Ensure your goat gestation and kidding process goes smoothly and follow our homesteading handbook for your must-know raising goat essentials.
Goat Gestation | Pregnancy, Birth, and Raising Kids
Being there for your goat during the birthing process and helping raise their offspring is one of the coolest and enjoyable experiences you can witness as a goat owner. There is nothing more joyful and awe worthy than seeing fresh new born babies – even to most people who believed they there is nothing cute about them. Many words can get swallowed at this point! Some goat owners decided they wanted to raise a goat because they were around the babies; you would be surprised. As fun as it is, there will be a lot of things you will learn, especially with the first batch that you will be raising. For the most part, this is one of the easiest jobs there is in raising a goat because they pretty much can and will do most of the work without your help. All you are really to them at this point is their backup. A goat may require you assistance should things not go as smoothly, nobody likes it, but it happens. The best method there is in having a normal pregnancy is proper feeding and management. Food and care are especially critical during the last terms of pregnancy.
7.1 – How You Can Tell If a Goat is Pregnant or Not
A goat is pregnant for around five months, or 150 days, give or take a few days should they deliver earlier or later than presumed. Even though is it highly recommended that a female goat should no longer be milked during the last two months of her pregnancy, goat owners who raise their goats for milking will still milk their goats. You technically still can without causing any complication. The main sign of pregnancy you will notice is the reduction of milk. Female goats will start to look visibly pregnant once their stomach starts to protrude. The belly gets larger when the goat is around three months into pregnancy. Sometimes you will be surprised and be absolutely positive that they are pregnant but they are not. There could be situations where a doe shows the usual sights and gets bred, halts their normal cycle and has their bellies getting bigger where an udder develops, yet still not be pregnant. False pregnancy occurs mostly because of hydrometra, which is when the uterus fills with water. Hormones are always usually involved. If you were to complete a blood test, you might still get a false positive. False pregnancies are a rare scenario though. False pregnancies do not last for the entire five months just as a real pregnancy. At some point, a ‘cloudburst’ will occur, which means all the fluid that was inside the uterus bursts. The only sure way to know if your goat is pregnant is with the ultrasound, but it is not as popular compared to blood tests because it is more expensive. When you are a long time farmer, you will get used to what is normal for goats as they grow older. If you were to observe a female goat with a really large stomach, you would automatically assume that she is expecting even when in actuality, she is not. Older female goats often look like this normally because their abdomen drops after so many births over the years and it not a warning of illness. You could say that she lost her ‘girlish figure’ she used to have. When the body is so stretched out at this point, it will not be able to bounce back to how it used to be. To know the difference between a doe that has lost her shape and a female goat that is pregnant you will see that their shape is higher and much fuller all around. A doe should not be overweight nor underweight during the time they breed. If you goats are already in optimal condition when they are pregnant, there is not much more changes you need to do regarding their feeding. Remain giving the female goats milkers as you normally would until they reach the point of getting dried up for around three months in during pregnancy. At the two months dry period, your female goat should be given a dry rate ratio that is congruent to 2-2.6% of her total body weight while no more than 0.5% is grain. You want to go easy on how much grain you feed them because they can end up with large offspring, especially if they are giving birth to just one kid. The main goal you want during the pregnancy of your female goat about half of her milking ration by the time she kids. If and when you do make any changes in the diet, it should be gradual. Changing a diet too suddenly on a goat that is pregnant could quite possibly result in diarrhea or other more serious digestive complication.
Goat Gestation Calculator
To calculate the amount of time between your goat breeding, and your kidding date, we recommend using this tool provided by the American Goat Society.
7.2 – The Goat Birthing Process
Even when the birthing process often goes very smoothly, most goat owners can’t help but be worried each time. If you notice that you are assisting the goat more often than it is needed it could mean one of many things. You could just be simply overreacting, or you might need to need to re-evaluate the type of nutritional diet you are giving. There could also be the chance it is genetics, which is nothing you can do to alter, and culling the entire herd and to start again might have to be put into action. You will never know whether or not your goat can birth on her own if you do not let her do it. In most cases, you will just be the overseer and helping dry off the adorable kids and coo over them.
Everyone will have different ways of setting up when the time comes to your goat is prepared to give birth. Overall, no matter how different we may go about things, we still often will use the same supplies or different methods. One method that involves a non-hands-on approach to cleaning the newborn goats if maybe you are not around is to have other goats come in and help the mother clean them off. You will see various personalities if you have multiple goats during their birthing process. Not all of them will be completely supportive of their young and show a lack of interest in them, which can seem mean to us. A kid is born instinctively ready to nurse which may or may not be fine to the mother. Observing the interaction between mother and child is when you should do most of the monitoring. Some mothers may start to bite or butt away their kid during any attempt to get a meal. At this point, it would be a good idea to just bottle feed them. Everyone will have a different preference in the proper location for their goats to give birth. Whether you complete it in a kidding pen, a stable, a barn or a garage, one thing you absolutely must provide them with is a clean area.
You may or may not have all the items you need to need to get ready for your new addition. You can find supplies you do not have through various livestock supply companies online very easily. Without further ado, here is a list of kidding supplies I recommend you have handy:
- Clean Towels
- Iodine and dipper
- Clean water pail
- Feeding tube and bulb syringe
- Bottles and Pritchard nipples
- Frozen Colostrum
- Alfalfa hay
- Baby monitor (not a must but it is helpful that you can hear/see what is going on around)
- Heating lamp
- Disposable gloves
Knowing when your female goat is going through labor is a difficult thing to learn for new goat owners. Most will assume that a doe is going through labor when she is not breathing normal or is standing in an awkward position, all of which are not tell-tell signs. You will want to be checking your goats frequently once they are around 140 days in on the pregnancy. Does will being to get an udder during the last month of pregnancy. You can feel the kids on the right side of the body, and it is would make a good routine and feel them once or twice a day. So long as you can physically sense them, they will not be born in at least half a day. Observing their tail movements is a great indication to figure out if your goat is approaching kidding. When the ligaments being to soften up from the tailhead to the pin bone, you know the time is approaching soon. This is a trick that takes months, even years to learn so do not become frustrated if you are not learning it as quickly as you wanted.
No matter what you circle on your calendar or believe your goat will give birth on a certain day, most of them will be unexpected. There are three stages of birth that a female goat normally goes through. The first stage is when the uterus starts to contract which pushes the fetus, placenta, and fluids around the cervix, which will begin to dilate. The first stage that is the longest and can go on for twelve hours with a first-time mother, a bit shorter for the older moms. The next stage, straining, involves the contraction of the abdominal muscles which can go one for three hours or less. The baby is out if the stomach at this point. The third and final stage called the afterbirth when the placenta exits the uterus after the baby is born, and this takes a span of four hours or more.
You will usually have nothing more to do than twiddle with your fingers during the delivery. But if you notice your goat has been pushing for a long while with no progress, you might want to assist delivery. Before you go in, make sure you clip your fingernail if they are too long and remove any jewelry you have on you. Wash your hands and arms well, with a good disinfectant, and insert it into the birth canal and feel around what is going on. It is best to apply mineral oil or another accepted lubricant before you go inside, to make it more comfortable for the goat. When you are new to this, you might be unsure as to whether or not you found the kid because you are not certain as to what you are feeling. Even when it is the first time, once you are in, you will highly be certain when you find the baby. All you will be doing at this point once you find the baby goat is leading and working together with your goat and a soft and gentle pace. You do not want to yank or rush the process otherwise severe bleeding can occur. Be prepared to be with your goat for a while because most times, she gives births to multiples. If no more babies come within the next hour from the last one, it is safe to assume that is the last of it and you are done. Good job doctor. Should you ever feel uncomfortable and encounter a difficult birth, do not be afraid to ask an experienced neighbor for help or contact the vet. There are several positions a baby will be in, the best position you want is the normal one, where their nose is facing the goats’ hind. A breech birth mean the babies’ head faced in the same direction as the mother. Breech babies are a complex situation. The main complication with a breech birth is if the sac were to rip prior to the baby exiting, it could choke. The best thing you will want to do in this situation is follow the kids lead while holding its hind legs.
7.3 – Caring for the Kids
Shortly after birth, you will want to do a quick examination of the babies to make sure all is ok with them. You can also observe for more certain things to see if they have any disqualifying defects that may longer make it a good sell. Even if you do decide to keep the baby, it will be informative for you to know what they can and cannot do as a new addition to the herd. The first thing you will want to check is their anus. It is rare, but should a newborn not have it, they are highly likely not to survive. Make sure all their body functions are in functional condition, and they can pee and poop normally. If you see milk through the goats’ nose or you see they are experiencing some trouble with latching, place one of your fingers on the roof of their mouth. You want to see if they possibly have a cleft palate. You also want to see if the baby, guy or girl, has a pair of tears. Any more than two will count as a disqualifier as show goats, and it also is not an attribute you want in a milker because it can get block proper milk flow. The extra teats are most likely to be infected even if they are work properly. In the cases where the extra teats are completely obsolete, the babies will not be aware and still continue to suck on them. The poor kids are likely not growing as they should because they are not being provided with an adequate meal. This defect is simpler to fix with a buck because they do not milk, and you can castrate them.
Observing every kids responsiveness after birth is just as important. The more energy and screaming they emit, the healthier they are. The baby goats that remain pretty much quiet and seem as if they barely alive is not a good thing. The initial job you want to do when you see this is hold them upside down to open their airway and clear its lungs. Or you can place them on your lap positioning the head lower than its body and use a bulb syringe you have handy to suction its mouth and nostrils. It helps to rub them with a bit of gentle pressure using a towel to get them more alert too. If you live in a cold environment, you may have to deal with hypothermia and will find that the baby is still wet, cold, and unresponsive. If you can still hear its heart beating, it is still alive, and you want use whatever means you can save it, by raising their body temperature to normal ASAP. You can do this by placing them in warm water.
That was Chapter 7: Goat Gestation Process – Pregnancy, Birth, and Raising Kids from our Homestead Handbook: Raising Goats