A Beginners Guide to Kidding by Hilary Breakell
Assuming that you are a ‘responsible’ goat owner, you will have waited patiently until your female was at least 18 months before mating her to your chosen male.
If you have your own male he should ideally be housed separately from the females. It is NOT good management to allow a male to run with your females as this could result in immature females being mis-mated and possibly twice yearly kiddings - aside from the fact that you will not have a clue when the females are due to give birth.
Throughout the first 3 ½ months of the pregnancy the female can be treated exactly the same as before.
If your goats are fed ‘communally’ you should make sure that all are receiving their fair share, it is very common for a dominant wether or older female to poach food from any lower down the pecking order, so you should provide your pregnant goat with her own safe feeding area. If your goats are housed in a group you will need to prepare a separate pen for her as kidding date approaches. After around 3½ months you could gradually increase her concentrate ration up to but no more than double her usual amount (quantity depends on which feed you use and whether she was scanned as carrying a single or multiple kids)
About a month prior to kidding you should vaccinate her (Lambivac is the recommended vaccine) to ensure that the kid/s receive adequate protection against Tetanus and Entero-toxaemia for the first 8 weeks of life. Thereafter the kids must be vaccinated themselves. Your female should have been drenched with a de-wormer (anthelmintic) prior to mating and she will need to be drenched again a few days after kidding when her resistance will be low and therefore vulnerable to worms. You should not try to trim her feet in the later stages of pregnancy – keep stress levels to a minimum. Personally I don’t agree with heavily pregnant goats being transported either. A few weeks before her due date, which you should have calculated as 150 days from service, you should give her pen a thorough clean. Do not leave her water bucket on the floor of the pen – it has been known for newborn kids to drop into it and drown ! For safeties sake, raise the bucket so that she can just get her chin into it.. From about 10 days before her due date you must keep a close watch on her, checking for physical signs of impending labour. I say from 10 days because pygmy females rarely go the full 150 days (within 143 to 157 days is considered ‘’normal’)
In the 24 hours prior to giving birth the females’ udder will fill with colostrum (thick creamy milk containing vital antibodies for the kid/s) and you may notice that the teats look shiny and full. Another sign to look for is the slackening of the muscles on the rump – either side of the spine. Aside from the physical changes you may also notice her pawing at the bedding (nestbuilding) perhaps being more ‘talkative’ than usual, sometimes the female may turn her head and appear to talk to her side. I find that appetite is rarely lost during the kidding process!
As the cervix begins to dilate the female will lose a thick, whitish mucus ‘plug’ and with each contraction you may notice her body stiffen, some females stretch out and dip their backs, certainly she will look uncomfortable (watch her ears go back) Once the kid begins to enter the birth canal, the cervix being fully dilated, the female will begin to ‘strain’ with each contraction – the typical position is lying down on one side with one hind leg outstretched, but some females prefer to stand through the whole process ! The water bag, or amniotic sac to give it its proper name, is usually preceded by a thick, clear discharge. If all is going correctly, after a while you will see the white tips of the two hooves inside the water bag closely followed by the nose resting on top (usually with tongue out !)
At this point I should add that by this stage the female is usually quite vocal, much as if she were being murdered I always think! If you have close neighbours it might be advisable to pre-warn them that they may hear some louder bleating. I find that the older, more experienced females tend to confine themselves to just a single yell when the crown of the head emerges. As this happens the water bag may burst (if not before) Often the goat will think that once the head is out the kid is born and will get up, turn around, and look for the baby. She might want to lick up any amniotic fluid before the next contraction comes. Another couple of pushes and the kid should be born. Your very first job is to ensure that the nose and mouth are clear of mucus so that it can breath. In preparation for the kidding, you should have gathered together a few items and have them ‘at hand’. Some old towels and something to either dip or spray the freshly broken umbilical cord with (to prevent infection) If your goat is a first kidder I would advise you not to interfere too soon, let her talk to the kid and get the hang of cleaning it up so that she bonds with it.
Don’t rush to take over the cleaning/drying process until she has done her share. If there is a second kid, it usually arrives within 20-30 minutes of the first and while ‘mum’ is busy with the second kid you can give the first one a gentle rub with the towel and spray its cord then swap them over. If the weather is very cold it helps to get the kid/s dried off as quickly as possible. Some new ‘mums’ will refuse to lick the baby (what IS this yukky stuff !) and so you will need to do the job for her, if you don’t, the next morning it will look like someone dropped it in a bucket of glue! Once you are sure that all is well you can then clean up the bedding and top up with fresh straw and then get ‘mum’ a drink of warm water (to replace the body temperature she has just lost through giving birth) Some people put a bit of glucose (or molasses) in the water as an energy boost but don’t overdo do it as it can cause diarrhea if the goat isn’t used to it.
Similarly, some people feed a warm bran mash after kidding but if your goat isn’t used to it she might turn her nose up at it (mine aren’t keen) Before leaving the happy family in peace, you must make sure that the kid/s have found the ‘milk bar’ This is especially important with a first kidder who may be touchy around her udder and back away every time the baby gets near it. It may be necessary to gently hold her while the kid goes in search of its first meal. Don’t assume when you hear the kid sucking that it has latched on – it might be sucking on mums’ hair – so make sure that you SEE it feeding. Finally, don’t be alarmed at the passing of the placenta (afterbirth) which may take several hours to come away (never pull it) If you are there when it drops, you should remove it and dispose of it, otherwise the female might try to eat it and could choke on it, as I know from experience ! So that’s it ! Your much awaited ‘patter of tiny hooves’ has arrived safely - now you’ll never get any work done !