Your kids have made their appearance into the world, what now? Depending on what type of goat you raise, will depend on what gets done next. With our dairy goats, we catch them in a towel, clean off the majority of the birth goop, bring them in the house where it’s warm and start the cleaning process. If you have meat breeds, fiber breeds, or you are planning on keeping the kids with their mom’s you may still want to help clean up the kid, just in the barn and working side by side with the mom.
The dam will start to clean her baby almost immediately. She’ll lick them, nudge them into better position, and generally keep a good eye on them. You can go ahead and help dry them off, but, remember, the first places that need to be cleaned, dried, and warmed are ears, hoofs, and if it’s a little boy, his testicles. These areas are easily exposed to cold temperatures and don’t get the necessary warmth. Kids can get frostbite in these areas which will cause incredible amounts of tissue damage. Even in warmer places like Texas, below freezing nights can cause the loss of lower ears in goats with the pendulous types of ears in a short time.
The next thing we do is dip the umbilical cord in 7% agricultural iodine. Before I get started on how to do that, I want to mention a little about the umbilical cord during the birth process. If the cord does not break on its own, you can shred it with your finger nail in order to separate the kid. Having a jagged, uneven edge helps with the drying up process of the cord once it is dipped in iodine. There is absolutely no need for umbilical clamps, tying the cord off with dental floss or anything like that! Shredding the end of the cord, dipping it in iodine…boom done. If the cord is extra-long, don’t worry, you can trim it once it’s dried up which only takes a few hours.
We use the little plastic cups that are used in hospitals and nursing homes to distribute medications. (A nurse friend saves them from being trashed and then passes them on to us and other goat owners!) I fill the cup about 1/3 full of the iodine, get all of the umbilical cord into the cup, press the cup against the belly of the baby and tip the baby over. By doing this, I make sure that every part of that cord has been dipped. Important point here: Please, do not re-use this cup for the twin! New baby, new cup!!!
A ½ cc injection of Bo-Se given Sub-Q (Sub-Q is short for sub-cutaneous which means under the skin, NOT in the muscle!!) Not everyone believes in doing this, but we have had fantastic results since we started. The Northeast and many other parts of the country are very deficient in selenium. About seven years ago, our vet recommended that we give our new born kids ½ cc of Bo-Se (selenium). It has made a remarkable difference! Bo-Se is a prescription medication available from your veterinarian.
Now the baby needs a form of identification. With the meat or fiber goats, you may want to use ear tags. Even though you think you’re sure who is who, the kids change very quickly and after a day or two, identification can become difficult. If you ear tag right at birth, the little ears are like tissue paper and the tag goes right through with not much fuss at all. With dairy goats, who do not require an ear tag, we use the paper/plastic I-D band collars. A Sharpie takes care of noting the necessary information on the collar so the kid can be identified later…”who’s your mamma” and date of birth are key bits of info needed for registration papers?
Last but not least, we weigh our kids. If you look back a blog or two, you will see our large canvas towel bag. We tuck the baby in the bag and hang it on our milk scale. Weighing is very important! In two days, we weigh again to see if the baby is gaining properly. If you didn’t weigh at birth, how will you know how your kid is doing?
In my next blog, I will share how we take care of the doe after the birth, and also bottle feeding. If you want more in depth information, come to Goat School! Two days of jam packed, hands on information. I also have two books available, The Goat School Manual, and Goat School: A Master Class in Caprine Care and Cooking.