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

Bucks, coming out of rut (April 2017)

Bucks crack me up. Mostly because they’re scary and bonkers all in the same moment.

‘Coming into rut,’ in case you don’t know, is the hormone surge that happens to bucks during breeding seasons. If you’ve ever seen a buck in rut, you’ll know that they do extremely lovely things like pee on themselves and blubber at anything on four (or even two) legs that wanders past. That stereotype about goats smelling? Yeah, it’s from them.

Right now I have two bucks in the barn: Aztec and Sauvie. Sauvie I bought two years ago because I absolutely loved his color (blonde!) and his conformation was excellent. I’d been eyeing him for a few months on craigslist… and my fiancee bought him for me when I moved in with him (moved in with the fiancee. Not Sauvie). Sauvie came to me at 8 months as the sweetest little buck who ever lived. He just wanted to cuddle and be next to you.

Aztec I raised from a baby long with his sister, Magnolia (who unfortunately died from a freak accident I’ll someday share). So he’s VERY tame and well behaved. He inherited some of his father’s bossiness, but his mother’s shy affectionate character is definitely in there too.

Then September and the hormones arrived.

That’s what bucks do, so I expected it. I knew what was going to happen. I was just more surprised as how much of the horn-dog mania could be seen in there eyes. I mean, the peeing on themselves was bad enough (Sauvie? Not so white anymore…), but they raced around and fought and snorted at everything that moved. It was a little difficult to get into their pen without being covered or knocked over (some lessons in who’s boss had to be taught — the downside of friendly bucks). Half the time the whites of their eyes showed and they looked like they were high on some serious drugs. I couldn’t pet them (with gloves of course) without being attacked by their tongues as they attempted to impress my hand with their blubbering.

Now it’s April. I’d been noticing the lack of fighting and general carrying on, but I’d been so used to them being insane I wasn’t really paying attention.

IMG_3643.JPGThis evening, I was tickled to notice Aztec watching me move around, alert and attentive. So I wandered over and gave them both some attention.

They nearly fell over in shock when I stroked their noses and chins. I guess it has been a while since I’ve actually touched them. Sauvie’s eyes actually glazed I stroked his cheeks for a while, which was kind of endearing.

Shockingly, they don’t smell so much anymore. My hands smelled a little bad after giving attention, but their faces (along with their front legs, usually the worst of the pee-targets) were only a little musky.

It’s nice to know my boys are back to the realm of the sane and friendly! They’ll be needing baths before I’ll really spend time with them (drat it weather, warm up), but I’m looking forward to actually knowing their personalities again.

Side note: The fur on their noses is so soft… it’s amazing, almost like baby fur! I’m not sure what that’s about, but definitely makes me want to pet noses…

Like Mother Like Daughter: Calcium and Phosphorus Deficiencies

One of my first goats and the original matriarch of my herd, who I lost last year, had a weird problem where she could never seem to get enough calcium. I describe the whole history in full here, but for whatever reason, Cocoa had issues absorbing enough calcium. I’m pretty convinced it had something to do with the fact that Cocoa was CAEV positive, and that the stresses on her body brought out this susceptibility — or brought on this susceptibility — but I’m not a vet, so I don’t completely know. The point is, I was supplementing calcium, or CMPK (calcium-magnesium-potassium-phosphorus, which has all the needed minerals to absorb calcium correctly) for most of the time I had with her.

Her daughter (Phoenix, or Phe) who I rescued alongside her, was also positive when she came to me. Phe is asymptomatic — meaning, she had CAE according to blood tests, but is a very healthy, perky, full of personality pain in my butt.

But something interesting (and scary, don’t forget scary) happened a while ago. While Phe and the devil twins (Sassy and Duchess) were out eating brush at my parent’s house, so suddenly grew weak and couldn’t move her back legs within a matter of days. She wouldn’t stand, and if she could, for brief moments, she leaned up against a wall and look completely miserable. My mom and I had to carry her to the car because she couldn’t make her legs work.

Desperately searching for answers, I thought it might be meningeal worms of something of the like. Later, the vet told me we don’t have meningeal worms in the area so that wasn’t possible, but for a hot minute I was convinced she had worms in her spine that might paralyze her for life.

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Poor unhappy looking Phe!

But, because my vet is very smart, he had us do several blood tests for vitamins and minerals to make sure the cause wasn’t that (incidentally, this is how he found out Cocoa’s problem and saved her, too). Mineral imbalances, in my experience anyway, are often the problem with whatever is going on. Goats, as hearty as they are, also are pretty susceptible if they’re getting incorrect food.

Turns out, Phe was critically low in phosphorus, a compliment mineral to calcium. I didn’t even know a phosphorus problem could even cause such issues. Weakness of limbs? Lackluster behavior? I’d never even heard of that in connection to phosphorus.

So the vet gave her a shot of phosphorus and a few other good vitamins (which made her perk her head up and start twitching around, which was really funny), but said that phosphorus shots were almost 80% wasted because the body wouldn’t absorb it. So it was a good start, but I needed to supplement it in her food to get her back to normal.

He told me to go to a hay supplier — and he actually knew of one in the area — that tests their hay for vitamin and mineral content. I was to find the hay with the highest phosphorus count possible (going against the normal important of making sure your hay is a correct balance between calcium and phosphorus), and feed that to the goats for the remainder of the winter. Because if Phe was so critically low, then the others probably were low, too.

(Later I found out the hay I was feeding had a low phosphorus count. The vet told me later that he’d seen a ton of those kinds of deficiencies, so there was something odd in the hay in the area for this year).

I also needed to find phosphorus mineral and try to feed her it. That part would be more difficult, because the mineral smells super funny and most goats won’t eat it.

Funny story: Phe wanted to eat it almost immediately, funny smell or no. She actually ate quite a bit for a week, where then she decided she wanted to have none of it and I had to get more creative to get it into her.

Phe started feeling better within a few days. The turn around was pretty drastic actually — she was a little weak for a few weeks, but the actual getting back up on her feet was a very quick turnaround.

Another funny story: I managed to get phosphorus mineral in her via grain and a few other treats for a while until she figured out what I was doing. But the last attempt to give her a few good doses of phosphorus I heralded back to her bottle-baby roots.

I have her a bottle. Mixing milk and molasses together (to hide the taste of the minerals), I heated it all up and dissolved the minerals so she could eat it in liquid form. Knowing Phe, who gets very excited about anything bottle-shaped, she sucked the whole thing down like a champ, including the needed phosphorus.

Here’s the proof:

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Here’s my 3-year-old, drinking a baby bottle (with molasses, that’s why it’s brown. Ignore my green fingers, I was painting)

Flash forward to about January. I noticed Phe was standing a little funny. She’s already this gangy, long-legged wonder that has as much grace as a dancing giraffe, but I did notice she was holding her butt funny. And, if I put pressure on her hips (even just a tiny bit of pressure) her rump would go down.

I decided phosphorus was in order, because weakness was how it first presented. I dissolved the mineral in some strawberry CMPK (for people, but all the time) to taste good and squirted it into her mouth.

Within 12 hours she was better.

So… every once and a while, if she’s holding her butt funny, I give her some of the mineral. And sometimes just because.

But the point of this: Phe, with her phosphorus absorption problem, is the daughter of Cocoa, who had the calcium absorption problem. I know CAEV is about inflammation, and primarily effects joints and the mammary system, but I really do wonder if the retro-virus just makes it difficult on their bodies overall, in a variety of ways. Maybe it’s just genetic that both Cocoa and Phe have these problems, the susceptibility for it heightened because their bodies are under stress from the virus. Maybe the CAEV is doing something in particular that’s eating up certain minerals.

But whichever way, I thought this was an interesting correlation that I might share with you all. Also, always try to feed the correct balance of minerals in your feed. Good nutrition is the number one way to prevent sick animals! And check your mineral/vitamin levels in your goats if they do end up sick!

Duchess’ Leg: Conclusion

Well, after spending many months and around a thousand dollars trying to save her leg, it was ultimately not successful. Her body started to slough off the limb, basically, after so long of not healing correctly. It didn’t smell, it didn’t even look really all that infected, just one day it stopped trying to heal.

When the vet went in to do an amputation, it turns out that instead of the body healing the bone, it was actually creating this weird black tissue in the place of the break… so even if I’d decided to try to do a bone graft or anything of the like, it wouldn’t have worked.

It sounds like, ultimately, the fracture was bad enough that the blood supply was compromised and the body was unable to heal. It tried — with the weird black tissue and everything — but couldn’t.

So, poor Duchess. However, after spending so much time with a cast, she had developed a good muscle mass, and she’s adjusting to three legs really well. The vet took off only from the hock down (where the break was) instead of going all the way up into the hipbone. She uses the ‘stump’ to help pee and such, though she does seem to be looking for the rest of her leg when she wiggles it around and it’s not long enough to hit the ground. A month after the amputation, she’s doing really well.

 

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Right before and right after

Below is the unhappy drugged goat going home… but within days she was climbing wood piles on three legs. (Good grief)

The last picture is coming home from her last trip in the car to the vet! She was bright eyed and doing great, and really liked riding in my car (versus the van — which wasn’t available to use) because she could lay down and still see everything around her.

 

 

In conclusion, she’s doing really well. It’s been tragic, but she’s getting around really well, even fighting with the yearlings (since the Adventuring Trio were taken home to the rest of the herd), and eating like a horse.

Now just to make sure she doesn’t get fat from pampering…

The Herd Reunited!

The Adventuring Trio (out at my parent’s property) came home! We picked up a load of hay while we were at it, so they got to snack on the way there:

Phe and Duchess helped Nevin drive:

Their faces when we arrived. Ha!

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Phe and Blackberry got into a fight immediately upon arrival (they were the herd bosses of each separate herd, so had to decide who was going to be overall herd boss). Blackberry won, which was pretty surprising. But they’ve mostly figured out their new positions, with only a few spats and testiness between them.

And there they are eating all together! Well, except for Sari, who was eating in the other room. She likes her space. And the food all to herself.

 

 

 

 

 

Thanksgiving In Goat Land

This is what Thanksgiving Dinner looks like in the world of goat:

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I’m working part-time at a produce stand right now, and they sell bruised apples at a discounted price. There were all sorts of goodies in there.

I had to start Thanksgiving treats early, of course:

But the actual ‘dinner’ was a little more prepared:

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The bucks didn’t really get the idea of the apples. They definitely liked the grain though.

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But the girls were REALLY into it.

… and then the bucks got really excited about the girls hanging out near them and forgot about the grain and apples. (The girls didn’t care)

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Maggie got really excited and somehow managed to shove her dish under the pile of straw in her effort to chew her apples.

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And occasionally a few of them remembered there was alfalfa.

Happy belated Thanksgiving everyone!

Remember that the actual Thanksgiving story and tradition is tragic and terrible — and that many families are being fractured due to the rise of hatred in the United States.

With all of this in perspective, I hope you found a lot to be thankful for, and were able to spend good quality time with family and friends!

 

The Adventure of Duchess and her Broken Leg

So Duchess somehow managed to snap her leg in half. Bone protruding, the bottom part of her leg dangling free without any support, the whole deal. This is the goat who gets out of any fence known to man and clears 5 foot fences like a deer.

(Warning: graphic images!)

So we rush her to the vet while I practically lay on her, because she somehow thinks standing in a moving car instead of lying down with a broken leg is a good idea.

So the veterinarian is in surgery when we arrive. We wait about 15 minutes. Vet comes out and assesses, and gives Duchess some pain meds. Duchess proceeds to crash out on my lap.

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We wait for about 45 minutes, because it’s the day of emergencies apparently (then we realize it’s the full moon, and we understand).

Anyway, the vet returns. We need to carry her in to work on her leg. I’m sure that she’s going to thrash around, so the vet knocks her out. Wow, that stuff works like a charm. We carry her in on my ratty old sleeping bag, which has it’s second life as a gurney.

Duchess stops breathing. Vet has to intubate. Apparently, it’s really hard to intubate a goat, so we were all pretty sure for a few seconds there that she was going to die. But we finally get her breathing again after a few minutes.

It takes an hour and half to fully shave, clean, reset, wrap, cast, and take xrays of her leg.

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I wish I had taken a picture of the xrays! It was pretty fascinating actually, for the more scientific minded. I think you probably have to get used to a little gore working with animals, though I did need to look away when the vet pulled her bone back into alignment.

Back in the car, Duchess is waking up, but really drugged, but keeps trying to talk. So mostly I see a lot of lip twitching, blinking, occasional head throwing around and plaintive noises.

Of course, as soon as we got her back into her pen and went to leave, she woke up and jolted to her feet and yelled at us to come back.

But anyway. Here’s a funny picture of my very stoned goat after being returned to her pen. Look at her fancy bright red cast!

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For the next few days I’ll be giving her a shot to help with inflammation, and make sure that her cast doesn’t get wet. And I have another appointment with the vet in 5 days to check on everything, clean it, and have another antibiotic shot.

The biggest worry at this point is that an infection may form (since it was an open wound). I was told there was a possibility the bones may not fuse, and she’ll need orthopedic surgery… so here’s hoping her bones fuse! It’s going to be a rough month or two for this kiddo, especially since she’s the troublemaker of the group and just loooovvves to get out of everything and be a brat.

The positive news is that she gets alfalfa again to aid her healing! She can’t deny being happy about that.

 

UPDATE:

A little over a month later, the vet’s biggest worry is that the bone isn’t “bridging,” or starting to fuse. It’s possible it’s due to infection, so we loaded her up with a ton more antibiotics and another month of waiting.

Let’s hope the bone starts healing. Otherwise, if it’s a non-healing fracture (which is a possibility with the severity of the break), she’s going to become a three-legged goat.

That being said, she has MASTERED the three legged hop-run. The cast is no longer slowing her down in the slightest. And she’s pretty mad about being locked in a little pen all the time (the vet said she needed to stay ‘quiet’ to give her the best chance of the bone bridging).