Are you ready to have your best kidding season yet?
Check out our tips and tricks to have a successful and stress free season.
Preparing for a successful kidding season begins early.
A lot earlier than you are probably thinking. If you want a successful and mostly stress free season you need to begin preparing as soon as you make the decision to put your does with your buck. You may have read my post on why we took a breeding season off, if not check it out here, but one of the contributing factors was that I just didn’t feel like my does were ready.
There isn’t a kid born that can replace the value of a good quality production doe. If your does aren’t in top form and ready for the stresses of pregnancy and kidding, the kids aren’t worth the risk. Additionally, I believe that as breeders and owners we have an ethical responsibility to make sure our does are as healthy as possible before we commit them to the task of raising kids.
All of that being said:
Step 1 of a successful kidding season is to make sure your does are in good condition from day one.
Step 2 is to maintain and improve upon the does condition throughout her pregnancy.
Don’t think you can slack off now that you have her pregnant and in good shape. The demands on a doe’s body during pregnancy are extremely high and those demands only increase if she is carrying more than one kid. Good management practices are always important but especially so during pregnancy and kidding. Make sure your does have access to good quality hay and clean fresh water at all times. Provide a complete mineral free choice. Pens and bedding should be kept clean and fresh. Provide adequate space, particularly in bedding and feeding areas. A badly placed head butt can harm fetuses and does both.
Provide supplemental feed as needed to maintain good body condition through the bulk of the does pregnancy. Gradually increasing feed during the last month of pregnancy can provide does with the extra energy they need for growing kids. But, do NOT offer grain free choice. Overfeeding can lead to issues with delivery and several other pregnancy related diseases. If the goats haven’t consumed their grain ration within about 15 minutes you are feeding too much.
Step 3 is to provide chemical assistance.
If you are wondering what I mean by that, I am talking about deworming and vaccinations. Six weeks before kidding, all does should be wormed and rotated to a fresh pasture. This is also a good time to provide their CD/T booster. If you vaccinate for things like pneumonia, now is a good time for those boosters too.
Make sure you use ‘clear’ wormers and not ‘white’ wormers as some ‘white’ wormers can cause abortions. Read the labels and understand what is safe for your does. If you are still in doubt, call your local vet. Better safe than sorry.
Step 4. A week to ten days prior to the expected kidding dates move the does to a kidding area.
Some people get very specific and controlled in this step. They like does to have individual pens, they use camera monitoring systems and they plan to be on hand for each birth. If you prefer and can provide this level of attention, go for it. There is nothing wrong with being over-prepared.
That level of attention doesn’t work for me. I work outside the home in addition to running the farm, and I have hubs and the kid who still haven’t figured out that the laundry doesn’t do itself. And honestly, I don’t need the stress of watching the goats all day and night. I am a worrier, so given the opportunity to watch and fret at any moment, I will. Nothing will get done and my stress level will increase exponentially.
I prefer to move my girls who are due with a week or two of each other to one area around the barn. I prep the stalls and shelter areas with clean fresh straw and then I let nature do the rest. The does seem to like being together versus being separated into individual pens and I have seen older does actively soothe and almost seem to assist new moms.
I check on everyone twice a day and once I notice signs of labor I check on that doe hourly.
Step 5, know how you are handling labor.
Are you planning to actively assist or are you taking a more hands off approach? Know how you want to handle it and have the appropriate supplies on hand. If you are planning to actively assist you are going to need towels, tarps or sacks to lay kids on, warm water, betadine scrub, gloves, ob gel, cord clamps or floss, etc., etc. Make sure the doe you are assisting is comfortable around you. You don’t want your presence to add stress. I explain in more detail my kidding kit here.
I do not assist unless there is a problem.
Yep, you read that right. These goats know what to do; and in a normal birth they do not need my clumsy assistance to get the kids out and cleaned up. So, I stay out of it.
In a normal birth, I do not pull kids or pop sacks or massage the doe or anything else. I let her handle it.
If the weather is cold or wet, especially if the doe is busy delivering the other kids I will towel dry and wipe out noses and eyes once I have made sure mama has had a chance to sniff her kid.
I have never had to cut an umbilical cord. And we have had a lot of kids. My does handle it. I will use a little disinfectant on the end and around the area just to be safe.
Once the kids are on the ground and delivery is done I like to provide the doe with some warm water with molasses, fresh hay and a little grain. The does seem to appreciate the sweet treat and it provides a good energy source. I also give a dose of JumpStart Plus paste. Our state vet recommended it to me a few years ago, and I love this stuff. I try to always keep it on hand.
I provide bonding time.
Most of the time the doe has chosen to kid in one of the stalls or sheds so I typically close the door and keep them contained for 12-24 hours just to make sure everyone has bonded. If a doe kids out in the open I will leave them to it as long as possible while I can keep an eye on them and then move them and their kids to a stall for the remainder of the 12-24 hours. After that doe and kids go back out with the expectant mothers and within a week are back out with the main herd.
Sounds too easy, right?
Most of the time it is. I believe many breeders over think the process and actually create more problems and more stress than they might otherwise have had. But, my myotonic does are good mothers and I live in a temperate climate. Other breeds of goats and more extreme weather conditions may necessitate a different response.
Step 6 and the last step in a normal kidding process is to get rid of the evidence. Sounds like one of those detective shows, right?
But I think this is a critical last step. Once the does have kidded they will drop the afterbirth. It may take a little while so I usually find some barn chores to do or make myself comfortable on a bucket. Once the afterbirth drops I bring in the wagon and scoop and clean up all traces of the delivery. I do not leave afterbirth or soiled straw anywhere near the does and their kids. I take all of it out of their area and dump it in the woods well away from the pen.
In the years I have been doing this I have not lost a kid to a predator. Part of that is good fences and part of that is being very conscientious about removing anything that might tempt coyotes, dogs, bobcats, foxes or even possums (because they carry disease).
Making sure the doe and kids’ area is clean also prevents other problems like infections and kids stumbling through a wet mess.
That’s it, 6 steps for a successful breeding season and hopefully happy normal deliveries.
But what if you’ve done everything right preparing for kidding season and you still have a problem?
Don’t beat yourself up, it happens to all of us. When you breed animals there is always a risk to both doe and kids and eventually there will be a problem. It’s just a matter of time.
So, what do you do if there is a problem?
The best you can do is to be prepared. I address kidding and delivery issues in this post here.