Love those Baby Goats!
Now that kidding season is behind us here at Serenity Acres Farm (www.serenitygoats.com) and our last goat kidded on June 22nd, it’s time to review that wonderfully exciting and scary time and evaluate what we’ve done or what we could do better to keep our kids (and their moms) safe and healthy. Nothing is scarier than the “baby siren” going off, the bone chilling yell of a kid in trouble. We always tell our newbies “when you hear the baby siren, just drop everything and sprint towards the source, you may only have seconds to save a kid’s life”. Their prompt response: “what is a baby siren”? “oh, you will know when you hear it”. Most of the time, it’s a drama queen moment, but there are those times when you do only have a short time to make a difference between life and death.
The Size of Water Buckets Matters
If you have to use water buckets around kids instead of automatic waterers, use several smaller 1 gallon feed buckets rather than five gallon water buckets to minimize a kid climbing into a five gallon water bucket and getting stuck upside down and drowning, or being dropped into the water bucket during birth and drown or best case just getting wet and chilled. The little water buckets are not big enough to hold a kid and are light enough that they will tip and dump water and kid if something happens. Worst case with the little buckets, the kid will be wet or will have a bucket stuck on its head. The loudness of the siren will not be diminished by a bucket on the kids head.
Lay the Water Bucket Handles Flat.
Every bucket has a handle. Every kid is curious and will stick its head into the bucket. If the handle lies flat, the head will come back out and nothing happens. If the handle is propped up somehow, leaning against a wall, the kids head will come up and get stuck under the handle. The bucket will tip, the kid will get scared and will activate the baby siren and end up with a dangling bucket on its neck or over its head until you come and take it off.
Latch all Gates Tightly to the nearest Wall or Fence
Kids are curious and adventurous. Small spaces magically attract them. The gap between the gate and the stall wall or the gate and the fence will be seen as a challenge to explore and get stuck in the small space. Goat kids seem to know only one gear, fast forward. Reverse has not been developed yet. To avoid the resulting baby siren, latch all gates tightly to the wall or fence so that they can only move a little, create no gaps and can’t lock anyone in or out accidentally.
Plug All Small Gaps Anywhere
Small gaps attract little goats and they will attempt (and most often succeed) in squeezing through small gaps once into the wild beyond. Then panic will set in because mom cannot follow and they will forget how they got there. Kid proof your pasture and your pen to avoid small gaps to the maximum extent feasible. If you have gaps under stall walls, fences or gates, kids will crawl under and get stuck, or will get stuck on the other side exposed to dogs, maybe even traffic, have no access to water, or be exposed to other hazards such as poisonous plants or chicken feed.
Keep your Kidding Pen and Surrounding Areas Litter Free
Goat kids are like human kids. Everything they see has to go into their mouth and be eaten. This is not so tragic if it’s just a dry leaf. This can have bad consequences if the kid eats a piece of plastic, or swallows a nail or eats a length of bailing twine. Plastic can’t be digested and can cause damage in the intestines; same the bailing twine, a nail can cause damage by piercing something vital. Glass bottles are a no. While you are picking up the litter, keep an eye out for nails that are sticking out or other sharp edges. Trust me, your goat kid will find them.
Keep your Kidding and Kid Pen Free of Unnecessary Items
Kids will mess with everything you leave in their pen. They will step onto a pitchfork and push on it until it falls over. They will climb into or under a wheel barrow and push on it until the wheelbarrow falls over, and dumps the kid or falls on the kid. Don’t leave anything with sharp edges unsupervised in a kid pen. The same goes for your coffee cup, expensive liquids, paper towels, baby wipes, your straw hat and the house dog.
Clean your Kid Pens at Least Twice Daily
Kids are especially susceptible to coccidia which are of course continuously shed by their moms. Coccidia most often are transferred by fecal matter = goat pellets, which of course kids have to taste. You will not completely avoid coccidia by keeping your kidding and kid pens clean of pellets, but you will substantially reduce the incidence of coccidian in your kids.
No Metal Wire Hanging Hay Racks in your Kid Area.
Those metal wire hanging racks seem innocent to be sure, but you realize that they are not the first time you have to extract a kid from one of those with the head and neck threaded through the wires of the hay rack. This is a result of their desire to explore small and windy spaces. This is one of the more dangerous ones as a kid can break a neck or leg very easily by trying to get out, or hang itself if they hayrack is hanging just high enough. Know those long black feed troughs for goats with the little wire rack on top? Yep, we are taking those tops off as well ever since we had a goat kid stuck in one of those with the head and neck threaded through one of those.
No Hanging Wire Hooks, Bungee Cords, Latches and Snaps
Anything that hangs down will be chewed on with the attempt to swallow. That attempt will get the hook stuck in or through the cheek, esophagus, lips or other important body part. Always make sure that any hooks, snaps, cords, and latches are out of reach or securely tightened.
Watch your Heat Lamps
Heat lamps are great for cooler and cold weather to keep newborn and very young kids warm. Do not use metal heat lamps with exposed bulbs. They get very hot and can burn a kid, and when (they will) a goat chews through the cord and the heat lamp falls into the hay or straw, it will cause a fire. The best heat lamps we have found are the red plastic ones with protective dome from Premier 1. Yes that is a plug and I’m not getting paid for it, but they are as safe as heat lamps can be. The only bad thing about them: to pry the white protective grate off requires more squeezing power in my fingers than I can ever muster. But, they withstand bumping and jostling and do not get hot.
Last but not least, fencing wire
It is important to have a strong fence to keep unwanted visitors out and the kids in. But, remember to check those tension wires and wire braces for gaps big enough for a goat kid to fit under, up and through. Once the head is stuck, it is guaranteed that a kid will move into the narrow end of it, cutting off its airflow and suffocating. In this case you don’t have much time if the baby siren sounds. We’ve rescued a couple of kids and sadly, lost one this way. Since then we have been replacing all twisted wire braces with single wire strands.
I’m sure there are many more words of wisdom on how to kid proof your baby goat area. In addition to the 11 practical preventative tips, we also check on all our animals four times a day: morning and evening feeding, noon check and bed check. We do have a camera system with sound to monitor the baby goat pen (which includes the moms since we dam raise) and we always, always keep an ear out for the baby siren, and we sprint as fast as we can when we hear it.
Happy Goating and Good Luck for the next (or your current) kidding season. Julia
If you are curious to find out more about our farm and Serenity Goats Soaps & Skincare at, here is a great little video shot by film students from West Palm Beach in Florida.
Julia Shewchuk owns and operates Serenity Acres Farm on 80 acres in Florida. Serenity Acres runs on solar, is Animal Welfare Approved-certified, host to WWOOFers, and is the home to dairy goats, 12 Black Angus cattle, 100 laying hens, 3 horses, 2 cats, 5 house dogs, 8 livestock guardian dogs, and 2 ducks. Read all of Julia’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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