Kidding is over for the year. Over the course of 5 days, I kidded four does who had a total of 7 baby goats! We had 3 sets of twins and one single.
It was a stressful, exhilarating, breathtaking, exhausting, and rewarding week, all rolled into one. Of course, all but one of them went into labor while hubby was gone, so I did everything myself. While packing around an 11 month old baby.
Anyway, I’ve got to say that I’m feeling more confident and capable than last year. I even had to reach inside our only first freshening doe and rearrange her baby’s front leg before pulling it. It was bent back and she was having trouble. It felt so good to see that little guy slide out and take his first breath.
Last year was our first time kidding, and we were the typical stressed-out, first time goat parents. I had done a lot of reading (probably too much…) and was a little paranoid about doing everything exactly by the book.
But this year, I tried to take a more laid-back approach, and we had good results! None of these things are set in stone, and they may not always work; but I found success with them, so maybe you will too.
6 New Lessons Learned from Kidding This Year:
1. Be close, but not TOO close. Last year I had it in my head that we literally needed to be right on top of the doe during the entire kidding process. Now, it’s definitely a good idea to be close at hand during kidding season, in case you need to assist. But, I think we overdid it last year which resulted in some bonding issues. This year I knew when each doe was in labor, but I stayed back and watched her from a distance or piddled around in the barn until she was done. I’m glad I was close when I needed to help our first-freshener, but all the other mamas did just fine without me. Less stress for all involved parties, I think.
2. Engorgement doesn’t work for anyone. Last year I ended up with a doe whose baby only nursed on one side. I didn’t think much of it, until I noticed 2 of the does starting down the same path this year. I realized that it was because one side of the udder was becoming engorged. The bloated teat made it harder for the babies to suck and also caused the mama to discourage the babies from nursing there because of the tenderness. It can end up being a vicious cycle. This year I tried to catch it early and milked out the engorged side several times per day. It made the doe more comfortable, prevented mastitis, and now the kids are nursing evenly.
3. Give mama some time. Last year I was so paranoid about the kids getting the colostrum, that I think I was trying to force them on their feet too soon. Yes, colostrum is very, very important in the first few hours of life. But, if they aren’t up and sucking in the first 10 minutes of being on the ground, it’s o.k. Give mama a little bit of time- she’s probably still having light contractions and passing the afterbirth. Let her clean off her kid and bond with it before forcing it up to the udder. If you are going much past a hour, you’ll probably need to intervene and make sure the baby gets some milk, but otherwise, be patient.
4. Prevent weak babies at all costs. Keep a close eye on the babies. If they don’t get enough milk or if mama isn’t wanting to let them suck, they will become more and more weak and loose their desire to even look for the udder. I had one buck kid this year that started out well, but got discouraged and quit looking for milk. I milked a little bit into a bottle and fed him to get his strength back up, and now he is back to nursing and playing. Prevention is the key here.
5. A bonding stall isn’t a bad idea. Obviously, if you don’t have the facilities for this, it’s not a total necessity. That being said, I’m glad we decided to have one this year. I cleaned out a small draft-free room in our empty chicken coop and filled it with fresh shavings, a water bucket, and feed. I allowed my expecting does to stay with the herd, so not to stress them out by keeping them in isolation. Once the mama had delivered her kids and they were on their feet, I moved her and her kids into the bonding room. I had a heat lamp available for the babies and a pan of grain for the doe. It seemed to be relaxing for everyone and gave the new little families a chance to bond before being thrust back out into the herd.
6. There is nothing more fulfilling than having an active role in new life. There is something about being able to watch a new life enter the world and take it’s first breath that is just special, whether it be an animal or human! And even when I found myself out in the barn late at night checking on everyone, I almost had to pinch myself because I just love this lifestyle so much. It’s hard work and a little stressful at times, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
So, I can relax for another week or two and then I will start up my milking routine once again. One more kidding season complete, many more to come, I hope!
Are you having babies at your homestead this spring? Calving? Kidding? Lambing? Foaling?
Check out some other posts in the Goat 101 series: