Here at Serenity Acres Farm we take special care to ensure a happy and healthy kidding season since nothing is as heart breaking as losing a mama goat or baby goat during or after the birthing process and we certainly don’t want or need the additional stress and expense of having to dash off to the emergency clinic with a sick and pregnant goat. Here are 11 tips to give you the best chance for a great kidding season based on our experience. But when in doubt, always consult your vet! He’s the expert.
1. Kidding Season starts the year before at breeding. Match up the same size buck and doe. Don’t breed a mini doe with a regular size buck. You will have a big baby in a small doe. It is not worth the risk.
2. Your does should be in good condition, not too skinny and not too fat. For the first three months we feed mostly grass hay free choice with a bit of perennial peanut or alfalfa thrown in and a cup of grain morning and evening. In the fourth month we up the grain to two cups morning and evening and increase the perennial peanut/alfalfa hay to keep the calcium: phosphorus ratio at a minimum of 2.5 to 1. In the fifth month we keep the grain the same if the doe is in good shape but increase the peanut hay considerably to furnish the doe with as much calcium as she needs to help in the final growth phase of the fetus.
3. Feed Kelp mixed in with the minerals if you are in a selenium deficient area. This will minimize the incidents of bent legs and white muscle disease in kids. Here at Serenity Acres we add kelp to the minerals from October through March. Our main kidding season here in North Florida runs from December through April. We aim on feeding the kelp through the entire pregnancy and birth. We also give Vitamin E/Selenium gel every 30 days for the last three months.
3. Give your does enough space to exercise and move around preferably on pasture if not in a large loafing area. This will keep her strong and in good shape for birth.
4. Trim the feet every four weeks to minimize lameness, swelling in the legs and encourage movement.
5. 30 days before the due date, we give the doe a CDT vaccination, Multi-Min injection, we worm and we treat for coccidia. The CDT protection will pass through to the baby and is supposed to protect it for the first 30 days. This is particularly important for the T = Tetanus protection during and after dis-budding. We perform fecals on a weekly basis after that to monitor parasite and coccidia load.
6. Always keep track of your breeding dates and aim to be ready for that first due date. It is a myth that does cannot come back into heat after they have successfully conceived. It has happened to us.
7. Be aware of the 150 days plus or minus 5 days due date. 2 weeks before the due date, we move the doe into our Mom’s pen. This is a spacious, safe, and fenced in pen with a large loafing area, kids' playground and kidding pens where the doe can kid in peace and the family can bond after kidding. We keep this area ridiculously clean and are able to monitor all does and kids for issues should they arise.
8. Invest in a monitoring system/camera for the birthing pens with audio. It will set you back about $250 but it is worth every penny when you will hear the process of birthing beginning and you can rush out to assist if needed in the middle of the night.
9. We assist if needed. We keep a kidding box with the necessary supplies handy and stocked including towels, lubricating gel, disinfecting alcohol, naval clamps, hot water bottles, heat lamps, molasses for an energy boost for the doe after birthing, kids sweaters, iodine for navel dip, scale, and anything else that you might need during an assisted birth. There are many videos and instructions on various websites on when and how to assist. Familiarize yourself with normal and abnormal presentations and if possible, keep the number of an experienced goat birther close by.
10. Don’t mess with hormones, and don’t induce birth for convenience sake. The fetus, aka baby goat, will signal to the doe’s body when it is ready to be born and then the doe’s body will start to undergo several changes to prepare herself for birth. If you induce birth prematurely, none of the doe’s or the kid’s body systems will have had time to mature and be ready for birth, and you will have a problem.
11. After Care: Keep the babies warm and out of draft. Ensure that they have a good drink of colostrum within an hour of birth, whether you bottle feed or dam raise. If they kids do have turned under feet, we give them 1/2cc of BoSe subcutaneous. The day after birth, we worm the doe and treat preventatively for coccidia. We dam raise so we make sure the first couple of days that the kids are nursing and all is well.
And this is my last piece of advice, enjoy kidding season. You can over worry and over analyze and over test. Just be prepared and use common sense.
Goat hugs and kisses, Julia - Mother of Goats, Home at Serenity Acres
Julia Shewchuk owns and operates Serenity Acres Farm on 80 acres in Florida. Serenity Acres runs on solar, is Animal Welfare Approved-certified, houses anywhere from four to 10 WWOOFers and interns, and is the home to 58 dairy goats, 16 Black Angus cattle, 278 laying hens, 3 horses, 3 cats, 4 house dogs, 6 livestock guardian dogs, and 6 ducks. Read all of Julia’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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