Kidding Season at Honey Sweetie Acres

Kidding Season at Honey Sweetie Acres

Kidding Season is upon us

Since it is January, the kidding season is upon us. It is a tremendously fun yet stressful time of year. So, we thought we’d share what a typical birthing situation can look like. While we let mother nature “drive,” so to speak, there are many things we can do to make it easier for the birthing doe and her kid(s).

It starts before the babies are even conceived. When we breed does, we DO want to know the exact date that the breeding took place. We do not turn males and females out together and hope for the best. If we see the date when the breeding occurred, we can closely calculate the expected due date, usually within a day or two.

With Nigerian Dwarf goats, they can frequently have multiple kids, as many as 4 or 5.   Multiples have positive & negative consequences. The good news is that multiples are typically smaller kids and easier for the mother to birth. The bad news is that multiples can become entwined and “ball up,” blocking the birthing canal. If assistance is not nearby, the doe can labor for hours till the first kid is born, usually with dire consequences.

Once serious labor begins, it is crucial that the kids exit the womb and vaginal canal quickly. If a doe actively pushes for more than 30 minutes, the risk of a stillborn kid can increase dramatically. Baby goats are encased in a water sac and connected to the mother by an umbilical cord. When that bubble breaks, the baby will try to start breathing. If the kid is still inside the mother for an extended period, it can suffocate.

A Doe is Due

So, 5-7 days before a doe’s due date, we move her to a 6 X 8 ft birthing stall. She has a few days to relax before the birth, and we get to observe her more closely than if she was still in with the entire herd. The signs that labor is coming starts with the doe “talking.” She becomes much more verbal about 48 hours prior. She actively seeks our attention and will lick an exposed hand enthusiastically. In addition, she may paw spots in the stall, which is a nesting behavior.

Usually, within a few hours before birth, the doe will stop eating and drinking. This is when labor is pushing her cervix to open to allow the delivery. It can be a full day to just a few hours. It is different with every doe. We need to watch their behavior.

This is where we use technology to help. We have cameras above each stall, and they are connected to our phones so that we can observe her day and night without standing in the barn every minute.

Nature vs Nurture

When actual labor begins, the doe typically starts to push. Sometimes they do it quietly, and other times, they will yell for the world to hear. We will let the birth progress naturally unless we see a reason for concern, such as a water bubble bursting and no baby present. We will put on nitrile gloves with a little natural lubricant and ensure the birthing canal is open, feeling for the presence of a properly presented kid.

Normal presentation is with the head resting on the two front legs. We usually check to be sure that is the case and let the doe naturally push the baby out. But if we find otherwise, we assist with aligning the baby or even reach in and pull the entire baby out onto a clean puppy potty pad rather than directly onto bedding.

We use a baby bulb syringe and suck out the birth mucus from the nostrils and deep inside the throat so the baby can breathe easier. We will vigorously rub and stimulate the baby’s immune system. We allow the mother access to lick and bond with the baby.

There are some breeders who never allow the mother to lick or go through the bonding. They will remove the baby at birth and immediately have it start nursing from a bottle. This is done out of fear of CAE, Caprine Arthritic Encephalitis. It is a debilitating, eventually fatal disease and is transferred via the mother licking and nursing the baby. For safety, the milk will be pasteurized and fed back to the babies in bottles only. Some farms employ this method.

We test our does twice a year via a blood test for CAE. They have tested negative for 12 years, and we know it is safe for their kids to nurse them. In our opinion, it is better for both, and the natural colostrum is best directly from the mother. Milking it out and reheating it results in a gummy and thick consistency, making it difficult to give a kid after the fact. Not to even mention that heating destroys valuable nutrients.

We have also found that natural stimulation from kids increases the milk a doe has to offer. A machine can only stimulate so much. On the other hand, as kids grow and age, they can damage the teats and stretch them out, damaging the “show” appearance of the udder.

Kidding Season at Honey Sweetie Acres

OK, back to the recent birth:  We give the mother a shot of oxytocin (the exact same drug given to pregnant women so stimulate contractions) to help her pass the afterbirth. This is crucial in the first 24 hours after birth. The shot also helps her milk to come in fully. She will also receive a shot of Bo-Se, which is a combination of Vitamin E & Selenium, both crucial to birthing recovery. Other options are vitamin injections and probiotics, it depends on what the doe needs at the time. This means we are in the barn, usually for up to an hour after the birth, watching for the placenta to be expelled and making sure the baby nurses. Regardless of the outside temperature, we don’t go in the house until we SEE the baby eat on its own.

Stress Free Birth

We want the birth as stress-free birth as possible. But sometimes, it does not happen that way. They are sometimes born weak, even to the point of resuscitation. Sometimes a kid will be unable to nurse or lack interest. This is sometimes due to a shortage of oxygen during birth. These babies must be “tubed” and have colostrum delivered via a thin flexible tube passed down their throat directly to their stomach. We don’t like tubing babies, but sometimes it is necessary and can be the difference between saving or losing a kid.

If tubing becomes necessary, we usually end up with a house guest for 7 – 10 days. If the kid bounces back quickly (24-48 hrs), we will return them to their mother and encourage them to nurse her. Some mothers will accept a “delayed” kid back, and some mothers will not. We hope they will accept the little one back, but if not, we now have a bottle baby to feed 3 – 4 times per day for the first few weeks!

Separating a mother and her baby is always a last resort and only done as proper health care dictates. We will often post Facebook photos of babies on bottles (because they are cute with their voracious appetites). Sadly, angry comments surface from those who know little to nothing about the entire process, the care given, and the hours we commit to providing the best care possible.

It surprises many, but goat mothers are not as attached as human mothers. If nursing the kids becomes uncomfortable or they are too aggressive with her udder, the mother will walk away, preventing them from nursing. It is at this point it may be time to switch the little one to a bottle.

Switching to a Bottle

Switching a baby to a bottle is dependent on many factors. It has nothing to do with convenience. Every situation is different. Frankly, it is more convenient to let them continue to nurse Mom unabated, but that may not be in the best interest of either the mother or the kid. Bottles much are cleaned and sterilized between every feeding, then refilled and refrigerated before the next feeding. When it is time to feed, the bottles are placed in hot water buckets to warm them slowly so as not to impede nutrients.

So as you can see, kidding season can be quite time-consuming. But seeing the miracle of birth and watching the little ones reach their potential makes it all worth it for us.

Our Kidding Schedule

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