Prepare for kidding season with these tips and step by step instructions. Even if you’re new to goats, you can prepare for kidding season. We’ve included goat vocabulary for beginners!
If you’d like to learn more about dairy goats, and other homestead-friendly animals, you may want to check this out after you’re done reading:
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First Steps to Prepare for Baby Goats
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. Assuming you’ve got that part figured out, here are some more things to think about.
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.
Nourish Your Pregnant Goat
Make sure you spoil that mama goat with all kinds of wonderful things like rose hips and kelp while she’s pregnant. You can also mix up your own special supplement for her of minerals and other beneficial ingredients.
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You may decide you want to give commercial supplements during this time, if you use them.
Prepare the Birthing Stall & Kit
As you near her due date, be sure to provide your pregnant goat with a clean, dry space with lots of straw.
At least a month before your projected kidding* date, assemble a birthing kit* – the best place to go for what to put in your kit 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. Anything you need to know about goats, you will find the answer there.
Next Steps to Prepare for Baby Goats
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 doelings* 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 already two-months-old and had just had hers done – what a mess! If you’re still trying to decide if you want to disbud, here’s Molly’s opinion, which I second.
BUT, and this is a big BUT, you need to decide for yourself what you want to do about horns in your herd. Do a lot of research, and make an informed decision.
Should you choose to disbud, 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 and 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. Disbudding is just one more skill to acquire to increase your awesome homesteader-ness.
A Personal Note
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 head dam, Maizie’s, second kidding, at about four years of age. She gave us milk for nearly three years, took a bit of a break and then went back to being pregnant. And she labored beautifully.
I channeled my own midwife, I think, as I lay next to Maizie and cheered her on. This goat is pure 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.
An Inspiring Note
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. The children refused to accept 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.
Back to Baby Goat Preparations
Here are a few more things to make sure you know before the baby goats arrive.
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.
Bounce Your Goat
Learn how to bounce* your goat to make sure she’s delivered all the babies she has. One of the first kidding experiences I had, I just wasn’t sure if mamma was done, even after I’d bounced her. I took the doe to the vet to be certain. Even the vet had to take an x-ray before he was sure, 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.
Right After Babies Come
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. Real life examples of those times have been when mamma kidded outside in an ice storm and another kidded 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.
Getting Baby Goats Started
To help the baby goats start being goats, here are some things to consider.
Make Sure They’re Eating
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.
I don’t ever bottle feed unless a baby is rejected by it’s mother and I can’t get another dam to nurse it. You may have read that you need to bottle feed your baby goats if you want them to be good with people. My goats are perfectly friendly and sweet with humans.
We allow them the natural connection to their mothers and spend a great deal of time among them to ensure that we all have a good relationship.
Don’t Milk Too Early & Fertility
I let my baby goats nurse on their moms unhindered for six weeks. After that, I slowly start to take some of the milk for my family and, in the process, begin to wean them. It’s time to start selling off any kids we can’t keep at that point anyway.
You have to watch out for the males until you get them sold or weaned/re-located because they 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.
Give them extra amounts of nourishing foods while they’re lactating, just as you did while they were pregnant.
Kidding – Goat birth.
Birthing Kit – A collection of equipment that you’ll want to have on hand and be able to transport to the barn easily for while your goat is kidding. Different goat owners have different items in their kit so read some other blog posts to get a wide sampling and see what Fiasco Farms has to say.
Buckling – Another name for a baby, male goat.
Disbud – To remove the horns from a goat while they’re still in small form, just barely emerging, aka “buds”. We use a hot, electric disbudding iron because it’s quick and efficient. There are also bands and paste. We think the iron is more humane but you need to decide what you think for yourself. We use a disbudding box to place the baby goat into (with her head accessible out the top) for her safety. If the goat is in your lap, you run the risk of missing and burning her elsewhere. You might also squeeze her too hard in your anxiety and damage her little body.
Doeling – Another name for a baby, female goat.
Throw – A phrase for the mother goat giving birth. You can also say she kidded. I don’t know how the phrase “threw” developed, I just try to stay suave and use the lingo.
Position – Baby goats need to be in the right position for birthing, just like baby humans. If they’re not, you’ll need to reach in and help rectify the situation. Fiasco Farms will not fail you in learning what to do.
Bounce – A seemingly bizarre technique where you reach around your goat’s middle and pull up a bit, bouncing their tummy, to feel for more baby goats. Molly explains it better at Fiasco Farms.
Teats – A goat’s nipples, attached to her “bag” or udder. Babies nurse from there and you will learn to milk from there.
Here are just a few more goat resources as you prepare for kidding season.
Secondary pin image gratefully attributed to this Wikimedia Commons user.