Busy Browsers Nigerian Dwarf Goats
Kidding Delivery Information
This page contains information that can help you through the process of kidding out (birthing) baby goats. However, your success is entirely based on your own skills (not to be confused with experience) and Busy Browsers claims no responsibility in your success or failure! I AM BY NO MEANS A VET OR AN EXPERT!
Our experiences with baby Nigerian Dwarf babies started in March 2005, but in April of 2006 we had our first still born and realized nature sometimes needs a little assistance. From that day on we try our very best to be there for every birth if possible. We have a extra “ear” as we keep an audio monitor in the barn with the receiver in our bedroom! I can personally be dressed and in the barn within two minutes after the first grunting sounds of a doe in labor!
We hope you’ll find this list helpful, especially in times of emergencies!
by Gary Schutte
Nigerian Dwarf doe’s are notorious for having multiple babies. Most babies in a multiple birth are very small and sometimes tangled with their siblings. Doe’s that have babies without supervision or assistance have a high risk of mortality to themselves and/or babies. Often the smaller, newborn kids are unable to tear the birthing sac and suffocate. A recent example is a 3:50 AM birth. We were awoken by a seasoned doe talking on our monitor and were in the barn within three minutes to find two babies on the ground with one’s front half still in the sac suffocating. After removing the membrane and two gentle blows into the airways (more…) by me and gentle thrusting (more…) by Lou Anne the baby boy lived to join his two sisters. We are usually there for the entire process and have found close to thirty percent will not be able to break through the embryonic sac unassisted.
You can also expect goat babies to be born in any and all positions often requiring your assistance. To really prepare for the kidding process we recommend a prior look at Fiasco Farm. Molly has a ton of invaluable information for goat owners. You can also find great general medical information there as well as Goat-Links. Both Molly and The Goat Lady have a donation button, please do so if you can, They have put their all into the development of these most helpful sites.
You must be prepared to slip your fingers into the birthing canal to assist the delivery and in that event you should be sterile, so if time allows wear latex gloves. It would also be helpful to have a roll of paper towels handy. In addition my birthing kit also has gentle iodine and Vaseline among other things. More on that later.
THE BEGINNING SIGNS
You’re off to a great start if you know when your doe was bred! We hand breed our doe’s, by putting the buck on a lead to breed her or in more difficult cases leave them together in a solitary pen for a few days. In this manner we will know within ten days or so when she will give birth. Most of our doe’s have extensive records that let us know within a day or two of that magic date, providing they pay attention to our records! You’re probably catching on that calculated due dates aren’t reliable making it important to recognize the “early warning” signs. Daing the bad luck; early warning signs also vary, but there are a few generalities that you can go by.
Roughly 24 hours (or less) prior to kidding the doe’s rear ligaments drop or disappear and tail head seems to rise. Often her belly drops as well. At this stage you can pretty well wrap your fingers around her backbone.
PAWING OR DIGGING THE FLOOR
Again not all doe’s does the pawning, but when they do it can be for an hour to half a day. All of them seem to get vocal beforehand. Some want to be your friend, some don’t, but most importantly they’re acting different and telling you they’re getting close, so don’t go anywhere! You should also note that the mama’s like to talk to their babies.
Often it seems their udders will fill up just before they kid. The day before you think something’s wrong because they’re not bagging up and suddenly there it is; full and tight! For the record, some will have little udder even after they kid and will need a little “calf manna” to help them out. Alfalfa is the norm for pregnant does.
WHEN THEY GO UP & DOWN
This will often go along with pawing the ground, but when they start laying down and getting back up over and over again they are in or about to go into labor. This is when you pull up a chair and start watching.
THE MUCOUS PLUG
I saved this one for last, because it can be the greatest mystery. It may be the consistency of egg yolk to snot. You often see it in the white stage hanging from the vulva, but don’t be alarmed as it can start discharging a week before or a day before so it is not a reliable indicator. However, when it’s more of an amber color it contains amniotic fluid and she is getting very close to kidding.
THE BIRTHING PROCESS
Every birth is unique and can be a great mystery in its process, but a typical one will involve three stages:
The Beginning: Dilation of the Cervix
The Scary Part: Pushing/Birthing
The End: Placenta/Afterbirth
Needless to say it’s most helpful to have an assistant not only to hand, handle and hold things, but for moral support and to help think you through complex and scary situations. The actual birthing process begins with the release of the mucous plug or amniotic fluid, which you may or may not see. When she lays down and starts straining as well as pushing her rear hoof into the ground, she is certainly in delivery mode and should start giving birth within 30 minutes or something is wrong.
Hopefully you will soon see the red bubble trying to pass through her vulva causing it to bulge in and out as she contracts. It looks impossible, but the skin is very elastic and will be easier for the next one out! The bubble is the amniotic membrane or birthing sac and soon you’ll see front feet along with the head (if your lucky). Sometimes the bubble precedes the baby. Sometimes the back feet are first. For these reasons I share my experiences in the following paragraphs.
GETTING THE BABY OUT
More often than not the doe will have the baby naturally needing no assistance, but there are no guarantees in nature. I have outlined different scenarios that I’ve experienced later on this page that may be helpful if you have no other options.
An important fact to keep in mind is the baby is now ready to breath air for the first time and must quickly get out of the sac. The sac is sometimes too thick for the baby to tear, but human hands can easily do this! I should also mention the importance of being mindful of the doe’s insides, especially when all babies are out and to NEVER, NEVER, NEVER pull the placenta (afterbirth) it must drop naturally as the doe relaxes.
CLEAR THE AIRWAYS IMMEDIATELY!
As soon as the baby is out, clear the membrane and slime away from the mouth and nasal passages. You may even need to break open the sac if it is particularly tough. It’s not as easy as it sounds when clearing and it will be helpful to use paper towels quickly wiping away the goo while using your fingers to clear the inside of the baby’s mouth. If the baby is still gurgling badly, grip it firmly at the hips and shoulders and rock the baby thrusting its head downward to help expel the fluid from its lungs. Remember to be gentle, but firm being careful not to snap its tiny neck!
THE UMBILICAL CORD
Most of the time the umbilical is naturally severed. If not use your fingers to pinch/pull it apart. Do not cut it! Then take the gentle iodine dipping tube and fully submerge the babies severed cord insuring the opening of the bottle is tight against the baby’s belly while shaking it around giving the cord a good drenching. It helps hold the baby vertically and to keep the dipping bottle full.
*We use a small, plastic syringe case for our dipping tube and store it in a pill bottle.
THE FINAL THIS & THAT’S
As soon as the new babies are on their own we give the doe a refreshing drink of 2 tablespoons of molasses or syrup mixed with 1 gallon of warm water. Expect her to drink anywhere from a half to one gallon. This is also a good time to give them a cup of grain and fresh hay, alfalfa if you have it.
Baby goats (as well as all newborns) start their life with a tar like poo called meconium which can block their intestines if not relieved within a 24 hour period. When properly hydrated this will happen naturally. However, if they are slow to get to the teet they are at risk of becoming blocked which decreases their appetite. When they don’t eat they miss out on life giving natural sugars given by Mom’s rich milk and can lead to the baby’s demise within 48 hours. We use to treat on a “as needed” basis, but now do mandatory enemas as a sure-bet precaution.
We mix a solution containing one drop of dish soap to 8 ounces of warm water (98-100°) and administer it in a 12 cc/ml syringe with the “slip-on” (un-threaded) tip. I lay the baby across my lap on an old piece of carpet with its rear legs hanging down and a bright light shining from my hat. Lou Anne holds the baby in place while I lift its tail and gently and carefully insert the tip of the syringe into its rectum and I do mean VERY carefully! I cannot stress enough that I have plenty of light and bring my best eyeballs, as it is sometimes extremely hard to determine the exact location and you certainly can tear the baby’s skin (inside or out) with the plastic tip if it’s not angled properly or positioned wrong!
Once inserted I slowly and steadily plunge the warm solution into the baby while firmly holding the base against its bottom as well as preventing it from moving its butt. Lou Ann helps hold the baby still. Some solution will squirt out as I administer this. Usually two or three syringes will do the trick and if a couple of inches (collectively) of the black comes out or it turns to yellow poo I’m done. At that point it’s reasonable to believe they’re safe and will finish naturally. If not I’ll repeat the process not to exceed five syringes (yes I’ve done that many).
Often the hour is late and I will administer two or three syringes of soapy solution and then recheck in the morning. Because the colostrum’s milk is so thick most of the time it is obvious they’ve passed their meconium as there is yellow poo stuck all over their rear end (which may need to be cleaned). If they are standing around sort of hunkered up the next morning and not playing or crying a lot, I’ll give them two-three more enema’s.
Selenium is a mineral that is deficient in many areas and can affect a newborn goat. A standard practice used to be to give each baby a shot of .25 cc’s of BoSE which is given sub-Q (subcutaneous is given under the skin and not into the muscle) as well as the dam one month prior to her due date (1 cc per 40 pounds). However, BoSe as well as other selenium supplements can be toxic and the margin of safety is narrow. So now we only give it when the baby is having leg movement issues and then sparingly combined with vitamin E.
My first experience with this was bad and there’s no need to go into detail! Knowing what I know now, I’ve found that newborn goats are very durable and flexible as is the elasticity of the mamma’s vulva and under normal circumstance the front legs will fold back and pass through. If you can, try to get at least one leg out using your fingers, then gently pull the baby out AS the doe pushes.
If this isn’t possible, carefully and gently pull the baby straight out, using the mamma’s contractions to your benefit. Use consistent pressure. Pulling its head off is not a big concern, but don’t get brutal. Do not kink or twist the neck risking snapping or injuring the vertebrae or spinal cord. As soon as possible hook your finger(s) under the armpit to help it the rest of the way out.
In this experience it was the first of three babies to be born and highly critical that it come out in a timely fashion. It took a minute or two to figure out what was happening as the little white tail resembled a wet feather sticking out of the doe, but in all honesty it was not as scary as it sounds.
If it happens to you it is a two handed procedure to remove the baby. DO NOT PULL THE TAIL! Insert two fingers of each hand into the birth canal along both sides of the backwards baby. You then should be able to hook the tip of your middle finger around the hip joint (where the rear upper leg sockets into the hip) making a good grip to pull the baby.
Gently force the baby, stretching the doe’s skin to the limit as this position has a slightly larger circumference than with a front feet/head first baby. I think in my case the doe’s vulva may have tore slightly as she did bleed a little, but it was nothing major and the bleeding stopped by the time the last baby was out.
SINGLE FRONT LEG
This has been the worst experience, although by the grace of God the baby lived and is 100%! In this case the head is lying against the back of the kid. The leg, head and body become a “Y” shape in terms of what you are pulling and is much too large for the vaginal opening, not to mention putting tremendous stress on the baby’s spinal column risking paralysis. In my one and only experience I first attempted to push the leg back into the birth canal and retrieve the head or a back leg, but was unable to do either. So leaving the front leg out I then attempted to follow the backbone with my fingers to coax the head forward hoping to position it nose first, but instead the opposite happened. Under the stress of the moment I have no understanding of how the rear of the baby came first, but it did and was lastly followed by the head.
This was something I would not have envisioned possible, but strange things are possible when birthing Nigerian Dwarf goats! This involved a lot of effort and was not as gentle as I wished, but at the time I had shifted to “save the doe first” mode. I knew time was running out on this delivery. When the baby was fully out I went through my normal routine of clearing the air passages ASAP. Although the baby appeared lifeless as compared to normal it had shown enough movement to give me hope and after 5-10 minutes, with the exception of its front leg, started acting normally.
The front leg was the only “handle” I could use and because of that stress it now turned over like a club foot. I put a wrap on the lower joints to strengthen it so he could nurse unassisted and after 4-5 hours removed the wrap to find he could walk on it sufficiently. After only a few days it was back to normal and today you would never know it had a problem!
LEGS BENT AT THE HOCK
Recently I delivered a little buck who came into the world with both rear legs bent at the hock making it very hard to figure out. This presents itself as a head first birth; keep in mind two hock joints together can resemble the nose and mouth and as you go back to the hip and foot it mocks the brow and head. You must remember that at first the kid is bulging the vulva area outward, sort of like if you had a rubber glove over your head.
First I checked for teeth. Most babies are born with bottom teeth, given at times very tiny and it revealed no teeth. Now that I knew what was taking place I was able to work a finger tip into the bend of the joint and pull until the leg was free to straighten. After repeating this on the other side I worked with the much worn out doe to get the baby out. At some point he had broken the birth sack meaning it was critical he got air into his lungs fast and he did and all turned out well.
First Freshners are the scariest! Mostly because it’s their first delivery and have never stretched their vulva, but also because they have no track record to refer to. That can’t be helped, but it is possible to help work the kid out if need be. It will only involve the first kid as she will be plenty stretched for the second, but often a First Fresh will only have one kid.
In my experiences, providing it’s a normal birth (two front feet & head) you will find the feet and nose come out easily, but get hung up trying to push over the eyebrow region. To help this follow the doe’s contractions and on the beginning of the push place your thumbs and fingers on top and bottom of each respective side of the vulva (latex gloves are a must!). As the doe pushes try pushing the top of the vulva over the eyebrow with your thumbs. Some pulling on the legs will also help. Again, they are very durable and unless you bench-press 400 lbs. you won’t pull them off!
It may take several tries, but it will quicken the birth causing less strain on the doe and in some cases may save her life. Expect to see fresh blood on the birth sac as the baby comes out as some internal tearing will happen. The bleeding will be a small trickle that will soon coagulate. The bleeding should slow to a drip and then nothing over the course of a few hours. If bleeding persist or is more than a trickle, you may need to involve you vet.