Kidding Time for Goats
Is It Time?
All new goat owners wonder when it is time when their first doe is about to kid. This article will hopefully be beneficial to those of you out there looking for preparedness for that special time. First off, you really need to have some idea of when your doe was bred. If your doe was "hand-bred" then you should have roughly an exact date. If your doe was pasture bred and exposed to a buck for months then it is going to be a little bit more difficult but the same rule applies as far as signs of labor, you just may have to pay a little closer attention than those who have does that were hand-bred. A goat's gestation period is roughly 5 months. In the first few months you most likely won't notice anything as far as pregnancy is concerned. By the 4th month you should see significant belly/girth growth as well as some udder growth (this may not happen till a doe kids). Your #1 thing to watch for is for udder development. Some goats do not develop an udder until after kidding but I have found that to be more the exception than the rule. Some goats will "udder up" as early as a month in advance but not fully fill out. Others will fill out within hours of kidding. You must know your goat to see the changes. Yes that might make you feel like a bit of a strange person going out and checking your goats udder's everyday but if you do so you will definitely notice when it is full. Listed below is a link that will take you to a gestation chart. Based on the day that you estimate your goat was bred it will give you an estimated delivery date. If your goats are miniature or dwarf take 5 days off the date as they generally kid sooner. Also, remember that goats could have up to a 4 day difference do to the fact that their egg/eggs may not have been reached by the sperm in the first few days.
Signs Of Labor
I am going to list here sure signs of labor, as well as a time-frame that these particular signs tell your kid/kids will be born.
1. Udder goes from little to OMG WHAT JUST HAPPENED! The udder will literally go from nothing to full to bursting. When this happens you can expect birth within 24 hours.
2. Mucous discharge from the vulva. This is harder to read because I have had does go from no mucous to there's a kid and from having discharge for a month to finally there's a kid. This is not a sure-fire sign of pregnancy though it does mean it is going to happen soon.
3. Ligaments disappear. Now you might be wondering what I'm talking about so let me explain. On the hips of your doe, where it sinks in a bit around the tailbone there are ligaments. You may have to practice this awhile to really know but once you've felt the ligaments "disappear" you will understand. Those ligaments, when not in labor, feel like two pencils on either side of the tailbone. When a doe is 12-24 hours from kidding those ligaments are either very soft or gone completely. When you can take your fingers and pinch them around and underneath the tailbone till your fingers practically connect then she is gonna kid in a hurry, so you better go get you're kidding kit.
4. Pacing, making a "nest" in her stall on the floor, constant getting up and down and pawing the ground are also sure signs of impending labor. Goats generally do this within days or hours of labor and right up until they kid.
Now once you realize that it is in fact the time and you have your kidding kit ready and prepared, number one, take a deep breath and don't panic. 9 times out of 10 everything goes smoothly. If you happen to be the one that has a difficult delivery, make sure you have your vet on speed dial. Now when your doe is up and down and pawing and she's lost some discharge and her udder is so full you're afraid milk will start pouring out of her teats at any minute, watch that vulva! You will see it contracting if she is definitely in labor. If she lays down you will see her belly contracting. Do not misinterpret the rumen for contractions. You will notice the difference if you watch your goat enough. Much of the time you can see pain in the goats eyes or she will breathe heavier during a contraction. When you start to see a bubble emerging then it's go time. Do not do anything at this point. Just watch and be ready. This bubble will continue to get bigger as the contractions come regularly. Sometimes the bubble will pop on its own and sometimes not. Inside this bubble you should see two hooves and a nose on top of them. This is the normal birthing position for goats. If you see the kid's tongue sticking out the side DO NOT panic! This is also very normal. I remember with my first kidding seeing that scared me worse than anything as I thought the kid was dead, which was not the case. once the kid's nose/hooves are out a bit, if the bubble hasn't burst you can use something to pop a hole in it to let the fluid out. From this point everything should happen quickly. Now this scenario is a textbook style birth. If after 15 minutes of pushing and contractions no feet or nose appear or only one and not the other you need to lube up and go in and find out where those missing parts are and get that kid lined up right. The head is gonna be the biggest part as it is in most animals and humans alike. If it seems the head just will not pass the vulva take your finger and gently massage the vulva around the kids head to stretch it out a bit. Also if you pull on one leg a bit and then the other it sometimes gives the head a bit more moving room to get out. Once the kid hits the ground, get those chucks pads ready and wipe the kid off and if he's coughing or sputtering pick him up by his back legs and gently swing him upside down to get the junk out of his nose/mouth. From there let his momma have him and if its cold (anywhere under 60 degrees) I would put a heat lamp or something like that in the stall/barn to keep him warm especially if he's an only kid. Birth was hard enough, don't make him fight to stay warm.
Don't Forget Momma!
Now that baby is born don't forget about your doe. Clean her up a bit if she hasn't already done it. Do not pull the stuff that is most likely still hanging out of her. That will completely fall out on its own within 24 hours. If that and the placenta still haven't fallen out in that time you may want to call your vet to get some oxytocin to get that out of there before infection sets in. If you had your hands in the doe at all assisting then she needs to be on antibiotics to prevent an infection from starting up. Get momma some warm oatmeal or a handful of raisins as a treat because she certainly earned it! If you make oatmeal and pour some black strap molasses on top it will boost her iron which will most likely be low after birthing. Don't forget to dip baby's umbilical cord in 7% iodine to prevent infection as well.