On Kidding, Process and Preparation

Baby goats get 60% of their growth in the last month, so does won’t really show until last month. It’s most common for goats to have two kids (as long as they’ve been well cared for). Then, in order of most common, it’s one, three, four, etc, etc. I’ve heard of goats who have had sextuplets! That’s insane though.

Goat udders will start filling up to a week before their due date. Some don’t until a few days before, or even hours before. The hormones of birth really start the milk flowing, but the body does like to prepare. The first milk that comes in is called colostrum, and is packed full of important nutrients and antibodies to get baby immune systems up and running.

There may also be some changes in personality a few days before. Blackberry gets incredibly clingy. Phe, when she kidded before, was just sleepy and wanted to lay on you all the time. Sari? She’s on the other side of the barn squinting at me. (Feelin’ the love, goat.)

As they start preparing, they’ll begin to stake out a spot in the barn they feel the most comfortable dropping kids. You don’t really have control of that, but I do recommend that you have a kidding pen.

Staking out their spots. Blackberry made the funniest noises defending her place!

If you’re planning on bottle-raising, it’s not as important, but if you’re dam raising, it’s pretty important to have a place that mom and babies can be tucked safely away for the first few days. I’ve also noticed that kidding does generally appreciate being secluded from the herd where they don’t have to deal with their herd-mates.

If I catch the doe in time before kidding, I’ll put her in the pen if she’s close. I worry about her having anxiety being separated from the herd before she’s ready, so I don’t usually do this until she starts obviously separating herself. If the kids are already on the ground, I’ll move them to the pen itself. I usually leave them in there for about a week before carefully reintroducing the herd. The pen I have is close to the herd and can see each other, but there’s no risk of babies being stepped on or yearlings getting rambunctious and thinking they need to prove dominance.

If bottle raising, you should also have a warm box for the kid(s), as well as heat-treated colostrum of some sort on the ready!

There’s also a few items I recommend to have on hand. Making a kidding supplies bucket is a good idea.

  • Clean towels (for cleaning babies and faces)
  • Scissors (for cutting umbilical cords that don’t detach)
  • Iodine (especially important for dipping cords, to disinfect them and made sure no bacteria gets in there)
  • Bottle and nipple (Even if you’re not bottle raising I recommend having them on hand. The nipples are cheap and can be screw on or rubber; both can be put on a plastic coke bottle or whatever is your fancy. Moms can reject kids, or they can have so many that it’s ridiculous for her to feed them all (and there’s a risk she’ll reject kids). I thought Sari would have triplets this year and I’d need to bottle raise one, but she ended up having just two REALLY BIG kids, so it worked out fine.

There are other recommendations (like kid pullers, etc), but the above are the bare minimums in my opinion.

Okay! And now, the key to goat kidding is watching their ligaments.

There are two ligaments that run out at an angle out from their spine on their rump that connect to either side of their tail like a peace sign. When they kid, those ligaments dissolve to allow the spine to push up for birth. So, dissolved ligaments = goat is ready to kid any time now. You should probably feel the ligaments before getting close to kidding so you know what to compare it all to.

They come out from the spine like my fingers show

Of course, estimating when they’re going to kid BEFORE the ligaments dissolve is tricky and aggravating… they can dissolve very quickly, or very slow. It’s one of those things you have to really watch. Blackberry, for example, starts loosening up days beforehand. Sari doesn’t until the seemingly last minute.

But besides ligaments, these are the things to watch for:

  • Restless moving around
  • Standing off by herself and digging at the ground — that’s seeking the best place to drop those kids.
  • Staring off into space and grinding teeth is usually a symptom of light contractions
  • Back arching (usually with tails going up, or flipping back and forth) is when they start getting stronger.
  • Mucus — usually thick and yellow or pale yellow. This one is kind of tricky though; Sari has had mucus days before sometimes. But usually it’s a sign of getting close.
  • Getting up and lying down over and over is also a big one, as mom tries to readjust babies into the best position.
  • Making little noises (that’s not for all goats — mine are just especially vocal)
  • Searching around on the ground after contractions

Some goats will want you there during and some won’t. Usually it’s best practice to be nearby but not on top of them; that can make them uncomfortable.

Usually they’ll lay down and it’ll be pretty obvious they’re pushing when the time comes. Some will be vocal, some won’t. There will probably be a fair amount of grunting, getting up and down, searching the group, lying back down and pushing…

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There’s a 30 minute rule with goat kidding. If the goat is pushing pretty obviously and there is no kid on the ground within 30 minutes, there’s a problem. Even if there’s a nose or feet, but no progress is being made, there’s something wrong in there.

If you’ve never pulled a kid, you should have a vet or trusted goat herder ready to call. I used to help 40-60 does a year kid, for about five years, so I don’t hesitate to get in there and fix things if a doe is in distress even before the 30 minute rule (I hate to see them in distress, and getting tired especially won’t help anything). But if you’ve never pulled a kid, I hesitate to tell you to try to correct a kid’s positioning. I will be writing a post about common problems and such, which I will link to at the end of this post when it’s done.

But anyway. Kids arriving!

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Look, little white toes!

With the picture above, I saw toes only a minutes before the kid was on the ground. In fact, I’d only just cleaned the kid’s face and placed him next to mom, when I turned around the second one was already out!

If you’re bottle raising, I recommend removing kids as soon as possible. It’s pretty sad when mom sees the kids (or gets to lick them) and then the kids are gone.

After the birth, mom should be all about those babies. Licking them is TOP priority; she’ll start even before the other kids are out (if there are more). You’ll probably get a bath as well if mom trusts you. She’ll often talk to them as well (the noises are freaking adorable). Besides cleaning faces to make sure the kids having a clear airway, I usually just leave it all up to mom.

If the kid happens to come out with the umbilical cord still attached, snip that quickly. An attached kid, especially if the mom stands, can tug too hard on the placenta and rip her uterus, or give the kid a hernia.

If the doe stands up, you can check to see if there’s more kids by lifting up firmly and quickly right in front of her udder. If you feel anything hard that moves around, there’s another kid. If it’s just gush you feel, and can lift up quite a ways, then she’s done.

The doe will eventually get up (if she’s not already) and kids will start rooting around for milk. Technically, kids don’t need milk for several hours after birth; they’ve been fed by the umbilical cord up until they came out. Either way, kids are born with the instinct to find the milk now, and it’s equally adorable and funny to watch, because they can be pretty uncoordinated and dumb about it.

Spray or dip those cords in iodine, after the kids are out. This will kill any bacteria and prevent an infection.

Especially good moms will lift their feet up very high and set them down very carefully to avoid stepping on babies, but some moms are dumb and will step on babies. Kids are surprisingly resilient, but injuries can occur. Watch out for those tiny little legs getting stepped on!

Some moms won’t get the idea of nursing immediately. They’ll jump or kick, which really won’t help the kids be able to nurse. If that happens, it’s usually fixed by holding her still to assisting the kids to nurse a few times. I usually will pin the doe against the wall and hold up a back leg (so she can’t kick or move without unbalancing — they trust me, so that usually works). Does will usually get the idea afterwards.

Sometimes you’ll have to do it for a few days to let the kids nurse before the dam gets it. Or, if the moms seem like they’re completely rejecting kids (won’t let them nurse, not interested in cleaning them or talking to them, or in bad cases, butting them away), you’ll need to bottle feed. That’s pretty uncommon, and usually those cases are because of a hard labor where the mom’s instincts get confused.

After all kids are out, the placenta will emerge. I’m not sure if there’s a ‘rule’ about when it should, but if it’s been over 12 hours I would worry about a retained placenta. Call your vet for that. Usually it starts emerging within a couple hours, and will look a little like this:

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She laid down and got some straw on it, obviously

DO NOT try to pull it out. The body detaches it all on it’s own and slowly; if you tug you could tear her uterus. If it’s been hanging there for hours without change, you can gently tug and see if it’s just detached but stuck there. But don’t overdo it.

Does might try to eat it. It’s an instinct, to clean up all their mess so predators are less attracted. It’s not a terrible idea to let her eat it (there are quite a few vitamins in there that can help the doe) but they can get sick from eating the whole thing. If the moms are interested in it, I usually let them eat some and bury the rest.

After birth, I personally prefer to get hot water with molasses for the doe. It helps replenish some iron and energy, and the does love it. I’ve had moms down half a bucket in one go. It’s a nice treat for the doe after working so hard!

After that… it’s rest and bonding time! The dam usually takes a power nap after, especially if it was a hard labor. Kid personalities vary; some will be all over everything and some will nap too. I usually hang out for a while afterwards (because how can you not!?) to make sure everyone is acting healthy and get attention.

If dam raised, it’s especially important to spend a lot of time with kids in the first hours of their life, and the following weeks. They need to associate you with herd. I usually grab a book to read, or get some paperwork done with a kid or two snoozing on my lap. Adding a half an hour during morning and night chores to sit down and play with them usually will suffice. They’re such time wasters; kid’s absolute joy of discovering how to do things like jump and play is heartbreakingly cute. I usually end up playing with them for longer than that. It’s almost impossible not to!

After that… well, that’s pretty much it! Just pay attention, make sure nobody is acting too weird or lethargic (though lots of sleeping is normal in the first couple days), and enjoy those new baby kids.

I’ll write another post on after-kidding care (for mom and kids) here shortly. Until then, any questions?

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Naptime, after a hard labor. Sari (dam), 2017

Further Reading:

Kidding Stories: Sari 2016

On Baby Goats Born with Weak Pasterns 

Nursing Kids and Lopsided Udders

First Year Of a Goat’s Life

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Completed Stories: Cocoa

Cocoa was born March 8th, 2006. She wasn’t born as mine. When I went to fair that year, it was decided it was a good idea that I have a companion for a kid I was showing from Tsornin (my first goat), so she wouldn’t be alone in the pen. My goat neighbor offered me one of hers as a companion – an offer that quickly turned into an offer of ownership. At that point, I’d worked so much with this neighbor I had vastly paid off what my goats were worth and their upkeep.

After spending a few hours picking out a kid, I settled on Cocoa.

Naming Cocoa was a little bit of a joke. Cocoa’s mother’s name was Elusive, so I wanted to do something ethereal or magic-like. But she was also the color of dark chocolate, and had a little white Hershey’s kiss on her forehead. As I was 14 years old, Mystical Cocoa became the perfect name of choice.

It wasn’t until fair came and went that I decided I would keep Cocoa. Not only had she shown incredibly well – winning Junior Champion – but there was something about her, personality and conformation, that really drew me. I decided to sell the other kid instead, and keep Cocoa.

It was the next year that Tscout, my showmanship goat, died by an unknown illness a few weeks after kidding. Cocoa was actually the one to go with Tscout to the vet, just in case they needed to keep her overnight and needed a companion. That evening, I ended up staying all night holding Tscout until she passed in the early morning.

Cocoa became my showmanship animal. Little did I know, she’d be excellent at it.

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Not only did she have a conformation that barely needed any work, but after the first few minutes of stubborn fighting, she’d be docile – peeved, but docile all the same.

It wasn’t just me, either. The first year I was got into Master Showmanship I fretted over her behavior – and she was a complete angel to everyone who needed to show her.

Which is pretty laughable, but she was so stubborn every other day of the year, and threw her (considerable) weight around to get what she wanted.

*  *  *

I didn’t see Cocoa for most of my college years, as I had a dreadful falling out with the neighbors I worked for, and who technically owned my goats.

It was because of Cocoa that I decided to pursue legal action to get my goats back. I saw her at fair a few months after the split, and it just hit me: this wasn’t fair. I had worked so hard for them, and in my naiveté, thought the verbal arrangement we had would be honored.

And Cocoa was my baby.

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The case took a long time. I think it was almost four years where I wasn’t in her life. During fair times I was able to sneak over and see her, and occasionally I’d see her in the neighbor’s pasture if the goats were out that day. I learned later that she was continually shown, and won quite a few ribbons.

My court case was settled in March, and she was returned to me a few weeks after she turned 8 years old. My dad and I loaded Cocoa and Phe (the only daughter of Cocoa’s that was returned) into the truck and drove them home. My mother cried when she saw us coming down the driveway.

It was immediately apparent Cocoa was not in good health. While Phe was nervous and half-delighted with the attention while furiously inspecting her new home, Cocoa stood in the corner of the pen and shook.

It took almost a month to find out what was wrong. She would barely eat, was incredibly skinny, and looked miserable constantly. My mother and I problem solved for weeks, coaxing her with interesting food and treats, syringing water into her to keep her from being dehydrated, giving her vitamins and antibiotics. I was on the phone with the vet almost every other day. It didn’t help that she was also depressed – I imagine it was a shock going from a herd of 40+ to a herd of 2.

I started gaining her trust and affection again by giving her scratch fests. For some reason she was itchy all the time – and loved to be scratched. My mom used to give her little massages, too.

Finally, almost a month later, we found some results: not only did she have a raging staff infection, was CAE positive, had no front teeth, and her stomach wasn’t working – she was hypocalcemic, which explained the shaking and the dull behavior.

Of course, she wouldn’t be nice and eat her alfalfa like a good goat (probably because it hurt to eat). And the calcium shots we were given stung horribly, and she definitely refused to eat whatever mouthfuls we could coax out of her after that. We tried to use liquid calcium, but had a find a very particular one – because most calcium supplements burn their mouths and cause sores.

Between the shots we’d given her before giving up, the new liquid calcium, and stuffing probiotics down her throat, she started to improve. I used to spend hours collecting tasty tidbits and taking her and Phe on walks. Cocoa’s health habits were a regular conversation at the dinner table.

The stress of the move and her health had caused some of the CAE symptoms to flare up, and her knees were twice their normal size. We started feeding her particular herbs to help combat the arthritis that the CAE was causing. The herbs helped enormously; even decreasing the amount of swelling that had occurred. To this day I still think those herbs prevented her from becoming crippled and needing to be put her down.

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Phe, Remus, Romulus, and Cocoa

Phe kidded a little over a month later, and that helped Cocoa, too. At first she wanted nothing to do with those little buck kids; then she flipped and started guarding them like she was the mom herself. She was getting a little herd back.

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There’s Cocoa in the back, being forced along for the adventure

I bought Sari in September a few months later as a graduation present to myself. As much as Sari is a butthead, she helped Cocoa’s attitude too. Sari wanted to go outside in their pen all the time (whereas Cocoa wanted to hide inside) and liked to explore. When Phe would follow Sari on her adventures, Cocoa was forced to go with and get out in the world.

Cocoa was a bit of a nut. When out for walks, she’d harass trees and bushes by twirling her head around and around a branch until it was nothing but pulp. For some reason, she’d take great enjoyment out of that.

She also loved the sunshine – man, did she love the sunshine. Even to the point of giving up food. She’s stand in it for hours, eyes half-closed.

We often joked about feeding Cocoa anxiety meds, because she was always fretting. She was herd boss, and would spend much of her time surveying the land, evil-eyeballing the dog and keeping track of all herd members.

Her favorite food was ferns. Back when she would barely eat anything, often a few fern leaves were the only thing she would eat. Second to that, it was the tender blackberry shoots – but then again, every goat wants to eat that.

During the winter, we started to tease her that she was a sheep. She would develop an undercoat so thick it looked like wool. It came off in great swaths during the spring that looked like cotton-dandelion-fluff spread everywhere.

*  *  *

Almost a year later, the goats and I moved to go live with my partner about a half an hour away. Cocoa was in good health, albeit high-maintenance. She didn’t like the move, of course…

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The face of WHERE THE HELL AM I?

… but her herd soon blossomed, bringing Blackberry, Duchess, and Sassy into the fold.

Now, at this new place, there was a run that the goats had to go down to get into the pasture. Cocoa, being the anxiety animal, refused to go out that way – and since she’s herd boss, nobody else would go either.

Cue much time spent leading Cocoa down the run to convince them to all go out in the sunshine and grass. It took a while, but between Sari and I, we got her straightened out.

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Playing with the hose… cuz apparently that’s a thing

She proceeded to be spoiled (as if she wasn’t before). I buy several types of grain, hays, and sunflower seeds – all of which she had access to. She was let into the feed room to free range, and privilege no other goat has had yet.

Being the ever-watchful one, she was always keeping track of all barn activity. During feeding times she’d spend half her time focused on what you were doing instead of what she should be eating. And at the end of chores, she’d escort you to the gate. Unless it was raining or too muddy, then she’d just watch you go.

She earned the nickname “Mama Drama” from my partner. Probably due to the always watching.

She also loved to be brushed, probably for the same reason as her weird itchiness. The expression on her face when she was brushed or itched was pure bliss.

*  *  *

Around February, almost two years after she came back to me, she started to get a little quiet. It was obvious by her behavior that she was no longer herd boss. She was getting thin again – but still healthy, with a glossy coat.

She started turning up her nose at the food. At first I figured it was because she was old, and didn’t want to fight the others for it. She started getting her own food, away from the others, with the new babies – Maggie and Aztec – for company. I also started bringing her oatmeal and honey, which she wolfed down – but wasn’t much interested in anything else.

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Left to right: Duchess, Maggie, Sassy, Sari, Blackberry, Aztec, Phe, and Cocoa

Then, one day when I was looking through our wood picking out good pieces to build a duck house, I heard a loud THUMP-THUMP. The bucks slam into things all the time, but it sounded different.

She was on her side when I looked. It looked like she’d just fallen over, just like that. It was probably a stroke.

I’m just so grateful it was fast.

She didn’t move when I reached her. I was there for her final gasps of breath, but I don’t know if she recognized me. I hope she did; I hope she knew I was there, and she heard me when I told her over and over how much I loved her.

She’s buried next to Tscout, on my parent’s property, almost exactly two years after she was returned to me.

Cocoa died March 16th, 2016, in the afternoon, with the sun shining down on her.

Bottle Raising vs. Dam Raised

Whether to bottle-raise or dam-raise your kids is a big decision when raising kids. On the one hand, bottle-raising kids makes them super friendly without a lot of work – but the effort of bottle raising can be quite labor intensive. On the other hand, dam-raising takes away a lot of the work, is more natural – but you need to make sure you spend time with your kids to make them people-friendly, and a much higher chance of milk-related diseases to be passed on.

For those visual people out there, I’ve made a pros and cons list!

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Obviously, this isn’t a balanced list. This list is just to highlight the elements to take into consideration when deciding how to raise your kids. Many of these things can be managed to be a lesser problem. For example, taming kids is solved with just a half an hour of sitting down with new babies to familiarize them with you and people in general. And oh, it’s such a “chore.”

Different elements are going to have different weight depending on what you’re looking for. If you have a huge herd, taming all those kids may be a monumental task – in the same vein, bottle-raising may be entirely too much work.

The risk of CAE is unacceptable to some, and all kids are bottle-raised. Hard-core breeders who show consistently may not be willing to make sure to check for lop-sided udders, and kids are bottle-raised for the same reason.

In other scenarios, such as needing CAE testing, the testing should probably be done anyway. For lop-sided udders, which can be managed with some attention, you might not care if you’re not going to show.

It all depends on what you’re looking for in your ladies and what you want to do. And I have posts on dealing with different issues that arise depending on your preference for raising kids, as well.

Here’s a post on lop-sided udders

Some specifics for bottle-raising kids:

Do not skimp on the colostrum, even if you’re bottle-raising! It’s the absolute best thing for babies in jump-starting their immune systems and making sure they grow up strong. If you don’t have a source of natural colostrum, there are colostrum replacers that can be bought. Try to find a goat-specific version.

If you do have a natural source of colostrum and are bottle-feeding for disease-related reasons, make sure to heat treat, not pasteurize, the colostrum. Pasteurizing the colostrum will turn it into pudding.

Also, if you’re going to continue using replacer, I really recommend buying cows milk and feeding half cows milk and half replacer. Feeding only replacer can make the kid bloat.

Have any pros and cons to add to the list? Let me know! I’d love to add them.

In the Beginning there was Love

My introduction to goats came by way of a neighbor we moved next to when I was eleven. This neighbor had been raising dairy goats for 35+ years. And not just raising any dairy goats, but championship quality Nubians who won routinely at shows. When I showed up, she had about 40 full-time milkers, excluding maybe a dozen or so retired ladies, and bucks. This number only grew with my help.

It took about three seconds for goats to become my love and joy. Think horse crazy girls, only with goats. I spent every moment I could in the barn, to the point where my family would asked in exasperation if I was ever coming home. I wanted to learn everything; I wanted to participate in everything.

I spent five years learning this way. I learned everything from care and management, to how to best show them in the ring, to what excellent conformation really looked like. I won at 4H. I fell in love with newborn kids. I loved and lost some of my best friends. In a lot of respects, I discovered what humanity was.

It’s been 12 years since my family and I moved next to the neighbor with all of the goats. I have only one of the original ladies I raised from that time. Cocoa is ten years old, stubborn as a mule, and spoiled rotten.

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Cocoa was returned to me with only one of her daughters, who I named Phoenix. She’s the spoiled rotten, heart-of-gold Princess of the group. If you stand there when she’s obviously asking for something, and refuse to give to to her, she rolls her head around (goat version of rolling your eyes) and races manically around the barn. She has a habit of face-planting in your lap when she wants attention. Or rolling around on you.

 

 

As a graduation present to myself, I bought Sari, an opinionated, butthead of a lady who doesn’t take no for an answer. She loves food, and then affection. In massive quantities. In that order. She also routinely falls asleep in my lap if I lay outside reading or writing.

My first gentleman came to me in 2015. Rhett is a lug of a buck who practically vibrates with the need to get and give attention… but has no idea how to express it, so usually just ends up invading personal boundaries and accidentally biting people when he just wants to get your attention. We’re working on that.

 

As a moving in present when I moved in with my fiancée, he bought me Blackberry and Sauvignan Blanc. Blackberry is the neediest goat you’ll ever meet, who practically goes comatose when you give her attention. She will probably follow you to the ends of the earth, though she’s incredibly loud and wants to yell all the time, so it wouldn’t be a quiet journey.

Sauvie is the sweetest boy you’ll ever meet, very shy, and very curious about everything. He’s only recently begun to actually stand up for himself, which usually results in epic battles between him and Rhett, and trying to get out the door when I’m feeding the boys.

 

Sassinach (Sassy) and Duchess are half-sisters and cousins, born of sisters bred to the same buck (Rhett). They are mutts; meaning, their father is a purebred Nubian, but their mothers are boer/Toggenburg/Nubian mixes. Both of them are much too intelligent for their own good, and get into absolutely everything. When I’m mad I call them the Devil Twins.

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On Friday the 15th of January 2015, these adorable beautiful babies were born. They hold a special significance for me. All of the babies I’ve cared for up until now were born under another’s name, or I bought them when they were older.

These beautiful tiny ones are truly mine.

It’s hard to explain why that means so much to me. They don’t feel any more “mine” than my adults, and it’s not like I haven’t seen hundreds of other babies born; there were even some babies born last year on the property I’m currently living on (Sassy and Duchess). Perhaps it is because legally now, as well as physically, nothing can be done to these babies without my express permission.

This is the first piece of advice I will impart upon you all. When raising goats, and becoming attached to their beautiful faces and personalities (which you undoubtedly will), make absolute sure that they are legally yours. I doubt many of you will have that problem, but still: be smarter than me. Put it all down in writing.