If mom and dad haven't had this talk with you, go ask them now. I will wait for you.
Gross! Right? Way too much info coming from your parents. But it is more accurate than the junk your friends will tell you. Most of them lie about it anyway (friends, not parents well. . . sometime they do to) So now that you have the basics down, let's get a little nitty gritty and talk about going into heat.
Heat in a doe seems to come on awfully young, but you don't want to breed them until they are at least 10 months old. So keep them away from your bucks. 15-18 months in an ideal age for their first breeding. 10 months is fine, anything younger and you are looking at kid death, difficult births, stunting the does growth, and poor milk production. Your doe can have anywhere between 1-4 babies, and they tend to repeat themselves. Some breeds will have more kids as in multiples as they get older, so be prepared. She may start off having one, and in later years popping out 4. The prime age that a doe can reproduce is 3-6 years. After that they are old biddies.
Does are seasonal breeders. Typically only going into heat in the spring and fall. If you have a choice, breed them in the fall so that you can have lush greens available for the doe and her new kids in the spring. Feeding is cheaper that way. Heat only lasts 1-3 days, in intervals of 17-21 days. So pay attention if you don't have your own buck, you have to catch it fast!
I have heard and read over and over that your doe will be loud and demanding once she is in heat. That was true in my mutt goat Trina.
However my unicorn is always loud and demanding.
Signs to watch for are constant wiggling of the tail, being loud and demanding, spotting blood, and labia swollen. A good test to this is to touch her upper thigh, next to her rear. If her tail stays in the air she is in heat, if the tail quickly goes down, she is not.
Gestation lasts 5 months minus 1 day. Don't allow your goat to get fat. If you are not milking her, don't grain her. Over weight goats will have kidding problems. If she has a lot of milk, feed her grain and top quality hay, until kidding. If she has a little milk, stop milking her 2 months before her due date. Trim her hooves, shear her if she is a fiber goat, give shots and worm her 6-8 weeks prior to birthing.
You want to be careful of Ketosis. This is a drop in blood sugar content. Make sure she is fed and exercises regularly. Feeding her molasses during the last 2 months of pregnancy will help. Do not overfeed her or underfeed her. If you see that she is disinterested in food, constantly pressing her head against something, grinding her teeth or wondering aimlessly, contact your vet.
BABIES ARE COMING!
There are a few signs of a kidding that happen within a month to a few weeks. You want to look for a full udder and a clear vaginal discharge (not the pus looking one that happens a month before birthing) Kidding can happen up to a week earlier than her due date.
A month before her due date, I would place her in a separated section of your land, close to her shelter. Goats aren't picky, and will drop their kids off anywhere. You'll have to go round them up out in your field asap if that happens. You can lose them to the cold and to predators. A goat that is higher up in the herd will be pickier than a lowly one. Give her a lot of hay, and clean water in a small bucket. You don't want her to drop that kid in the water.
We have all heard that goats give birth early in the morning. Unfortunately many of us seem to have goats that get their days and night confused. Patch gave birth in the early evening. Most of the time goats want to be left alone during the kidding process, while sometimes you have a more pet like doe and she feels more comfortable with you around. Try not to interfere with the process. If they have a herd, make sure that she can see the herd, it will reassure her.
When hard labor begins, she will pant, lie down, stand up and call out. This can last for several hours, with her just hanging out and chewing in between.
When you can see the kid showing, check what is coming out first. It should be the front feet and only 2 of those. The head should be resting on them. This can take up to an hour, if things seem to be moving right along, let it be. But if it seems to be going a little slow, go ahead and clear off the kids nose and mouth. Yep, right where it hangs.
Time to Help!
There are times that you might have to help your doe out with the birthing process. If you know that the water has broken, and it has been 2 hours and no kid, wait no longer than 30 additional minutes before helping. If your doe is acting exhausted, wait no more than an additional 15 minutes.
Now for the fun part.
If the kid is presenting, but seems stuck, your going to have to help. Most the time it is as simple as pulling the kid down gently with each of your goats contractions. But, if your kid is in the wrong post ion, you gonna haft to go in. Wash your arms and hands thoroughly. Scrub those nails out good. And oil yourself up. Now your are physically ready, mentally, well. . . you are just going to need to go for it. Remember that the life of your kid is on the line here.
If you see the front feet but no head, you can correct that easily. Reach in, find the head and gently straighten it out. If the kid it upside down, gently rotate her into the correct position. Breech births should go smoothly, but if it rump first, you will need to push the kid back in, and find the feet. Guide them to the exit, and gently pull down with each of your goats contractions.
If no kid is showing after the 2 hours after the water has broken, you will need to go fishing. If her cervix isn't open, call the vet. Before you go in there, you will need to do a little massaging so that you don't tear anything.
If you see 3 or 4 feet emerging, you probably have more than one kid wanting to get out. You know how children are. Push one back up, and assist the first one out.
If you have birthing problems for 2 consecutive years, you might want to think about butchering the goat. It will not get any better.
Give your doe warm water to drink after kidding. Add molasses if you have it.
Leave the afterbirth alone. It will come out on it's own and may take some time doing that.
Hope that helps some of you, hasn't disgusted some of you and a question from a few of you.
Now, if I just had a goat...:) Maybe someday. Excellent article!
Hey, great post. Very informative, my friend!
You make a good teacher...
Funny, my DH is taking EMT training, and right now they are talking about childbirth. I hope the men (why is it all men?) explain things to Mr. Squeamish as clearly as you just did.
I may never keep serious livestock, but I certainly have a deeper appreciation for the folks that sell me meat, milk, and fiber.
Wow, all that helping description is just plain scary! Great info though. Can I be sure to live near you when I finally get goats?
How do you know when the doe is done...no more kids? What do you do in the case of a retained placenta? How long do you wait?
Heh, reminds me of the time in highschool when I really became an outcast with the townies! I went to an agricultural school that was a mix of townies and country kids (I was a townie). Out inspecting the schools sheep one day for ag class we came across a ewe whose lamb had one leg out but the other leg and head were backwards still inside mumma. Even the teacher didnt want to help so my friend caught and held the ewe in the middle of the paddock while i stuck the hand in (after a quick wash in the trough tap) and righted the lamb. I will never forget the look of disgust on the other kids faces! But knowing I had helped the lamb and ewe was totally worth it :)
Chris, if you don't see the placenta, she might have eaten it. If she has retained it there will be a bad odor and brown discharge. Goats can continue to pass blood clots without a problem for about 5 days after kidding. If she hasn't passed the placenta in a week see a vet. There are a bunch of meds you can use to help her induce, or you can do some belly massages. I would give it a few days, if she isn't interested in food, than you have a problem.
Thank you for the question Chris.
The molasses is a good one. LOL I was told it HAD to be Black Strap Molasses.
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