Goats: Just Kidding! Part 1

Reader Contribution by Janice Spaulding
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Usually at this time of year, the weather is nasty, and time crawls by, but this year it’s flying by! We’ve already gained 54 minutes of daylight here in Maine, sun rise is 6:59 and sun set about 4:48!  The cold, wind, snow, and ice doesn’t seem quite as overwhelming when there is a little more daylight!
Of course that also means that kidding time is also creeping up on us! Our first girls are due around April 2nd. At many farms, in warmer climates, kidding has already begun, we just prefer to start a little later. Our farmers’ markets don’t begin until the end of May, so the big glut of milk that comes from our first kidders isn’t something we’ll need right away. Plus, it’s darned cold up here to be out in the barn waiting for babies!

Talking about kidding, I’ll be doing a lot of writing about this in the next several blogs. There is so much material to cover, that it will take a few weeks to touch on the more important aspects of it.

Now, first of all, let me make a suggestion. An inexpensive baby monitor can be a life saver! We found one at our local big box store that has a 300 foot reception area. We set the monitor up about 2 weeks before the first girl is due to kid. By doing that, you will get used to all of the barn sounds. These little pieces of equipment are so darned sensitive that you can hear the girls chewing their cuds. Some of the females are so heavy with kids, they moan and groan every time they stand up or lay down, so getting used to these sounds is a very smart thing to do. You won’t be running to your barn at 2:00 a.m. just for the heck of it.

Believe me when I say this, your goats will begin to make a game of it, just to see if you will visit. Remember the little boy who called “wolf”???

So, let’s start at the beginning. The girls are all bred, and 150 days, (give or take 5 days in either direction), have passed. What happens next?

The very first sounds you might hear to indicate imminent birth, is a very low, nickering sound. It’s mom talking to her babies! It’s a beautiful sound, however, if you are asleep, it’s so soft and quiet, you may miss this part. On the other hand, there are dam’s out there who scream for their babies at the top of their lungs.

Quite a few years ago, we had one of those. Patti was standing outside at the edge of a knoll screaming like a banshee. I went running out and realized she had a rather copious mucous stream and that she was most definitely in labor. Into the kidding pen she went! Less than 10 minutes later, she gave birth to triplets.

The next stage, which could drive you crazy if you are out in the barn watching, is the poor goat trying to get comfortable. She will get up and lay down, get up and lay down, over and over and over! One of the things she is actually doing with all of this is positioning her babies. First she’ll lie on her right side, then her left, she is moving the babies all around inside.

Another indication of impending birth is a mucous stream. We found this much more prevalent in our Angora goats than in any of the other breeds. A long, thick mucous string would be the first sign of labor in these girls. You may or may not see this occur. I have seen plenty of goats which birthed without us ever seeing this phenomenon!

Finally the doe will begin her actual labor. With each contraction the goat will produce a sound like a groan which gets louder and louder and ends with an obvious pushing sound. The first thing you will see protruding from her vulva is a large tan colored bubble. This bubble, if you look closely, will be covered with fine veins, both reddish and bluish colored.

The fluid bubble will do one of two things. It will either stay out, and eventually burst, or, she will pull it back in, and then push it back out with each contraction. Sometimes, you can look through the bubble, toward her vulva and see little tiny hoofs and possibly the tip of a nose starting on their way out.

Different birthing positions will be discussed in my next blog. Until then, I invite you to go to our  www.mainegoats.com web site and view the photos I have compiled that will take you along through the birthing process on our kidding page.

And, don’t forget, visit us anytime at www.goatschool.com. A new newsletter is ready to be enjoyed! And, Spring Goat School registrations are already arriving! Our cheese and soap making class is limited to 18 people so sign up now!

‘Til next time!