January 2018 Issue



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Subscribe FREE now! Monthly issues with new articles and other educational information on meat goat health, nutrition, and management written by Suzanne W. Gasparotto of Onion Creek Ranch and Pat Cotten of Bending Tree Ranch. In all cases, it is your responsibility to obtain veterinary services and advice before using any of the information provided in these articles. Neither Suzanne Gasparotto nor Pat Cotten are veterinarians. None of the contributors to this website will be held responsible for the use of any information contained herein.


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Pregnancy and kidding in a species that has multiple births  can be dangerous for both dam and kids.   You need to become well versed in the pregnancy and birthing processes so  you can assist when problems occur.   Problems will   happen.   Birthing is a serious and dangerous process;  most women understand this better than men.  A species that has early sexual maturity, short gestation, and multiple births will in some instances encounter birthing difficulties.  Prepare for the worst while hoping for the best.

    Gestation: length of time from breeding date to kidding date

    Parturition: the act of giving birth

    Dystocia: any type of kidding problem

    Normal body (rectal) temperature: 101.5* F to 103.5*F

Full-term or premature:  Pregnancy in goats lasts about 150 days (147-155 days).   Gestation for triplets, quadruplets, or more is slightly shorter.  Kids can be born prematurely regardless of the number in the litter.  Premature kids have unerupted lower front teeth (teeth totally inside the gums). Kids born either hairless or with all lower-front teeth completely in the gums seldom survive, regardless of supportive care. Kids born 7 to 10 days' premature have under-developed lungs and  usually  die. Breathing problems are common in premature kids because the lungs are the last major organ to develop fully. Premature and full-term kids can be born in the same litter; the kid that didn't get enough nutrition in utero will be premature. Full-term bucklings  have teeth that are  slightly through the gums, while full-term doelings are born with teeth completely through  the gums.

Improper breeding (breeding a larger-breed buck bred to a smaller-breed doe) can result in the inability of the doe to deliver big-framed kids. In such cases, Caesarean section is usually required. Pulling kids that are too large can tear the doe's uterus or abdominal wall, resulting in her immediate death, her inability to breed in the future,  or  a hernia that can kill her later.

Kidding begins:   Several days before the pregnant doe's labor begins, she will move away from  her herd to find a quiet place to give birth and bond with her newborn kids. Lots of space is vital to successful kidding and bonding. Kidding in crowded areas results in newborns  and dam not learning each other's smells and sounds and leads to abandoned, starving, or dead kids.  If conditions are crowded, there is a good chance that open does with strong maternal instincts  may steal another doe's newborns yet have no milk with which to feed them.  If the "thieving" doe is bred, hasn't kidded yet, and has colostrum in her udder, you do not want it used on kids that aren't hers.  The colostrum in her udder is all the colostrum she will produce during this pregnancy.

The worse the weather, the more likely the doe is to go into labor.   Changes in barometric pressure  may influence kidding. When the doe starts the kidding process, small amounts of whitish mucous ooze  from her vagina.    She  paws the ground, sits down, gets up, paces, and paws the ground repeatedly.   When labor starts, a tear-drop-shaped bubble emerges. At this point, her water has not broken, the placental sacs are intact, and the kids are still breathing through their connection to her body. After the bubble bursts ("water breaking"), there may be a gush of fluid  even though the placentas may be intact. Each kid has its own sac (except for identical twins). This can be a very confusing time for the producer, as every birth is a little bit different.

Water broken:    If you believe that the doe's water has broken and a kid doesn't appear immediately, put on disposable gloves, apply obstetrical jelly,  insert two or three fingers into the vulva, trying  to move your fingers through a hopefully dilated cervix, and carefully feel for an intact placental sac. If the cervix is open and the sac is intact, do not  break it. If the cervix has not dilated, you won't be able to reach the  placental sac. If the cervix has dilated, the doe is pushing, the kid is not coming out, but  the placental sac has broken, then pull the kid, using the techniques described in this article. The kid must come out quickly or it will drown in placental fluid. Do not wait for a struggling doe to push a difficult birth out if the placental sac has broken.

Partially-dilated cervix:  If  the doe's water has broken  and the cervix has not dilated fully, then additional assistance  is required.  Put on  disposable gloves, apply a water-soluble OB lubricant (KY Jelly) to the glove that is going inside the doe, and have another person hold her still. If possible, she should remain in a standing position and parallel to a wall or fence for better control. Tie her parallel to a fence if you have to do this job alone. Jeffers (1-800-533-3377) sells  an  adjustable poly sheep halter that works great for this purpose. Use  your index finger, then your next two fingers, then your hand formed into a fist and turn it slowly.  Hopefully  the knuckles will loosen the cervical ring, allowing you to move your hand  through the cervix into the uterus.  This is very delicate tissue that is easy to damage.  Be very careful.   The doe may not be dilated enough for you to get your hand through the cervix and into the uterus, so read further for other options to try.

Pulling kids:  If you do get through the cervix and into the uterus, carefully use  your fingers to  search for the  kid's two front feet  and   head.  Both front feet should come out at the same time and the head should be facing forward between the front legs. If in doubt about the condition  of the kid, find and gently put your finger in  its mouth; a live kid will suck your fingertip. Making sure you are reaching the legs of a single kid and not the legs of two different kids, position the head between the two front legs, grab both front legs  (preferably above the first joint to cause less stress and provide a better grip), and gently but firmly and smoothly pull.   Do not pull straight out; pull slightly downward,  following the angle of the birth canal. Sometimes it is necessary to loop the ends of a heavy-duty (athletic) shoestring around the kid's front legs and use the shoestring to pull the kid out.

If the head is bent backwards, the kid's neck is going to break and the dam's uterus will likely tear,  so push the kid back inside  and re-position the head between the front legs before pulling.    If the kid is turned  on it side or in any other improper position,  push it back inside and manually manipulate the body until positioning is correct. Occasionally the rear legs may be coming out first.  This is ok and should be an easy pull, but the kid is likely to have respiratory distress from fluid in its lungs.    Pulling the first kid is sometimes  enough  to allow the doe  to deliver the remaining kids on her own.   Whether you pull the rest of the kids or let her deliver them is a decision you have to make based upon both the kid's and the dam's conditions.

Leave placental tissue intact:     Do not  pull the tissues attached  to the inside of the doe's uterus; she will bleed out and die. Her body must slough off this tissue naturally when she passes the afterbirth.

Cervix not dilated:  If the placental sac has not yet broken and the doe is pushing hard but her cervix has not dilated enough for her to push the kid out, I use oral administration of 15 cc's of CMPK or MFO every 15-30  minutes for three applications to try to open the cervix.  Live kids assist in their own birth   by moving into proper delivery position inside the dam.  Labor stops when dead or improperly-positioned (either live or dead) kids exist, so the kids must be pulled  as soon as the cervix has dilated.

If CMPK or MFO has not induced cervical dilation, then intramuscular injection of 10 cc dexamethasone and 2 cc lutalyse should cause cervical dilation in 24 to 48 hours.    This protocol  requires  going  inside the doe every six  hours to feel  by hand if the cervix has opened.    However, I  would not put a doe through 24 to 48 hours of   painful  labor while waiting for dexamethasone and lutalyze to work; I would seek veterinary assistance. I have occasionally  used 1/4 cc to 1/2 cc of oxytocin given IM to the doe to try to induce cervical dilation, but  this should be done only  under  veterinarian  supervision;  it is fraught with danger.  Sometime a C-section by a vet is the only reasonable choice.

Pregnancy diseases (Ketosis & Pregnancy Toxemia):   If Ketosis or Pregnancy Toxemia is in play, inducing labor may be necessary to make  the cervix  dilate to get weak or dead kids out of the dam.  Ketosis and Pregnancy Toxemia kill  kids and their dams and are both caused by improper feeding.    See my articles  on www.tennesseemeatgoats.com.

Positioning for delivery:  In a normal delivery, the kid should appear with both front legs extended forward and the head should be between these front legs. The first thing you should see is two front hooves and the kid's mouth. For a variety of reasons (too-fat dams,  dead kids, uterus full of kids, single huge kid, calcium imbalance, weak labor), sometimes the kid has not turned in the birth canal and can appear back feet first, up-side-down, head folded backwards, one leg folded back with the other leg extended, body doubled over and rear end first, or  two or more kids  intertwined (when more than one placental sac breaks open at the same time). In such instances, either a  knowledgeable goat producer or a vet is needed to save the kids and the dam. Manipulating kids inside the doe takes knowledge, practice, and dexterity. The risk of infection is high when the human hand, gloved or not, is placed inside the doe's body.  Having a small hand is an asset in performing this procedure.

Respiratory distress:  Once the kid is out of the dam and visibly breathing, quickly wipe fluids from its mouth and nose.  If the kid is having difficulty breathing or does not appear to be breathing, hold it  up-side-down by the back legs, gently swinging it from side to side, using gravity to get fluid out of its lungs.  Carefully rub/pat  both sides of its body to stimulate heart and lung functions. Two-tenths of a cc  ( 2/10ths of a cc) of Dopram V  (prescription) dropped   under the tongue should be given immediately to help the kid's breathing. Sometimes an injection of one-half cc of dexamethazone will help the kid's respiration. I use  Dopram V first. Placing a stemmy piece of hay carefully in the kid's nostrils will cause mucous to be sneezed out, but this is not enough assistance for a kid whose lungs were filled with fluids in utero; it is a  procedure to use under less critical conditions. A normal delivery  squeezes fluids out of the kid's body as it travels down the birth canal. The squeezing doesn't happen in Caesarean section deliveries or in assisted deliveries when labor contractions do not occur and the kid has remained inside the doe too long.

Teats and udder:   Check the doe's teats to make sure that they are not sealed and that she has free-flowing colostrum (no mastitis or congested udder).   If the teats have seals over them, use a clean fingernail to gently remove them  so that the newborns can nurse. For most does, sealed teats are easily opened by newborns' sucking them. For weak kids, the seals need to be removed.  Sucking takes energy that weak kids don't possess. Check for good colostrum flow from both teat orifices.  Feel the udder for hot or cold indications of mastitis, congested udder, or dead udder.    Do not rely on visual examination.  Touch the udder with your hands.

Cleaning & Feeding:   If the kid's condition is stable and after completing all of the steps outlined above, place it on the ground near the doe in the location where  her water broke  and stand back.  The dam should be allowed to  clean  and feed  her kid.  Watch from a reasonable distance to make sure that she is able and willing to care for the kid and give birth to  additional kids  without assistance. Some does don't feed their kids until all  are born and the placenta has come out.   Be watchful but don't be too alarmed  if she cleans but doesn't nurse  her kids until she has delivered all of them and passed (and sometimes eaten) the afterbirth. Healthy newborns can live for a couple of hours  without colostrum if weather conditions are good, but they get weak fast.   Weak, cold, and/or stressed kids need immediate assistance. Take into account the dam, the kids, and weather conditions, then use common sense in determining what action to take.

Bonding:  Bonding problems can occur if the doe is moved too quickly from the location where she gave birth or if she gave birth in over-crowded conditions.   If conditions permit, do not move the doe and her kids until she has kidded, cleaned, and fed colostrum to her newborns.   If moved, some dams  will return to that site  even in a bad  storm.   Smell and sound are major factors in bonding with and being able to identify her kids. If the site is unsafe, either weather- or predator-wise, or confusion exists because more than one doe kidded in the same place, then put the doe, her kids, and the afterbirth in (at minimum)  a five-foot-by-five-foot bonding pen and make sure that she feeds them. Put clean hay or straw in the pen for bedding.   Do not use wood shavings, because they get into the kid's mucous membranes (causing breathing problems) and stick to the wet kid, making it difficult for the dam to clean her newborns. Provide the doe with a bucket of water; cleaning kids takes a lot of saliva.   (If the weather is cold or the birth was stressful, lace warm water with molasses for quick energy after  she has finished cleaning the kids).   Don't use a deep bucket, because kids can  drown. Make a water-bucket stand or hanger that keeps a bucket of water available to the doe but unreachable by the newborns. Starving kids will drink water to keep their bellies full and then die. The doe should be provided with clean water during birthing and fresh grass hay and pelleted feed after  she has cleaned and fed her newborns.




Contact Suzanne Gasparotto at
325-344-5775 for prices and availability.

Tennessee Meat Goats™ and TexMasters™ are the cream of the meat goat industry. Contact us for availability, ages and pricing by calling 325-344-5775 or emailing onioncreek@tennesseemeatgoats.com

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