Lessons Learned from a Challenging Goat Kidding Season

Reader Contribution by Maggie Bonham
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This year was hell. No matter what I did, I was losing goat kids at an alarming rate. Here’s what happened and what I learned from the experience.

A Healthy Herd

I have a healthy herd. Everyone is physically sound and disease free. We have our occasional bouts of parasites, but that’s normal for goats and we treat them when the loads look a little too high.

I had planned on a late spring kidding for everyone. The idea behind this was to have the babies come out when the weather was decent enough so I didn’t have to worry about the cold. We had two babies born in the fall/winter, mostly accidents, and they were in good condition.

The Kiddings

First kidding was out of Belle, my best milker. She gave me two doelings: Cinnamon and Nutmeg, late February. That was the earliest I was willing to have them have kids. Cinnamon and Nutmeg became bottle babies because Belle never allows her kids to nurse.

Next was Heidi, Belle’s sister. Heidi had two doelings. One, Galadriel, was small. The other was a breech birth that inhaled amniotic fluid and swelled up inside. It was a difficult birth and no matter how I tried to get the fluid out, she had sucked too much fluid in and died after I managed to get her out. Heidi can sometimes have difficult births, but this one was awful.

Next was Annie, a great milk producer, even if she’s small. She had two bucklings: Blackjack and Double Stuff.

Lastly, there was Delilah, my small Alpine doeling. She had a buckling with back legs so long, he looked like a basketball player.

Goat Kids in Trouble

It was less than a day when Galadriel started being poky. I took her away from mom as I discovered she had only a little bit of milk. She ended up being blocked up and constipated. I ended up having to massage her guts and mixing mineral oil with her milk so she could pass it through. After this, she started growing, but she was small and her mom now rejected her. So, she became the third bottle baby.

Within 24 hours I had to take Delilah’s buckling from her because he was showing signs of FKS or Floppy Kid Syndrome. I fed him the baking soda and he started to come around. Then, that night, he started failing, no matter what I did. I fed Galadriel that night and she started bloating in front of me. Within less than an hour, she was dead. The next day, Delilah’s buckling had died.

Then, Blackjack came down with scours that just wouldn’t go away. I started with Corid and Ivermectin. Then I went with Scour-chek and electrolytes. I ended up adding PenG and kept putting probiotics into him. Nothing worked. Then, I finally found that Fenbendazole stopped the scours. I kept him on the treatment along with electrolytes and probiotics. And then, he just died. We suspected coccidia, but he didn’t respond to any of the coccidia medications.

I was about ready to have him necropsied when my healthy girl, Nutmeg, died. We found her dead one morning in the pen. No clue what happened. We had a veterinarian do a necropsy and waited on the lab results.

Results from Goat Death Necropsy

The necropsy came back that she was a healthy, but dead, baby goat. The lab results showed nothing weird or out of the ordinary. Basically, we had a run of healthy baby goats who died. We were the victims of bad luck. Each case was something different – and weird.

One thing I kept in mind was what I had done differently. I had purposely had kids born later, which maybe made them more susceptible to pathogens. Some websites pointed to warmer weather to help cause FKS. This year, I’m breeding the goats for winter/early spring births and I’ll deal with the cold and hassle. Losing so many goat kids to the vagaries of the environment is just heartbreaking.

Nutmeg’s death was the last of the kid deaths, so I was only left with Cinnamon and Double Stuff. The other two kids from the winter stayed healthy.

Look for my New Book

After all this, I had a pretty good idea that I was still staying in the goat biz. You don’t go through a number of good kiddings to be deterred by bad luck. A rancher I know who has goats swears goats die at the drop of a hat. I have to agree. Even if you get on the problem immediately, there’s no guarantee you’re going to save the kids.

You can pick up my new book,Get Your Goat Now! for $4.99. Enter “getyourgoat” into the discount box and you’ll get 25% off just for being a MOTHER EARTH NEWS reader.

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