Breeding
Do your homework to start with!

Any goat is a valuable members of your ‘family’ the progeny they produce may be with you for many years, so it is worth deciding what you wish to do with them during their lifetime. If you wish to show your goats then finding a male from good foundation stock is really important. As with racehorses you may get lucky and produce a show champion by pure chance but that is unlikely. Breeders spend hours pouring over pedigrees and mixing the show champion bloodlines to achieve all the attributes of a good standard So look around, discuss with other goat keepers, clubs or societies. Find the goats that are recommended and more importantly ones to avoid. Even if you want a pure pet, check out the males, visit them and be assured they have the characteristics and look you like. Remember you cannot predict the colour of pygmy goat kids but you can predict appearance and demeanor. So do your homework and avoid using a male just because it is closest, the stud fee is the cheapest, or it is the colour that you ‘want’.


Mating
There is a thought that if you feed up a female for a few months prior to mating the abundance of food may stimulate increased ovulation and higher chance of the conception of twins.

Goats come into season every three weeks. They are fertile for approximately 72 hours although the middle 24 hours is when they are most fertile. If entire males are present you may observe the females lifting their top lip and sniffing the air, this is known as Flehming, it is a natural behaviour with the transfer of scents and pheromones into the vomeronasal. You will also observe the rapid flagging of their tails, presumably wafting pheromones as far as their little tails are able. Most goats also produce a small amount of discharge and the vulva area may look puffy or swollen this is a good indication of a female goat being in season, Bizarrely whilst there is little if any true foreplay between males and females, there is courtship both before and after mating, assuming the female will allow it, the males are often seen licking the faces of their females. Anthropomorphically you could interpret this as kissing! This quickly moves on to the males mounting the female and hopefully conception occurs, In discussion with a very experienced breeder she commented that if the female ‘spends a penny’ (urinates) after mating it is a good sign that she has conceived.

Then comes the patience!
You must wait initially the three weeks to ensure that the doe has taken, and that the goat doesn’t “return’ (come back into season).

Hopefully she doesn’t (if she does then she may then be put back with the male) and then the long wait of five months gestation, or its equivalent of 150 days, although I warn you the last few weeks rush by so preparing your birthing kit (see the section Preparing for the birth) as soon as you can realistically do it is recommended. It gets fraught when you have still to find or buy a few items and you enter the birthing period. Its worth noting that goats are NOT dogs and do not kid spot on the day predicted…so be ready.

Preparing for the birth
When my girls return from the male I try hard not to overfeed, I do however place some additional protein into their feed at the start of pregnancy, there is strong anecdotal evidence to reduce food slightly towards the end of pregnancy. Reduce to a normal meal for an adult goat. The thought behind this is that the kids will extract maximum nutrients and put on most physical growth during the last few weeks and goat keepers will tell you they have far more issues with goats trying to kid large kids than losses due to kids being too small. Others say that you feed normally until about eight weeks before kidding and then increase the concentrate ration slowly until at two weeks to go it is double the normal ration. It’s a fine balance. Up to you and the constitution and demeanor of your goat. Again, and hopefully, by the time a new keeper is thinking of breeding they will have bonded, loved and be ‘in tune’ with their goats and the goats habits, constitution, preferences, and tricks.

I must confess that my girls change slightly when they are pregnant. I find as the pregnancy develops so does their confidence and even the most timid goat is ready to take on the world in defence of her kids. I find that this confidence growth occurs, albeit very subtly, even during the first few weeks.

It is also advised that 3-4 weeks before kidding the female has her hooves trimmed. The additional weight of kid/s can cause foot issues, so for her sake, neatly trimmed feet will be so much more comfortable to walk on and will retain her correct posture and avoid strain on tendons and bones. Don’t do it in the last couple of weeks though, she will be heavily pregnant so turning (which hopefully you shouldn’t need to do for foot trimming) or even just raising her leg will place additional strain on the other three supporting the additional weight.

If you vaccinate your goats it is worth vaccinating the mother two weeks before her due date. This way the kids will come out pre vaccinated and will remain protected for the first few weeks. It is recommended to vaccinate them ‘properly’ from 10-14 weeks old but your veterinary surgeon/practitioner will advise you on this.

Personally I follow the same plan for worming. Worming the mother a few weeks before kidding and then after the birth the kids can become a part of the normal herd worming programme. Do not worm kids under the age of 4weeks though, their digestion tract has still to develop “properly” as they are still wholly reliant on milk, at this time much of the normal goat dietary tract is bypassed as they are still building up their gut flora.

Christianity describes the birth of a baby in a stable, whilst this worked for him; it is not a recommended delivery suite for babies. Goat kids have little choice. Therefore whilst it is not expected to be sterile it is worth making the birthing area/beds etc. as clean as you can. I start disinfecting bedding areas a few weeks before birthing takes place to ensure that the area is as clean as I can make it. I have had a few issues in the past with e-coli which everyone tells me is airborne and not down to hygiene but I am now more aware of the cross contamination of hands, clothes and other goats by these experiences. Please don’t think I am a hygiene freak, I sincerely believe that kids should be exposed to the real world as soon as possible and build up their own immunities however I like to be sure that for the first 24 hours at least they have the cleanest environment I can give them.

Get yourself ready, it all comes around so quickly!

It is strongly advised that if you are technologically able that a web cam, closed circuit TV and/or a listening device is set up so you can watch or eaves drop on the impending birth at anytime that suits. I set up a CCTV camera and use a baby listening device for the last week or so before birth. That way if I hear her bleating in the night I can look at the camera and observe her plight before getting up, dressing and going out to the goat shed, only to find her looking back at me quizzically and irritated that I have woken her, and disturbed her lovely dreams.

This is clearly not essential and routine observation with your eyes can never be replaced by technology but if you can or are able it does assist and put minds at ease.

What is ‘essential’ is a birthing kit.
A birthing kit is a collection of things that may be needed or useful for kidding but not things you want to be searching for in desperation or as kidding happens.
1) Paper towels/Kitchen roll or my favourite old towels (clean) to use to help dry kids off, especially if there are two, it is late at night and cold. A vigorously rubbed, dry and warm kid is a happy kid, although don’t rub too dry, allow the mother to clean her baby (its essential for the bonding).

2) Antibiotic powder, spray or iodine solution to dip, spray or coat the exposed navel after birth. This is where e-coli can penetrate an inexperienced goat handler’s new kid.

3) The vets telephone number, (preferably already programmed into your Mobile /cell phone, or on a laminated piece of card) so that they can be called easily if needed.

4) Allied to the above number, a mobile/cell phone, if coverage allows.

5) Many goat keepers have a pump action antibiotic from the vet (designed for lambs) That gives the lamb (or in our case kid) a quick kick-start in life.

6) Newspaper and refuse bags - to collect and use to dispose of the waste products.

7) Some form of warmth- a hot water bottle or electric radiator, it is also a good idea to buy a heat lamp, just in case it is extremely cold, or you have a weak kid that needs that little bit of extra warmth, this could then be hung above your goat pen, high enough that Mum doesn’t catch her horns on it. Obviously the last thing you want is a fire, so I’d avoid naked flame but sometimes a little added warmth is needed… and not just for the fretting owner watching his/her beloved goat kid!

8) If your goat shed has a light, excellent, if not a temporary light would be useful, I Would also recommend an additional torch, for looking under and around goat back ends.

9) I would also recommend a radio or even a good book. There is no evidence to my knowledge that goats like radios playing when giving birth, but it helps the long hours of waiting pass and none of my mums to be have asked me to switch it off! 10) As you become more experienced you may wish to add lubricant and disposable gloves, in case assistance is needed for the actual birth. The Birth


The Birth
Remove the placenta, afterbirth and soiled bedding; I usually put this into a strong refuse bag and then put down clean bedding.

(Other member’s advice and experience)

From Paul Wigzel

I am writing this paragraph 12 hours after what may be considered a disaster in relation to breeding. I have only a small number of goats and chose to breed from only one goat this year. Last night my gorgeous girl goat produced a set of female twins. Sadly both were stillborn and despite every attempt to revive them there was no chance and we sit here with no kids this year and a pleading and calling mother. It was, and is horrible. Whilst having kids and the joy they bring is just wonderful, also consider it doesn’t work out how you want it every time, despite the best-laid plans. Death of kids during birth may happen whether you are a beginner, with some experience or an expert. Tragedies occur.  Having kids is excellent but beware there is another side that is less pleasant also.

Birth can happen any time of day, over the years I’ve kept a record of birth times, most choose to enter the world during the twilight hours.

Kidding.

When females start to go into labour, smear Vaseline on their tails and down their back legs, really handy if they are long coated, stops the hair becoming matted.

Kidding info – Having the vet’s number ready will avoid any panic giving support if needed.

We always took a baby alarm to bed from about a week before the due date. 

Watch her udder carefully, when she “bags up” she is getting closer, they can bag up anything from a week to a couple of days before they kid. (Bagging up is when her udders fill with milk, just before birth they look liable to burst they are so full, it is not uncommon for the teats to leak milk during the effort of actually giving birth).

Have a heat lamp ready, if you think it’s really cold and need to use it don’t hang it too low, just high enough to give a bit of extra heat.., the kid will cuddle up to mum. 

Have a refuse bag and some plastic gloves ready for the after birth, don’t let her eat it, this should come away about 30 mins to a couple of hours after kidding. 

Have a couple of old towels  (and a carrier bag to put them in) ready in case you need to help dry the kid i.e. if she has twins, you could then cuddle the first kid to keep it warm while she kidded and cleaned the second one.

It is an exciting time, but try not to crowd her, maybe 1 or 2 of you at a time, watch her from the doorway, and offer quiet words of encouragement.  she will get up and down pawing at her bedding (nesting) as she gets closer, she will lie down and push, she may shout, but that’s normal, when the kid is born very gently pull it around to mum’s head, let her clean it, she is bonding.  the most important thing is that she cleans it herself, this is bonding time, if you pick it up and clean it she won’t recognise it.  

We always spray the cord with iodine, ‘purple spray’ or anti-bacterial spray), about 10/15 mins after birth,  let mum have a good clean up of the kid – don’t towel it dry unless you have a problem, if she has cleaned most of it off and gets up or pushes to produce number 2 then you could finish drying number 1.  

When mum has got up (and finished kidding) check that the plug’s have come out of the teats, they are like little tiny pencil leads, just dots really, check that there is milk coming out of the teats both sides. 

You may have to help the kid feed because mum is long haired, get someone to hold her and (you will have to lay down) hold the teat in your left hand and put the kid to it with your other hand, put your hand around her head and put her mouth to the teat and squeeze, then let her do it, sometimes it takes two to do his job, one holding the teat, one with a hand on the kids bottom keeping it forward and another opening it’s mouth for the teat, squirt a tiny bit of milk into its mouth, it will soon get the hang of it – check it is feeding before you leave them – you can tell if it has fed by it’s tummy, it should be nice and round.   

After kidding we usually clear up the messy bedding and replace it with clean bedding.

Give mum a nice drink of warm water, don’t leave a bucket in the shed, the kid could drown, we make sure mum has had a nice drink, then leave half a small ice cream tub in there, so that if mum is thirsty there is a drink, and if the kid fell in it wouldn’t drown. Don’t forget to make sure she always has a drink. 

You could also try her on a feed, we used to give warm bran mash (you can buy bran loose at pet shops/stores), you don’t need much, give her feed that she is used too, not too much greens though.

She can have treats; after all she is a clever girl.  If you have ivy growing anywhere she could have a handful of ivy leaves, supposed to be good for the healing process.

Most mothers are keen to feed their babies, with the first few feeds of colostrum vital. But things do go wrong from time to time.

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