Onion Creek Ranch, Lohn, Texas
Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Lohn, TX
Lohn, Texas
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Goats experience early sexual maturity, short gestation , and multiple births. Pregnancy and kidding can be dangerous for both dam and kids. Problems will happen. You must learn both how to anticipate them and what to do to solve these problems.

  • Gestation: length of time from breeding date to kidding date
  • Parturition: the act of giving birth
  • Dystocia: any type of kidding problem
  • Normal body (rectal) temperature: 101.5* F to 103.5*F

Full-term or premature: Full-term pregnancy in goats runs about 150 days (147-155 days). Gestation for triplets, quadruplets, or more is slightly shorter. Premature kids are born with their lower front teeth totally inside the gums (unerupted from the gums). Kids born hairless seldom survive. Kids born with all lower-front teeth completely in the gums may survive with lots of supportive care. Full-term bucklings have teeth that are slightly through the gums, while full-term doelings are born with teeth completely through the gums. Kids born 7 to 10 days' premature have under-developed lungs and often 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. Any kid that didn't get enough nutrition in utero will be premature.

Incorrect breeding: Breeding a larger-breed buck bred to a smaller-breed doe can result in the inability of the doe to deliver kids that are too big. In such cases, Caesarean section is usually required to save the doe and hopefully her kid. Pulling kids that are too large can tear the doe's uterus or abdominal wall, resulting in her immediate death, her inability to breed in the future, or a hernia that can kill her later.

Kidding begins: Several days before the pregnant doe's labor begins, she will move away from her herd to find a quiet place to birth and bond with her newborn kids. Lots of space is vital to successful kidding and bonding. Kidding in crowded areas results in newborns and dam not learning each other's smells and sounds and leads to abandoned, starving, or dead kids. If conditions are crowded, does with strong maternal instincts, either open or heavily bred, may steal another doe's newborns yet have no milk with which to feed them. If the "thieving" doe is bred, hasn't kidded yet, and has colostrum in her udder, you do not want it used on kids that aren't hers. The colostrum in her udder is all the colostrum she will produce during her pregnancy. If the "thieving" doe is open, she will have no milk for the kids she has stolen and they will die.

The worse the weather, the more likely the doe is to go into labor. When the doe starts the kidding process, small amounts of whitish mucous ooze from her vagina. She paws the ground, sits down, gets up, paces, and paws the ground repeatedly. 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 even though the placentas may be intact. Each kid has its own sac (except for identical twins). This can be a very confusing time for the goat rancher, as every birth is a little bit different.

Water broken: If you believe that the doe's water has broken and a kid doesn't appear immediately, put on disposable gloves, apply obstetrical jelly, insert two or three fingers into the vagina, trying 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 placental sac. If the cervix has dilated, the doe is pushing, the kid is not coming out, but 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.

Partially-dilated cervix: If the doe's water has broken and the cervix has not dilated fully, then additional assistance is required. Put on disposable gloves, apply water-soluble OB lubricant (KY Jelly or equivalent) 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 parallel to a fence if you have to do this job alone. Jeffers (1-800-533-3377) sells an adjustable poly sheep halter that works great for this purpose. Use your index finger, then your next two fingers, then your hand formed into a fist and turn it slowly. Hopefully your knuckles will loosen the cervical ring, allowing you to move your hand through the cervix into the uterus. Be very careful. This is very delicate tissue that is easy to damage. The doe may not be dilated enough for you to get your hand through the cervix and into the uterus, so read further for other options to try.

Cervix not dilated: 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, I use oral administration of 15 cc's of CMPK or MFO every 15-30 minutes for three applications to try to open the cervix. Live kids assist in their own birth by moving into proper delivery position inside the dam. Labor stops if kids are dead or improperly positioned (live or dead), so the kids must be pulled as soon as the cervix has dilated.

If CMPK or MFO has not induced cervical dilation, then intramuscular injection of 10 cc dexamethasone and 2 cc lutalyse should cause cervical dilation in 24 to 48 hours. This protocol requires going inside the doe every six hours to feel by hand if the cervix has opened. However, I would not put a doe through 24 to 48 hours of painful labor while waiting for dexamethasone and lutalyze to work; I would seek veterinary assistance. I have occasionally used 1/4 cc to 1/2 cc of oxytocin given IM to the doe to try to induce cervical dilation, but this should be done only under veterinarian supervision; it is fraught with danger. Sometime a C-section by a vet is the only reasonable choice.

Positioning for delivery: In a normal delivery, the kid should appear with both front legs extended forward 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 (too-fat dams, dead kids, uterus full of kids, single huge kid, 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 two or more kids intertwined (when more than one placental sac breaks at the same time). In such instances, either a 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. Having a small hand is an asset in performing this procedure.

Pulling kids: If you do get through the cervix and into the uterus, carefully use your fingers to search for the kid's two front feet and 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 of the kid, find and gently put your finger in its mouth; a live kid will suck your fingertip. Making sure you are reaching the legs of a single kid and not the legs of two different kids, position the head between the two front legs, 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. Do not pull straight out; pull slightly downward, following the angle of the birth canal. Sometimes it is necessary to loop the ends of a heavy-duty (athletic) 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 and the dam's uterus will likely tear, so push the kid back inside and re-position the head between the front legs before pulling. If the kid is turned on its side or in any other improper position, push it back inside and manually manipulate the body until positioning is correct. Occasionally the rear legs may be coming out first. This is ok and should be an easy pull, but the kid is likely to have respiratory distress from fluid in its lungs. Pulling the first kid is sometimes enough to allow the doe to deliver the remaining kids on her own. Whether you pull the rest of the kids or let her deliver them is a decision you have to make based upon both the kid's and the dam's conditions.

Leave placental tissue intact: Do not pull the tissues attached 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, usually within 24 hours of giving birth.

Passing the placenta: The doe should pass her afterbirth within 24 hours after delivering all her kids. Retained afterbirth is life-threatening. Afterbirth is not considered "retained" until 24 hours after kidding. If you are absolutely positive that the doe has not passed the placental material and 24 hours has passed since she kidded (she or your livestock guardian dogs may have eaten it), then a 2 cc injection of oxytocin should be given to clean her out. Do not pull on the hanging afterbirth; it must separate naturally or she will bleed out and die. Don't be alarmed if the doe sloughs a bloody discharge for a couple of weeks after kidding. So long as the material isn't filled with bright-red blood, this is normal.

Pregnancy diseases (ketosis, pregnancy toxemia, hypocalcemia): If pregnancy diseases are in play, inducing labor may be necessary to make the cervix dilate to get weak or dead kids out of the dam. All pregnancy diseases are caused by improper feeding. See my articles on this topic on the Articles page at www.tennesseemeatgoats.com.

Respiratory distress: Once the kid is out of the dam and visibly breathing, quickly wipe fluids from its mouth and nose. If the kid is having difficulty breathing or does not appear to be breathing, hold it up-side-down by the back legs, gently swinging it from side to side, using gravity to get fluid out of its lungs. Carefully rub/pat both sides of its body to stimulate heart and lung functions. Two-tenths of a cc ( 2/10ths of a cc) of Dopram V (prescription) dropped 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. I use Dopram V 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 were filled with fluids in utero. A normal delivery 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.

Teats and udder: 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). If the teats have seals over them, use a clean fingernail to gently remove them 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. Sucking takes energy that weak kids don't have. Check for good colostrum flow from both teat orifices. Feel the udder for hot or cold indications of mastitis, congested udder, or dead udder. Do not rely on visual examination. Touch the udder with your hands.

Cleaning and feeding: If the kid's condition is stable and after completing all of the steps outlined above, place it on the ground near the doe in the location where her water broke and stand back. The dam should be allowed to clean and feed her kid. Watch from a reasonable distance to make sure that she is able and willing to care for the kid and give birth to additional kids without assistance. Some does don't feed their kids until all are born and the placenta has come out. Be watchful but don't be too alarmed if she cleans but doesn't nurse 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 if weather conditions are good, but they get weak fast. 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: Bonding problems can occur if the doe is moved too quickly from the location where she gave birth or if she gave birth in over-crowded conditions. If conditions permit, do not move the doe and her kids until she has kidded, cleaned, and fed colostrum to her newborns. If moved, some dams will return to that site even in bad weather. 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 (at minimum) a five-foot-by-five-foot bonding pen and make sure that she feeds them. Put clean hay or straw in the pen for bedding. 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 after she has finished cleaning the kids). Don't use a deep bucket, because kids can drown. Make a water-bucket stand or hanger 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 and pelleted feed after she has cleaned and fed her newborns.

Eating the placenta ("afterbirth"): It is normal for the doe to eat all or part of her afterbirth during the birthing process -- sometimes before she feeds them. Do not throw away the placental material until she has had this opportunity. Consuming the afterbirth assists in milk let-down and milk production. If she kicks dirt over it or ignores it, she is likely through with it. Handle placental material using disposable gloves. Some diseases, especially abortion illnesses, are transmitted through contact with afterbirth and may be zoonotic (transmissible to humans). Remove discarded 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.

Teat flow and nursing: During the first 24 hours of the kid's life, check colostrum flow in the dam's teats. Some teats have small orifices that restrict milk flow. Mastitis and congested udder can occur at any time. Make sure the kids are nursing both teats. Kids tend to stick with the first teat they nursed. This can result in a lopsided udder and inadequate milk if they are all sucking the same side.

Colostrum: Make sure that each kid gets sufficient colostrum. This thick, rich, yellowish-colored first milk is vital to the kid's survival. The dam's colostrum contains antibodies unique to your specific location that are necessary to protect the newborn and kickstart the kid's digestive, respiratory, and immune systems. If the doe was bred at a different location and then brought to your property, she will have antibodies in her colostrum and milk for the location where she was bred and her newborn kids will have no protection from the bacteria, viruses, and other organisms existing on your property. Never buy bred does.

The dam has all the colostrum that she will produce when she gives birth. When that udder full of colostrum has been consumed, she begins to produce milk. Make sure that colostrum is used to benefit her kids. Each kid needs about one ounce of colostrum for every pound of body weight in its first 12 hours of life, which equates to about 10-12% of body weight in colostrum over 24 hours.

Meconium ("plug"): The kid should pass the meconium shortly after receiving its first colostrum. This "rectal plug" is black, sticky, and won't appear again. Subsequent milk feces will be "mustard yellow." Some does' colostrum is so rich that the feces will harden on the kid's rear. Pull it off and apply petroleum jelly on the kid's butt to prevent re-sticking. This will change as the doe's colostrum turns to milk. Occasionally a doe's colostrum is so thick that you may have to thin it with a small amount of water for the kid to be able to suck it from her udder.

Navel cord: After the kids have been cleaned and fed (or sooner, if wet weather), carefully cut the navel cord to a shorter length if it is dragging the ground and dip it up to the belly in strong iodine to prevent infection. Joint Ill, also known as Navel Ill, occurs when bacteria travels 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.

Thiamine and BoSe: Stressed or "dumb-acting" kids should be given a 1/2 cc injection of Vitamin B-1 (thiamine) IM to "wake up" the kid's brain. If selenium deficiency exists in your area, a SQ injection of 1/2 cc BoSe is appropriate.

Uterine infection (metritis): Any manual entry into the doe's body increases the risk of bacterial infection (metritis). In such cases, I 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. After a difficult delivery, I give the dam a Banamine injection to take the edge off her pain so she is more interested in her kids.

Flushing the uterus: If the delivery was difficult and I had to go in manually to pull kids, I flush the doe's uterus as soon as she has delivered and fed her kids 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. A Sterile Saline Solution may be substituted if oxytet 200 mg/ml and distilled water are not available. Once the kids are pulled, I may 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, I may give her 2 cc lutalyse to clean her out. The possibility of tearing the uterus is very high with difficult births; she may bleed out. If she survives for 72 hours after the difficult birth and is peeing, pooping, eating, and drinking normally, the dam will probably live. Caesarian section is advisable under these conditions if a vet is available.

Udder problems: A large udder does not necessarily mean lots of milk. The doe could have mastitis and the udder could be filled with swollen tissue (edema) rather than milk or she could have a congested udder. Check regularly for milk flow and sufficient amount of milk by hands-on inspection. For at least the first week of the kid's life, check the kid 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 four 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 within a few hours.

Sometimes people incorrectly attribute dead kids to having been hit or sat upon when death is usually the result of hypothermia (sub-normal body temperature resulting in dehydration) or because the kid didn't get enough milk (starvation). Newborn and young kids have difficulty regulating their body temperatures. They can be fine in the morning and dead by early afternoon. A tummy full of milk means less chance of hypothermia, dehydration, and starvation. With goats, the problems are usually very basic; with kids, it is usually starvation/dehydration/hypothermia.

Feverish kid: Occasionally a kid is born with fever or develops fever shortly after birth. Feverish kids will not nurse. You must get the fever down with medication and hydration, then tube-feed the kid with colostrum until it gets strong enough to nurse its dam. If you bottle feed the kid, it will learn the feel of that nipple and will be difficult to get onto its dam's teat. Generally one injection of Banamine along with five (5) days of Excenel RTU will solve the problem. SQ administration of Lactated Ringers will help rehydrate the kid.

Abortion diseases and Weak Kid: Some births occur normally but the kid is weak and unable to stand. Late-term abortion diseases are one cause of Weak Kid Syndrome. I put a hypothermic kid in a sink of warm water to bring its core body temperature above 100*F before I stomach tube colostrum (or anything else) into it. Do not put colostrum or milk into a chilled kid. Body temperature must be above 100*F before putting anything into a kid's stomach. When a kid is chilled and struggling to survive, its body diverts blood from the stomach to essential-for-survival 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. See my article entitled Health Problems of Newborn Kids on the Articles page at www.tennesseemeatgoats.com.

Dead in utero: 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 stop, the kids will die, and the doe will die from toxins produced by the decaying fetuses inside her. You need 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.

Necropsy: 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 the afterbirth and deliver it to your vet for immediate examination and analysis.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto ONION CREEK RANCH, Texas 12.1.19

Meat Goat Mania

Important! Please Read This Notice!

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.

The author, Suzanne Gasparotto, hereby grants to local goat publications and club newsletters, permission to reprint articles published on the Onion Creek Ranch website under these conditions: THE ARTICLE MUST BE REPRODUCED IN ITS ENTIRETY AND THE AUTHOR'S NAME, ADDRESS, AND CONTACT INFORMATION MUST BE INCLUDED AT THE BEGINNING OF THE REPRINT. We would appreciate notification from any clubs or publications when the articles are used. (A copy of the newsletter or publication would also be a welcome addition to our growing library of goat related information!)

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