You’ve bred your doe to the finest buck this side of the Mississippi. You’ve waited anxiously for 5 months, pampering your goat queen, and giving her the best care, the finest treats, and gentle scratches until your fingers threaten to fall off. You’ve trimmed hooves and clipped udders. Your doe is the kidding stall, and it’s finally go time. Baby goats are finally arriving! What now!?
Making sure your newborn kid gets all of the necessary care is key to giving it a good start and making sure it stays healthy and happy. While mom’s are typically great at providing everything a kid needs, it’s always good to observe carefully and assist when needed. This can be especially true when dealing with a first freshener.
Being present at the time of kidding is very important. While that’s not always an option, you should aim to be present at all kiddings if you can. We use a video monitor that can be viewed through an app on our phones and a monitor by our bed, so we can always have eyes on a doe when she’s close to kidding. Make sure to have your complete kidding kit at the ready to assist your doe and kids as needed.
Once the kid is out, the most important thing to do in make sure to clear all the mucus away from it’s face so it’s not in danger of inhaling any fluids. Clear the airways with a bulb syringe, or if the kid seems to have a lot of mucus, we will swing them upside down to try to get it cleared.
The next step is to get that kid dry. This is especially true if you’re kidding in cold temperatures, as a baby goat can get chilled very easily which can be dangerous. Have plenty of towels available. We like to use a hairdryer to ensure the kid is completely dry.
Do the Dip
Dipping the umbilical cord in iodine is an important step that prevents Joint Ill. We trim the umbilical cord is it seems too long and then dip the cord in a small cup, turning the kid over to make sure the iodine reaches all the way to where the cord attaches to their body. A lot of people are now dipping the kid’s hoofs in iodine as well, as the tissue is soft at birth and can allow bacteria in.
You should aim to get colostrum into your newborn kid as quickly as possible. If you’re dam raising, this generally means sitting and observing to ensure all of the kids are finding a teat and latching on. Sometimes this means a lot of redirecting. If you’re bottle feeding, make sure the colostrum is warmed in a water bath, and a good temperature. Be patient and make sure the kid is sucking well.
If a kid is struggling to eat, or if you see milk coming out of their nose, check for a possible cleft palate. Run your finger over the roof of the mouth to check for holes. If you don’t feel anything, do another check by having someone open their mouth and look around with a flashlight.
After Kidding – What to Watch For
Once babies are on their feet and doing well, it’s still not over. Baby goat care doesn’t end after kidding. Kids are fragile, and even in the care of experienced does, sometimes things go sideways. It’s always important to observe and watch for signs that a kid may not be doing well.
As all animal keepers know, poop can tell you a lot! Baby goat’s poop changes a lot within the first week, so it’s always important to know what’s normal so you can spot a potential problem. For the first day or so, a goat kid’s poop will be tar like – black and super sticky. These are meconium poops and will usually pass in a day or two. The next poops are usually very yellow and very soft. They will stick to everything and be a general mess. This is normal from for the first few days up until about a week. After that, you’ll start to see firmer logs with pellets forming.
If you don’t see a baby poop within a few hours of eating, make sure you check their back end. sometimes baby goats can be born without an anus. This is rare, but happens. A goat can’t live without the ability to eliminate waste.
Watch out for very watery scours which usually occur when a kid is eating too much milk. This happens most often with bottle babies, but can happen with dam raised kids too. Also be observant for signs of constipation – you can usually observe this as a lack of appetite and discomfort without a fever present. After 3 weeks old, be on the look out for dark colored, foul smelling scours that could indicate coccidian.
Check Their Parts
Right after birth we check the goat kid from tip to tail. This means genitalia and teats as well. Bucklings should be checked to make sure they have two testicles. A retained testicle can cause issues – they can’t be a breeding buck and can’t be wethered without expensive surgery. This will mean you may not want to repeat the breeding that produced that kid in the future. W
We also check for extra teats. These are a disqualification for registered dairy goats. It’s also a genetic anomaly you will want to make note of for future breeding.
This can happen often with dam raised kids when there are triplets are more. Often times one kid will get pushed out and won’t be eating enough. You can usually observe this as a kid that’s not playing, standing alone, ears looking droopy, and hunched with their tail tucked under. Sometimes they’re shivering. If there is an absence of fever or other symptoms of illness, try supplementing the weak kid with a bottle.
Because baby goats are fairly fragile, they can easy targets for illness. Whenever you’re questioning the health of a baby goat that appears to be in distress, check their temperature first – that can tell you a lot about what’s going on. Look for discharge from the eyes and nose. Try to spot signs of discomfort such as teeth grinding, shivering, excessive crying, and a hunched back.
Be a Good Baby Goat Snuggler
The more you interact with your baby goats and hold them and know their everyday behaviors and personalities, the more likely you’ll be to spot a potential problem. It’s the best way to provide excellent baby goat care. This will also make kids friendly and used to being handled by humans. Imprinting on human “moms” for love and care will make them well rounded and easier to handle as adults. And, it’s a great excuse to spend more time with your babies!