Our Matriarch, Maizie, with her doelings.
Really, I should have entitled this “How to totally lose track of time and forget to get your birthing kit together and look a the calendar and consequently NOT prepare for baby goats”. I dunno, somehow not as catchy.
So, I recently had my own baby kid born (child, not goat) and, honestly, I just finished finding random parts of my own birthing kit around the house – I think they’re all put away now, anyway. I’ve been so exhausted and distracted by baby and school for the other children that I nearly forgot it was May and, oh yes, that we would be entering kidding season. Learn from my mistakes and please, do as I say and not as I do…well, did this year, anyway. I’m not usually such a ninny!
First things first, if you want a mammal to lactate, you need to make sure it has a baby; this is important to know and learn to do if you want a dairy animal. A dairy goat is pregnant about five months so, after breeding, MARK the breed date on your calendar. Important note: you will be switching calendars at the new year, most likely, so make sure you transfer your projected due date onto your new calendar. (Yeah, I forgot to do that this year.) Make sure you spoil that mama goat with all kinds of wonderful things like rose hips and kelp while she’s pregnant – well, spoil her all the time, really! As you near her due date, be sure to provide a clean, dry space with lots of nice straw. (Yeah, so I let us run out of new straw and if it weren’t for my mom putting down the last of it recently, my poor goats would have been kidding in the dirt!) At least a month before hand, assemble your birthing kit – the best place to go for all this information (if you have goats) is www.fiascofarm.com. Seriously, go there right now and finish reading this later; Molly’s site is unparalleled when it comes to awesome, wholesome goat information. (Like I said, I couldn’t find my goat birthing kit so I’m blessed nothing went wrong this year! My iodine was in my kit so I ended up using Thieves and OnGaurd on the cord stumps. Whatever.)
Little Foot with baby Charlie just minutes after birth and a nice, warm towel rub-down from me.
The goats will most likely be able to handle the birth on their own but it’s good to be close and comforting to your does if they respond well to having you near. My youngest doe, Little Foot, labored quickly and well; as this was her first, that wasn’t too unexpected. She threw a handsome buckling who practically needed to be disbudded from day one – he’s a big bugger! Plan to disbud your bucklings within three to four days and your doeling within four to eight days – just feel around for good nubs of horn starting. Don’t wait too long or it will be harder on the goat; we had a foster goat that came to us two months old and had just had hers done – what a mess! Don’t wimp out, either, and not do it at all; I don’t mess around with this topic – if you love your backyard goats, you will disbud them. Here’s Molly’s opinion, which I second. You’ll need a disbudding iron and a disbudding box to put the baby goat into to secure her and keep her safe. We bought ours used online from a fellow goat owner and they work great. For a few years, a local goat mentor disbudded for me but she finally cut me off and made me learn how to do it myself. Good for her! It’s a hard one to learn but these animals are your family and you sacrifice for them all the time; this is just one more skill to acquire to increase your awesome homesteader-ness.
Moms take the next few days to clean, clean, clean those babies as they try to get away. What is it with kids and baths?!
Since I don’t breed my goats every year (would you want to be pregnant every year?!) and milk through the winters, this was my Maizie’s second kidding at four years of age and she labored beautifully. I channeled my own midwife, I think, as I lay next to Maize and cheered her on; thank you, Cathy, for the mentoring as you helped me labor! This goat is pure gold. Well, she’s black and tan, really but I mean, her goatness is gold. She’s a royal, opinionated pain in my backside but her milk is divine and she’s strong, healthy and smart. To prove it, she threw triplet doelings this year – yes, you read that correctly. Three. Baby girls. All healthy and thriving now.
(Cool story for the spiritually minded among us. The first doeling born to Maizie was the smallest and she simply refused to eat no matter what we tried. She wouldn’t even take a bottle or lick the cream from her lips; she just wouldn’t eat. My mom did some praying for her and got the indication that she would be going back to the Lord soon. My kids, though, refused to buy that; they prayed and prayed that that little goat would pull through and start eating. So, we kept working with her and she started to perk up and eat a bit here and there. My mom prayed over her again the next morning and was told that now she’d be fine and dandy. Mom asked what the difference was and the Lord said it was that prayers of the children. It’s not every time that He can give us what we ask for but when He can, I’m sure it makes His heart glad.)
Make sure you’re familiar with what position a baby goat should be born in and be prepared to help if needed. Again, go to www.fiasco.farm for details on how you can manipulate a baby goat in the birth canal. Molly has a great little picture tutorial with a paper cut out of a baby goat in all it’s possible positions – I love it! Most of all, relax, pray, breathe; it will most likely be just fine. Learn how to “bounce” your goat to make sure she’s delivered all the babies she has; one of my first kidding experiences I just wasn’t sure even after I’d bounced and took the doe to the vet to be certain. Even the vet had to take an x-ray before he was certain so I didn’t feel like quite as big a dope. Have the name and number of a vet near you who is willing to work with larger animals; call ahead and be certain that goats are something he’s equipped to handle.
Little Foot cleaning Charlie as he sniffs the world.
After the babies are out (most common is twins, then single birth, then triplets), get them warm and dry as soon as possible. The best way to do this is to make an initial wipe off with a towel and then place the baby in front of mom so she can lick the baby dry and clean; this is important bonding time for them and you don’t want to interfere too much. I’ve had to move mom and baby before if there’s inclement weather or mom initially labored in a bad area of the yard (examples: 1) outside in an ice storm and 2) wedged between the barn and the hay feeder – goats!) Let mom clean and bond, clean and bond; also allow her access to her placenta as she’ll want to eat some of it. You’ll want to get babies on the teats at some point just to make sure they know where and what they are; keep a close eye on how they’re “getting” it and be prepared to help if needed. You do not want a starving goat so pay attention and enlist the help of someone to check on them if you know you can’t be around a lot right after the birth.
Lily finally learned to latch on after about two exhausting days of us force feeding her Maizie’s colostrum and praying heavily.
I let my goatlings nurse unhindered for six weeks at which point I slowly start to take some of the milk for my family and, in the process, begin to wean them. It will be time to sell off any kids you can’t keep at that point anyway. And watch out for the males who can become sexually active pretty early; they could even breed their own moms! Ew. Otherwise, enjoy your baby goats as long as you can and tell your does they’re awesome and you love them. Now, since you’ll need another project, go learn to make cheese. Sigh.
Here’s Charlie learning to nurse about two minutes after birth.
Success! Charlie latched on and filled up!
The triplets keep going into the Silkie chicken house where their mom can’t get at them. Here she is looking in and grouching at them.
This is our little miracle doeling, Lily, now thriving and eating.
My Maggie checking on our nesting Silkie who kept taking over the goat barn and scaring away the goats. She’s finally settled in her own digs!
This was shared with Wildcrafting Wednesday and Frugally Sustainable’s , Farm Life At It’s Best , Let This Mind Be In You and HomeAcre Hop Blog Hop.