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PREPARING FOR KIDDING (PART 1)

By: Gary Pfalzbot
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Please note, this is part 1 of a 3 part article written exclusively for the Nigerian Dwarf Digest. As each part is published and distributed, I will add each successive part of the article for your reading pleasure.

There comes that point in time when your pregnant does are ready to take part in the miracle of nature - kidding - which refers to the act of giving birth to their offspring. It is indeed a time of joy for both the owner and the delivering mother. But there are certain things that the owner should be prepared for just in case the miracle of nature has other ideas.

There are three distinct types of kidding definition that I use;

  • the owner that knows the exact date their goat was bred (and can fairly accurately assess when their pregnant doe will kid)
  • the owner that doesn't know (and can only guess) when their goat was bred
  • the owner that doesn't even know that their goat was bred.

Let's start from the beginning - or at least the point where your doe was bred (or suspected to have been bred). In most breeds, goats have a gestation period of 150 to 155 days. That simply means that this number of days will pass from the time the goat was bred until the time she will deliver kids. There is nothing exact about kidding dates - a delivery can vary from the 150 - 155 day window at any time, but this window is the most common timeframe for goats.

For many breeders and producers of goats (as well as owners of pet goats), the exact breeding date is very important as they most certainly want to be available to assist in the delivery of the newborn kids if need be. Time of the season also plays an important role in this as well. Kids born in the cold of winter will be faced with the possibility of freezing to death. Kids born in the heat of summer may face more prolific bacteria levels in some areas of the country. But in either case, the owner will usually try to be there and have been prepared for kidding far in advance.

Being prepared in advance for kidding covers two areas that are equally important:

  • the care, feeding and health of the doe from the breeding date forward
  • the supplies and readiness you have on hand at time of kidding

For the next five months that your pregnant doe will carry her fetus(es), much attention must be given to her diet and other factors that affect her overall well being. If her diet is improperly balanced, she is subject to stressful environments, or she is resigned to climatic conditions that are extreme, the probability of a difficult kidding increases.

As mentioned, diet plays a vital role in the outcome of kidding. Providing your pregnant doe with a good quality hay such as alfalfa and a grain product such as oats, will help you prepare her to deliver kids as problem free as can be expected. Encompassed in the diet aspect is the amount of minerals and vitamins that are provided to the pregnant doe. There are certain levels of minerals that MUST be provided to ensure a quality kidding. The lack of any one of these can cause problems that can often not be corrected once kidding time has been reached.

Thankfully over several kidding seasons we've had very little trouble. Each doe is given a generous ration of mixed, grassy alfalfa and at least a cup or two of grains such as oats, cottonseed hulls or meal, corn gluten, linseed meal, or any of the soy bean products such as soy hulls or soy bean meal. (Note, for various reasons, I have discontinued using soy based products in the diet). I have also used various commercially mixed "goat rations" as well but most often was content with "all stock" or "all grain" products that ranged from 8 to 12% total protein. Of course working at a feed mill, I have been able to experiment with various feeds.

I should forewarn readers that the "grain" aspect of feeding should never be the greatest portion of the pregnant does diet - ever. The type of grain I most often recommend over any others is oats - either whole or rolled. As the does go into roughly the last 60 days of pregnancy, the amount of grain you should be feeding should be about half of what you fed when they became pregnant. The minerals they receive are best provided in a loose mineral form and should contain all the essentials such as Selenium, Copper, Zinc, Iron, Iodine, etc. To really get a solid understanding of the minerals needed during this time, you should consult your local agriculture extension office to discuss what minerals are possibly deficient in your area.

Going a bit further about feed, some goat owners raise their goats in a very controlled environment where the goat relies solely upon the owner for feed. There are no weeds or brush that the goats can eat in addition to what they are being fed. Some owners raise their goats in an environment where the goats eat weeds and brush in addition to what the owner feeds them. Either situation has certain advantages and disadvantages that you should be aware of.

Controlled environments (such as feedlots) provide an advantage in that you can control the intake and type of feed your pregnant does receive. The disadvantage that I have run into with this type of arrangement is overcrowding and cleanliness. Allowing goats to browse free-choice is advantageous in that it allows the goats a greater variety, however, poor soil conditions, poisonous plants and weeds as well as insects and possible predators can be a downfall to this situation. Certain plants may cause kidding problems such as abortions, abnormal presentations, unthrifty kids. Predators may cause immediate problems. In short, even an uncontrolled environment needs strict measures of control. Only careful research and planning will determine if this situation will be right for your goats.

Up to this point we've covered those areas that mostly deal with "pre-kidding" issues. While these issues may appear boring and inconsequential to the actual moment of kidding itself, please understand that these issues in my opinion, are the most important issues of all. Perhaps the most ideal situation for your kidding goats is that where they have been fed correctly ovee the entire gestation period, the owner can indeed identify when kidding will take place and, have a place set up for the kidding doe to give birth and stay safe from the elements with her newborn kids.

In the next installment of this article I will go into detail of the actual supplies one should have on hand at the actual time of kidding; from a perspective of minimum and maxiumum requirments. But since I know that I myself would be extremely curious and eager to be prepared, I will give at least two things that in my opinion I feed extremely neccessary:

  • The name and number of a local veterinarian who has a gtood working knowledge of goats. In certain areas these may be hard to find. You can alternately now begin researching other goat owners in your locale that may be able to provide some measure of assistance should it be needed. On the GoatWorld web site, there is a feature called Goat 911 (a free service) which may be able to help you find other goat owners nearby who in turn may be able to help you find a veterinarian familiar with goats.

  • Begin now by preparing an area for your kidding doe(s): a barn or shed is ideal but as long as it is a type of shelter where the doe and her offspring can remain safe and out of the immediate elements, it will be a good start for both yourself, the doe(s) and the kid(s). Prepare this area by getting a few bales of soft straw which will provide the bedding. Also, prepare in advance for how you will feed and water the doe during her stay in this area. Make sure that while taking into account her comforts, take into account your own creature comforts. It is alot easier to do this before she kids than after she kids.

Until the next issue, please give some thought to the areas I have outlined and begin by making your own plans to make this an easy as possible and enjoyable experience.

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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