Each year hundreds if not thousands of new goat owners wait impatiently for their first baby goats. Knowing the signs that the time is near can help in being prepared for the joyful occasion. While each doe is different these are the guidelines I have found personally to be most accurate. I find it helpful to have a notebook for each doe, I write all her signs and changes as they happen. It helps me know what to watch for the following year. It is also a great place to keep track of breeding dates, vaccines, doctor visits, hoof trims, and when supplements are given.
• They do not go back into heat.
• Sleeping a bit more than normal.
• Becoming protective over their baby-side (right-side) during roughhousing.
• Appetite increasing.
• Appetite continues to increase.
• Water intake also increases.
• A baby bump may begin to show.
• Some does become more affectionate others become standoffish.
The month before delivery
• Mucus discharge (mucus plug) may appear off and on
• Udders may begin to develop
• Vulva begins to swell and open
• Baby bump grows
• Fast hard breathing when laying down
Emanate Labor 12-24 hours
• Fast breathing
• Become extremely uncomfortable (Pacing)
• May stop eating
• Significant mucus discharge
• Becomes more vocal
• Some contractions
• Udder typically becomes full and shiny
• Tail ligaments loosen causing the tail to hang off side
• Hips become extremely sunk in
• Vulva becomes floppy and open rather than swollen
• Breathing becomes even faster
• Contractions become painful (back will hunch and tail will be straight up)
• Laying down, standing up, laying down…repeat
• Vaginal discharge increases
• Biting at or talking to baby-side
• Pawing at the ground
• Screaming in pain
• Begins pushing
While you will be scared and fearful of possible problems, most births go perfectly fine and will not require any intervention. You will, however, need an emergency vet on call or a goat mentor for possible problems. Stay calm! From the time the second bubble sack appears it should roughly take about 30 mins for the baby to be delivered. You should first see two hooves through the second bubble then a nose and tongue. It typically takes the longest to deliver the front half of the baby then the rest just slides on out. While it's OK to help mom dry off the baby and clear the nose do not take the baby away if you plan on her raising it. Let her bond with the baby by cleaning and licking on it. The placenta should deliver within 24 hours but typically comes within a few hours from delivery. While absolutely disgusting be aware that most mothers will eat the placenta. The sound this makes is nauseating! I take this time to go into the house and clean myself up, especially if it is late at night or early in the morning, I simply cannot stomach it.
What to expect after the delivery
Mom will bleed off and on from her vulva for days or even weeks. She will need increased nutrition for body condition and milk production. Mamma may also seem a bit restless for a few days. She will clean the baby(s) a lot, drink the urine, chew on the umbilical cord, and clean any poo. My does become very affectionate requiring extra attention and care. They also become more vocal as they talk to their babies. Watch for a lopsided udder, babies have a tendency to favor one at the beginning. You may need to milk the other each day to keep her from getting uncomfortably full or from acquiring mastitis.
The baby will sleep a lot the first day or two, they have been through a lot. The first poo or two will be black and tar-like. The poo will eventually become light brown/yellowish in color and a bit thicker than pudding. You may need to wipe their little bums from time to time. It will take a few weeks for the umbilical cord to dry up and fall off. The baby will become more active and playful within a few days. They may begin nibbling on grain and hay with mamma within a few days even occasionally sneaking a drink of water.
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