By Lacey Hughett
As with humans, ample planning is needed prior to a goat delivery. And in a perfect world, this exciting time would go by without a hitch, and usually does go well, but sometimes goes wrong in every conceivable way.
This guide is not meant to panic inexperienced owners but rather prepare them for the instance when things do not go as planned.
Keeping certain items in your barn or a go-bag can make life easier for you and your animals when those goat labor signs begin. Some can be easily found around the house or at a store, but you’ll have to buy others at actual feed store or online. Once you have the items assembled, it is key to keep them together, clean, and easily accessible.
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In addition to staying close to your goat when labor is near, provide a clean, warm kidding area. A bale of basic straw works well for bedding.
Some goats will scream while giving birth. I only had this happen a couple of times, but it was profoundly disturbing. Some will just get it over with. I have one mama that I’ve never seen in goat delivery. For three years in a row, I’ll go out to check on her and she’ll suddenly have a new baby, who is always dry, warm, and content.
Goat Delivery Tools for Baby…
If you are present for the birth, make sure you clean the nose and mouth. A nasal aspirator can clear these airways.
Keeping the new baby warm is key, so keep a set of towels to dry the kid. I once had a goat delivery in the middle of a blizzard. Not in a barn, but in the actual snow because the doe didn’t want to have her kid in her house. Goats will not care about timing in the least. Heat lamps, securely attached to the barn or goat house, can aid in warming the kid, as can heating pads if they get extremely cold. I saved a kid during an emergency with a heating pad and hair dryer. Don’t be afraid of bringing a kid in your house if you’re raising baby goats in cold weather. We’ve all done it.
Once the kid is dry and happy, tend to the umbilical cord. The mother should take care of it. If she didn’t or the cord is too long, tie unscented dental floss around the cord and cut it using sterilized scissors. You can easily sterilize scissors using alcohol wipes. Perhaps keep medical clamps on hand in case the bleeding doesn’t stop, but the dental floss has always worked for me. Once the umbilical cord is trimmed, dip it in Betadine or any other povidone-iodine solution to remove bacteria and foreign material.
Goat Delivery Tools for Mama…
The doe needs some love, attention, and care too! Anyone who has given birth knows that it is a taxing process, so I give my new mama some energy-dense snacks like oats, grain, molasses and honey, along with fresh water. Udder balm is wonderful to have in your birthing bag, because the doe’s comfort is crucial to overall health of the baby. A doe with sore udders may not be willing to nurse a kid.
I use antibacterial soap to wash the doe’s udder prior to using balm, so the area is clean and ready for the kid. I also use teat dip, which helps prevent mastitis and can be applied using a small cup.
Never milk a doe before her kid is born, because the baby needs the colostrum that comes out first. If the kid isn’t nursing, the doe turns the kid away, or something happened to the doe during labor, you will need to feed the kid. Have backup colostrum, kid milk replacer, and goat bottles on hand and learn about caring for rejected kid goats. Kids need small amounts of milk several times a day to avoid getting milk sickness.
Keep a thermometer with you, in case you suspect your goats may be sick. Pro tip: the average temperature for both doe and kid is between 102-103 degrees Fahrenheit. When a goat falls ill, temperature is among the first indicators to change. Take goat temperatures rectally, and procedure may be different depending on the goat, so it is important to know your herd. Use KY jelly or other water-based lubricant may be used for insertion. Disposable gloves are also useful.
Another medical-type supply to keep in bulk are disposable syringes, which can inject any number of medications or vaccinations. For example, by 5-6 weeks of age, you’re going to want to give your kid the CDT vaccine. Read the label and follow dosing information found on the bottle.
…And a Little Something for You!
Other, more broad things that are useful to have, such as a flashlight with backup batteries. Take it from me, it is not fun to fiddle with a cell phone flashlight, with a dying battery, at a three-in-the-morning goat delivery.
In case anything goes seriously wrong or you feel uncertain and need to ask questions, keep contact information for local large animal veterinarians and, if possible, a more experienced goat owner. Both may prove invaluable during a crucial moment.
Don’t forget a camera so you can take beautiful pictures of your new babies and share them with everybody you know. Even if you don’t plan on sharing these photos, you will want them later to remember that you survived your first goat delivery.
Good luck with your kidding!
The Kidding Kit
In short, pack the following goat delivery supplies:
- -Nasal Aspirator
- -Scissors with Alcohol wipes
- -Dental floss
- -Teat dip with teat dipping cups
- -Udder balm
- -Disposable gloves
- -Disposable Syringes
- -Flashlight with back up batteries
- -Veterinarian Contact information
- Have these things on hand and stored correctly:
- -Milk replacer
- -Back up colostrum
- -Goat bottles
- -CDT vaccines
- -Heat lamps
Have you used a prepared kidding kit for a goat delivery? What other items would you recommend packing?
Originally published in the March/April 2018 issue of Goat Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.