the decision with the logic that says, ‘If an animal cannot deliver babies naturally and on their own, perhaps they will weaken the breed and make more difficult births through their offspring.’ While I do agree somewhat with this logic, I do not agree with the hands-off approach. It can be right for some people, maybe even you, but not for us here at Oats & Ivy. Our logic says that we chose to breed our animals and get them in the predicament of being pregnant, so it is our responsibility to navigate them safely through it. Perhaps, if one of our does has difficult kiddings consistently, we would choose not to breed their offspring and perhaps allow the doe to retire her working status to become a happy pet. We pose no judgement on what anyone chooses is right for them unless they unnecessarily allow an animal to suffer. We owe it to each of our animals to give them a good life.
Okay. So, you have bred your animal, marked the calendar, and the due date is coming up steadily. What do you need? Let’s start with the basics. Brand new babies need to be born in a clean and protected environment. If you live somewhere cold and snowy, be sure your does have access to a warm, draft free and freshly bedded barn stall. You can bed it with a few inches of shavings, straw, or a combination of the two. We prefer a base layer of shavings to absorb all of the liquids as well as straw to keep a buffer between the soon-to-be wet shavings and the new babies. We also keep a few flakes of straw handy to cover up any areas that are extra messy after the birth.
Now for the tool box. What goes into your tool box varies depending on how comfortable you feel with helping your animal before calling a vet. We are fairly confident in our ability to help so our box may contain more items than you would have. That being said, if we felt we could not help our girls out, we would absolutely get a vet out ASAP to do what we did not feel comfortable doing. Know your limit both of ability, and budget in case things go very wrong and you have to call for help.
It is our belief, that every basic kidding tool-kit should contain the following:
-4-5 towels (not your nice ones!!!)
-Several clean pairs of Nitrile or Latex gloves
-Small container for iodine (shot glass, 2 Oz. mason jar)
When the babies are born, we like the mothers to do most of the clean-up themselves, however, we always wipe off their faces of the mucous so they can breathe more easily and quickly. We then guide the baby to the mother’s face where she can do the rest of the cleaning. We prefer to keep them on the clean towels only because straw will stick to a wet baby and we like to make the clean-up as easy as possible for mom. Our hands are covered in all sorts of bacteria. In case we need to use our fingers to stretch the vagina at all, I prefer to use gloves to avoid introducing unnecessary bacteria to the mother. Because the umbilical cord is a direct connection between the interior of the baby and the outside world, we clip and dip the cord. Once the blood flow has stopped and the cord breaks on its own, we trim the cord with scissors to about 1” long, and quickly dip it in iodine to protect the baby. Goat drench is a great way to keep a doe that is having a difficult delivery high in nutrient and energy. We only use this when the delivery takes a long time or requires intervention. After the babies have been born, we reward a good job done to the mom with a nice bucket of warm water and a handful of grain. Hydration is key!
If you feel comfortable helping with stuck kids, here is an extension of what we always have for difficult kiddings:
-Clean bucket with warm water
-Whiskey (for me, not the goat)
I am not a professional. Take all of this information as merely one crazy goat lady’s guide to kidding. I highly recommend spending some time with someone more experienced than you to learn how they navigate through difficult kiddings.
In a difficult kidding situation, pressure is high and lives are at risk. Everyone manages stress in their own way but the best piece of advice I can give to you in that situation, is to remain calm, take some deep breaths, try to maintain a calm voice (Don’t stress the goat any more than necessary), move surely and slowly, and take your time. Whiskey helps a lot. When I first was learning how to help deliver, I thought that every single second mattered. To some extent, it does. Much to my surprise, however, there is typically more time than you would think to safely get kids out. So long as the babies are still connected via their umbilical cord, they should be okay.
Once the kids have been born, I like to palpate the area just forward from the udder to make sure there are no more kids inside. If it feels hard, like there could be a soda can inside, there could be another kid. It could also just be a contraction that makes it feel hard. When that area is squishy and gives easily with a gentle push, all the kids are probably out. The placenta is typically delivered within an hour or so after the last kid is out, which is another indication that all of the kids had been delivered.
If the vagina tears during kidding, don’t panic. This is fairly normal and should heal up on its own. Be sure to keep it clean. You can apply various herbal ointments to soothe and speed up the healing process. The entire area will be swollen for several days before healing and getting back to normal. You will also notice some bloody discharge for a week or two after birth. This is also normal and a good sign that everything is healing up internally. A lot of bleeding, or the placenta hanging out for a while is not a good sign and should be looked into.
After any kidding, I like to check on the mom and new babies frequently to make sure everything is okay. Always check to make sure mom is eating, drinking, and ruminating. Most of our goats have opted to consume their placenta, which is perfectly normal and healthy. As far as multiple kids go, we always make sure that every kid is getting enough milk. If there are more than two kids, often the smallest will get pushed out by the stronger two and have less to eat. In this situation, we hold the bigger stronger kids back (and snuggle them!) to allow uninterrupted nursing from the smaller one.
A million scenarios can happen from rejection of mom, deformities, disabilities, the list goes on and on. I don’t have all of the answers but please feel free to reach out with any question you have or encounter during your own goat kiddings. I will always do my best to help my fellow goat lovers. Another great resource is Holistic Goat Care by Gianaclis Caldwell. There is an entire section on kidding with very helpful illustrations of different fetal positions, etc. An absolute must for your dairy goat library.
Good luck to your pregnant does and you all!