Prepare your farm now to be ready for new arrivals
Do you know what to expect when your goat is expecting? Kidding can be an intimidating adventure. Rest assured, nature and your doe will do most of the work. But, preparing ahead of time can help ease your worries and make the kidding season go smoothly.
The first step in preparing for your newborn goat kids is to have a space ready for them.
“Kids need 16 square feet of clean, dry space. The space should be well ventilated and bedded with clean, dry bedding,” says Julian (Skip) Olson, DVM, technical services manager for Milk Products, adding, “As you plan the space for your new additions, remember goats require 20-25 square feet each when they grow into adults.”
After planning and preparing space for your new goat kids, you should begin gathering supplies for their arrival. Having a birthing kit ready will help you prepare for a stress-free delivery.
Some essentials to include in a birthing kit include:
- Towels: To cover the bedding during birth, dry off the new kids and clean up birthing fluids. Puppy training pads also work well as a birthing surface.
- Clean, Sharp Scissors & Dental Floss: For tying off and cutting the umbilical cord if it doesn’t separate on its own. Most often the umbilical cord separates on its own so don’t rush the process.
- 7% Iodine Tincture and an Empty Prescription Bottle: For dipping the kids’ umbilical cords. A pill bottle is an example of a good size & shape for holding the iodine during dipping.
- Betadine Surgical Scrub: To sanitize supplies or your hands, should your doe need birthing assistance.
- Sterile Lubrication: In case you need to enter the doe’s vaginal opening to assist with the birth.
- Garbage Bags: For collecting afterbirth and soiled towels.
- Flashlight: To see all angles of your laboring doe and newborn kids.
- Bottle and Nipple: In case the kid is not able to nurse immediately after birth.
- Colostrum Replacer or Supplement: For the first, most critical feedings if the kids are unable to nurse immediately.
- Kid Milk Replacer: For continued nutrition if the kid is not able to nurse effectively.
- Electrolytes: To address the loss of body fluids due to diarrhea in newborn kids. Also, can benefit the doe after labor.
After you prepare the space and birthing supplies, it is time to prepare yourself. Knowing the right questions to ask before kidding begins can help you feel confident as you prepare for the miracle of new life.
What’s my role in the birthing process?
Most does will need little assistance with delivery. The first stage in labor can start as early as 24 hours before birth. During this time, it’s important to check on your doe often, however, don’t disturb her.
Second stage labor, with labor pains and pushing, comes next. At this stage, you may see the water bag, which may or may not break. During a normal delivery, this stage will last about an hour.
Your first glimpse of the kid will probably be the nose and front toes – this indicates a normal birth position. Seeing only the nose or only the hooves may indicate you will need to offer the doe some assistance. Depending on your level of kidding experience, you might consider calling your veterinarian or a fellow experienced goat owner for additional assistance.
What if something goes wrong?
Even goat kids receiving the best possible care will occasionally fall ill. If this happens, work with your veterinarian for information and advice to care for sick kids.
If your kid develops scours (diarrhea), it is important to make sure it is consuming enough nutrients and staying hydrated.
“Your kid may benefit from additional calories to help fight off the infection or illness that is causing scours. But most critically, you will need to help reverse the fluid and electrolyte loss by feeding an electrolyte supplement,” says Olson. “Electrolyte supplements do not contain all the nutrients of milk replacer, so be sure to offer electrolytes in addition to the kid’s normal diet.”
Which nutrients and feeding practices are important for my kids?
Goat kids should begin to nurse naturally within a few hours of birth. The first milk, called colostrum, is important for the kids’ immune system. If possible, kids should receive their first colostrum feeding within the first six hours of life.
If your kids are unwilling or unable to nurse, make sure you are prepared ahead of time by having bottles, nipples and colostrum replacer on hand.
“When choosing a kid colostrum replacer, look for a replacer made from bovine colostrum that provides 65 grams per pound of globulin protein. The amount of colostrum your kids should receive depends on their birth weight,” says Olson.
A standard packet of Sav-A-Kid® colostrum replacer contains 2 ounces. Plan on one packet of colostrum replacer for a 4-pound kid, two packets for an 8-pound kid, three packets for a 12-pound kid and four packets for a 14-pound kid. The colostrum replacer should be split into 2-3 feedings during the first 24 hours of life.
After 24-48 hours, it is time to switch to milk replacer for goat kids who are not nursing naturally or adequately. Milk or milk replacer is the kids’ primary source of nutrition until weaning.
“Always choose a milk replacer specifically formulated for goat kids to provide the optimal blend of energy (carbohydrates and fat), protein, vitamins and minerals for healthy kid development,” says Olson.
It is best to feed kids milk replacer by bottle or pail 4x per day. Smaller, more frequent feedings can help increase digestibility and minimize digestive upset.
Around 28 days, you can start to introduce your goat kids to a palatable, solid food in addition to their liquid diet. Kids should be consuming 1-1.25 pounds of grain each day and weigh at least 30 pounds before you begin the weaning process. Typically, weaning happens around 90 days.
“Proper care and nutrition for newborn goat kids provides the greatest chance for a long, healthy, productive life,” says Olson. “The best way to ensure your kids have proper care and nutrition is to be ready for their arrival.”