My doe has kidded- now what?
First off, congratulations! Baby goats are seriously one of the cutest creatures on Earth. Their little hops and "Maaaa's" can put a smile on my face any day. But this can also be a bit of a scary time. We love these creatures and we want to make sure that we are doing what we need to for mama and for babies. Here is a description of what I do starting right after her birth. If you haven't already seen my post about supplies, now may be a good time to take a peek.
Please keep in mind that this is my own routine and I am not a vet. I am a backyard homesteader who has been at this since 2013. My list has been built from advice from my farm vet, friends, experiences of my own as well as of other breeders. As soon as babies are out, I help mama clean them off and (if needed) suction out their mouths/throats using a baby-booger-sucker. If they are acting normal then I put them up to the teat and help them get their very first drinks of colostrum (AKA Nectar of the Goat Gods). It is SO important that they get this. Without colostrum, they most likely won't survive. I always keep a stash of it in the freezer (from a previous kidding) just in case there is a need for it. You DON'T want to be put in a position of needing it and not having it. This can be the difference between life or death and you don't have much time when you need it. Most of the time mama will be able to feed them just fine but better safe than sorry.
I feel its important to add that a kid should NOT get milk if he/she is under 101° F. If they are less than this then they cannot digest the milk and they will get sick. You can warm them up by lightly wrapping them in a towel and blowing a hair dryer under the towel. You can also do this by running towels in the dryer until they are warm and then laying the goat in them (I put the baby right into the dryer when I do this). In a REAL emergency, you can wrap the kid in a bag (up to its neck) and loosely tie the bag and then submerge them up to the top of the bag in warm water. Once they are to temp, they are ready to eat!
Once they are clean, dry and fed I will get mama a bowl of warm molasses water. I put about 1-2 Tbs in about 1/2 gallon of warm water. Goats love this and it helps give mama some energy after all that hard work. She is now a milk making machine and needs all the water and calories that she can get. Plus, she deserves something delicious after kidding! Be sure that she is always fed and has a non-stop supply of fresh water while she is in milk.
I next tend to the umbilical cords. They break when they are born (if they don't, its best to gently break them and not cut them) and they will "seal" themselves off. Some people prefer to tie them with dental floss or string but I like to skip that. Moms will usually get the string off when they are obsessively cleaning the babies over the next 12 hours or so. With my most recent kidding, my doe had twins and I tied one and left one alone. She had the floss off within 10 minutes and I could tell that she didn't like it being on the baby. I then dip the weird little sticky cords in iodine to prevent naval ill (I use a small cap for this job. I feel its easiest to bring up and submerge the cord in). Naval ill is caused by bacteria getting into their systems through their umbilical cord site. If left untreated, they can develop septicemia which is bad news. Making sure they get colostrum also helps with this because it gives them an immune booster since they are born without an immune system. (IF your goat ends up with naval-ill, they will need to be started on antibiotics ASAP. )
Phew, now that all that is over with you can start to relax. The babies will be very tired after delivery and eating. Mama will be busy cleaning them for quite some time but she will get rest when she calms down. I like to keep an eye on the babies to make sure they they sleep sternal in this comatose time. Sometimes they tend to lay on their sides and that isn't good for them. So, I gently bend their legs so that they are resting on them in a natural position. If they are still tending to flop to the side, I take a towel and roll it on both ends and flip it upside down (so the rolls are against the floor) then I lay the baby in the middle to keep them upright. This works great and they feel nice and cozy.
Once they get the hang of feeding (which is usually pretty quickly) I like to feel their bellies to make sure they are getting what they need. Their bellies should feel soft and squishy- not hard and bulgy or hollow and empty.
One source of confusion/debate/concern is the topic of vaccines. I will admit that I am still torn on this one. But at the end of the day, I am so heavily reliant on my farm vet in the time of emergencies that I decided to go with her advice on this. The last thing that I want is to lose the support of my farm's Hero. I try to vaccinate the dam 30 days prior to kidding and then the antibodies are passed to the kids through the colostrum. Here is the schedule that I choose to use:
CD&T: 1. Give to mama 1 month prior to kidding. 2. Give to kids between 4-5 weeks old. 3. Give to kids at 12 weeks old.
Many goat keepers choose to give the Rabies vaccine. This is one that I skip so I don't have any advice other than to talk to your vet, fellow breeders and researchers to make the decision that you feel is best for your herd.
If you are keeping goats for milk then I suggest that you start milking your doe 1-2 times a day (unless she has 4+ babies or is showing signs of struggling to keep up). This signals to her body that she should make more milk and this will help her production in the long run. I choose to not completely empty her every time, especially in the beginning when she is still working to make enough for her babies and before I see her babies gaining weight. This usually brings me to about day 2-3 to start snagging some milk (freeze some for future kiddings) and about 1 week for emptying her. At 2 weeks, I strive to separate babies at night and milk her out in the morning. That allows her udder time to expand over night (again, we are thinking long term production) and is a huge boost for her supply since hungry babies come running and suckle to signal to her body to make more milk. This is a very important step to establish her supply for this year and years to come.
Once the babies are 8- 10 weeks, it's time for them to wean. They will have already been learning how to munch from mom, so they are ready to be off of milk. This is when you will need to start milking every 12 hours to empty your does udder. Your work is done! Great job!