It is almost kidding time at HCF! We are so excited! We have three pregnant does due in two short weeks (due April 5, 2018). This is our first time to have pregnant does, so as you can imagine, I am reading everything I can about kidding and kid rearing. Just when I think I know enough to get by, I find more information and am quickly reminded there is quite the learning curve to all of this. I hope you will find what I share helpful- and if I forgot something, please comment. I am always open to learning new things!
- Preparing for Kidding– We have been planning since breeding time! We selected a buck from Carrheart Nigerians to breed with our girls. When selecting a buck, a breeder should look for qualities to improve the herd. You can find a complete parental history of our animals on our webpage. We have studied the performance programs on the ADGA website and feel certain our bucks possess genetic merit. Generally, dairy does will cycle in the fall from September through January- cycling every 21 days until they are pregnant. “Flagging” is one indicator they are cycling. They will raise their tail for the buck. Generally, does who are not cycling are just “not in the mood” and should be reintroduced the buck when they are cycling. Since we only have three does, we decided to breed them all at once, however, next year should we have a larger herd; we will likely breed some and then take a break and breed others so we do not have them all kid at once.
- At Breeding Time– It is important to record the breeding dates and then service sire when possible. I, personally, grabbed a lawn chair and a sweet tea and made a day of sitting in the goat pen. Since it was my first time, I videoed it and sent it to a friend who is a breeder. Yes, it was very strange; however, I wanted to ensure the goats were indeed pregnant. The best way to tell if a doe is pregnant is to have a vet provide an ultrasound between 42-75 days of gestation. I did not do this; however, I may in the future.
- Decisions, decisions, decisions– Where will kidding take place? How often will you observe? How will kids be handled at birth? What is the plan for emergency care? Will the kids be removed from the dams? Where will the newborns be located? What is the colostrum source? Where will the kids be housed the first 2 weeks? Where the kids be housed after 2 weeks? What type of milk to feed? What feeding method will be used? What age or weight will the kids be weaned? It is important to calculate the number of kids you are expecting and plan accordingly.
- Pregnancy Care– Does that are carrying triplets or quads are more at-risk of pregnancy toxemia during late gestation (this is the importance of the ultrasound). Therefore, does with triplets should be fed high- quality roughage and offered supplements to maintain adequate energy through gestation. At least 30 days before kidding, does should be vaccinated against CDT. You can find this medication at the feed store. When the doe is vaccinated, their level of antibodies will be increased, in turn producing colostrum that is more beneficial for the kids.
- Kidding Preparation– A clean area large, enough not to be crowded should be provided leading up to kidding. A mixture of straw and shavings can be used as the bedding. Does most often kid in the daylight hours, usually midday and early afternoon. This is not a definite pattern; it is common that difficult pregnancies (dystocia) will be noticed in the evening or late night hours.
- Kidding Supplies– The following items should be in your kidding bag- Obstetrical lube, OB sleeves, disposable exam gloves, disinfectant, Vaginal speculum, flashlight, umbilical tape, scissors, iodine or disinfectant for the umbilical cord (Betadine), clean towels/ sheets, suction bulb, puppy pads, and container to hold the babies.
- It is Time! – Gestation for does is normally 150 days; however, kidding can occur between 143 and 157 days. Labor stages are as follows:
- Stage 1 Labor– Ligaments loosen, restlessness, pawing/ nesting behavior, vocalization, and isolation from herd. This stage can last up to 12 hours for first-fresheners- older does usually progress faster. The cervical mucus plug is sometimes visible. The cervical plug prevents bacteria from entering the pregnant uterus. If you see this, it looks like a thick, white or yellowish, usually opaque mucus.
- Stage 2 Labor- Cervix is fully dilated. As the birth progresses, you should start seeing membranes at the vulva. As the contractions continue, the amniotic membrane surrounding each kid will be presented. It is most common to see two feet and a nose with the kid in a diving position. Sometimes the kids are born backwards and the back feet are presented first. The feet will be upside down. If the kids is presenting in this position, the does may need help as the umbilical cord may be compressed. It is important to figure out if the doe has an additional kid by standing over the doe, reaching around the rear barrel (in front of the flank), join your hands and lift sharply. A kid may be felt against your hand or arm. The process of the kids being born can take up to 2 hours.
- Stage 3 Labor- During this final stage of labor, the doe passes the placenta. This usually happens within 4 hours. Placental membranes are considered to be “retained” after 12 hours. DO NOT EVER pull on the placental membranes as they could tear, ultimately causing infection. Call your vet if this happens. Postpartum discharge (lochia) can be seen for up to 4 weeks.
- After Kidding– Mama is tired. Offer her some warm water with a little bit of molasses to perk her up. Milk her out soon after kidding. If you are going to allow your kids to nurse, they can nurse on mom to get the colostrum. The raw colostrum can be heat treated, labeled, and frozen for future kids.
- Dystocia (Difficult Birth) – The difficulties that can arise at birthing time range from mild to severe. The two major concerns are introducing bacteria into the uterus and causing a vaginal, cervical, or uterine tear, which can result in infertility or death. To avoid dystocia and to know when to intervene, the following procedures should be followed:
- Make frequent observations.
- Keep a “kidding log”. Make notes of details of labor- when it started, what you observed, etc.
- Observe the “15-minute rule”. If a vet cannot correct the dystocia within 15-minutes, it is time for a surgical procedure.
- Use clean, sterile equipment when assisting with births.
- Sterile lube should always be available and usually liberally.
- If hard labor persists for 30-60 minutes without a delivery, assistance may be necessary.
- If placental membranes have been showing 30-60 minutes without a delivery, assistance may be necessary.
- If there is yellow staining of the mucus, this indicated stress on the fetus. Assistance may be necessary.BEFORE assisting, clean the vulva with a mild disinfectant (such as Nolvasan), mild soap, or alcohol wipes. Have someone hold the doe. Wear an OB sleeve (without your jewelry) and cover your hand with sterile lube.
- Kid Rearing– YAY! Your kids are here! Keep them WARM, FED, and CLEAN! If you are not going to allow kids to nurse mom, remove them immediately and offer them colostrum in a bottle. (This should be done within 2-3 hours of birth.)
- Kids should be kept in a clean place! At HCF, we bleach everything down weeks before kidding and keep the stalls closed and ready. Navels should be dipped in iodine. Record the kidding information immediately (this is important especially if you are registering your goats (which most of ours are)). Appliance boxes work great for kids (keep siblings groups together) for the first two weeks.
- Colostrum should be given within the first 2-3 hours and no later than the 12th hour. (To read more about colostrum and safe practices, click here.) After this feeding, kids should be fed a safe source of milk. These sources can be pasteurized goat milk, pasteurized cow’s milk, or a milk replacer. If using a milk replacer, they should be 20-28% protein and 16-24% fat. After colostrum, kids should be bottle fed for an additional day or two and then taught to drink from a milk bar. Kids should be getting at least three servings of milk a day. When the kids are around 2 weeks old, loose, leafy hay can be introduced. This should be discarded each day and kids should be provided with new hay. At around one month, feed can be introduced. Weaning should occur between 2 and 3 months.
- How Much to Feed– Kids up to a week old, should receive a quart a day. By three weeks of age, a kid should be receiving 2 quarts a day (divided over 2 to 3 meals). Water should not be given until the second week and should never be mixed with the milk.
- Keep it Clean– Many diseases can be spread a kidding time and/or during the first few days and weeks of a kid’s life. CAE, Johne’s, mycoplasma, salmonella, and Coli can be transmitted via milk and colostrum. Scrapie, Q Fever, and chlamydia are transmitted via birth fluids from the dam and other freshening does in the kidding environment. Young kids (neonates) are especially susceptible to CL, soremouth, and other diseases in the kidding process. At HCF, we are committed to prevent these diseases by keeping a closed herd consisting of healthy animals. We provide our kids optimal conditions allowing them to reach their genetic potential and have long, productive lives in dairy.
Please feel free to add what you know! I would love to hear anything I forgot. Happy kidding!
Reference: Jan Carlson , University of California- Davis, Kidding and Kid Rearing.