Get ready for birthing season: A guide for small ruminants

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birthing goats collage
(Ivory Harlow photo)

Birthing season begins January first at my farm. Each year I’m excited to welcome new goat kids to our farm family. I’m also nervous knowing many small lives depend on me for survival. Being well-prepared helps me stay calm when the first doe goes into labor and helps me remain confident as the season progresses.

My preparations for birthing season focus on four areas: facilities, medical, nutrition and equipment/supplies.

Facilities

  • Set-up kidding pensAlpine goat kids
  • Clean and sanitize pens
  • Fill pens with fresh, dry bedding
  • Ensure supplemental heat source(s) are in place, in working condition
  • Clean, sanitize and station food and water troughs in pens

Nutrition

  • Feed highest quality hay. I notice does begin spending more time in the barn about 3 weeks prior to kidding. At this time, I start feeding my highest quality hay to make up for any nutritional gaps resulting from less grazing. I continue to feed highest quality hay throughout the lactation cycle.
  • Adjust feed ratios to support lactation
  • Stock up on mineral supplementation. I provide mineral year-round but does that are pregnant or have just given birth consume mineral supplementation at a much faster rate.
  • Colostrum replacer or stored colostrum (frozen) on-hand
  • Keep milk replacer on hand and check expiration date. Milk from another doe may be used, but it may cause rejection of a kid if used consistently.
  • Purchase nutritional energy drench; I use Omega-3 Plus by Kaeco.

Medical

  • Booster vaccines administered 1 month prior to kidding
  • Medical reference material on-hand
  • Keep veterinary phone number accessible in case of emergency
  • Ensure medical kit is fully stocked, organized and accessible. A good med kit includes: medical gloves, iodine, feeding syringe, surgical scissors, towels and puller.

Equipment/supplies

  • Tags on-hand. The USDA National Scrapie Eradication Program provides free ear tags to sheep and goat producers. Call USDA Veterinary Services Office 1-866-USDA-TAG (866-873-2824).
  • Weigh-in scale is in working condition, fully charged
  • Clean and sanitize feeding bottles, tubes
  • Keep pen and paper handy to record birth date, type (single, double, triple), sex and dam ID. Input this information into your permanent records system ASAP.

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