Cold-Weather Goat Kidding

Reader Contribution by Janice Spaulding
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Baby it’s cold out there! Even though it’s March and temperatures should be on the rise, the kidding season will need extra precautions this year; because practically the whole country is facing this same dilemma. I thought I would touch on a few points on how to deal with this never ending frigid condition.

Creating a little “warm house” for the kids will be well worth your effort. If you can get your hands on a couple of those blue plastic 55 gallon barrels, you can make a really warm, cuddle spot for your babies. Make sure the barrel is open on both ends, that way it can be placed on the hay so when the kids poop and pee, it will fall into the hay and not on the bottom of the barrel for them to be lying in!

Next, cut a little door in the side near the bottom, making sure that it’s large enough for baby, but too small for momma to get in it! Of course, momma will love to stick her head in to get a little warmth herself.

Lastly, hang a heat lamp over the top of it so that it warms the barrel, keeping the babies free from the extreme cold and chilly drafts.

Hint: With heat lamps, please make sure they are securely fastened. A good idea is to use two means of support.

Probably the most important way to keep babies warm and dry is getting them that way immediately at birth. We keep an inexpensive blow dryer in our kidding bag which also contains six bath towels. Helping the mom get the babies dried off right at birth is the fastest and easiest way to assure nice, healthy kids. The biggest problem areas are ears, hoofs, tails, and of course, the testicles on little boys.

If you raise goats with pendulous ears such as Nubian’s and Boer’s, these ears are the most susceptible to frostbite. And, those adorable little hoofies can harbor goop that will freeze faster than the speed of lightning, so make sure you clean between the cloves really well. Most folks remember the ears and hoofs but forget all about that cute little tail and those tiny testicles. You can turn a potentially gorgeous breeding buck into a wether by neglecting this important step.

After drying off these areas as best as you can, it’s time to take out the blow dryer and make sure the whole baby is warm and dry. The sound of the blow dryer can sometimes startle the mom, so keep that in mind. There are some does that just love the warm, blowing heat from the dryer and will hog all that drying breeze!

After the kids are all cleaned and warmed up, it’s time to attend to mom. I always check her teats by milking just a squirt or two to make sure the waxy plug has been removed. Most of the time, the babies can just nurse the plug out, but every now and then, especially in fiber goats, the plug can be a little more difficult, so a little intervention will not only prevent a hungry baby, but a build up in the udder that can eventually cause mastitis!

Once all these steps have been completed, we always mix up a gallon of warm water (warm to the touch) mixed with ¼ cup of molasses and offer this to the doe. Usually the mother will drink this down so fast you won’t believe it! She is thirsty from giving birth, first of all, and secondly, she will love the sweetness of this “tea”. The little boost of iron from the molasses certainly doesn’t hurt either!

For ten years, well over 1,000 people from all over the United States, Canada, and other foreign countries have made a bi-annual trek to our small central Maine farm. The reason for this pilgrimage? To learn how to raise goats.

They come from all over to learn the basics of goat husbandry. They come to learn breeding, kidding, goat health, and nutrition as well as how to handle goat emergencies. They come to learn how to harvest fiber, raise goats for meat, and turn milk from dairy goats into cheese and soap!

Interested in learning more?? Our in depth goat husbandry program, “Goat School®” will be held in May! Memorial Day weekend ,Saturday, May 24th, and Sunday, May 25th are the dates, with a Goat Milk Soap and Goat Cheese Making Class on Monday, May 26th . Our Soap and Cheese Making Class is limited due to space requirements, and we already have some folks signed up for it, so if you are interested, please get your registrations in soon! Click here for Spring Goat School® registration form. Can’t come in May? Then Columbus Day weekend in October (Oct. 11th, 12th with the Soap and Cheese class on Oct. 13th) might fit your schedule better! Click here for the fall Goat School® registration!

Check out our web site at Don’t forget to click on the Goat School Shop and take a look at our Goat School® Manual.