Kidding: Heartache & Heartwarming

Kidding: Heartache & Heartwarming

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April showers bring May flowers, but April also ushers in the arrival of many newborn goat kids.  If you are a goat owner and have made it thru a kidding season then you know the heartwarming and sometimes heartache of kidding season.  On average in the U.S., 14 percent of kids do not make it past weaning according to the Cooperative Extension Program at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.  A kid’s chance of survival is dependent of many factors from the age and condition of the mother doe to the care and management of the newborn kid immediately after birth up until they are around four weeks old.

Age and temperament of the doe is an important factor to consider in the mortality of the kid.   First time kid mothers and goats older than seven years old have a higher rate of kid losses than experienced younger mothers.  A goat that has already been through a kidding season successfully has proven maternal behavior which will have a great impact on the new kid’s chance for survival. She knows how to take care of a kid and how to bond with them.  

The environment the expectant goat is housed in before and after her delivery will also play an important part in the survival of her kid.  If a goat mom-to-be is exposed to an infection like toxoplasmosis she could experience a stillborn kid.   Toxoplasmosis is carried by barn cats and can be spread to the expectant goat through the cat defecating in the doe’s feed or her hay.  

She should be kept in a clean area in the barn by herself when her kidding labor begins.  Having her own space in which to deliver her kid will help keep her comfortable and less stressed.  Keeping her separated will also help keep the doe from being injured by any other animals and this clean area will help reduce the risk of infection of both her and her newborn.  Livestock Communication has some other great tips to minimize kid mortality.

Once the new kid has arrived, the mother goat will usually lick their kid clean immediately after it is born. After making sure it is breathing as well as warm and dry, it is very important that the kid gets up quickly and begins nursing.  Some newborn kids will do this right away, but the average kid will usually be up and nursing within the first half hour to ninety minutes after being born.  The newborn needs to be able to nurse immediately so that it can ingest colostrum as soon as possible after birth which will help the kid’s chances of survival and growth.  Colostrum from the mother is the only way that the newborn will be able to get nutrients and immunoglobulin.  The mother’s colostrum will slowly change to milk after two or three days.  The kid will only get his nutrients through nursing until they are around 3 or 4 weeks old.  At that time they will begin developing the ability to digest other types of food.  The nursing also helps form the maternal bond between mother and kid during this time. This bond between newborn and mom takes place that very first day of life.  The doe will keep her kid close to her and to protect it from harm from other farm animals and from outside predators.  The stronger their bond is, the better the kid’s chances survival will be. Extension has some great extra tips on caring for newborn goat kids.

April not only brings with it showers, but lots of new kids having arrived to their goat mothers.  The odds are against these new kids surviving into adult goats with 14% of the kids in America not making it.  But with their mother’s help and little owner/handler assistance, they should stand a chance.  There is nothing like a kidding season camp out with a doe to bring in the newest kid of your family!