LET THE KIDDING BEGIN
Pregnancy and kidding are serious medical conditions that can be dangerous for both dam and kids. You need to become well versed in the pregnancy and birthing processes so that you are able to assist when problems occur -- because they will happen. A species that has early sexual maturity, short gestation, and multiple births will encounter birthing difficulties. My motto is: Prepare for the worst while hoping for the best. .
The doe's pregnancy ranges from 147 to 155 days. Gestation for triplets, quadruplets, or more is slightly shorter. Triplets, quads, or more kids may be born prematurely. Premature kids have unerupted teeth (teeth totally inside the gums). Kids born either hairless or with all teeth completely in the gums often do not survive, regardless of supportive care. Kids born 7 to 10 days' premature have under-developed lungs and almost always die. Breathing problems are common in premature kids because the lungs are the last major organ to develop fully. Premature and full-term kids can be born in the same litter. The kid that didn't get enough nutrition in utero will be premature. Bucklings at full term have teeth that are only slightly through the gums, while full-term doelings are born with teeth completely out of the gums. If a premature kid survives, it may have continuing health problems throughout its life.
Improper breeding (breeding a larger-breed buck bred to a smaller-breed doe is improper breeding) can result in the inability of the doe to deliver big-framed kids. In such cases, Caesarean section is usually required. Pulling kids that are too large can tear the doe's uterus, resulting in her inability to breed or her death.
Several days before the pregnant doe's labor begins, she will leave her herd to find a quiet place to give birth and bond with her newborn kids. Lots of space is vital to successful kidding and bonding. Kidding in crowded areas results in babies and dam not learning each other's smells and sounds and leads to abandoned, starving, or dead kids. Does without kids may steal another doe's newborns yet have no milk with which to feed them.
The worse the weather, the more likely the doe is to go into labor. Changes in barometric pressure may influence kidding. Labor is beginning when the doe paws the ground, sits down, gets up, paces, and paws the ground repeatedly. When the doe starts the kidding process, small amounts of white mucous ooze from her vagina. When labor starts, a tear-drop-shaped bubble emerges. At this point, her water has not broken, the placental sacs are intact, and the kids are still breathing through their connection to her body. After the bubble bursts ("water breaking"), there may be a gush of fluid yet the placentas may still be unbroken. This can be a very confusing time for the producer. Each kid has its own sac (except for identical twins).
If a kid doesn't appear immediately, the only way to know for sure is to glove up, insert two or three fingers into the vulva, try to move your fingers through a hopefully dilated cervix, and carefully feel for an intact placental sac. If the cervix is open and the sac is intact, do not break it. If the cervix has not dilated, you won't be able to reach the sac. If the cervix has dilated, the doe is pushing, the kid is not coming out, and the placental sac has broken, then pull the kid, using the techniques described in this article. The kid must come out quickly or it will drown in placental fluid. Do not wait for a struggling doe to push a difficult birth out if the placental sac has broken.
If manual help in giving birth is necessary, the doe's water has broken, and the cervix has not dilated, then put on disposable gloves, apply a water-soluble lubricant (KY Jelly) to the glove that is going inside the doe, and have another person hold her still. If possible, she should remain in a standing position and parallel to a wall or fence for better control. Tie her to a fence if you have to do this job alone. Jeffers (1-800-533-3377) carries an inexpensive adjustable poly sheep halter that works great for this purpose. Using first your index finger, then your next two fingers, then your hand in a fist and turning it slowing using the knuckles to try to loosen the cervical ring, work your way through the cervix into the uterus.
Carefully work your fingers and hand into the uterus in search of two front feet and a head. Both front feet should come out at the same time and the head should be facing forward between the front legs. If in doubt about the condition or direction of the kid, find and gently put your finger in the its mouth; a live kid will suck your fingertip. Grab both front legs, preferably above the first joint to cause less stress and provide a better grip, and gently but firmly and smoothly pull downward. Do not pull straight out; pull downward, following the angle of the birth canal.
Sometimes it is necessary to loop the ends of a heavy-duty shoestring around the kid's front legs and use the shoestring to pull the kid out. If the head is bent backwards, the kid's neck is going to break, so push the kid back in and re-position the head between the front legs before pulling it out. If the kid is turned improperly, push it back inside and manually manipulate the body until positioning is correct. Occasionally it may be necessary to pull the kid out by its rear legs. Pulling the first kid is often enough help and the doe may be able to deliver the remaining kids on her own. Do not pull the tissues attached by cotyledons to the inside of the doe's uterus; she will bleed out and die. Her body must slough off this tissue naturally when she passes the afterbirth.
If the placental sac has not yet broken and the doe is pushing hard but her cervix has not dilated enough for her to push the kid out, oral administration of 15 cc's of CMPK or MFO every 15 minutes for as long as five or six hours may help open the cervix. Many fetuses do not survive ketosis or pregnancy toxemia, therefore inducing labor may be necessary in order to make the cervix dilate to get weak or dead kids out of the dam. Labor stops when dead or improperly-positioned (either live or dead) kids exist, so you or your vet must pull the kids as soon as the cervix has dilated. Intramuscular injection of 10 cc dexamethasone and 2 cc lutalyse should cause cervical dilation in 24 to 48 hours. If you choose to follow this route, you must go inside the doe every six or eight hours to feel if the cervix has opened. I, however, would not put a doe through 24 to 48 hours of labor while waiting for dexamethasone and lutalyze to work; I would seek veterinary assistance. I have on occasion used 1/4 cc to 1/2 cc of oxytocin given IM to the doe to try to induce cervical dilation, but I urge you to do this only under your veterinarian's supervision. This can be a very dangerous procedure. Sometime a C-section by a vet is the only reasonable choice to make.
In a normal delivery, the kid should appear with both front legs extended outward and the head should be between these front legs. The first thing you should see is two front hooves and the kid's mouth. For a variety of reasons (dead kids, calcium imbalance, weak labor), sometimes the kid has not turned in the birth canal and can appear back feet first, up-side-down, head folded backwards, one leg folded back with the other leg extended, body doubled over and rear end first, or even two or more kids who are intertwined (when more than one placental sac breaks open at the same time). In such instances, either a very knowledgeable goat producer or a vet is needed to save the kids and the dam. Manipulating kids inside the doe takes knowledge, practice, and dexterity. The risk of infection is high when the human hand, gloved or not, is placed inside the doe's body.
Once the kid is out of the dam and visibly breathing, quickly wipe fluids from its mouth and nose, place it on the ground near the doe in the location where the kid was born, and stand back. Unless she is unable, the dam should be allowed to take over the cleaning and feeding of her kids. If the kid is having difficulty breathing or does not appear to be breathing, quickly wipe fluids from nose and mouth and hold the kid up-side-down by the back legs, gently swinging it from side to side, using gravity to get fluid out of its lungs. Rub/slap both sides of its body to get heart and lung functions going. Two-tenths of a cc of Dopram placed under the tongue should be given immediately to help the kid's breathing. Sometimes an injection of one-half cc of dexamethazone will help the kid's respiration. Use Dopram first. Placing a stemmy piece of hay carefully in the kid's nostrils will cause mucous to be sneezed out, but this is not enough assistance for a kid whose lungs got filled with fluids in utero; it is an additional procedure to use under less critical conditions. The normal delivery process squeezes fluids out of the kid's body as it travels down the birth canal. The squeezing doesn't happen in Caesarean section deliveries or in assisted deliveries when labor contractions do not occur and the kid has remained inside the doe too long.
Check the doe's teats to make sure that they are not sealed and that she has free-flowing colostrum (no mastitis or congested udder), then let her clean and feed her kid. If the teats have seals over them, use a clean fingernail to gently remove it so that the newborns can nurse. For most does, sealed teats are easily opened by newborns' sucking them. For weak kids, the seals need to be removed. Watch from a reasonable distance to make sure that she is able and willing to care for the kid and give birth to additional babies without assistance. Some does don't feed their kids until all babies are born and the placenta has come out. Don't be alarmed if she shows little interest in nursing her kids until she has delivered all of them and passed (and sometimes eaten) the afterbirth. Healthy newborns can live for a couple of hours without colostrum under favorable weather conditions. Weak, cold, and/or stressed kids need immediate assistance. Take into account the dam, the kids, and weather conditions, then use common sense in determining what action to take.
Bonding problems can occur if the doe is moved too quickly from the location where she gave birth. If conditions permit, do not move the doe and her kids until she has kidded, cleaned, and fed colostrum to her newborns. Some does, if moved, will return to that site -- even in a severe rainstorm. Smell and sound are major factors in bonding with and being able to identify her kids. If the site is unsafe, either weather- or predator-wise, or confusion exists because more than one doe kidded in the same place, then put the doe, her kids, and the afterbirth in a five foot by five foot bonding pen and make sure that she feeds them. Put clean hay in the pen for bedding -- particularly in cold and/or wet weather. Do not use wood shavings, because they get into the kid's mucous membranes (causing breathing problems) and stick to the wet kid (making it difficult for the dam to clean her newborns). Provide the doe with a bucket of water; cleaning kids takes a lot of saliva. If the weather is cold or the birth was stressful, lace warm water with molasses for quick energy. Don't use a deep bucket, because kids can fall in and drown. Make a water-bucket stand that keeps a bucket of water available to the doe but unreachable by the newborns. Starving kids will drink water to keep their bellies full and then die. The doe should be provided with clean water during birthing and fresh grass hay after kidding.
It is normal for the doe to eat all or part of her afterbirth during the process of cleaning and feeding her newborns -- often before she feeds them. Do not throw away the placental material until she has had this opportunity. Consuming the afterbirth assists in milk production. If she kicks dirt over it or ignores it, she is through with it. Handle placental matter using disposable gloves; some diseases -- especially abortion illnesses -- are transmitted through contact with afterbirth and may be zoonotic (transmissible to humans). Remove placental material to avoid attracting predators and insects. Ants will attack a kid's mucous membranes and eyes. Keep birthing/bonding areas ant free. Read insecticide labels for safety of use around livestock. Amdro ant bait is what I use at Onion Creek Ranch.
Make sure that each kid gets adequate colostrum. This thick, rich, yellowish-colored first milk is vital to the kid's survival. Colostrum contains essential antibodies unique to a specific location to protect the newborn and kickstarts the kid's digestive, respiratory, and immune systems. (It is important to bring open -- not bred -- does to a new site and give them time to adapt and develop antibodies that are location-specific to protect the health of their kids before breeding them. This is one more good reason not to buy bred does.) The doe has all the colostrum she will produce when she gives birth. Make sure it is used to benefit her kids. A simple rule-of-thumb for colostrum consumption: at least one ounce of colostrum for every pound of body weight into the kid shortly after birth. During its first 12 hours of life, a kid needs to ingest about 12% of its body weight in colostrum. The only time a kid should have a very full and almost tight tummy is when colostrum is consumed. The kid should pass the meconium shortly after receiving its first colostrum. This "rectal plug" is black, sticky, very thick, and won't appear again. Subsequent feces will be "baby poop yellow." Dogs love eating it. Some does' colostrum is so rich that the feces will harden on the kid's rear. Pull it off and put petroleum jelly in its place. This will change as the doe's colostrum turns to milk.
After the kids have been cleaned and fed, carefully cut the navel cord to a shorter length if it is dragging the ground and dip it up to the body in 7% iodine to prevent infection. Joint Ill, also known as Navel Ill, occurs when germs travel up the newborn's wet navel cord and into its body. Bacteria wicked up the wet navel cord can incubate for weeks, usually settling in the leg joints, causing pain and lameness that -- if left untreated -- never goes away. Stressed kids should be given a 1/2 cc injection of Vitamin B-1 (thiamine) IM; thiamine tends to "wake up" the kid's brain. If selenium deficiency exists in your area, then the administration of 1/2 cc BoSe is appropriate at this time.
Any manual entry into the doe's body increases the risk of bacterial infection. Administer Penicillin sub-cutaneously over the ribs using an 18-gauge needle for five consecutive days at a dosage rate of five cc's per 100 pounds bodyweight after all the kids are delivered and the dam has cleaned and fed them. An injection of Banamine (one cc per 100 pounds bodyweight) after a difficult delivery will help the doe with pain.
Once the live (or dead) kids are delivered, the doe's uterus should be flushed before the cervix closes with a solution of equal parts of Oxytetracycline 200 mg/mL (LA 200 or equivalent) and distilled water delivered through a douching syringe or large enema bulb. Saline water may be substituted if oxytet 200 mg/ml and distilled water are not available. Once the kids are pulled, give the doe a 6 cc injection of dexamethasone IM (dosage based upon 100 pound liveweight of dam). Three days after getting the kids out, if the doe survives, she should be given another 2 cc lutalyse to clean her out. The possibility of tearing the uterus is very high with such difficult births, so don't be surprised if the doe bleeds out and dies. Caesarian section is a good alternative and may save the doe's life.
A large udder does not necessarily mean lots of milk. The doe could have mastitis, congested udder, or it could be filled with swollen tissue but little milk. Check regularly for milk flow and sufficient milk. For at least the first week of the kid's life, check it several times a day to make sure it is getting enough milk. Place the kid on the ground in standing position, supporting its own body. Put your fingers in front of the back legs and feel the stomach. It should be firm but neither tight nor loose. A kid has no reserves to fall back on and its body is solely focused on growth. When it is empty, the kid has to be refilled with milk or dehydration and starvation will occur in a matter of hours. Sometimes producers attribute dead kids to having been hit or sat upon when death is usually the result of hypothermia (sub-normal body temperature), dehydration, and starvation. Newborn and young kids have difficulty regulating their body temperatures, particularly when the range of outside temperatures is wide. They can be fine in the morning and dead by early afternoon. One important symptom of dehydration is fever. Like diarrhea, fever is a symptom of a problem and not the problem itself.
Occasionally a kid is born with fever or develop fever shortly after birth. Such kids will not nurse. You must get the fever down with medication and hydration, then tube-feed the kids with colostrum until it gets strong enough to nurse its dam. Generally one injection of 2/10's of a cc of Banamine, followed by a minimum of three days of 1/2 cc of Excenel RTU or 1/2 cc of Nuflor will solve the problem. Sub-cutaneous administration of Lactated Ringers will rehydrate the kid.
Some births occur normally but the kids are born weak and unable to stand. Late-term abortion diseases are one explanation of this condition. Such kids have to be warmed up and stomach tubed. Do not put colostrum or milk into a chilled kid. When a kid is chilled and struggling to survive, its body diverts blood from the stomach to essential organs like heart, lungs, kidneys, and liver, leaving insufficient blood flow to the milk stomach to digest colostrum or milk. If you put colostrum or milk into a chilled kid, you will likely kill it. Details on how to do this safely and properly are in my article entitled Health Problems of Newborn Kids on the Articles page at www.tennesseemeatgoats.com.
Fetal development can stop for many reasons and the fetus can die inside the pregnant doe. If a live healthy kid is behind the dead fetus, labor contractions will not occur, both kids will die, and the doe will die from toxins produced by the decaying fetuses inside her. The producer needs to learn the warning signs of a doe in the early stages of labor who doesn't give birth and know how to get those kids out. See my article entitled Health Problems of Pregnant and Lactating Does on the Articles page at www.tennesseemeatgoats.com.
The doe should pass her afterbirth within 24 hours after delivering all her kids. Retained afterbirth is life-threatening. Afterbirth is not considered "retained" for 24 hours after kidding. If the producer is absolutely positive that the doe has not passed the placental material and 24 hours has passed since she kidded (remember, she -- or your dogs -- may have eaten it), then a 2 cc injection of oxytocin should be given to clean her out. Do not pull on the afterbirth hanging from her vaginal opening; material from inside the uterus must separate from the placenta naturally or she will bleed out and die. Don't be alarmed if the doe sloughs a bloody discharge for seven to ten days after kidding. The "ten-day ickies" is descriptive of birthing residues being cleansed from her body.
If a doe aborts or has a dead kid inside her, you should have a necropsy done on the dead kid to find out why. An organism may exist within your herd which could affect other pregnant does and the health of your entire herd. Refrigerate (do not freeze) the kid's body and as much of the afterbirth as possible and deliver it to your vet for immediate examination and analysis.
Suzanne W. Gasparotto ONION CREEK RANCH 2/8/14
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All information provided in these articles is based either on personal experience or information provided by others whose treatments and practices have been discussed fully with a vet for accuracy and effectiveness before passing them on to readers.
In all cases, it is your responsibility to obtain veterinary services and advice before using any of the information provided in these articles. Suzanne Gasparotto is not a veterinarian.Neither tennesseemeatgoats.com nor any of the contributors to this website will be held responsible for the use of any information contained herein.
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