Kidding season is almost upon us here and we are restocking and checking the birthing kits. It is important to have some essentials on hand to help if needed and give the new babies and momma the best chance to thrive.
New life on the farm is always exciting, but can bring with it a sense of trepidation and worry. What if something goes wrong? Do I have what I need to help in an emergency? What if I don't know what to do?!?
First, take a breath. Most of the time goats kid completely on their own and very successfully. Very often we jump in to help because WE get nervous, and not because it was actually necessary to intervene.
I like to be present for every birth if I can be, to be on hand if something does indeed go wrong, but more because I love the joy and excitement that new life brings. I spend a lot of time with my animals and like to think that they enjoy my presence when they are going through the process of birth.
For first time mommas I really like to be there in person. It is all new to them and they may not have any idea what is happening or what to do once that first baby makes its debut. I can be there to help clear airways and make sure that baby has the best chance while the new mom is wrapping her head around what is going on! Generally they pick it up pretty quickly and make great mothers!
Peridot (above), my very favorite goat, kidded last year all on her own in the pasture. She was a first freshener and only had a singleton. Usually this means a bigger kid and a harder delivery. I had been watching her and she showed no signs of imminent kidding. She was way overdue, so I assumed she was bred the cycle after I originally wrote down. She even "had her ligaments" that morning when I checked her.
As my daughter and I were walking through the pastures after lunch I happened to look over and see a little lump on the ground in the lean-to near the chicken shed. Peridot was standing near it and I thought I saw it move!!
I told her to run over and check, but that "I think that is a new baby goat!!!" Sure enough, Citrine was dried off, had nursed and momma was taking great care of her! I was so sad I missed it, but thankful everything went well. This year I will be watching Peridot and daughter Citrine like a hawk as they get close to their due dates. Hopefully no more surprises!
Ill include a list of the very basics to have on hand first, along with links to the products, as well as "extras" that are very useful to have on hand if you are able to.
Your vets phone number! If you have a good relationship with your vet and your vet knows goats, you are already 95% of the way there. Many vets don't know goats well, and in that case a trusted mentor is key. You don't want to be stuck at 2 in the morning with a first freshener, babies tangled, and not having anyone to call to help walk you through. Nurture your relationships with your "goat people".
2. A bulb syringe. This is so useful for clearing little noses and mouths right after they are born.
3. Clean towels or puppy pads. Birth is messy, and if you can help momma clean up babies a little and catch some of the birthing fluids to keep bedding clean all the better. It is important to let mom clean babies to help form a strong bond, but you can help get the worst of it off quickly.
4. A heat lamp. I suggest this one as it is so much safer to use. Risk of fire from heat lamps is a real worry and you need to be oh so careful. Many a barn has burned down animals and all because of a heat lamp that was knocked loose or faulty.
6. Molasses or Nutridrench. This is multi purpose and can be used with momma and babies. If mom is struggling with labor I give some in a bucket of warm water, and each doe gets some after they kid as a little energy boost.
7. A goat sized bottle and pritchard nipple. If you do need this you cant be relying on the ability to run to the store and buy one. Babies NEED to get colostrum in their bellies as soon as possible, but no longer than an hour after birth. The barrier between gut and the bloodstream is very permiable right after birth. This allows all the great antibodies to easily pass from momma to baby from the colostrum. Without it babies will almost always die. Within about 24 hours that barrier is sealed and the benefits of the antibodies will diminish greatly.
8. Iodine or antibacterial spray. It is important to spray each baby's navel with iodine to reduce the risk of bacteria entering her bloodstream uninhibited. This is added insurance for a great start at life. It doesn't need to be immediate, but do it before you leave them after birth.
Other things that I like to keep on hand that are very useful but not absolutely essential:
- antibotics (we use these sparingly and only at the advice of trusted mentors or our vet)
- powdered colostrum or better yet, frozen colostrum you've saved
Remember, don't stress! It wont do you or your goat any favors. Be prepared, watch videos, talk to mentors and then enjoy the amazingness of kidding season!