Thursday, February 19, 2015

What to Expect When Your Goat's Expecting: basic kidding supplies

Ella has her fluffy winter coat on

This time of year is definitely my least favorite. Bitter cold, and although normally I'd just hide in the house under a pile of wool until it's over, I can't really do that when I have farm animals to take care of. My daily routine now involves many more layers of wool clothing, a few minutes of jumping jacks before going out to feed so that my fingers and toes stay warm (after having to very painfully thaw my fingers in warm water one day after chores), hauling 100lbs of hay about 500 ft in a wheelbarrow that does not want to wheel properly through the frozen ruts of snow, and knocking solid ice chunks out of all the water buckets before hauling 15 gallons of warm water from the house to the various goat pens. I have a collection of "ice sculptures" that are actually the frozen innards of water buckets in various stages of melting:

Ugh. The good news is, the most awful time of the year is swiftly followed by the best time of year: kidding season. It is nearly as cold and a hundred times more exhausting, but - BABY GOATS. Enough said, right?

My first goats are due within the next two weeks and I'm to the stage of frantic baby goat sweater knitting and triple- and quadruple-checking that I have everything I might need for my kidding kit. Now that I have been through a bunch of kiddings and have pretty much figured out my routine, I thought it might be useful/interesting for me to share what I put in my "kidding bucket", which is a big plastic tub that I keep at the ready to grab and take with me to the barn when a goat is in labor.

My kidding bucket, only pictured half full because I usually stack a ton of
towels on top & you wouldn't be able to see anything.
Here's what I keep in it, semi organized by what is most useful/used the most frequently.

Basic items:

-iodine (you want around 7%. The one I have is called "Triodine-7" and is meant for livestock)
-dental floss and/or umbilical cord clips
-scissors (mine are surgical/veterinary scissors, but any small scissors will do)
-old towels, you can really never have too many
-baby goat sweaters, mine are hand knit wool (pattern here)

These are the bare minimal basics to have on hand. The first thing I do when a goat has kidded is make sure the kids are dry and warm. If I'm not there for the kidding, mom usually takes care of this part all on her own, but if I'm there I'll help dry the kids off with old towels. I can usually do this without really getting in the way because my goats often have multiple kids (usually twins) and mom can only clean one at a time. In cold weather, it's important to get them dry as soon as possible or they can get chilled. Then I take each kid and tie off/clip the umbilical cord with either dental floss or plastic umbilical cord clips, cut the cord about 1" away from their belly, and dip it in iodine. Each baby is given a wool sweater to keep them warm for the first few days since they can't really regulate their body temperature on their own right away. When that's done, I move on to giving everyone their supplements.


-Selenium & vitamin e paste (many people give BoSe shots, but I don't like to give shots if I can avoid it)
-Vitamin A, D, E, & B12 paste (this is all in one paste)
-Vitamin E gelcaps (for humans)
-Jump Start Plus paste (not essential, but I'll give a little if I have it around)

I give each kid a small amount of each vitamin paste and then squirt the contents of 1-2 vitamin e gelcaps into their mouths. If it's 1000 IU, I use one, if it's 400-500 IU, I use two. I usually see a noticeable difference in them afterwards, the vitamins and selenium help get them alert and up and moving faster. I want to get them on their feet and nursing, since kids are born without independently functioning immune systems and need the antibodies present in their dams colostrum (the thick, highly nutritious first milk a doe produces after kidding) to protect them. White Muscle Disease and selenium deficiencies are fairly common in goats, and usually the symptoms include weak or bent legs, trouble standing, and troubling nursing. If you aren't in a selenium deficient area, I would still at least give the vitamin e gelcaps to newborn kids. The Jump Start paste is vitamins, minerals, and probiotics and I usually give this to mom more than the kids. My girls love the pastes (with the exception of the rare picky goat) and I have to keep a good grip on the tube when dosing them or they will try to yank it out of my hand and take off with it.

More useful items:

-OB gloves (these are long plastic gloves, they go all the way up to the shoulder on me)
-betadine solution
-kid or lamb puller/rope
-baby nose plunger (aka nasal aspirator)

These are more just-in-case items, nearly all of which I haven't had to use yet. You'll want these on hand in case you have to assist with a birth, like if the kids are positioned wrong and you need to go in and rearrange them. You don't technically need OB gloves, you can use regular plastic gloves or wash your hands very well before assisting. The betadine is a topical disinfectant. I have lube called "J-lube", it is in powder form and you just add water. I haven't used it yet, but I chose it because I thought the powder would store well long term even in temperature extremes. The nasal aspirator is in case you need to clear fluid/goo from a kids nose, and the kid/lamb puller or 4 ft length of rope is to assist in pulling a kid during a difficult birth. You loop it around the kid inside the womb/birth canal and use it to help guide the kid out properly. The thermometer is just useful to have in general, but a good rule of thumb to figure out if a kid is chilled is to stick a finger in their mouth. If it's warm to the touch, they're good. If it's cool to the touch, they have a dangerously low temperature and you need to take action to get them warmed up as fast as possible.

Other things you might want to have on hand:
-weak kid syringe/some sort of tube feeding kit
-pritchard nipples
-frozen colostrum or colostrum replacer
-vitamin B complex (paste or injectable)
-penicillin or other antibiotic
-coffee and light corn syrup or dextrose
-something for pain & inflammation, like baby aspirin, banamine (Rx), or I like the "Ow Eze" tincture from Molly's Herbals

I don't keep these items in my kidding bucket, but I do have them around if I need them. I do all of my own basic vet care including vaccinations and disbudding, so I have a lot of general goat stuff like needles and syringes, herbs, and medications that aren't listed here. In case of a weak or abandoned kid, it's good to have a syringe, bottle, and colostrum on hand. If you can milk their dam and feed them her colostrum, that would be best, otherwise frozen colostrum from another goat or colostrum replacer will work. Try to get real colostrum if at all possible. I like pritchard nipples for bottle feeding kids because they can screw onto empty plastic soda bottles or any bottle with the same size screw top (my favorite is a glass quart bottle that used to have vinegar in it, the glass is easy to clean and sterilize). They also have good suction and are a good size and shape.

A pritchard nipple in action

Vitamin B complex is just always good to have on hand, it will boost appetite and help maintain rumen function. Any goat of mine that is obviously not feeling well is usually started on B vitamins. The penicillin/antibiotic is in case you had to go in and assist, or in case of an infection/retained placenta, etc. The coffee and corn syrup are in case you have a severely chilled or unresponsive kid, you can tube or syringe feed them black coffee and corn syrup in an effort to revive them, or rub corn syrup or dextrose on their gums for a quickly absorbed source of energy. Kids can't digest milk or colostrum unless their body temperature is at least 100 degrees, so don't try to feed them until you get them warm.

For mom:
-molasses (to make warm molasses water or homemade electrolytes)
-wormer(s) of your choice
-copper bolus

The first thing I do after taking care of the kids is bring a 1.5-2 gallon bucket full of warm/hot water with a few tablespoons of molasses mixed in for the doe. She usually is very appreciative. This is both a treat (my goats love plain warm water in the winter, so the molasses just makes it extra special) and an energy boost, since she will probably be pretty worn out. To make homemade electrolytes, add 1-2 tablespoons of sea salt, epsom salt or baking soda and a cup of apple cider vinegar to the hot molasses water. I usually bring her an extra bowl of alfalfa pellets and grain, and if it's very cold I'll make a warm mash with the alfalfa and a little hot water or offer her some hot oatmeal. I also worm the doe within a few days of giving birth, since the hormones released by kidding can trigger worm activity and the stress of kidding can also leave her a bit vulnerable, although I usually wait until the next day at least to do this. If her eyelids are pink and her last fecal exam was pretty clear of eggs, I use an herbal wormer, but if her eyelids are pale or her last fecal showed lots of eggs I will use a chemical wormer as well. I give her a copper bolus at the same time, which is a capsule filled with small rods of copper. I copper bolus my goats a minimum of 2-3 times/year otherwise they start showing signs of copper deficiency, and the copper can help keep worms away.

Where can you get these supplies? Tractor Supply Co and local feed stores might carry some things, but most of my goat supplies I end up ordering online. My two favorite places to shop are Jeffers Livestock and Hoegger Supply Co. There's also Valley Vet and Caprine Supply.

More information & useful links:

The Fias Co Farm website is a really great resource. Scroll down to the "Information, Care & Health issues" section for a ton of information and pictures about breeding and kidding including pictures and video of normal and abnormal goat births.

Gryphon Tor farm has a page with information about different positions that the kids can be presented in at birth and how to rearrange them if needed, complete with lovely hand drawn illustrations.

The Goat Devoted forum on Ravelry and The Goat Spot are two good forums to go to look up information or ask questions.

If you want to see pictures of cute goat newborn goat kids (often in hand knit sweaters), I'll be posting pictures on the Folktale Farm & Folktale Fibers facebook page. I also usually post pictures of kids as they are born on my flickr account, my 'My Goats' board on pinterest, and my '2015 kids' page on the Folktale Farm website, which I haven't put up yet but you can still go and see our 2014 kids for now. My kidding season will run from early March until mid to late May.


Lauren Gaasch said...

This is awesome! Very informative and easy to follow..

Sue Marrazzo said...


Elle Anm said...


Twinkle said...

Nice post. It is really interesting. Thanks for sharing the post!
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