It was a busy April-May-and-June this year! At the end of a whirlwind kidding season we have nine healthy kids and four thriving mamas.
There were some high points and some lows during our kidding season, and here are a few of the lessons that I learned.
Go With Your Gut
The hardest part of kidding season 2019 was losing Casey Jones, the little ginger kid from Tater. Casey was a sweet, sweet buckling with blue eyes and wattles who just never seemed quite right. When he was a week old, we took him with us to the vet’s as some of the other kids were being disbudded. Because he’d always been a bit lethargic and unable to nurse from his mom (despite enthusiastically taking a bottle), we asked the vet if he seemed all right. They took his vitals and said he was fine.
The next week when Casey and his sisters were disbudded I again said he seemed lethargic and not like other goat kids, and again the vet took his vitals and declared him a healthy kid. He died the next day.
While the loss of Casey hit me hard for several reasons, I did learn a valuable lesson about speaking up when I’m sure there is something wrong. I knew that Casey wasn’t like the other kids and I was pretty sure there was something off with him, either an internal health issue or a mental issue preventing him from acting like the others.
I can’t be sure that insisting on him being unwell would have saved him. We might have found an issue that we couldn’t do anything about, but we also might have found something curable. So, next time, I know I will be a little bit more sure of myself and how well I know my goats.
Prioritize Sleep (if you can)
Kidding season means no sleeping! You’ll be getting up several times a night to check on your does and when the time comes, you might be up all night helping out. If you end up with a bottle baby, that’s basically like having a human baby for a few weeks, with feedings several times throughout the night.
All of this being said, if you can catch up on your sleep at any point during kidding season (or save up on it before the season kicks into gear), do so. Being fatigued means being mentally not as sharp, and you need to be able to think on your feet during this time. You also need to be healthy, and lack of sleep tends to give me the sniffles. Try your best to be at your peak, so that you don’t have to worry about fatigue of any kind slowing you down.
Healthy Mamas = Healthy Babies
It should go without saying but the health of the mother goats is paramount to a good kidding season. And that health starts before they even conceive. A healthy mother has a good diet of dairy goat feed, second cut hay, and free choice minerals, supplemented with annual vaccinations and additional vitamins and nutrients as necessary. A pregnancy tonic should be fed in the last six weeks before kidding, and natural remedies like dates and raspberry leaves can help to strengthen contractions and speed up labor.
While I’d recommend tailoring your doe’s health routine to your specific circumstances and working with your vet to make sure the supplements you are giving are good for your herd, the most important thing is to know your does and keep a watchful eye on them. If one starts losing weight or seems lethargic, don’t hesitate to call your vet. And keeping a close eye on your does also means that you will be more likely to see signs of kidding early, and be there to help her during delivery.
Don't Be Afraid to Phone a Friend
Sometimes I feel guilty when something is happening with my goats that I am not sure how to handle. I feel like I should’ve prepared for this moment better, watched one more youtube video or read an extra paragraph in the goat care book. But, if you aren’t sure, always call someone you think might know! Even if you think you know what’s going on, it’s always better to have more opinions. When it comes to my goat’s health I ask and ask again, and I’m always willing to make changes if someone has a suggestion.
When it comes to kidding season specifically, make sure you have at least your vet if not one or two goat-expert friends on speed dial if you need them for an emergency.
Kidding season is a long and exhausting period of weeks. There is a lot of lost sleep, sometimes some heartbreak and always a few frustrations. But goat kids will make those sleepless nights immediately melt away, and there is nothing like the joy of raising your own goats.
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