Our kidding season began a little early for 2021, as we already have 10 kids with hooves on the ground.
First time fresheners and seasoned does
This year we are proud to have many first time fresheners and some seasoned does. With each year, it seems that kidding season, which is definitely a season, becomes easier yet we always learn something new. Although it is always exciting to witness the live births, and a great experience for the kids to see, it is a relief to walk to the barn and see healthy babies standing and nursing on their mamas with no complications.
The hope with first time fresheners is that they adjust well to motherhood and nurture their babies so that they can grow and thrive. We have always found that the first few hours, days and even weeks are crucial to monitor the babies and the mamas.
5 Tips for a successful kidding season
1. Know the Due Date
Whether you have one doe expecting or twenty, it is important to know the due date. The gestation period for dairy goats is approximately 145 to 152 days (5 months). Be sure to mark your calendar when you put your doe and buck together. Being that we raise and breed Nigerian Dwarfs, our breeding season can potentially be year round. Larger dairy goats have a much smaller breeding window and should be monitored closely. One of the biggest challenges is knowing when the doe was bred. We have found that once a doe is flagging and showing signs of being in heat, we pen her with a buck. We mark the date on the calendar, and set a reminder for 22 days to check if the doe is showing signs of being in heat again. Typically, if a doe is bred, she will not flag (shake her tail) and the buck will not show much interest in the doe. We then separate the doe and buck and continue to monitor the doe for signs of heat. There are different ways to be 100% sure that your doe is bred, such as a blood test, urine test or ultrasound. We typically have our does checked with an ultrasound machine to confirm pregnancy and get an estimate of how many babies to expect. Once pregnancy is confirmed by ultrasound, we mark our calendar for 145 days after the first day we put the doe and buck together. That is our estimated due date to start "baby watch".
2. Create a safe kidding space
Give the mamas and their babies a safe space. We like set up small birthing stalls for each doe that is expecting. Prior to using ultrasounds, we didn't always get to move the does prior to birthing, and babies were born in a large pen with mature does. This is not always the best scenario, as the new mama is often nervous, distracted by other goats, and the babies are more likely to accidentally get trampled. We have found that by providing each expecting doe her own space, she is more attentive to her babies, more relaxed and the babies are allowed to more easily stand and find way to their mama. Each birthing stall is kept clean and dry, with a bucket of water for the mama and ready with a heat lamp for when the babies are born. We like to provide heat lamps as kidding season is usually January through April.
3. Birthing Kit
There are many items that are great to have stocked in the barn. It makes it easier to have these items available near your birthing stalls so when the babies are being born, you are prepared rather than running all around looking for items.
Clean, dry towels are important to help the mamas dry off their babies. Sometimes you walk to the barn and find that the babies are dry and walking around. Other times, you may be there as the babies are being born, and have an opportunity to help the mama and make things a little easier for her and the babies. Especially, if the babies are born in cold weather, it is important to get them as dry and warm as quickly as possible.
Drench. We have found that giving the mamas and the babies a pump of drench helps provide a boost to their immune systems. Drench is a vitamin and mineral liquid supplement designed for goats to boost immunity and increase appetite in newborns.
Fresh water. After labor and delivery, it is essential to provide fresh, clean water for the mamas to prevent dehydration.
4. Firsts Milestones
To ensure that the babies are healthy, it is important that they meet the following milestones soon after birth.
Standing. It is the instinct of the babies to stand within the first few minutes of life. After they are born, they immediately try to stand. It is so cute watching them gather up the strength to stand and walk. Just be prepare to watch them fall plenty of times.
Latching. Once the babies get the hang of their wobbly bearings, they will instinctively walk towards their mama and look for the utters to latch on. For a first time freshners, this can be confusing and not all mamas have the instict to allow the babies to latch. Sometimes it is best to hold the doe still and help the babies find the teets so that they can latch and start nursing. There have been times when the does reject their babies and we need to milk and bottle feed. This does not always happen, but it is something to be aware of.
Crying. It is important for the babies to cry. Not only to ensure taht their lungs are getting much needed air, but their cries also stimulate the does to produce milk and care for the babies. It is a beautiful sight to see the does comforting their babies.
Mom stimulating baby. Just as the babies stimluate the mamas, the mamas do the same. In response to the babies crying, the mamas will make gentle sounds at their babies, as if encouraging them to nurse. The mamas also stimulate the babies to have their first bowel movements by licking and cleaning their tails and rear end.
5. Monitoring babies and mamas
Once the babies are cleaned, walking and nursing now it's time to monitor to ensure they all stay healthy. It is iportant to make sure that the babies are eating frequently, which can be mointored by behavior and watching them latch and feed. It is also important to check the does' utters for engorgement, making sure that the babies are eating enough and to monitor and prevent mastitis. Healthy babies are active babies! Of course they need their sleep to grow, but you will see happy bouncy babies with wagging tails. Another good sign is watching for protective does. We usually keep our "grow out" pen with does and babies all together. It is so neat to see the babies play together, but usually stick with their moms. It is common to see the does push away babies that do not belong to them and only allow their babies to be near them.
Lastly, enjoy! This is such a fun time! Baby goats are by far my favorite babies to watch grow on the farm! They are so energetic, curious and sweet. Enjoy these little loves during this stage.