By Anneke De Jong – Everyone’s favorite part of a goat dairy is undoubtedly its kids. From their adorable little noses to their bouncy legs and exuberant play, goat kids always make you smile. The kidding season brings with it a lot of extra work and stress, but the joy those babies bring make it all worthwhile.
Every year kidding season begins with great anticipation and preparation. Truck loads of fresh straw are delivered for bedding. The maternity barn and kid barns are scrubbed clean and sanitized. A ready supply of gloves, lube, 7% iodine and clean towels are on hand. Employee schedules are arranged and rearranged.
Once preparations are ready, the countdown begins. Will it be a Saanen or a Nubian that delivers first, or maybe an Alpine this year? How many kids will they have? Will they be does or bucks? Will the delivery go well? Finally, the day arrives and the first kids are born. For the next few months, it’s like the floodgates have opened and there’s a steady stream of kids that join the herd at Summerhill Dairy.
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As a closed herd, every one of our 2,000 goats has been bred and born on the dairy. With that many goats, deliveries are commonplace. Most of the time, everything goes smoothly requiring little or no intervention on our part. But there are occasions where that’s not the case. Inevitably, every year there are deliveries that are difficult or unusual or just stand out for one reason or another. Like the time David, our herdsman, went to assist a yearling who was presenting a kid in posterior position, with its hind legs first. He carefully helped her delivery a healthy doe kid only to have another present its hind legs. Again, he carefully helped pull a live doe kid. A third time, hind legs presented and he pulled out yet another doe kid. And then finally, hind legs first again, he pulled out a live, healthy buck kid. Not every day that a yearling delivers quads and definitely not every day that all four present themselves hind legs first.
Usually, if there is a problem, it happens in the presentation of the kids. Several times David has had three legs present themselves – two from the kid that’s coming first and another from a twin behind it. Then he has to gently push the second kid’s legs back, find the head and front legs from the first kid and get everything lined up properly before the kids can be safely delivered. He’s even had the head, two front legs from one kid and two or three extra legs from a second kid all try to come at once. Patience, gentleness and careful attention ensure that generally, everyone makes it out alive and healthy.
Our fully stocked maternity pen is situated in a way that it can be easily observed throughout the day. Everyone always keeps an eye on the does that are ready to deliver. Although goats generally kid in the daytime or early evening, during heavy kidding season, the employees take turns staying the night to ensure that someone is there if there are complications. When our first AI (artificially inseminated) doe was due, she was watched around the clock for over 72 hours before she finally gave birth to two good-looking Saanen bucks and a beautiful Saanen doe kid. What a relief!