I'm hoping this page will be visited by new comers to the goat world. I'd like it to be helpful and informative.
Goats need shelter. They do not like to be out in the weather, nor would you! A large dog house is perfect for the Dwarf and Pygmy breeds, as well as for the Minis. For the larger breeds a storage shed or small barn would work nicely. Most importantly it must be dry, clean, and draft free. Your goats need fresh air but they also need to be warm!
Goats need feed. After much research we've done a complete feed change here. I have my own personal recipe which includes a whole grain sweet feed mix that is about 16% protein. We also add a 20% "dairy" pellet along with alfalfa pellets to our mix. Our does and kids receive a ration of calf manna or boostem to help boost their vitamins and minerals. We feed plenty of free choice prairie hay daily and alfalfa hay a couple of times a week. A loose mineral mix that we've discovered and absolutely swear by (made by Vita Ferm) completes our feed program. Our goats are healthy and happy! Fresh water must be provided daily! Goats do not like dirty water. I don't believe you would either!
Goats need regular hoof trimming. It is unbelievable to me how many people ignore this easy yet necessary task.You will avoid a great deal of hoof problems, leg problems, and foot problems if you follow a careful trimming regimen.
Goats need to be wormed on a regular basis. We are beginning to do our own fecals so we know exactly what parasites we're dealing with, and how to treat. Not everyone is able to do that however, so worming on a schedule is a good idea. For most worm medications you must follow the oral directions and double or triple it to achieve a complete kill. Repeat in 10 to 21 days to get the larvae that hatch from the eggs. All does should be wormed right after kidding. Stress causes eggs to hatch. And giving birth is definitely stressful.
We choose to vaccinate our animals with CD/T. Much can be prevented by this simple inexpensive task. It is however important to always carry your epinephrine in your pocket while giving these shots. Many animals have died from anaphylactic shock. Epinephrine is cheap and readily available. Don't give ANY type of shot, vaccine, vitamin, antibiotic, anything without your epinephrine!
Helpful Hints for Kidding Time
I've had lots of people ask questions about kidding out their does. These are some of the things we've learned through experience. Hope you find it helpful.
The secret to live birth kids is BEING there, making sure they get cleaned off, the lungs are clear, and they get their colostrum. Lots of full term kids are lost because no one is there to ensure they get the care they need, how much more those that are a little weak. We bottle raise everything here, however even those who choose to dam raise should be alert and monitor their does just in case.
You should have some sort of monitoring system. We use a Playschool baby monitoring system so I can hear what's up out there. Lots of folks are using barn cameras nowadays. My barn is too far for most electronics to work well, so I tend to do a lot of trudging back and forth through out the night...and I've been known to set up a cot and just stay with the girls.
You need to learn to read the tail ligaments. That will tell you without a doubt when and if that doe is ready to kid. They get soft and spongy in their back end around the tail head. It's the best and most accurate way, aside from heavy labor...that the doe is about to have babies soon. One of the hardest things for me is explaining where those ligaments are. After so many years, I can find those ligaments or lack thereof with my fingers, however a good method for those who are new is this; flatten out your hands, place them on the flat of the rump one on each side of the tail. Push them together under the tail head...if your hands are touching, your doe is very close. You should see kids in 12 to 24 hours.
A few more "signs" that labor is imminent...
Has the udder bloomed? Meaning gotten rather large, fully extended, rather stiff and firm? Is she waxing? Meaning does she have milk leakage---nothing serious now, but just a little filmy stuff on the ends of her teats. Have her sides dropped? Most of the time, the babies are carried rather high along the back bone. When the doe is a couple of days out...babies will drop, so there looks to be a hollow space on either side of the spine.
Signs of her back end softening.....
The flesh sort of falls away from the tail head. The tail is held crooked, looking very much like it's going to fall off the goat. Her vaginal area is swollen and protruding. She pees more than normal, and poops more than normal. These things begin a few days before the ligaments "fall out". All because everything is softening up back there, getting ready for delivery.
I always recommend that if at all possible, get to know your breeder and other goat people around you. There is a VAST amount of knowledge out there, and folks are usually more than willing to share.
Birthing Supply List
Regardless of whether or not you dam raise your babies, there are times when you'll need to step in and assist, so it's a good idea to have all the supplies on hand and ready.
I like to keep on hand the following items;
Lots of freshly washed towels for drying off babies. A bulb syringe or as I call it "a nose sucker"...that ball syringe that is used to suck junk out of mouths and noses. Lots of clean towels. Stainless steel scissors for clipping umbilical cords. Lots of clean towels. Dental floss for tying off cords, and 7% iodine for dipping cords. Lots of clean towels. Surgical gloves and lubricating jelly in case you have to go inside the doe. As an "old dog" I learned a new trick last year...get some of those plastic sleeves used by vets for cows. You'd be amazed at how much further you can get into your doe with one of those for the extra "slippage" they give you. Lots of clean towels. Karo syrup to jump start a weak kid. Worn out moms appreciate a goodly dose of Karo syrup as well! Did I mention clean towels? I use towels to clean the kids, I use towels to give myself additional grip on slippery legs when pulling kids. I use towels to lay newborns on though empty feed sacks work great too! I use towels to wipe my does after an especially messy kidding. Your laundry chores will quadruple, but towels are washable, reusable and a very good thing to have during kidding season!
JUST IN CASE, you should have a bottle or two as well as some colostrum on hand. If you have babies in the middle of the night, nothing will be open in order to get those items. There are times when mom's milk doesn't come down right away! If that should happen there is nothing there to feed babies for several hours! If you can get powdered kid colostrum, do so. It's easy to store, and will keep a LONG time if you store it in your freezer. IF you can't get goat...get cow. I have a packet of colostrum on hand...cost about 10 dollars. I keep bottles of pasteurized colostrum in my freezer.
Assisting Weak Newborns
Some years ago, my vet told me one of the most valuable techniques I could learn would be tubing newborns. So, I'm passing that advice on to you! I'm going to give you directions, however if you have to learn by seeing, ask a fellow breeder or your local vet to teach you. In the meantime, here's what we have on hand...and what we do to help the weaker kids along;
Feeding tube kit
mineral oil or vegetable oil
Heating pad (necessary!)
tiny diabetic syringes
Baby comes into the house! Wrap it well in the warmed heating pad. Give it 1 cc of karo syrup orally. (Give it every 10 minutes for 1 hour.) Prepare your tubing kit by making sure it is CLEAN! dip the tube in mineral oil, or in a pinch use vegetable oil. Warm 2 ounces of colostrum. Thread the tube in the kid....you'll be shaking like a leaf, but you CAN do it. Put your ear to the funnel and listen for breathing noises. Blow into it gently and listen...if you're in the stomach you'll hear slight gurgle noises. Once you're sure of your position, pinch off the tube, pour the colostrum into the funnel. slowly allow the colostrum to trickle into the tube and into the kid. The kid will jerk slightly...it's normal. Don't panic. Complete the tubing process by allowing the colostrum to drip into the stomach. Pinch off tube and remove. Often there is liquid left in the tube and you don't want to accidentally choke the kid with the fluid while removing the lifesaving tube! Continue with the karo...this is a sugar shot to the brain which helps the kid pop out of it's comatose type state, or just weakened state. Check kids temp...mouth with your finger and check it's rectal temp with thermometer. You want to pull it up to about 102.5...as quickly as possible with your heating pad. In an emergency, do not be afraid to use a sink full of HOT water. You have to get the kid's temp up, and this will do it quickly.
Once kid has had it's colostrum, we give it B12 to help give it a boost and thiamine to prevent polioencephalomyelitis. We continue with the karo, reducing dosages to every 20 to 30 minutes for the next few hours...the kid will get soft stool...but soft poop is WAY better than a dead kid! Once you have kid revived, put it in a laundry basket lined with soft bedding and the heating pad. I like to tent them in with a flannel cover to ensure it's staying warm. Check it frequently to make sure you don't get it too hot (been there done that!).
We pulled a comatose baby with no heart beat through one year for a friend using this method. The first thing with this particular kid though was give her mouth to mouth and shake her really well to get a heartbeat and get the lungs going. Once I had a heartbeat again, we moved forward with the warming/feeding process. This particular kid was 12 hours old, but had gotten chilled and probably hadn't gotten much colostrum at birth. We worked with her for several hours before I put her in her laundry basket 'nest' to finish cooking. I got this particular kid too hot during the reviving process and caused her to convulse some, which scared the bejeebers out of me! When recounting it to my vet, she laughed! Lesson learned! We're more careful with our temp checks!
Some of you will never face this situation, some will face it once or twice in your goat breeding life while others who have lots of kids per year will face it once or twice a kidding season. We go to monumental efforts to ensure our kids survive, leaving nothing to "mother nature". She has a tendency to be a hateful old witch sometimes! I so hope this helps some of you out.
Good luck this kidding season folks!
Hope some of this helps!