I think I can safely say that after 23 years of raising goats I've seen it all when it comes to birthing. We've raised several different breeds of meat, fiber, dairy, even a cute little herd of Pygmy goats. Every configuration, singles, twins, triplets, and quadruplets, every size, teeny tiny to one buckling we named “Block Head” and I will assure you that there are no babies out in our barn still stuck inside their moms.
Probably the most important part of kidding is to STAY CALM! If you are nervous and upset you will unknowingly transfer those feelings to your doe! Animals are very observant of our mannerisms and heightened state of stress and frustration, so please, if you learn nothing else from this blog, learn this: STAY CALM!
So, let's start with the normal kidding position. Two little hoofies on either of a little nose is the very basic, very best position, without a doubt. It is the most normal presentation, and the easiest for a good, safe, delivery for all concerned. If every single kid was born in this position, though, there wouldn't be much to write about! There are many, many times, that these stubborn little animals have a mind of their own about which way they want to come slipping and sliding into the world.
This is a good place to mention that some babies are born with their little tongues hanging out! The first time you see a little head presenting itself with a tongue protruding, it can be very unsettling. The tongue is usually very dark red or even bluish purple. Don't worry the kid isn't dead, once it's born it will pull its tongue back in, or in some cases, when the tongue is really dried out, you might have to touch the tip of it to help a little.
Once in a while, in multiple births, one baby is presented in the normal position and the next baby in line is back feet first. This is not a problem. The dam's birth canal is nicely stretched out from the first baby, so the second one will slide right out with no problem.
The next two positions have never been what I would consider a problem either. The first of these positions is the nose presenting along with one hoof. The other leg is back and running along side its body. I am not one to stick my hand inside the poor goat unless it is truly warranted. Remember that every time you even insert the tip of a finger into the goat, you are bringing your whole barn in with it. Barns are not sterile environments. Your gloves may be stored carefully, and you may be clean, and you may be careful, however, there are all sorts of airborne bacteria in the barn that will happily adhere to your K-Y covered fingers. Anytime you insert anything into that girl, she should be on a regiment of anti-biotics afterwards, don't lose your precious girl to a very preventable infection. We don't give anti-biotics willy-nilly, so we try as hard as we can to let nature take its course, and keep fingers, and hands out of the girls unless it's absolutely necessary.
The next presentation, is just the nose, with both legs back. This one can be a little tricky, but not worth pushing, pulling, tugging, and worse yet introducing potentially deadly bacteria into the dam. When a baby presents in this position, the first thing I do, (once the head is delivered) is to wipe off the kids nose, and clean out its mouth with the corner of a towel. Then I take a towel and while the mom is having a contraction, I hold the babies head in the towel and gently but firmly tug down and out. Remember it is always down and out which is sometimes difficult to remember when the goat is laying down. Sometimes with this position, you may have to take a finger full of K-Y and insert just into the vulva and lubricate the opening so the kids shoulders have an easier time coming through.
Last, and by no means least, is the position that can creates fear in the hearts of even well seasoned kidders. Getting out to the barn and finding a little tail hanging out, is disheartening to say the least but remember STAY CALM! In the last 22 years, I had only encountered this position once. Then, in the kidding season of 2011, I had three! Luckily, I discovered an easy solution with the first kid that presented this way and did the same thing for the other two. Three healthy, happy babies were born with no serious consequences! Here is what I did. I put lots of K-Y on my gloves, slipped my hand inside the goat and hooked my thumb and my index finger around the hip bones of the kid. Once, you start with this, DO NOT STOP! You must pull down and out with the very next contraction and get the kid out in one fell swoop. Chances are that once you start to tug, the umbilical cord may break and if you don't work quickly, the baby could drown in the amniotic fluid.
Tangled twins or worse yet, tangled triplets is a phenomena that thankfully doesn't show up very often. When the kid begins presentation carefully observe what is showing! If the hoofs look strange and the doe seems to be getting no where with her labor, you may have two babies trying to enter the world at the same time. These kids will have to be pushed back all the way into the uterus and untangled. I always recommend that the person doing the delivery, close their eyes, and take their time feeling and identifying what they are working with. Try to find a head and follow the head down in both directions to locate the front legs that belong to that head. Move that kid around and work it down the birth canal. The next baby in line may or may not need help also, so don't leave the dam's side!
Now we're at the point that the kids have been born, and there still more to do! My next blog will cover post-natal mom and kid care!
Want to learn more? Come to Goat School on June 2nd and 3rd for a two day, hands on, education filled weekend!
Also available is our Goat School Manual and my new book, Goat School: A Master Class in Caprine Care and Cooking.
Interested in learning to make cheese or goat milk soap? A Soap and Cheese Class will take place on March 3rd and again on June 4th.