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A TOUGH KIDDING

By: Gary Pfalzbot
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One thing I know for certain is that we as humans, are creatures of habit. And of these habits, some of them are not always desirable. Procrastination is one of those habits that can, and often does, come back to bite us when we least expect it, or shall I say, when we should expect it to - any situation that can present itself where a little planning and preparedness would have gone a long way. I am a big believer in Murphy.

Such is the case with pregnant goats. We have waited - and had, at least 5 months to the day you see one of your does straining in the ritual of labor. Why is it that then, at that moment, we scramble to be ready in the last few remaining minutes? We are creatures of habit and this is one habit that I wish we as humans could overcome.

9 out of 10 times, a kidding goat will do just that, without any assistance, and it's usually the next morning or evening that we go out to the goat barn, and are surprised with the wonder of nature. "Gee, where was I when all this was going on?" It's happened so many times in my experience with goats that I dare to even try and count. And I like to think that these kiddings went without incidence simply because I had been prepared for anything that could happen, even though in reality, I probably wasn't as prepared as I thought I was.

At this point you may be asking yourself, "so what's the point here?" Simple. I want you to be prepared, or as prepared as you possibly can be, just so you won't find yourself in one of those "if I had only..." moments. There are so many excellent articles that address "preparing for kidding", that I won't attempt to list them here. You know where they are. It's up to you to not only read them, but take the advice they offer and get the supplies they recommend to have on hand. You won't find yourself on that fateful day saying "if I had only..." or "where do I get...".

In addition to reading up on the subject of kidding, what can go wrong, what can go right, as well as getting the recommended supplies into your chest of goat goodies, there is one thing that I would recommend before doing all of this: call a veterinarian. Yes, that's right. Call a vet long before any of your goats are ready to kid. Why? Mostly because you want to know who you have in your corner for support long before you may need someone in your corner for support. Developing a good working relationship with a veterinarian is tantamount to successfully raising goats. A phone call and brief conversation will cost you nothing.

Ask the first and most obvious question right off the bat: "do you have experience with goats?" Since there are a number of vets who have limited practice and experience in working with goats, this is something good to know before finding yourself blindly calling vets in despair in precious moments that could be crucial in determing a positive outcome. I've seen more than one goat owner have to settle on a vet who had limited experience with goats, and many of these situations haven't turned out favorably for the goat. And of course, this whole scenario applies not only to kidding, but ALL aspects of goat health issues.

The same "call and get acquainted" before you need their help applies as well to a support network of people, who are not necessarily veterinarians, but goat owners with a multitude of experience. And this isn't said for a reason of saving you money or a discounting of the care the goat in trouble may receive (hey, you're the one in trouble :-) ), it merely means that the more people you have in your corner, the better your chances are of getting help when you need it most for your goat. Some things a vet can easily do can often be done at home, and a good friend might be the bridge to getting something done - many vets stay busy and can't come to your beck and call, nor can you just take you goat in without an appointment and expect immediate service. With all this being said, I will now discuss a situation that occurred once upon a time for myself and one of my favorite goats, Victoria, a large chocolate Nubian.

We rescued Victoria many years ago from a situation where a number of goats had been mauled (and killed) by a predator such as a mountain lion or cougar. Not exactly sure what it was, but nonetheless, the goats were disappearing one by one. Hence us giving her the name Victoria. She was a victor from that situation. We bred Victoria back to another Nubian buck (name long forgotten), and the very next season, Victoria produced two very nice and healthy kids, only with a little bit of trouble herself in the kidding department. She had a peculiar behavior of being more interested in food than her kids and it wasn't because she lacked for food. As a result, she would knock her own kids down, step on them, and just in my minds eye, wasn't a great mom. I kept a close watch on her from that point forward.

The very next season, we again bred Victoria back to a different Nubian buck and again waited for her to kid. This time however, when it was within a couple of days of Victoria actually kidding, I put her in her very own pen and shelter with more hay than she'd seen in a lifetime, remembering back on her rambunctious behavior the prior season. Everything seemed to be going right. I just knew there would be no incidence and I actually believed that one morning (or evening), I would go out and there would be a couple of little goat kids taking in the wonders of their newfound world.

On that fateful morning, there was Victoria straining and acting like it would be any moment. Two hours later the situation hadn't changed, and it was then that I had the inkling that something wasn't right. I took two fingers and pressed above the vulva area to induce her to push a little more and she did, producing a kids leg that was sideways. I knew right then and there that the kid(s) were not positioned correctly and that only one thing could be done - reposition the first kid correctly by manually doing it myself.

As a quick aside here, in many cases of multiple births (kiddings), if the first kid is incorrectly positioned, if repositioned correctly and expelled, the subsequent kids will usually be correctly positioned and no other assistance is needed. I've only seen this once though so I cannot offer up any hard facts or numbers on the probability.

Knowing full well that Victoria and I only had a certain amount of time before the expansion and contraction window of her labor would become smaller and smaller, I grabbed my supplies: lubrication jelly, gloves, and lots and lots of sterile towels. I immediately lubricated the entire area, briefly hoping that the additional lubrication would somehow ease the process and deliver the kid. It didn't. So with a couple of fingers, I checked to feel as far in as I could and determine the actual position of this kid.

Quickly realizing that my hand was going to be too large to really be able to assist successfully, and my smaller handed wife gone shopping for the day, I suddenly knew that I was alone and was most likely going to need veterinarian assistance. I made several attempts at trying to reposition the kid, unsuccessfully. Somewhat reluctantly I took off my gloves, grabbed my phone and called my veterinarian. It was 11 am.

Thankfully I got in touch with my vet's cell phone immediately. I quickly explained the situation and he told me that he would be more than willing to come out right away, but, that he was about 3 hours away on another job, and that he wouldn't be really available in the area until about 5 pm. We both quickly agreed that time was of the essence and that 5 pm wasn't going to work. We both knew that he was pretty much the only vet available in the region so it was going to be up to me to get this situation resolved - at least until 5 pm. He went over exactly what I should do, big hands or not.

I pretty much followed his instructions to the letter. He was quick to indicate that since a fair amount of time had passed since the first contractions had passed and now, the kid was likely dead and just blocking off the other kids, if there were any. I was told to get as much of the first kid exposed, and even with a limited amount of space to work with (my big hands again), try and get the kid positioned as correctly as possible and tie a soft rope around the kid. I should tell you as well that this vet stressed the importance of using copious amounts of lubricant and, being as gentle as possible in effort to not tear or rupture anything in the process.

I did get the first kids head out and then realized that one of the front legs was positioned back over its head, and this was what was causing the obstruction. The kid was dead and as difficult as it was in my heart and mind to tie a rope around its neck, I did so realizing that I was saving Victoria from further pain and agony. As I gently pulled on the kid, I was able to work more and more on the correct positioning, eventually getting the position just about right. This involved a lot of pulling out gently, repositioning, pushing back gently, and so on and so forth for several minutes. Suddenly with one pull, the kid easily slipped out. I don't know who was more relieved. Victoria or I. But she turned around, gave a certain type of bleat and look that I will never forget. It was a look of thanks and a sound of relief.

A few minutes later, out popped another kid entirely unassisted. Unfortunately that kid was also expired so I knew in my mind that too much time had lapsed in dealing with the incorrectly positioned kid in the first place. A bit later, Victoria expelled the last of her afterbirth so I had a good idea that triplets were not in the cards for this round of kidding. I think both I and Victoria breathed a sigh of relief at that point. I cleaned her up as well as I could and disposed of the dead kids, but not before letting her take a look at them to realize what had happened. They may be goats but I strongly feel that they have a good sense of what is and what isn't. They know when something isn't right, and giving them a chance to say their own form of goodbyes and let their mind calculate the equation that has just happened is the right thing to do.

As much as I'd like to say that this article is over, it isn't. Later that evening the vet I had talked to earlier, called me up and asked me, "were you successful in getting the kid out?" and I told him yes I was. He apologized again for not being able to come out right away, and was quick to praise me for going ahead and following his advice to get this kid delivered. He then told me, "If you'd like to, come down to my office tonight or tomorrow morning, and I'll give you an antibiotic to give to her just so there's no further risk of infection". I went down the very next morning and he literally "gave" me the antiobiotic at no cost.

I felt it was very heartfelt and professional on his part the way he acted in this whole situation. He didn't have to give me anything, nor offer any advice on the matter. But he did, and I realized that I had just taken another step in building a good working relationship with him. He wasn't a vet that was going to tell you that he knew everything there was to know. In fact, he at one point later, even called and asked me if I knew where he might find some information about goats that he wasn't aware of. I cannot stress enough the importance in developing a good relationship with a veterinarian.

As for Victoria, she went on to deliver a couple of very nice kids the next year, even though I was somewhat reluctant to repeat the performance of that dreadful season. I could go into how I modified her diet and mineral supplementation, said a few prayers, and that by doing so, it created a near perfect kidding the next time around, but I won't. She had two real nice does that next season and I never had a difficult kidding season with her or her offspring for the remainder of her life as a breeder goat. That wouldn't be the case for another goat at a later date however.

By this time, several years had passed and the number of goats I owned and had owned had varied from year to year. Let's just say I was in my Boer goat phase and had purchased a few Boer does with unknown histories (you can read more about my thoughts on this practice in other articles I have written). Some of the people and places I had gotten these does from were as colorful as a calico cat, and in one instance, the breeder told me, "that doe is pregnant, but I can't tell you who the father is. All I know is he's not a Catholic, he's just the father". I guess looking back, I should have ran like the wind when I heard him tell me that.

This doe, un-named because I was numbering them all instead by then, was a very nice Boer with a kind of golden color on her head, and a spot on the middle of her back. That was my main reason for buying her because of the color. And being told that she had been bred by a Boer buck was the bonus. I didn't have a Boer billy at the time. Maybe three months later, there I was one evening, eye level with this doe impatiently waiting for her to kid.

As fate would have it, I waited about an hour, proud of myself for having all the necessary supplies on hand, but getting that well known feeling that "something wasn't going right" for this doe. She was straining but nothing was happening. I tried two fingers and could only feel a leg. I wasn't about to wait any longer because I knew once again, time in these situations is very important. By this point in our goat farm adventure, my wife was less than enthused about goats, especially after they had gotten out one afternoon, and helped themselves to our newly planted fruit trees. I have to admit I was a bit reluctant about going into the house and asking, "Dear, I need your help with a goat having a difficult delivery.' I expected an answer in the form of a cold glass of water thrown in my face (or similar), but, she agreed to help.

As I've already mentioned in this article a few times, my hands are just too big to easily reach in and move something around that needs to be moved around. It's not the act itself, it is just the fact of the matter. My wife on the other hand (no pun intended), has smaller, dainty hands, making her the perfect small handed goat doula. In just a matter of minutes, she was able to quickly and easily, reposition that first kid and induce a near perfect delivery. And the bonus in the matter was that the kid was alive! I know my wife was somewhat proud of her accomplishment though it's not something we talk about everyday or over supper. But she knows as well as I do that without having a small handed partner, it's either don't raise goats if you are expecting trouble free kiddings, or have a vet that lives right next door and is unemployed.

These are just a couple of examples of my experience with goats and difficult kiddings that I hope you have been able to learn from. Guys, most of us have hands the size of roasts so don't expect that it will be any easier for you than it was for me. Actually having to assist in the kidding itself is one facet of kidding. There are some types of people, that even though they raise goats, they don't have the heart or stomach for the squeamish stuff.

There are other areas of difficult kiddings that I haven't touched upon here, but will do so in future articles. Taking the time to understand the entire kidding labor process and what is entailed will put you that much farther ahead, and hopefully all the kiddings you have in the future, will be trouble free. Get your supplies and rotate them if needed. Read as much as you can on the subject. Find a good vet that you can work with, and in my case, have a spouse with small hands!

About the author: Gary Pfalzbot is the webmaster of GoatWorld. He has raised goats over the years, been involved with 4-H (as a young boy) and currently resides in Florissant, CO, situated within the Rocky Mountains. He and his wife Pam began raising a few breeds of goats, mainly precipitated for the control of Kudzu vine. They now primarily author the GoatWorld web site to continue to inform, educate, and promote the industry and those persons who are interested in goats.

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