Notes on Baby Care:
We’ve had recent questions about baby care so we’ve decided to share this precious part of herd management with our readers. Please remember that we’re not offering the ‘last word’ in kidding or baby care here. As with all herd management issues, our vet has the ‘last word’ and we do heed his professional advice. We’ve been very successful in our kiddings. The fact that we’ve only lost three kids since 1996 speaks for itself. To our knowledge, we have never had a doe miscarry that was actually proven to have been bred.
We don’t practice ‘CAE prevention’ here at Quicksilver Farms because we have a clean herd. We lost a young doeling four years ago due to severe diarrhea after we fed ‘powdered colostrum’ followed by powdered goat milk replacer. (If we need extra milk for our babies we now use regular homogenized milk!) We’ve since spoken to another breeder who had the same misfortune. If you choose to bottle raise your babies, we’d suggest that you hand milk and feed your own doe’s colostrum. If you don’t have a clean herd, purchase colostrum from a clean herd and freeze it prior to kidding season.
We make sure we’re on hand at every birth. We’ve found with our own bottle raised does, that they feel more comfortable if we sit with them during the final stages of labor. Our own homebred does prefer that we be on hand during the entire labor process. With the less friendly does, we try not to intrude until the birthing process actually starts. Our does give birth in their regular stall, with the other does locked out.
If you are new to the birthing process, we suggest that you have an experienced breeder or vet standing by for that occasional problem birth. If you get a chance to attend some births at another goat or sheep farm it will take the fear out of the process a bit for you. You’re going to need to be able to differentiate between a normal labor and a problem presentation. Fortunately we’ve only had to assist with three deliveries over the years. Most dairy goats seem to kid very easily. Those first few births are pretty stressful though (I remember our vet telling Jay and I that the doe was in much better shape than we were!) We’ve never lost a doe due to the birthing process.
*Please do be sure if you are going to breed for winter kids in areas where there are extremely low temperatures that you make yourself available for kidding time. Freezing of those tiny babies, especially the ears, can happen so quickly! We’ve heard so many instances lately of loss of babies or loss of the tips of ears, this does seem to be a problem that needs to be addressed. We use a monitor for night time (20.00 at Target) in our birthing stalls so that we can always be aware of the delivery timing. Our babies are toweled dry, wrapped and quickly rushed to the house during the winter, to be fed their colostrum. They do not go back outside until they are old enough to stay under a heat lamp in our barn, then at first only during the day time. If we were not available full time as a family, we would certainly not breed for winter kiddings.
We did lose one kid early on when a first freshener presented a huge buckling with both legs back. We were just too hesitant in going in after him and couldn’t get our vet here in time. When this doe gave the same presentation on her second kidding, we didn’t hesitate and found that assisting in the occasional ‘legs back’ presentation wasn’t that complex. We assisted in the birth of a beautiful live doeling and at the same time saved the mother an extended period of distress. Be sure to use sterile gloves, plenty of lubricant and make sure to take any rings off prior to gloving up. We found it easiest to slide a hand carefully in between the baby and the ‘birthing sack’ along the side to the shoulder and hook a finger behind the shoulder blade. With one person supporting the baby’s head and neck, we provided a gentle traction on the shoulder and let the doe do her job.
Our birthing kit includes lots of clean toweling, sterile disposable drapes, OB gloves, KY lubricant, sterile plastic navel clips, sterile scissors (for cutting the cord), 7% iodine and Q-tips for swabbing the navel, and a sterile bulb syringe for clearing mucus from nostrils and mouth. A fresh bucket of warm water with corn syrup added is on hand for mommy doe. We have propylene glycol on hand also, but have never had to use it.
Once the doe lies down and the birthing process starts we put down a drape behind her so that the babies don’t actually touch the bedding as they are born. (Puppy training pads work wonderfully for this as it’s easy to wrap up the ‘mess’ in the plastic liner!) We clamp the cord with sterile plastic navel clamps (we keep them soaking in a plastic container of alcohol between kiddings) and cut it, suction mouth and nose, dry the baby, dab the navel with iodine and place it on a clean towel at mommy’s head so she can nuzzle if the temperature in the barn is high enough. If the baby is having trouble expelling fluid from the airway, we carefully hold it upside down for about 30 seconds to allow the airway to clear. We milk the colostrum by hand and feed the babies ourselves. This way the babies bond to us, not to the doe. (And that stand-offish doe bonds to us instead of the baby!) After waiting about ten minutes, using a new, sterile set of gloves and lubricant we then manually check the doe to make sure there are no more kids on the way. (Have your vet or an experienced breeder show you how to accomplish this, it’s so very important to make sure a kid hasn’t been retained.) One of us stays with the doe until the afterbirth is passed and we collect it, along with any soiled bedding, bag it and throw it away. Then the other does are allowed back into the stall to keep mom company. We continue to check on the doe over the next few hours, to make sure she is showing no sign of distress.
Extra colostrum is collected from each doe over the next couple of days and is immediately frozen in a small nurser bottle. We try to collect extra from our older does only, as they have had a chance to develop more immunities. It is not heat treated. When we need it, we put the bottle in warm water to thaw and warm to room temperature. We never use a microwave to heat colostrum as the antibodies are destroyed.
The babies are fed either goats milk or regular homogenized cows milk until approximately age 8-12 weeks, depending upon the size of the kid. We do not use powered milk goat replacer, ever! We add about five drops per day of Polyvisol to the bottles. We feed our baby goats just like ‘human infants’, whenever they want, how much they want and with lots of cuddling! It is important to get that first colostrum feeding accomplished within minutes of birth, but after that feeding times are variable. We find the kids naturally increase the amount and frequency of feedings in the early evening and then sleep well through the night. On average we’ll feed kids up to one week of age about six times a day. By the time they’re six weeks of age they’ll be fed twice daily. For the first 48 hours the colostrum is bottled and heated in warm water, after that we use the microwave to warm milk. Babies are offered hay to nibble on from the first week, small amounts of grain after they are eating the hay well, usually at about a weaning time. We add Probios granules to the first grain feedings, until they get accustomed to the whole grain.
Since the doe will have had her 2 cc Covexin 8 injection approximately six weeks before due date, the babies are not immunized until they are a month old. We then give 3 cc Covexin 8 loading dose at one month. At two and three months of age and thereafter every four months for life we give 2 cc of Covexin 8.
We have a nice warm barn now, but we enjoy raising our little babies in the house so much we’ll continue to keep them inside in a horse water trough through the first couple weeks of life. We have six foot ‘nonclimb’ fencing with hot wire on top to ensure their safety from predators once they are old enough for outdoors play time. Once they are too active for the horse tub, they’ll be transferred to a stall in the barn with a heat lamp.
Our hands-on approach to baby raising may seem a bit labor intensive to some, but our success rate of live kids speaks for itself. Our percentage of loss over the last five years is very low! We thoroughly enjoy the time we spend with our little bottle fed ‘kids’. We find that new owners of QSF babies appreciate their ‘bomb proof’ attitude too, especially if they are training them as juniors for the show ring. We’ve never lost a sale due to a QSF baby not being friendly enough!