Newborn kids are on the ground. What steps should you take to make sure that all is well with them?
Assuming that the kidding did not involve problems, including weather related issues, that required your immediate assistance, let the dam clean her kids and get colostrum into them without your interference. (I have articles on what to do if dystocia - kidding problems - occur on the Articles page at www.tennesseemeatgoats.com.)
Once the dam has the kids cleaned and fed, dip their umbilical cords in iodine all the way up to the body. Check each kid for functioning parts. Is there a rectal opening? Atresia ani (no rectal opening) isn't a frequent occurrence, but does happen. Atresia ani is not repairable; the kid must be euthanized immediately before it suffers a painful death. Check inside the mouth for a cleft palate (a length-wise split in its hard roof). The kid can survive for a while but will do poorly as it grows. A cleft palate can be heritable, so it isn't a trait that you want to perpetuate in your herd.
Check the umbilical cord where it attaches to the kid's body. If it is long and/or dragging the ground, cut it shorter so that it doesn't catch on something and cause a tear (hernia), requiring veterinary care. Inspect the kid for fully-formed hooves. They will be soft at time of birth but should harden quickly.
Look at the kid's lower front teeth. A full-term doeling will have teeth completely erupted from the gums, while a full-term buckling may have teeth only partially out of the gums. Male or female, teeth completely in the gums means "premature," and special care will need to be taken to make sure that the kid survives. Put your finger in the kid's mouth to find out if it has a sucking reflex. A premature kid often lacks this reflex; you will have to milk the dam and stomach tube colostrum into it until its sucking reflex develops. (See my article on when and how to stomach tube weak kids.)
A good protocol for premature kids is to give them the following: 1/2 to 1 cc of Vitamin B1 (thiamine) injected into the muscle. If your area is selenium deficient, 1/2 cc BoSe (selenium with Vitamin E) should be injected into the muscle. Thiamine helps "wake up the brain" in a premature kid, and Bo Se (selenium with Vitamin E) helps with symptoms of White Muscle Disease that affect the kid's ability to stand. Kids can have trouble standing from reasons other than selenium deficiency, i.e. legs folded from crowding in utero or from "weak kid syndrome" (hypothermia/starvation/dehydration). See my article on weak and abandoned newborns on the Articles page of www.tennesseemeatgoats.com.
Inspect the dam's udder and teats. If the seal is still over the teat opening, carefully remove it with your fingernail and check for free-flowing colostrum from both teats. Does she have colostrum? Is she developing or has she already developed mastitis or congested udder? I have articles on both conditions on my website. Can the kid reach the teats? Are they too low to the ground? Are the shape of the teats suitable for the kid's mouth to wrap around? An overly-large teat will be difficult for the newborn's mouth to grasp and nurse. Does the dam have non-functioning "fish" teats from which the kid is unsuccessfully trying to get milk? (Do not clip off fish teats.) Does one teat have better milk flow than the other? If so, the kid is going to nurse the free-flowing teat to the exclusion of the other. Are multiple kids nursing only one side of the udder? You will have to milk the unused side, save and freeze any extra colostrum (and subsequent milk) for future emergency use, and coax the kids to nurse both sides for several days until they figure out that both teats are available. Kids tend to latch onto one teat as their own and not change.
If the kid's dam doesn't have milk, you must foster the kid onto another dam with sufficient milk or bottle feed it if you cannot remedy the problem quickly. If the kid is premature, its dam may not come into milk for several days and you will have to feed it for it to survive. See my article on this topic for suggestions on how to bring the doe into milk.
If you are having to feed the kid or assist in its feeding, take its rectal temperature to make sure it is above 100*F before you put colostrum into its stomach. Never put milk products into a goat with a body temperature of less than 100*F. See my article on Weak Kids to learn why.
Newborns and very young kids have trouble controlling internal body temperature. Regular ingestion of adequate small amounts of milk helps regulate body temperature. If the dam is feeding the kid, feel its tummy as it supports itself to make sure the stomach is full. Feel with both hands in front of the back legs for tummy firmness -- not hard and not sloshy. A kid is always going to feel more full than it actually is if you lift it off its legs to check.
If you have no alternative but bottle feeding, see my article on how to feed bottle babies. Many people overfeed them on milk, inducing Floppy Kid Syndrome, and kill them.
Some colostrum is so thick that it is difficult for the kid to suckle out of the udder. You may have to milk it out, slightly dilute it with water, and tube it into the kid a few times. Making sure that the dam has plenty of water to drink may assist in diluting very thick colostrum. (Put water where kids cannot reach it, because starving kids will drink water to fill their tummies and you will find them dead soon.) Some newborns have feces so hardened that it becomes stuck to their rears. You will have to peel or soak it off so that they can continue to poop. Other kids may become constipated, requiring that you administer a soapy warm-water enema with a 3-cc Luer slip syringe.
A kid is born without a working immune system. All of the immunities that it gets come through its dam's colostrum and milk. (This is why you should never buy bred does: the immunities in her milk are for the location at which she was bred and not where she kidded.) Kids should be checked for adequately full tummies every day for the first two weeks of life. Once a kid gets old enough to eat some solid food, it stands an improved chance of surviving if it isn't getting adequate amounts of milk.
Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Texas 3/1/16
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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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