Here's your routine disclaimer: This protocol has worked for me over the years. I don't lose mamas nor kids, and the kids grow fast (to the point that some buyers have been a bit concerned over how much bigger my kids are than others...trust me, they all even out by a year old). Please consult with your vet and your local farm agent before deciding firmly on any protocol. I would like you to pay particular attention to the specific nutritional needs in your geographic area. I live in the Pacific Northwest, where our soils are notoriously deficient in copper and selenium. So, I have to supplement accordingly.
One month before kidding
- Start feeding alfalfa hay, if you aren't already.
- Start feeding a good-quality grain for dairy goats (such as Dairy 16). Start slowly so the does don't scour. Be careful not to overfeed because you don't want those kids growing unnaturally large. You are mainly just adding a bit of concentrated nutrition to help your does out, considering they don't have much room left in their belly for hay at the end of their pregnancy.
- If it is chilly out, ensure you have a heated water bucket so the does drink heartily.
- Have a quality loose mineral salt freely available. (This is standard for all goats, but pay careful attention that the salt stays topped off during this critical time.)
- Administer 2 cc CDT toxoid SQ to each doe. (If you can find Colorado brand, I've heard it's less likely to cause injection abscesses.)
- Administer Bo-Se per your vet's dosage instructions to each doe. My prescription from Clover Valley Vet dictates 2 cc per 50 pounds.
- Administer 2 cc Copasure copper in a gelcap. I am used to buying the cattle boluses and creating smaller doses for the goats. But, I have seen a goat-sized bolus is now offered (though much more spendy).
- Trim hooves.
- Trim around tails, and shave the udder region if you like. It does make it a bit easier on the newborns if they aren't suckling on fur, though they will figure it out. The less hair on the backside means the less afterbirth sticking to the doe.
- I supplement with kelp meal free-choice during the last month of pregnancy and the couple months after kidding. Basically, at $75/50#, I only buy one bag a year. When it's gone, I'm done buying it until next kidding season.
- Find a local person who has been breeding goats for years who will agree to be your mentor. Get their phone number, and keep it handy. (Consider assigning it, as well as your vet's number, to speed dial on your phone.)
One week before kidding
- Prepare a stack of clean towels for drying kids.
- Have a small bucket and bottle of molasses sitting by your utility sink so you can make up a bucket of warm molasses "tea" for the mamas to drink right after they finish kidding.
- Set aside a container of dental floss for tying off umbilical cords. Also, have a bottle of iodine, latex gloves, and small disposable bottles (such as old aspirin or tiny Play-doh containers) for dipping cords.
- Make a promise to yourself that you will remember to put on the latex gloves before dipping navels. Fall short on that promise each year, just like a New Year's resolution. Forgive yourself for forgetting AGAIN and thank goodness that it's cold out so you can wear your cute driving gloves over your yellowed fingers when you run errands.
- Lay down generous amounts of fresh straw.
- Set out the baby goat shelters. I have a small wooden house (no bottom) that kids can crawl into and also a small plastic dog carrier. Babies love to find someplace out of the way, quiet, and warm. You can see the items I have in the back of the picture at the top of this page. I have them sitting underneath a platform, so bigger goats don't tromp on top and bust the dog carrier. This also helps the babies feel safe and cozy.
- Ensure your intercom and cameras are all working properly. Set the volume on high so you can hear every noise out in the barn. Also, make sure you have good lighting ready for you in the barn. If you have dark corners, that will be where the doe lies down to kid (doe's code of honor). So, pick up a headlamp.
- Purchase these items: MFO solution and/or CMPK drench or gel, Vitamin B complex (injectible), Ivomec+ (injectible), Vitamin ADEB12 gel, OB lube (KY Jelly), and diaper rash creme. (When buying the OB lube, don't make the mistake of asking the poor kid behind the counter, "Don't you have a big, value size?" I think I caused that young man permanent damage.)
- Do NOT purchase the Goats Prefer calcium drench. I bought that about a decade ago and spilled some on a scratch on my arm. Pure pain! Why on earth would I want to put that caustic solution into my doe's esophagus?
- Trim your fingernails very short, and remove jewelry from your hands, such as rings or watch (in case you need to pull kids).
- Memorize "Clip, Dip, Strip, Sip."
- If mama needs your help in pulling the kids, slather OB lube on your hand first. It is best if your hands are clean, so you might consider keeping a bottle of hand sanitizer nearby. It is likely you will forget to wash your hands before you leave the house when you hear either babies or mama holler for you.
- When baby is done being born, use your fingernail (what little is left after you trimmed it) to roughly scratch apart the umbilical cord, if it hasn't broken on its own naturally. This is a better approach than cutting with scissors in terms of closing up and healing well.
- Wipe off baby's face and nose first. If baby has wet breathing sounds, use a nasal aspirator to clear the nose.
- Now, wipe off the rest of baby with your terry towel. Vigorously rub the body, especially the chest, to help stimulate circulation.
- Move baby over a couple feet onto a dry patch of straw. Let mama lick baby while you wait for the next kid to be born.
- Babies are born and mama is happily licking them off. The rush of excitement is over, and you wonder what you should do next. Think: Clip, Dip, Strip, Sip.
- You already "clipped" (scratching the umbilical apart). Tie off the cord with dental floss a half-inch from the body (too close and you could cause a hernia). Tying off the cord is optional, unless the cord is the fat, squishy type. In that case, ensure you cinch down the floss tightly. The fat, squishy type of cord is more likely to take longer to dry up and wick bacteria.
- Dip: Put on those latex gloves and get your iodine and small dipping container. Pour a small amount of iodine into the container, position baby's cord into the container, press the container tightly against baby's tummy, turn baby over to douse the cord. (Remember to turn baby back into an upright position before removing the container: been there, done that, big mess.) Discard iodine and container.
- Strip mama's teats.
- Position baby so it can find the teat. This will take a bit of patience, especially for bucklings. Boys seem to be a bit slow catching on, but once they do, they will hog the nipple. If the kids are weak from a rough birth, you may need to give them some time before they are ready to nurse. There is no rush, but remember you can't leave the barn until you get a good "sip" from each kid.
- Prepare a bucket of warm molasses tea for mama. Pour some molasses into the bucket and add very warm to hot water (depending on the outside temperature). Molasses is full of good nutrition for mom after she kids, and she will drink more water when it is warm and sweet. Once you start this tradition, be prepared to fulfill it each year, or there will be TROUBLE! Once, I thought I could sit and enjoy my cup of coffee before going back up to the house for the molasses tea. Poetry was pretty ticked off, and she insisted on drinking my cup of coffee right out of my nice mug. I'll never forget her screaming in my face (nor the smell of her lovely belch breath at that early morning hour).
- At my farm, after mama has kidded, I move her and her babies to a private pen to bond. This also allows you to feed mama extra nutrition that she won't have to share with her herd. If it is chilly, I mount a heat lamp to the side of the pen. (Please do not start the hate mail over the heat lamp. I am a former fire fighter, so I understand the risk. I do completely clean my barn of dust and spider webs each year and ensure cords and lamps are properly maintained and positioned.) I prefer the white heat lamps to the red ones. Who wants to take pictures of red babies? Mama gets her molasses tea, a fresh flake of alfalfa, and some grain.
- Once you have seen each kid nurse, you are done! Enjoy yourself. Call all your friends, and take lots of pictures. (Please don't fret about the placenta. It will come when it is ready, and it is likely mama will eat it if she sees it before you. Do NOT assume she didn't birth it if you don't see it. If you have coyotes or other predators in your area, ensure you tightly wrap it in a strong garbage sack and remove from the barn.)
What if things don't go right?
- My vet hands out stickers with her phone number. I have one of those stickers mounted at the entrance to each of my barns. Call the vet if you need help.
- If the problem is not too serious, call your goat mentor.
- Refrain from asking for help on one of the Facebook or Yahoo groups. Please don't unless you already have a really good idea of who you can trust there. You will get boatloads of bad advice, encouraging you to load up your does with every kind of medication or home remedy. Believe me; this does more harm than good. Every year I see some fool telling folks to give their does an injection of oxytocin, for example. Beyond being stupid, this kind of reckless behavior is going to cause the government to someday shut down our ability to buy medicines for our livestock.
- There are some things you can safely do without the consultation from your vet:
- If the doe had a rough kidding and her vulva looks swollen and painful, apply some diaper rash creme to give her some relief. If you don't want to use diaper rash creme, you can use lanolin. Remember to wash your hands thoroughly first.
- If mama looks a bit droopy, and especially if she is shaking, give her a generous dose of MFO solution or CMPK. Keep a close eye on her; call your mentor.
- If baby is a bit droopy, give a dose of gently warmed Nutri-Drench. If you don't have Nutri-Drench, I've made the following solution in a pinch: strong coffee, Karo syrup, and molasses (gently warmed and served in a syringe). If baby feels cold inside the ear and mouth, stick baby inside your shirt (kangaroo care).
- If mama doesn't have a ravenous appetite (she should), give her a dose of Vitamin B complex (injectible).
The day after kidding
- De-worm mama with Ivomec+ according to your vet's dosage instructions. I use 3 cc for a 50# Nigerian. (Again: no hate mail. I am in charge of the comments on this blog and have no problem deleting them.) Whether you give orally (PO) or SQ is a matter of choice, unless your doe has a heavy parasite load. If she has been suffering from a high load of worms, do NOT administer ivermectin orally. This can cause GI bleeding. PO administration is more pleasant for both you and your doe, but it has a shorter efficacy administered in this manner (7 days compared to 21 days SQ).
- Give the kids a dose of the Vitamin ADEB12 gel.
- You may choose to give a small dose (per your vet's recommendation) of Bo-Se. My vet has prescribed 1 cc per kid. (Oh, I just noticed I'm still using cc's. Some years back, convention switched over to mL. A milliliter is the same amount as a cubic centimeter, so please don't get confused.)
- You may choose to start weighing your kids to ensure they are eating well and growing nicely. I have a scale with a basket on it that I bought at a rabbit show years ago. It works nicely for the Nigerians. Before I got the nice basket scale, I used a cloth grocery sack hung from my milk test scale.
Other items on your to do list
- Feel for horn buds. Bucklings will have a point around 7 days, does at 10 days (approximately). Disbud your kids as soon as those buds have points. Lighter skinned kids take less time burning than others; bucklings need a bit extra.
- Band your bucklings at 6 to 8 weeks old. If the kid has grown well and is in good vigor, I band at 6 weeks so the baby has two weeks to recover before going to his new home. Otherwise, I wait until 8 weeks for banding and don't wean the kid until 12 weeks. (My personal advice is to band or castrate ALL bucklings, unless Penny Tyler or someone with her 30 years of experience tells you to keep the boy intact AND you already have a buyer or you have an immediate need for those specific genetics in your own herd.)
- Once you see your kids nibbling on dirt, you can start offering them small amounts of grain. Always have grass hay or alfalfa available. They will start eating hay when they are ready, usually carrying a piece around in their mouth like a farm boy first.
- If one of the kids is not growing as well as the others, you may choose to supplement with a bottle. Penny Tyler recommends adding a tablespoon of plain yogurt to the warmed bottle.
- The water bucket in the kid pen should be small and hung above the height where a kid could easily fall in.
- Give booster shots of CDT toxoid (2 cc) to each kid at 4 and 8 weeks of age. They got their first dose of CDT through their mom's colostrum (because you gave mom a booster at one month prior to kidding). Also, be advised that CDT toxoid is not dangerous to humans. If you haven't injected yourself yet, you probably will while trying to work on a squirming kid. Make sure you pick up TOXOID, not antitoxin, at the feed store. Antitoxin is given to babies who have not had their CDT toxoid booster (or mom did not have hers) right before disbudding or banding. Antitoxin only has an efficacy of around 24 hours and does not create immunity.
- Tattoo your kids before they leave the farm to new homes. You may also choose to register them, as I've learned over the years that customers usually don't turn in the registration paperwork. ADGA allows you to register online and get an immediate copy (good for a couple months) to download and print out for your customer. Also, write your Scrapie ID on the customer's receipt; it's the law to provide that information.
- If you also own a buck, please don't forget about them while you focus so much on the does and babies. Bucks need a lot of TLC, much more than the average person realizes. Take a moment to check them over: feel their back and ribs for condition, check their hooves, assess if they need to have a dose of de-wormer, feel the backs of their legs and belly to see if they have signs of urine scald and apply ointment as needed, check for scurs and trim as needed, check closely to see if they have any lice deep in that thick coat, and just generally let them know that you love and appreciate them. They are the reason you have these beautiful kids!
- Supplies for a goat herder blog post
- Answers about sheep and goat housing blog post
- Answers for a new sheep or goat herder blog post
- Using the Ultimate EZ Milker on Nigerian Dwarf goats blog post
- How to use the Udderly EZ Milker on Nigerian Dwarf goats blog post
- Goatkeeping 101 by Caprine Supply
- Managing Your Ewe and Her Newborn Lambs by Lawson
- Goat Medicine by Smith and Sherman