I am sitting here impatiently waiting for Imagine's babies to arrive - and I thought I'd share our kidding procedure, transitioning of young does on a milk stand and getting babies started on a bottle .... you know, the fun stuff :)
I had mentioned earlier our "kidding stalls". They are just a partition in the main barn with separate entrance. Our does are bred over a period of 4-6 months so their due dates span over the same time frame. My main focus during this time of year is to monitor herd dynamics patterns and make needed adjustments. The herd queen in last part of her gestation, heavy with kids and not as agile presents a perfect opportunity for some shifts in hierrarchy. Fighting within the herd can also cause unwanted abortions, so we work hard to prevent this. So my kidding stalls (which are fairly good size for 2-3 does to live in) often serve as means to separate my very heavy bred girls with upcoming due dates from their more active herd mates. As their nutritional needs increase in late pregnancy, we make sure they don't have to compete for food. The kidding stall has all you can eat buffet with plenty of long stem roughage, alfalfa in form of hay, pellets or chaffhaye only the best for the expecting mothers :). Up to about the last week or two from their due date , the does are together with the rest of the herd and go browsing every morning if weather permits. As they draw closer to their kidding date, I separate them first at night so they can eat free choice at morning and evening feeding, later they are no longer reuniting with the herd during the day and browse and walk around in the front part of our property.
I would like to stress that I don't use the kidding stalls as lock ups. The does need plenty of excercise especially close to kidding and they stay in the stalls at night only or during very bad weather. They still have contact with their herd mates as the stall is separated from the main barn by cattle panels. It makes it easier on us to check at night and, of course, we use the stall for the actual birthing as well, mainly in the winter. In the spring, the doe will often opt to kid outside, but if she chooses to seek solitude, the stall is available. I don't shun her temporary herd mate, often they kid with their stall mate right there and it has not been a problem. Goats are social animals and seem to draw comfort from company during labor.
Last but not least, the kidding stall makes the process easier on us. As I said, night checks are more convenient, often I just peek over the gate with a flash light - sleeping does are NOT in labor - and walk back to the house. During winter months kidding, the stall is warmer for both dam, babies and humans, and I can keep my basic supplies there as well without everyone (I mean other goaties) constantly "inspecting" them :)
About a week out from their due date, we start checking does' ligaments and monitoring udders as they fill up with colostrum. I don't check at night unless the ligaments are considerably soft and continue to soften or gone, or the doe is at her due date or overdue. Knowing your does is a huge key to clues of upcoming labor, most of ours will udder up with enlarged teats the day of labor, ligaments on both sides are gone, they are sunk below their hip bones and they may or may not have discharge.
I will not go into actual kiddings, malpresentations and complications here, as it's a whole different chapter but just a quick summary how kidding works here at Old Paths Homestead. Over my career as a goat breeder, most of my does kidding between 7am and 2pm. I mean close to 90% of them. We had a few surprise births, but this seems to be the pattern. Early stages of labor are visible at morning check and often we have babies on the ground by noon. Unless the doe is visibly contracting with strong spasms (signalling that the cervix is close to dialated), we go about our usual morning routine, checking regularly on the progress and gathering supplies. I also administer a 12cc shot of CMPK during the early stages to provide readily available calcium to the doe. Signs of labor differ some. Contractions are always present and often (but not always) the doe will paw and turn around in circles. I had does deliver lying down as well as standing up. I had does with string of mucous or amniotic fluid and I had does that stayed dry until active labor began. I do a quick pelvic exam at the first signs of pushing to check for presentation. If the kid is in correct position, I leave the doe alone to push at her own pace, malpresented kids get corrected - the sooner the better to avoid piling of kids against the cervix.
We pull kids at birth, as soon as they are born, nose is cleaned and they are half dried up with old t-shirts (specifically for this purpose) and/or old towells. Most of the time I check what sex they are before I hand them to one of my children to take inside, but not always. I always stay with the doe while one of my helpers takes babies inside to thoroughly dry up and care for. Kids receive a capsule of vit E (contents squished into the mouth) and 1/2 cc of Bose immediately after birth. Umbilical cord is sprayed with iodine and tied if needed with dental floss. Kids get colostrum (8-16oz) and are placed in a plastic bin with shavings (we use thick quality shavings and never had issue with the kids inhaling them as they are not dusty) and towell placed over them. Later the towell is removed and shavings are changed as needed with clean ones. We only keep kids in the house for the first 48 hours - they usually need their night feeding the very first day and having them here makes the frequent feedings (every 3 hours) more convenient on us. I also take into consideration temperatures, most of our kid crop is born during winter or early spring months and it can be quite chilly still. After 48 hours if healthy and eating well, they are turned outside into their stalls ... more on that later as I expand on kid management.
While babies are taken inside, one of us always stays with the doe. I want to make sure the placenta passes completely and make sure all looks normal (placental tissue, afterbirth, etc). New mom gets warm water and grain, while she still has hay and alfalfa available in the stall. The first milking happens to the stall. I don't train young does to the milk stand, not before kidding. I know many do but we don't, if I grain upcoming milkers on the milk stand, its for our convenience , not for the training purposes, but often they will get their grain ration in their stall. The first milking happens in the stall immediately after birth. I have never had a doe that would not stand to be milked by a human (even if she was never milked before) that attended the birth and we use this bonding to establish the relationship that will later make milk stand routine easy and enjoyable. A doe during and after kidding experiences a hormonal flush just like any new mother and we gladly take advantage of this opportunity for the doe to bond to us. They later view us as entitled to the milk and willingly work on the milk stand.
In a very cute way (and I won't put human feelings into animals, just describe what this looks like) , we get "adopted". Sebastien has been adopted many times, the does will call for him and seek him out to come nurse and will willingly stand in the pasture for weeks following the kidding to "be nursed". They will lick us and encourage us towards the udder and we make sure to spend plenty of time with them within the first days after kidding. This is why we don't need to train, hobble, etc, even with first fresheners. There may be a couple of girls that take a couple of days to figure out the milk stand and ever since implementing this technique, we had nothing but sweethearts on the milk stand and I can sell a doe ":trained" to the milk stand 48 hours after she kidded. I had the opportunity to deal with some "witches on wheels" of first frehener does that had to be rodeo'd on the stand and then wrestled to milk .... I just can't do that :)
For folks who purchased a doe that has bad manners on the milk stand, please take your time to be there for her next kidding. You would be surprised how this will change an attitude of a doe and many problem ones can turn into easy keepers just by allowing them to bond to you during the kidding process.
Now to go check again on Imagine and see if she decided it's time. She is still housed with Harvest , who delivered yesterday, in their stall , and they will return to the main barn together after Imagine has her litter. Lilly and Arial are next to transition into the kidding stall. Happy kidding season to you all !!!
The does are with the rest of the herd for the entire p