Goat Care for Healthy Kids
The key to a good kidding season lies in excellent care for your goats before they are even bred. Does getting proper nutrition, minerals, boosted and vaccinated for diseases of concern, and getting a well rounded diet are much more likely to have successful births, and breeding animals selected for strong genetics are more likely to be healthy from the start.
Proper care and nutrition cannot prevent every possible problem. When I first started raising goats I believed that as long as I offered them excellent care we were never have issues — that was naive. There are problems that happen for seemingly no reason, or no reason preventable by the farmer. But many issues can be prevented through good, proper care.
Before a buck even visits your farm, you can already take steps to ensure a good kidding season the following year. Start with genetics. You might think of genetics as simply what determines coat patterns and eye color and milk production. But strong genes can also affect mothering instinct in does, and the overall health of kids when they arrive. Select does for your breeding program that come from good mothers. Select does without obvious physical flaws. And remove does from your breeding program who have consistent issues of not bonding with their kids or throwing kids with health issues. As best you can, select a buck for similar qualities.
Basic goat are also helps you ensure that when you do breed your does, they are in peak health. Good quality hay is part of a goat’s daily diet throughout the year, and second cut hay offers them the most nutrition. During the summer months they will eat less hay if they have access to plenty of pasture. Larger pasture or pasture rotations gives them a diversity of diet, which offers them different kinds of nutrition and vitamins. Pasture rotations also help prevent parasites, as does regular checking for signs of worms. If you cannot offer large pasture or rotating pasture, consider bringing in brush and forage when possible so your goats are still getting more diversity than just hay.
Goats require loose minerals as part of their diet to stay balanced. You can get Manna Pro’s Goat Mineral (https://amzn.to/3NWPFBt) or Purina’s Goat Mineral (https://amzn.to/3zi33fb), both offer a pretty good balance. In addition, Sweet Lix Meat Maker is a mineral block that provides a good balance. Loose minerals should always be available for goats to nibble at as they need them. Some farmers also offer baking soda for goats which helps balance their rumen when on fresh grass. I offer it free choice in the summer time, but only if I’m concerned about a rich diet the rest of the year.
Sometimes goats need other minerals. We are always watching out for copper and zinc deficiency signs in our herd, and copper bolus or add Zinpro to their diet accordingly. Chat with your vet about mineral deficiencies in your area and what they recommend feeding, as well as signs to look out for when it comes to mineral deficiencies.
We do regular BOSE and CDT injections for our herd in the fall, which ends up being about a month before the buck arrives for our does. BOSE is an injection of selenium and vitamin E which help prevent white muscle disease, which is particularly common in kids born in areas with selenium deficiencies. CDT is in essence a tetanus shot. You can get these medicines from your vet and inject yourself, or have the vet come and do the injections for you.
Also practice basics of goat care like regular hoof trimming and grooming for happy, healthy goats.
About a month before kids arrive, it’s time to give BOSE and CDT again. The CDT now protects the mother when she is vulnerable immediately after giving birth, and it gives the kids some protection when they are first born. BOSE is important if you are in a selenium deficient area because white muscle disease is such a problem for newborn kids.
At this time I begin feeding my expectant mothers Dairy Goat Feed, which helps balance out their diet and gives them more nutrition for milk-making. I also give them Molly’s Herbals Pregnancy Tonic in their feed, a mix of herbs designed to help with an easy delivery and milk production.
Hooves are trimmed again and we begin doing regular inspections for signs of labor a few weeks before their actual due dates. We are also always watching for signs of mineral deficiencies so we can treat right away, and we do testing for signs of parasites using the ‘Famacha score’ system.
It’s good to separate mothers at least at night at this point, because a good headbutt from another herd member can damage or kill a kid in utero.
During and After Kidding
Most kiddings come and go without the need for human intervention. But just in case, I spend the weeks before my goat’s due dates checking a barn camera at night to make sure I am not missing anything, and re-reading my books on goat deliveries so I am ready if a kid presents incorrectly for delivery or the mother is having issues.
If kidding does not require intervention, there will still be some steps for you to take after. It is critical that kids get some of mom’s colostrum as soon as they can stand and nurse, and sometimes it is helpful for you to be on hand to encourage mom to stand still and help the kid find the teat. Once the kid(s) have nursed, dip their umbilical cords in iodine (using a small cup) to prevent infection. If kids or mom seem weak they can get a dose of Nutri-Drench. We keep a full kidding kit on hand with other injections in case of complications, but Nutri-Drench is the most commonly used.
Once kids are up and dry and nursing successfully, you should be fairly comfortable that you’ve had a successful kidding season. If you wish to disbud kids, do so within the first 1-2 weeks (sooner for single bucklings). Kids should get their own CDT injection at around six weeks, and buckling should be banded if they are not for breeding around 8-12 weeks.
There’s a lot that can go wrong in kidding — I’ll talk more about what is in my kidding kit in case of emergencies in a later post — but most of the time with proper care, things go right. It is amazing how much of a difference the care you give your does before you even breed them makes. Take the steps to have healthy goats before breeding, and you will have healthy kids.