Goat Birthing

Learning about goat birthing is crucial for anyone raising dairy goats. Usually dairy goats give birth without any problems, but the longer you have goats, the more likely you will experience a variety of difficult birthings. About two weeks before kidding, you should be able to see movement or feel the kids under the belly right in front of the udder. Shave the udder and tail area with electric clippers about one week before birthing. You need to mark the date you plan to do this on your calendar. Clip in the direction of the hair. Be extremely careful not to cut the udder or teats. We tie the doe's back legs to the milk stand using baling twine since the does usually don't like getting their udders shaved.

A Video Farm Surveillance Cameras is great to have in your goat barn because you don't have to be at the barn constantly keeping an eye on your pregnant doe. In the past, we slept in the loft of our goat barn when the birthings seemed imminent because we wanted to make sure we were there to help our does deliver their kids in case there were any problems.

Stage 1 labor:

When birth is imminent, there will be softening of the tailhead to the pin bone. Labor will occur within 12 hours. This is the beginning of stage 1 labor which can last up to 12 hours. During this period, the fetus is repositioning. The uterine contractions will move the kid toward the cervix. Typically, this is considered a "silent" time which means she will likely eat and drink, but she will likely have some anxiety, frequently urinate, and she might try to separate herself from the herd.

Stage 2 labor:

The doe will be in active labor at this point. Talk to your goat and gently reassure her. When the fetus comes into contact with the cervix, the brain gets the signal to start pushing. Normally, this stage typically lasts 30 minutes, and it ends when the last kid has come out. If 1/2 hour has gone by and the doe is still in hard labor but nothing is happening, get prepared to take action. Some people say if the doe lies down and pushes, and you see a bag and mucus but nothing more happens in one hour from the start of the stage 2 labor, then it is time to reach in and see if you can help the doe.

Wash your hands with antibacterial soap and wash the doe's vulva with soap and warm water. Make sure you clipped your nails a few days before the due date so you won't cut her with your nails if you have to reach in. One vet told us not to wear long surgical gloves so it would be easier to know what part of the kid we were feeling. Other vets say to put on long surgical gloves and KY jelly or J-lube. Whichever way you choose, cover your arms or the long surgical gloves with Betadine before reaching in. Try to be as sterile as possible. Reach in very gently and feel if the kid is in the wrong position or if the kids are tangled. If they are, then rearrange them.

Long before the birthing you should study what positions the kid might be in which make birthing difficult or impossible. Understanding these positions well beforehand will make you less likely to panic. It is very difficult to tell what you are feeling, so during the months while your doe is pregnant, look at goats bodies and feel them to see which way the front and back legs bend. Maybe even close your eyes and feel your goat's body all over to get an idea what each part of the goat's body feels like, so when you reach in, you will have a better idea about what you are feeling.

If you have been trying to adjust things for 15 minutes and still nothing is happening, call your vet immediately. Until you are more experienced and confident about delivering, it is a good idea to have an experienced person available. Make a list of names and phone numbers of people who can help you. Keep your cell phone with you at the barn.

When the doe begins heavy labor, have someone take your frozen colostrum out of the freezer and put it in a pan of hot tap water. If you don't have frozen colostrum, try to buy some from someone who has goats. You can also purchase colostrum from some goat supply companies. The first year we had kids, a friend gave us some frozen colostrum. We boiled water and put the bag in the boiling water. When it was time to feed the babies, the colostrum was useless - it had turned to gel! Do not make that mistake since the colostrum is like precious gold. Take the freezer bag or the yogurt container or whatever else the frozen colostrum is in, and place it in a bowl or pan of hot tap water, straight from the sink. Maybe clip it to the edge of the bowl so no water can get in the bag or container to dilute and destroy the colostrum. By the time the birth is over and you are ready to feed the babies, your colostrum will be lukewarm and ready to feed to them. It will take approximately 15-30 minutes to turn into liquid. Try to feed them their first colostrum within 15-30 minutes of birth. Click here to learn how often to feed colostrum and milk to kids.

When you see the bag come out of the doe, put newspaper down so the baby won't fall onto the straw. As the baby slides out, try to catch it. Leave the cord attached for a minute or two. Clip it if it breaks really long, like 3" or more. Tie the umbilical cord with dental floss about 2" from the kid's navel, and cut the umbilical cord with sharp, sterile surgical scissors. Then dip the umbilical cord in 7% iodine as soon as possible. We get our iodine from our vet. A small film canister or something about that size can be used to put the iodine in. You can use the same iodine and container with each kid that is born, and the iodine will still be okay to use for the next year's birthings. Dipping the navel in iodine is very important to prevent infection. Make sure you wear disposable hospital gloves because the iodine stings and stains. Some people choose to use diluted Betadine or diluted Chlorohexadrine to dip the navel since they think 7% iodine has potential problems being too caustic, but we choose to use 7% iodine.

One difficult birth is a breech birth (born tail first). In this position, always assume the cord will break, so pull them out quickly.

In a difficult birth, if the doe has pushed for too long and is too exhausted to push anymore, help her out and pull the kids out.

A normal birth will have 2 front hooves in the diving position, and you will see a tongue sticking out between the hooves. Some people say if one hoof comes out, wash your hands and pull the shoulder of that hoof. But when one of our kids came out with just one hoof out, we just left her alone, and shortly after that, after a few pushes, her doeling easily slid out on her own.

In a normal birth, the bag will break. Leave it alone since it will be hanging from the doe. Do not try to pull anything out of the doe in a normal delivery.

Some people choose to have the mom lick the baby right after the birth which develops a special bond between mom and baby. Others believe this may have an influence on the baby developing CAE, so they take the kid away from the mom right after the birth. Hold the baby and remove the placental membranes and the mucous from the baby's oral cavity with a suction or towels. Use a bulb syringe and push it into the nostrils, then suck out the mucous from the nose and the mouth. A washcloth can be used to clear the area around the face. If the kid doesn't appear to be breathing or responding, stick a piece of straw in its nostril. If the kid still hasn't started to breathe, hold it upside down, holding the hind legs which will cause fluid to drain out. Dry the kid off thoroughly with clean towels. Don't focus just on one kid while ignoring the doe because another kid might be coming out. Having someone help with the birthing is very helpful so one of you can catch kids while the other takes care of the other kids who are being born.

Weigh the kids before you feed them. Some people purchase a barn scale, and put the baby in a sling using a barn scale. Keep good records of everything including the time of each kids' birth, the weight of the kids, etc. Recording the timing of things happening during labor is a great idea too. For example, we write down the time they begin stage 2 labor so we'll know when it is time to reach in if we need to. We also write down the time of each contraction. Keeping all of the paperwork is important so when that doe ever kids again we will have an idea of what her labor will be like, since does often have similar labors as their previous ones.

The colostrum should be ready by now, so put it in a sanitized soda bottle with a nipple and try to have the baby drink. You will probably have to help the baby because some don't have the sucking instinct right away. We have never had to tube feed our kids. That's probably because we spend lots of time helping the kids learn to drink if they are having difficulty drinking. Sometimes it takes a couple of feedings before they hungrily suck without our encouragement and help.

Some Nubians come out with ears that are curled. If that happens, splint the ears with popsicle sticks and surgical tape.

If the doe didn't receive her 2cc of CDT one month before the due date, we give the kids 1.62 cc of tetanus antitoxin from the 1500 unit bottle. We also give them 1cc of BoSe since we live in an area which is selenium deficient. Both of these shots are given subcutaneously (under the skin).

Molasses mixed in warm water can be given to the doe after all of the kids have been born. She will love it! Give her lots of fresh water since she'll probably be very thirsty after working so hard. You might want to give her some Nutri-Drench to replenish her nutrients.

Before the birthing, you might want to buy Banamine which is a pain killer. This can be used in case you have to reach in. It is a good idea to have your vet give you some penicillin or Biomycin (another antibiotic) just in case you have to reach in to rearrange a kid. You don't need to refrigerate the Banamine, but Penicillin should be refrigerated. Ask your vet how much you should give your doe and how to give it.

Stage 3 labor:

Expulsion of the placenta happens 12-18 hours after the last baby has been delivered. A reddish-brown discharge called lochia will likely last for about 3 weeks.

After several days, when you have gotten into the routine of feeding the kids, and when everything is pretty much back to normal, you may want to register your kids with the American Dairy Goat Association (ADGA). The form to register them is online on the ADGA site. You will have to fill out what color the goat is. There are special names for colors. For example, if it is black and white, it is called cou blanc. If it is brown like velvet, it is chamoisse for a girl and chamoise for a boy. If it is brown with white markings (spots, belted, etc.), it is called broken chamoisse. If you need to know more about coloring, you can call the ADGA.


“Know well the condition of your flocks, and pay attention to your herds.”  (Proverbs 27:23)

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