By Linda Carlson
The vast majority of births in the goat barn proceed in a normal and healthy manner, but it is good to know what to do in an emergency. The most important thing to remember when trouble comes is that your doe needs you to be calm and gentle.
If you have small goats, you will need small hands in order to intervene. Extend your hand and try to compress the fingers as much as you can. If your hand is about the same size as a normal kid’s head, you should be able to go in to the straining doe’s birth canal to try and sort things out or provide assistance. Note that your hand will pass through the very bony construct of the pelvis, and will be heavily constricted. This means that you must work gently, but quickly, before the blood supply to your fingers is cut off.
You must secure the doe, preferably with a gentle handler at her head and shoulder, or tied to an immovable object, so that you don’t have to chase her around. When entering the doe’s reproductive tract, your hand must be CLEAN, well LUBRICATED, and move slowly and steadily.
It can be extremely difficult to determine what you are feeling with your fingertips. A pointy little rump can feel like a muzzle, for instance. I find it easier to visualize what I am touching by closing my eyes while I feel around.
A nice, soapy disinfectant – we use Betadine. This is not to protect you, it is to protect the doe.
Fill a clean bucket with hot water and keep it in a place where it will not be knocked over. Before intervening in any way, scrub your hands and arms thoroughly (up to the elbows, please!) and dry them on a scrupulously clean towel or disposable paper toweling. Buy paper towel in bulk and you won’t be tempted to scrimp on it.
Scrub again as needed if you are going in more than once or get dirt or bedding on your hands or arms. Some prefer to use long latex gloves, but I find them awkward. I’d rather scrub!
Lubricant – available in any drug store. KY jelly works well – Vaseline is too thick and goopy, and is not water- soluble, so I cannot recommend it. Buy lots so that you don’t feel obliged to skimp when you need it.
Appropriate thin, soft rope or “lambing snare” for pulling. Look for something with a fine, soft finish and good grip. I have used both with good success.In a pinch, baling twine or the familiar yellow nylon will do, but it is slippery, does not hold well in a leg noose and harsh to the touch (think of your poor doe if you have to use it internally!). Your vet’s number – preferably one that will make on-farm calls. While I’ve listed this last, it is THE most important tool at your disposal. Every
Your vet’s number – preferably one that will make on-farm calls. While I’ve listed this last, it is THE most important tool at your disposal. Every goat breeder should be willing to pay the cost to retain a professional when a situation is beyond our ability, and should possess the wisdom to know when to make that call.
Danger signs – STOP and call the vet if: the kid is really stuck, if you note bleeding (bright red blood), any prolapsing of the uterus, if a kid has died some days previous and has become necrotic (“off-smelling,” pieces come off when pulling – sorry, I know it’s gross, but it can happen), or any signs that the doe is in extreme distress. Know when to call. She is worth it. The kids are worth it. You are worth it.
Too many times, we hear that the goat owner cannot afford an emergency vet call. Here’s what I do. Every month I put a little money into a savings account. $25, $50… and then forget about it. It adds up, and chances are you may never have to use it, but when you do, you will be far less stressed.
Let me repeat the most important rule: DO NOT PANIC.
Now, a series of drawings that I’ve done to illustrate various presentations that you may encounter, and a few ways that I have dealt with problematic presentations.
Note: I am NOT a veterinarian, and you must use my suggestions at your own risk. Again, do NOT risk the health of your does and kids — call a vet right away if things get rough.
Difficult presentations and suggested solutions from Linda Carlson.