Five months ago we bred our ten milch goats at the Equinox. Now that it is February the baby “kids” will be delivered. Are you prepared to assist? Goats are the second domesticated animals in human known history following the dog. That means that they are dependent upon you as the provider, so when it is birthing time-you provide. If you do not provide you will lose the baby goats, and in some cases the mothers too. This article explains what I found to be the best procedures over a period of years of learning,
At the Equinox in September last the male “breed buck”, Pan, was enticing the does with bleating tongue waging and slobbering. He was urinating on his chest and twisting about. When the sun angle just was right the pituitary gland in the does head said: “ stop- stare-get ready-do it.”
This was the “heat” cycle lasting a few minutes to an hour or so. You have to be there and place each doe separately in the breed buck cage and get her back out in minutes as Pan was not happy leaving his ladies alone. You can read more details in last fall’s article on goats “Herbs, Milking and Mastitis-5 secrets”, dated 8-2-09.
Now is the blessed event. The does have been gaining weight, standing around waiting in the barn with great passivity. The udder is swelling quite quickly and it is time to give the doe a “dairy clip” with the barber shears. I prefer to use an Oster A-5 electric clipper with a close fresh sharp new blade. Place the doe in the head lock feeder stanchion, give her some corn and start clipping all the hair off the udder, up the chest to the forelegs and trim the rear inside and back part of the rear legs up to the tail. Clip the tail too. The left side is the milking side and you will clip more on the left side than the right to reduce dirt and loose hair falling in the milk bucket. She will look odd at first with the dairy cut, but you will have cleaner milk and make her easier to clean up as necessary after delivery and before each milking.
When the udder has swelled to maximum between her legs and she starts to become restless by short pacing she is ready to deliver.
Since all of my does were bred at the same time usually the same day, they are all in a pacing mood and surprisingly will make an effort to control the delivery till you are there, holding back if you are not. I found the average birthing time was about 3PM. However other goatherds report different times. In later years I learned to stagger their breeding for health over a period of months. Vitamin E will trigger a breeding cycle, especially with the teaser male.
I had on hand: 1 five gallon Farm Store bucket filled with body temperature warm water with 1 drop of Dawn soap (Just ONE DROP) in it to cut the oils when we dip and wash the baby goat from all the goo. I also had another five gallon bucket filled with body temperature warm water, covered, mixed with five lbs of white sugar, some electrolytes purchased from Southern States, or in than absence, a tablespoon of red salt. Also, a small one-gallon bucket with which we will pour the sugar mix-electrolytes into for the doe to drink immediately following delivery.
Worming I had found was not necessary with my goats, although in the early days I thought it was. My goats all remained fat and happy, not dragged out and emaciated, indicating worms. If worming is necessary a long worm pill tool, that is plastic or stainless steel that has a capsule tip and a plunger is used to administer the worming capsule; this is called a balling gun. In later years worming was just unnecessary, but I will include this procedure shortly for the anxious.
You will also need a pile of old towels, some #8 carpet thread, sharp metal scissors with blunt tips, a small plastic dip cup (later used in testing milk for blood) and a bottle of Iodine solution sold by farm stores to disinfect udders, cuts, teats and navels.
February can be quite cold in some locations. I had a separate room in my barn just for baby goats and with ten mothers in there at the same time it was quite toasty. For those souls in Montana and northward into Siberia a birthing room is necessary; also having old large trunks, or box to place the babies in so they do not chill is a good idea. Baby goats however are quite hardy so do not get excited and rig portable heaters. Recall that goats are desert animals by heritage and not inclined to winter mix birthing or they will die without shelter.
Lastly in the birthing room I had installed a double pen with a hay packed floor to place the baby goats in so they were separated from the mothers. My policy was to hand feed the baby goats which I would do daily for about six months. By then they became obnoxious teenagers unmanageable, competing and fighting for the bottle, so the chickens got the extra milk. Later on I will discuss how to get around this problem with extra milk.
Here is the problem unknown to most. Does usually have only two baby goats-usually males. This is the hard part. If you do not plan to raise the baby male goats for food-chevon- or to sell the male goats you will be overrun with them as hungry, vastly consuming resources, and time management problems. Although they are sweet, lovable and adorable they soon will grow up to be an expense if you do not make firm commitments.
You can euthanize the male babies at birth, or in three days castrate them (you do not want intact male randy teenage and mature goats), and raise for meat, or sale. I only sold goats once and I did not like the way they were cared for. I never sold another goat. I chose to raise them, and then at six to 10 months, dispatched them for food. Although feeding them extra milk makes for tender meat, by 10 months they will become stringy and tough, even if they are castrated.
An interesting fact is that now with ethnic diversity in the bigger community you can raise meat goats and sell them for good prices; wherein in my day just a few years ago they had little value and ignorance reined as to their use.
Actually the same goes for the females too, you can only afford to keep so many. Ten milking goats took a minimum of four hours a day of my time, and I did have other necessary chores. Briefly let me reiterate that it is illegal to sell milk in this state, (Virginia) without meeting cow dairy standards and that is big bucks. Some states like Oregon have better laws.
Let us return to the pacing expectant mothers. The nursery-birthing area is an enclosed part of the barn with hay scattered on the dirt floor. The mother will be in most cases standing up when the baby goat enters the birth canal, and with the pointed little hooves aimed for the great world outside the womb, will pierce the placenta. There is a big glob of goo first and this remains this way for an hour, but usually when the “water breaks”, the feet come out and then the nose. With a sudden push the baby goat is gushed outward and plop, slides down to the hay. The umbilical cord will be long and the baby goat will be covered in goo. Clean the nose so the first breath will be air.
I have to interject a most interesting observation. Once a baby male goat was born and as soon as he was on his feet he started after another baby goat, raised his foreleg in a classic mounting position and attempted to mate her. The sex drive of males is powerful indeed. Later he became a breeder.
Your first responsibility is to the mother goat. She is woozy at this point. If you are administering a worm capsule-do it now. Lift her head up; open her mouth and slide the balling gun tube down the throat past the tongue and push the lever of the balling gun. Out pops a capsule. Then immediately plop her nose down into the small gallon bucket filled with warm water plus sugar and electrolytes. She will suck it right up swallowing the pill at the same time. If you delay she will cough up the pill. At this point the warm water with sugar will give her warmth, fill the sudden void, and provide necessary energy. Make sure she walks around a bit, as we do not want her to lie down. By walking around she is expelling the placenta. DO NOT pull on the placenta. Nature has a way of gently removing it. You will observe after the birth there will be a large single glob of liquid hanging on the tissue. This is nature’s way of gently removing, and in time of an hour it will all expel. In the wild she would be dragging this through the woods and leaving a trail for the fox to follow. When he finds the dropped placenta he is happy, she is happy as she can return to her baby and lick it clean.
This is the same procedure for all the does. As I said it are usually two-baby goats at a time. She has only two teats. But often Pan threw off three, or even four babies. Each would be progressively smaller and weaker than the first-born. The first baby goat is the size of a medium cat. The fourth would be like a kitten and dubiously survivable. After trials they never grew right. This is another decision of you. The mother cannot feed four babies. In the wild, the first goat born is licked clean and instinct drives the baby goat to butt the mother and he /she nuzzles the udder. A sip is taken.
However in our world after finishing with the mother goat we pick up the baby goat and submerge the kid up to the nose in the five-gallon bucket wiping it clean and dry with a towel. Then we take the heavy thread and tie off the naval umbilical cord at three inches tightly wherein no bacteria will work up the cord into the baby goat. Then snip off the extraneous umbilical cord. There is no pain. Take the iodine dip cup half filled with liquid and place it against the stomach and “dip” the navel area. Pick up the baby goat and place it in the warm box, or in the pen as applicable to temperature. There is no need to worry about bottle-feeding the kid at this point
Now we return to the mother while she is still hopefully woozy. Wipe the udder off and dip the swollen teat with the iodine dip cup. Gently squeeze the end of the teat to clear out any dirt. Gently squeeze the teat to start the colostrum (first milk) flow into a half gallon calf bottle. You will not get much. In fact there is very little flow for the first three days as the udder is developing, and in the wild the baby goat would not take much at a time anyway-just sips.
Although I promote bottle feeding, recall from the last article that around the teat are scent marks so that two baby goats know which side is whose. If you did not have scent marks the udder will get lopsided and mastitis will set in. If you have only one baby you can see the advantage of bottle-feeding. You can place an extra baby on a teat of a mother with only one baby. Early adoption works.
After you have processed all the babies and all the mothers you will have a quart or so of colostrum, a yellow secretion that is reportedly necessary for boosting the baby goats immune system. I am not sure this is quite true. In any event where you do not produce colostrum, or you spill the bottle, or a goat kicks it over, maybe it just looks to dirt, you can use a bag of powered goat milk on hand to start the baby goats on-just in case Mom is not cooperating. For the one goat beginner there is always a remote possibility that the mother could die in delivery-remote as this is, it is always nice to have some powered goat milk on hand. You can drink it too. This is a good Prepper/Survival milk source. Cow milk is poor.
Next week we will continue this saga, and then get back to seeds. My, oh my, this is becoming the busy time of the year.
COPYRIGHT: 2010, Back2theLand.com, Mark Steel