Goat birthing: Patience is a virtue

Goat Birthing

Over the past few years I’ve noticed an increasing amount of advice directing goat breeders to routinely intervene in the births of every goat. Not only is this unwarranted, but the risks far outweigh the benefits because it can result in infection or a ruptured uterus or even hurting the kid.

A friend recently told me that a goat magazine had an article advising goat breeders to do a vaginal check on every doe when she goes into labor to assess the position of the kid. This is terrible advice for many reasons.

First of all, someone who is new to goats has no clue when a doe is in early labor. I had to see at least a hundred does give birth — that equals more than 200 kids born — before I consistently had a fairly good idea of when a doe was within a few hours of giving birth. New breeders often think a doe is in labor when she is not.

There were many times in my first few years with goats when we thought a doe was in early labor, and she did not kid for several days. Obviously, she was not in labor. My favorite memory came from my second or third year on the farm.

I had a friend who had purchased two pregnant does, and she spent several nights in the barn with them because she was sure they would give birth at any moment. When the does were past 155 days pregnant, she called the vet out to the farm, only to learn that the does were not pregnant!

That is not the last time I’ve heard of such an experience. People often want their goats to give birth so badly that they wish them into labor and see things that are not happening or misinterpret what they see.

Let’s assume that you do have an accurate idea of when a doe in labor and do a vaginal check. If she is in early labor, odds are good that the kid will not be in the perfect position for kidding. You will then panic and think that you have to reposition the kid — and then assume that you saved everyone from certain death, or at least tried to. In reality, kids are not in position to be born until they are ready to be born. A good part of early labor is spent with kids getting themselves into position.

Goat giving birth to a kid
Carmen gave birth to a kid presenting head first with no feet.

I’m sure some people think that birth position is just random, but if it were random, you would have kids regularly presenting with all sorts of different body parts. However, the vast majority of kids are born head first, with or without a front foot or two.

In 650 births, we have had one ribs-first presentation, and that was a kid that had been dead for days already. But if someone is routinely checking kid position on does in labor, no doubt they discover kids in all sorts of difficult positions. Had they only waited, most of those kids would have put themselves into the perfect “diving” position to be born.

Someone recently posted on Facebook that she attended a sheep and goat seminar where they told everyone that they should stick their hand into a doe’s or ewe’s uterus to check for more kids or lambs after they think the last one has been born. Again, this is completely unnecessary and dangerous.

In 650 goat births and more than 250 lamb births, we have never had a doe or ewe retain a baby. Even if it happened tomorrow, that would be less than 0.5% — less than half of 1% — of births, and there is no point in subjecting your does (or ewes) to a painful and invasive procedure that could cause an infection or uterine tear because you are worried about something that happens so rarely.

Plus, most does and ewes only have twins. Once two kids or lambs are born, they are probably done. Even if you have a breed that tends to have multiples, like Nigerian dwarf goats, the risks far outweigh the benefits of doing a routine uterine check, assuming your goats are healthy and well-nourished.

If you think it’s a good idea to give every doe a shot of antibiotics after birth to prevent an infection following a routine uterine check, then you will find yourself with a dead goat at some point when that antibiotic no longer works — and you might even find yourself with an incurable infection.

Someone posted on Facebook last week about a doe dying from an infection following a birth where she intervened, and she thought that she should have given her a higher dose of antibiotics. Sadly, if she was using the same dose she had always used, a higher dose would not have worked. The organisms were simply resistant to that antibiotic.

Antibiotic resistance is real, and human beings are dying from infections that used to be cured by antibiotics. According to the Center for Disease Control, more than 2 million people get antibiotic-resistant infections every year, and 23,000 people die from them. I have a friend whose fiancé died from MRSA. Russ Kremer is a hog farmer in Missouri who almost died from an infection that he got from his pigs that were being given antibiotics regularly. His near-death experience caused him to become an organic farmer who no longer relies on routine antibiotics.

Someone recently lamented online that she “had to pull kids” from every doe that has given birth on her farm except for one doe who kidded in the pasture. Unfortunately, she did not see the correlation between her attending births and the perceived level of difficulty. When she wasn’t there, the doe kidded on her own. The person never questioned her involvement in the births. She assumes that her does all have problems.

If indeed, her does all have problems, then she has a nutritional deficiency on her farm, probably either calcium or selenium, which would account for poor uterine contractions. She said her does all have narrow hips, yet if that were the case, they would have all required c-sections. With strong uterine contractions, if the pelvis is big enough, does can push out big kids. It is impossible to pull kids out of a doe if the pelvis is not big enough. Also, if the does all have narrow hips, and they are not all related, then there is a nutritional deficiency that caused improper bone development.

The bottom line is that pulling kids does not solve a herd-wide problem, and if you are pulling all kids whether you need to or not, then you have no idea if your does have adequate nutrition or if you need to be culling for poor birthing ability. If does truly cannot give birth on their own, then there is a big problem that needs to be fixed, and continuing to pull kids is just exacerbating and prolonging a no-win situation.

Goat doe in labor

I am NOT saying that we should just ignore our does in labor. Of course, there are times when something doesn’t go quite right, and we need to intervene. However, there is an assumption that we can have 100% live births, and that is simply not possible.

Most of the time when a kid is not presenting in either a nose first or breech position, it has already been dead for days or longer. You’ll know it’s been dead because the skin is very thin and easily tears, or the hair is easy to pull out. Unfortunately, when a dead kid is born, most people think it was alive only minutes earlier, and they could have “saved” it if only they’d intervened.

Unfortunately, this simply is not true. Seconds or even minutes are not that important. A kid does not die in an instant while inside the doe. It dies after a doe has been in active labor for many hours and the placenta starts to separate, cutting off its lifeline.

If you are able to save a kid that was within seconds of dying, it will often be blind or deaf or have other problems. One situation where seconds do count is if a breech kid’s body is out and the head is still inside. If the cord has broken, and the head is not out, the kid can’t breathe and get oxygen. This happened once on our farm.

My daughter saw a doe standing in the pasture with a kid’s body hanging out of her. My daughter jumped the fence, ran over there and pulled the kid’s head out. She thought it was dead at first but cleaned off its nose and began rubbing its body briskly. Although she saved it, it turned out to be blind because of the oxygen deprivation.

I frequently say that if you have a health problem with your herd, there is a nutritional or management problem that is contributing to that. People who say you should intervene in every birth are not being pro-active, as they claim. They are being reactive to the assumption that their goats are incapable of giving birth. But there is no reason to assume that goats will have problems.

If people offering such advice claim that they have saved X number of kids since instituting that practice, then they are covering up a much bigger problem, such as a nutritional deficiency or genetic problems. Nutritional deficiencies should be fixed, and goats with genetic problems should be culled. Otherwise, you will have does dying at some point.

If the does are healthy and genetically sound, and you’re intervening in all of the births, then you’re doing so without cause in the vast majority of cases. A study cited in Goat Medicine, 2nd Edition showed that only 5% of births require intervention, so if you are intervening in more than 1 out of every 20 births, you need to be re-examining your practices.

The biggest problem with telling people to intervene routinely or too quickly in a birth is that the doe is the one with everything to lose. You are thinking only of the kids when you do that — and it’s not even realistic to assume that you will save a kid by intervening.

My ultimate loyalty is to my does, and my actions in a birth are guided by that principle. I am not going to intervene unless she really needs me to do so. Of course, it’s sad when a kid is born dead, but imagine how you’d feel if the doe died. I personally have become even more respectful of the birth process after one of my favorite does died of a 7 cm uterine tear following a difficult birth in which the vet pulled kids.

Goat kid

New goat owners want to do everything right. They love their animals! Unfortunately, they are the ones who are most susceptible to advice from people online predicting doom and gloom if you don’t follow their advice. My advice has always been to listen to your goats.

Since none of us was born understanding caprine, this takes years. My mantra is, “If the goat’s happy, I’m happy!” And that works. A happy, healthy goat does not just drop dead with no warning. A doe unable to birth kids would die several days later when sepsis sets in, so there is plenty of time for patiently watching and waiting and to think about your options if there appears to be a problem.

I certainly do not mean that you should wait days if there is a kid’s nose or hoof sticking out of your doe, but you certainly have 30 minutes or even a couple of hours to take action. We live two hours from a vet hospital, and in the three cases where I’ve taken goats there in labor, seven of the eleven kids were born alive — after a lot of pushing and us trying to pull kids and then a two-hour drive.

Kids are far more resilient than most people give them credit for. I will never forget a lamb that we named Miracle because she survived 45 minutes with her head sticking out of her dam who ran around the pasture as we tried to catch her so we could help deliver the lamb. More than a decade later, I know that it wasn’t such a miracle that the lamb was born alive and healthy after such an ordeal.

Just kidding - stories on goats giving birth

I could talk about this for hours, which is one reason I decided to write an ebook on the subject. Because people who are new to goats don’t know what to expect, I pulled together 17 birth stories from our farm and put them into a 45-page e-book called Just Kidding: Stories and Reflections on Goats Giving Birth. I include the stories of the births as I wrote them within a day or so of when they happened. Some of these births happened eight or nine years ago when we were still quite new and didn’t know much about goat birthing, so I added my reflections on the births as I see them today. Some of these births included hard lessons. Sometimes we should have done something differently. Other times, we did everything we could do and still had an unfavorable outcome. When I was a new goat owner, I always wondered how I’d know if a goat needed a caesarean, so the ebook also includes the stories of our two c-sections to give readers an idea of how that can happen.

The ebook is available in most e-reader formats, but if you don’t have a Kindle, Nook, Kobo, or another e-reader, you can download the book as a PDF or get the free Kindle reading app for your computer or iPad and read it on there. The book starts with four normal births, and you can download that section for free to get a better idea of how different a normal birth can be from one goat to another.


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163 thoughts on “Goat birthing: Patience is a virtue”

  1. Great article. I'm on a goat advice group, so of course all I 've been seeing lately is problem births. And usually the advice is to intervene. The is our second year birthing, with the does due in about a month. I have been so worried after reading all the stories. So this puts me more at ease. I also feel like the does should be able to birth naturally, just like humans can in most cases. It is not a sickness. It is part of life. Thanks for the article.

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    • Can’t thank you enough for this article. Reading it was like talking on the phone with you. You answered every question before I thought to ask it. Truly, thanks for taking the time to write it.

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        • Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us. I recently rescued 10 goats and later learned at least 3 came to us pregnant. Needless to say, I’ve been a little nervous because I went from feeling like “I GOT this!” to outright concern. I’m not at all experienced with birthing anything but my own children LOL. You eased many of my concerns.

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  2. Excellent article. Thanks so much for writing it!
    Last year was our first year kidding. I was armed with photocopies of all the wrong positions a kid might present in, and pretty worried. Of seven kids, five presented perfectly and two came rear end first. I gave a tug on those and they slid right out, then I used a baby syringe to clear some goop so they could breathe well.
    One doe, with triplets, grunted all night long as I stayed in the barn with her, before going into obviously heavy labor in the morning and birthing all the kids easily. I now suppose it just took the hours of grunting for the kids to get into position.
    After reading your article, I'm presuming this year's kidding will go about like last year's, with little likelihood of intervention being needed. And if a doe does appear to be having trouble, I'll give her some time before I do anything drastic.

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    • Your first year kidding sounds almost like mine! I had a book out there and had it open to the pages with all of the malpresentations. The first kid was presenting with a nose and a hoof, and my daughter and I were talking about who should go wash our hands to pull the other leg forward — and then PLOP! the kid was born. In the third birth, there was a breech, and as we again started to freak out, the doe pushed out the kid with no help from us.

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    • Thank you!!!!!! I am currently stressing because my first goat birth is imminent! My sweet FF doe is in early labor. I feel so much better after reading your article. I am going to stay out of her way but close by.

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  3. Great article. My does had always delivered fine until a neighbor n I decided to combine our herds. We lost 5 does n 7 kids that year. I felt the does were being overfed n were now confined rather than free to graze. This year my does seem to be doing great since I've moved mine back to field graze. I really appreciate the affirmation that given the proper diet and exercise the goats are able to manage on their own.

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    • I disagree. I had a doe who delivered trips them quads. The last quad cane almost 12 hours later. Maybe I have abnormal goats. I dunno. I had another present with front feet of one and rear feet of another.,,.hadbi waited on either of these does, the kids and does would not have survived. I’m all for letting nature take its course but nit risking my does life.

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      • I’m not sure what you’re disagreeing with, but this post ONLY recommends against routinely intervening in all births. Perhaps you missed this part — “I am NOT saying that we should just ignore our does in labor. Of course, there are times when something doesn’t go quite right, and we need to intervene.”

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      • Our goat had two one died it’s been at least 14 hrs later and she is laying down grunting is that ok she’s drinking water and ate banana

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        • I’m sorry you have not provided enough information for anyone to be able to offer any suggestions. You should not, however, be feeding her a banana. She needs hay and a small amount of grain. We would need a lot more information about what the doe is doing before anyone could offer any suggestions that would be helpful.

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  4. While I do agree that one does need to be patient and let a doe progress, if I had done what was suggested odds are I would have lost kids and possibly the doe.

    We had a doe who was not actively pushing so I did not think much of it and thought of just giving her time. I ended up checking her and found her cervix wide open with a breech kid (butt no hind feet). I delivered that doe kid after some maneuvering. The next kid she was pushing and pushing and nada, checked again and another kid (doe) presented butt first. Got that one delivered and she started pushing again. This time she actually progressed like she was supposed to and the kid (buck) was diving into life so no need to intervene. Live triplets, awesome! I was cleaning them all off and then out shot a fourth (buck). He surely needed no help! 😉

    Those bucks must have been mashing their sisters in an attempt to get them out of the way.

    This doe was normal weight, 3 yr old 3rd freshener with no prior kidding problems. I never would have dreamed that she had quads hiding in there!

    Reply
    • This post ONLY recommends against routinely intervening in all births. Perhaps you missed this part — "I am NOT saying that we should just ignore our does in labor. Of course, there are times when something doesn't go quite right, and we need to intervene."

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    • Our doe just had a baby & I can say with an extra BIG THANK YOU for your info on birthing. During the process, we thought the baby was in trouble & we were just about to assist when I ran across the above short article that was very informative.
      We were just about to assist in pulling the baby out when I came across the above article and I can say without a doubt, that reading that info probably saved both goat & kid.
      Thanks for the help.

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  5. This is our 4th year kidding with only 3 or 4 kids each year, so I can't say we are experienced. We had 1 doe in labor for over an hour, and she seemed to only push hard enough for 1 little foot to emerge. I had no idea what to do, but felt like she was in distress, so on one of her pushes I pulled the foot and out came the kid. He was in the right position and perfectly normal and she was much relieved. This year was our first with a dead kid being delivered, and I have no idea why it happened. It was very early in the morning while we were sleeping, and I am actually happy that we were not there to do anything stupid. Now, a week later, the doe who delivered it is still complaining. We have been milking her, but she does not stop her complaints. So we went and bought a bottle-fed buckling about a week old thinking she would accept him and feed him. Well, either because he doesn't know what to do to feed off her, or because she does not recognize him as hers, now we are both milking her AND bottle-feeding him. Live and learn! Won't do that again! Thanks for a great post.

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  6. This is the same general approach to human birth too…
    I hate to say it, but when you have too many mechanics that never have owned a car trying to tell you what to do…not that it gives me much more insight, but I have had two homebirths myself, and after 5 years of goatservice, I have to say that ifor I can do it they can do too. The only does I ever lost in a kidding instance was due to an underlying health issue, genetics and/or a little nutritional deficiency. I have a new doe this year, a Nigerian (I have only had bigger goats till this point) and, naturally, since I lost that one doe this year(!), and I myself am due with my 4th child (lol homebirth again ;), I have been a little on edge. Thank you for this article and for the reminder that birth is a natural thing… and that I probably should just take a deep breath and go to sleep…

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  7. Help I have a goat that has two bad pregnancy. Twins both times. I have never intervened in a birth but had to help deliver the first one it was presenting ribs first and was dead, second one delivered on its own and was alive. Second pregnancy two stillborns delivered on their own days apart. She is pregnant now and both the other nannys that we believe conceived after her seemed to go into labor and stopped. Any advice would be helpful.

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    • It sounds like your doe has a nutritional deficiency, probably copper, if she’s given birth to dead kids twice. Even if you are providing free choice loose minerals, some goats may still need additional copper. This is a very complicated issue though, and not something we can discuss on here. Feel free to join us on http://nigeriandwarfgoats.ning.com and post a discussion in the forum. Give us plenty of details, such as exactly what happened to make you think the does went into labor and stopped. Also, we need to know what your goats are eating.

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  8. First time doe, saw head-shaped sac 6 inches out after 2 hard contractions. Then went back in & she seemed not to be in labor for over half hour. Then laid down, 2 contractions, got up, pawed, layed down 1 contraction, then up to eat for another hour. Checked her 3 hours later…no sign of anything.

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    • This is definitely not what I had in mind when I said we should be patient. It sounds very odd. If a bag of water comes out, a doe is definitely in labor and should give birth within a couple of hours or less. I hope this had a good outcome.

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        • Without details, I have no idea what’s happening. You can start an entirely new thread and explain everything that’s happening.

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          • I have a doe who is a second time mama. She has started pushing at 1:27 this afternoon. She was pushing out this long strand of blood tinged mucus for about an hour. When she expelled it, it looked like a very small sac. She started licking at it and she stopped. She took a break but was still bleating. She then went back to the constant bleating about every 5 to 10 minutes or so. She went back after a few bleating sessions and proceeded to work on the sack. The sac looked like a blob, it wasn’t until she was done with the rest of the sac that we noticed one line hoove. She did not do anything for a couple hours but then over this passed hour started another blob coming out and this time, doesn teven want a drink in beteeen. I have been calling around and reading all day trying to figure out what to do. I tried to touch her and she moved her but in a corner and started pushing. We don’t have a vet that deals with goats anywhere around and the first time she kidded we missed the birth. Any suggestions would be appreciated. I don’t want to lose my doe.

          • Hi Kate! It’s normal for a doe to want to lick up bits of amniotic fluid or tissue that get passed. They want to clean up everything so that it doesn’t attract predators.

            However, once you see a hoof, you should see steady progress, and the kid should be born within half an hour or so. Sounds like the head might have been turned around over the back or that the kid was simply too big. It’s definitely a situation that needs assistance though. It’s been about 12 hours since you posted, so I hope it all worked out!

  9. Fantastic article! Goat breeders, like physicians should first do no harm. I have been raising goats for 20 years and only intervened on one birth and that was minimal. I just applied tension, with my hands, on a large kid and first time mom. No pulling just tension allowing her to make progress.

    We’ve only had vet intervention once and that was a c-section for kids that were lost before labor even began.

    Otherwise many goats born without problems or help, however I appreciate this article because it reminds me to relax and let nature its course.

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  10. Great article, but I feel that the pygmy breed requires more assistance than most. Their large heads cause them to not want to go into the birth canal, but instead bend down. In the last two years, I have had to pull at least 15 kids by having to pull the head up. Once I get the head up they usually come out with minimal assistance. Also, if I were to allow my goats to kid on their own, many wouldn’t clean them. I can’t even tell you how many kids I have found still in the sac dead and the dam not even concerned about them one bit. Pygmies are a fun breed, but please do your research, they do tend to have more kidding issues. I currently have a herd of about 60 open show quality pygmies.

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    • Thanks for sharing your experience, but I have never advocated does kidding “on their own.” The post specifically says, “I am NOT saying that we should just ignore our does in labor. Of course, there are times when something doesn’t go quite right, and we need to intervene. ”

      I have heard from breeders and vets alike that pygmies do have more problems than other breeds. In fact, I know a vet who quit breeding pygmies because he said he got tired of doing so many c-sections on them. It used to not be that way, but as people bred for the show ring, it brought in some traits that were not so good for birthing — again according to former breeders of 20+ years who quit goats entirely or switched to Nigerians. There are several dog breeds that have seen the same fate.

      As for finding kids dead in the sac, I recommend having a baby monitor as your most important birthing “tool” because you can’t do anything if you don’t know when a doe is giving birth. Even a $15 baby monitor from the discount store is better than nothing. For $50 you can get a hard-wired video monitor from Radio Shack, which is wonderful.

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        • No, there is nothing that every goat needs to keep the kids from dying. Is there anything in particular you are worried about?

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  11. I have a small flock of sheep (between 6 and 10 ewes at any time) and 2 adult dairy does. I’ve only seen 7 births, all of the goats’ (5) and two of the sheep. all of those labours have lasted just a couple of hours, and have been pretty easy- the sheep have birthed silently, the goats have always just given one big cry as baby popped out. And all the goats’ births have happened at 150 days, on the dot.

    So, on Monday, my doe Gigi’s labour began at 1pm on day 155, with mucus coming from her vagina. I took her into the birthing stall and began to wait. Hours went by. Just after 4 hours in, she started pushing. That went on for nearly 3 hours. Had my kit ready, gloves, antiseptic, pulling chains, as she was passed the magic day 150 mark and I was concerned that she might need help.

    Just after 3 hours had passed, she started REALLY pushing, calling out, and working to get that baby out, pushing, then changing her position over and over again. I had in my mind that as soon as I saw a body part, if I was still looking at that same body part 20 minutes later, I’d assist, but this long, LOUD, obviously difficult labour was making me worry. After about a half an hour of that horror, I went back up to the house to google just one more time. I typed in ‘how long should I let my goat push before I intervene?’ and what should pop up but ‘Patience is a Virtue’, the words of encouragement I needed.

    When I went back to the stall, I saw the amniotic sack protrude for the first time, and a few pushes later I was able to catch a glimpse of a nose and a hoof, so I knew baby was in the right position. And thankfully, at the eight hour mark, she managed to get that baby out all on her own. Mama and baby are doing fine.

    So thank you so much for this blog post, it was so useful and helped me make the right decision at a tense time. Is the internet so awesome?

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  12. Thank You for this article! 2015 – it’s now 2017 and it is still helping us!
    I also have overdosed on goat advice forums – so much so – that I look out at my furry little flock, convinced that they are about to croak on me!:)
    I ” thought” I had to pull 3 kids this year – now I’m wondering…
    The last birth was a little doe- feet first and head back!
    Since her feet were 3″ outside the doe – I was trying to hold them while I checked to see why she wasn’t coming out.
    That little bugger would jerk her legs back inside her mom every time!
    While I was trying to figure out how to turn the head forward – mamma gave a cry and a push – and out she popped!

    Sooo – not saying it always ends that well, but there aren’t always black and white answers when it comes to goats.
    All I read about heads turned back were horror stories about kids breaking their necks or tearing the vulva.

    2 hours later mom jumped up on her platform like nothing happened.

    I do have a bit of advice that I learned – if you DO find you need to intervene.

    My first doe this year – had perfect presentation – but was too weak to push ( nutrition and genetics I know now)
    I used nitrile gloves -iodine on hands /arms, lube hands to get gloves on, iodine on gloves, lube on glove, iodine on Does rear- go in slowly. This doe had 2 bucks both ok- but ended up with a uterine infection.
    This last birth, (above) the doe was very energetic and while I was trying to intervene, she would sit up like a dog on one side and push – then she would turned over to the other side and push-and usually sitting on the hand that was inside!
    Every time she changed sides – I had to change the glove that had been touching the hay/ground. I must have gone through the above procedure 8 times! But I made sure that no glove went back inside if it had touched anything but her insides!
    I also flushed her with a 30cc syringe with colloidal silver every hour after that.
    She did not get an infection and didn’t need antibiotics!
    I truly think that if I had not taken the time to put on clean gloves- plus the flushing – she would have gotten infected.

    And after reading this article , I wonder if I needed to intervene at all!

    Sorry to write so much – I know I have gotten a lot out of reading the article and the comments – I hope this helps someone!
    I will definitely be getting the ebook too!!!
    Thanks Deborah!

    Reply
    • I’m glad you found it helpful. Don’t drive yourself too crazy second guessing your actions. Just file it all away in your head as lessons learned. They all add up.

      I’ve never used colloidal silver, but I definitely think that changing gloves often is really important. And I’m a huge fan of large quantities of iodine. Years ago I used herbs, but then I ran out and forgot to order more, and my does did just fine. I think it also depends on how many times you have to go and how far and how long it takes. I’ve never had a doe get an infection if it was just my hand (up to my wrist) inside her (knock on wood).

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        • I recommend you do whatever helps you sleep at night. I worry about antibiotic resistant infections, which do kill goats (and people), so I avoid using them unless they are needed for treating an actual infection. Antibiotics can also mess up the rumen because it kills good bacteria too. If I can keep everything clean, use iodine all over the glove, and don’t go past my wrist, I don’t routinely give antibiotics, but I do watch the doe very carefully for signs of infection. If she went off feed or started acting sluggish and spiked a temp, I’d give her antibiotics. If I had a full-time job off the farm and couldn’t check on her regularly, I might be more likely to use antibiotics. Everyone’s situation is different. I wouldn’t tell someone to not use them — just be aware that you are always making a choice where there are pros and cons. There is no one single “right” answer.

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      • Sitting here waiting for a doe to kid – I came across your article again- and my comment:) I wanted to add – the first doe above ended up having an infection – not because I intervened – but because ( we found out by X-ray) she had another kid left inside (dead).
        It’s been over 3 yrs and she is still going strong – her uterus walled off the kid! Goats are amazing:) thank You for this article – again! Sitting on my hands!

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        • Goats are amazing! A vet professor told me she did a necropsy on a doe that had a kid that had been retained for four years. Cause of death was unrelated to that, but the doe had not been able to get pregnant for the last four years of her life — and when they did that necropsy, they found out why. Her body had done such a good job of walling off the dead kid that she didn’t even get an infection. Of course, some do die when they have a retained kid — usually from infection — but I find it amazing that ANY can survive with a dead kid inside.

          Good luck with your current kidding!

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  13. I had one doe that gave birth to a kid quite easily. I hung around for a while to see if there were any more, even “bounced” her but apparently missed the second kid–which was born a full 3-1/2 hours later. I routinely check to see that they’re eating and drinking well and have passed the afterbirth, and discovered the second kid within minutes of the birth, wet, floppy eared, and being cleaned by mama. Those does can really surprise you!

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  14. As I sit here anxiously awaiting the birth of my 1st kid, I have been browsing articles on how to help with the birthing process. I have,all the suggested materials ready to go. I am so glad i read this because from alot of articles I have read it appears it was inevitable I would have to assist and i now know to be ready to is best but to let nature run its course is first is best. Thank You, prepared but not intruding.

    I

    Reply
    • Congratulations on the upcoming birth! I have a friend who had goats for 14 years before she had to help. Most goats do just fine with a little help cleaning up the kids and making sure that they’re nursing before we leave the barn.

      Reply
  15. I’ve got a doe with blood and urine on her back quarters, she was bearing down last night. It’s almost been 24 hours now with no kid…I’m pretty sure she lost her mucus plug last night. Not sure what to do now. There is no vet in our area.

    Reply
    • I can’t help much without more information. If you don’t know how pregnant she is or was, she could have lost kids at a couple months. This sounds like an early pregnancy miscarriage. A doe in labor full term would be screaming her head off at some point during 24 hours. Does she have a full udder? If not, then she’s not at term. Or if she’s quit pushing and seems fine, this could have been a false pregnancy, which has now ended. There are dozens of possibilities.

      Reply
  16. Excellent article. I am on several goat groups and I sometimes cringe at the amount of intervening I read about. I used to raise Kikos and Spanish goats in Missouri (I knew Russ through the Missouri Farmers Union, nice guy and he often told the story of his near fatal experience with the pig wound and how the antibiotics they had been routinely giving the pigs caused the problem). Admittedly, I chose those breeds because they were reputed to be low maintenance goats and it’s amazing what selective breeding can do. In over ten years and hundreds of kids born I only had to intervene once. A first freshener was walking around for a couple hours with only one foot in sight. I went in but could not get the other leg and the head was turned back. This was the one and only time I called a vet for my goats and it resulted in a c-section which killed the doe, the birth of a small, already dead doe kid and an $80 bill. The vet claimed she was too narrow to deliver but the kid’s head was smaller than his big hand which got in there ok. Not having a monitor and trying to raise my goats as naturally as possible, I trusted good nutrition and genetics to provide easy kiddings and they did. I did lose a few kids over the years but I can probably count them on one hand. A good many were born outside even though they had a fairly warm barn with a deep straw bed (heaters scared me. Every year I read some tragic story about barn fires) Although some herds may not be as hardy as mine (but they should be and could be with proper culling), I have seen dairy show goat herds that were pretty near the same because the owners knew how to breed and culled when needed, not only for easy kidders but good mothering. I hope new goat owners take heed of the information you provide here and good luck to all of them because goats are great!

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  17. Thanks so much for the info. We are waiting for our very first baby goat to be born. So many have given us advice which I always listen to but I still have to go by my gut. I’m so glad I read your article as it gave me a sense that it will be fine. Thank You

    Reply
  18. We are waiting for our doe to kid. Its a first time experience for us. I am SO THANKFUL I found your article. So many articles present that there is so much that can go wrong. And promote always intervening.
    One question, do you always tie off the cord and dip in iodine?
    Thanks.

    Reply
    • I quit doing anything to the umbilical cord after a couple of years. Using string is kind of scary because the does have a desire to clean things up, so they are licking and biting at the cord, which means they might wind up eating a string, which could cause problems. The umbilical cord breaks naturally during about 99% of births. If it doesn’t, I tear it like you’d tear a piece of thread in half (holding half in each hand) several inches from the body. They usually break 3-4 inches from the body naturally. However, our does give birth in kidding pens with fresh straw. If I find a kid out in the middle of a very dirty, poopy area, I dip the cord in iodine, even though it’s probably too late at that point anyway. It makes me feel slightly better. At least I’ve done something — but bacteria has probably already gotten into the cord if it’s going to.

      Reply
  19. Hi we had a surprise last weekend when my husband found 2 dead babies in our goat hut, this morning I checked in on our second goat at 6am and noticed she had hollowed answer had some discharge so I brought he into the kidding pen in our garage and she started pushing and squatting, standing up and laying down repeatedly for 40 minutes, then she layed down and relaxed. So I went to work and my husband texted me at 11am to tell me that the pouch had started to show. So I quickly got home at noon and he said she had been very vocal but now she stoped. She stayed quiet for some time with little beets as she swithed sides. I went out when she made a bigger bleed and she was giving a big push. I tore the sack open because the baby had a deformed jaw with its bottom teeth sticking out. Legs were still tucked into it in the fatal position. I pulled the rest of the baby out after a few minutes

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  20. So the goats we have are sisters and are half Nigerian half pigmy. The doe that I’m dealing with today is more pygmy and the doe that delivered last Sunday (her sister) looks more nigerian. But both had issues….although my husband said the babies looked normal but the one white one had a red (birth mark looking ) spot on the belly….the baby today was disfigured. …the head was shaped more like a chicken and the bottom jaw was pointy with the teeth sticking up, and the fetus was still in a fetal position? ????? Pretty disappointed and very sad! Not sure if I can go through this again!

    Reply
    • Sounds like the does may be deficient in some important nutrients, or they were exposed to toxic chemicals, such as pesticides, during pregnancy. Do they have a loose, mixed mineral available free-choice, such as Sweetlix?

      Reply
  21. Loved reading about your expierences and knowledge of goat birthing.
    This is my first rodeo and your writing has given me some clarity on what to do or not to do. Two of my does are due any time now and I am praying for a good outcome.

    Reply
  22. Our goat gave birth today while I was out in the city. 1st birth for me, I didn’t even know she was pregnant. She is a La Mancha that was given to us so we did not know her history. I came home to a big kid. As far as assisting with birthing goes. Unless there is an obvious issue, let nature take its course.

    Reply
  23. I am very new to this. We bought a doe and was told that they thought her kidding date was 4/25-4/29 but wasn’t really sure when she was breed. She lost her plug last night and today she’s still having a mucus discharge. She tried pushing and has heaving breathing did some grunting , laying down really not doing much. She is eating and drinking. I have been checking on her every once awhile. She has never been handle so I don’t wanna stress her out. But I don’t know when I should be concerned. She has been dripping every now and then. So when should I be concerned

    Reply
    • I really hope the doe is not in labor or that the due date is wrong because it is highly unlikely the kids will survive if born this early. If she is eating and drinking, that’s good. Goats don’t really have a mucus plug. They have mucus, and tons of it. If you saw a little speck of mucus, that doesn’t mean anything. If she has a string of mucus hanging out that’s as thick as your thumb and six inches long, then yes, she’s in labor. When goats are really pushing, they’re usually screaming at the top of their lungs. You have no doubt that something big is happening. Without hearing it, it’s tough to say if heavy breathing and grunting are just because she is so far along in her pregnancy or something related to kidding. Does carrying multiples may breathe heavy and grunt a little towards the end of pregnancy. If she is laying down and pushing, she will be pushing her legs straight out, rather than keeping them tucked under her body, and she may also be stretching her neck up to the sky or over her back, possibly while vocalizing. Does that sound like what’s happening?

      Reply
      • She’s not vocal. The mucus was about the size of a quarter. It wasn’t real long that I saw unless she lost it while I wasn’t around. The breeder said she wasn’t sure of breeding date. She had one buck in with like 5 or 6 does. Earlier she stretch out like for a min but she has been up and down . but she hasn’t been vocal at all and I didn’t see any blood or anything like that. We got her straw and stuff and she made a nest. I kinda keep my distance not to stress her. We just got her 2 days ago. She has an utter and looks like its filling up. She has drops here and there.

        Reply
        • You haven’t said anything that sounds like she is absolutely in labor, but maybe she is. You really have not started goat ownership under the best circumstances. It’s best if you know your goat so that you know what is normal behavior for her and what is not, so that you can recognize a change in behavior when she goes into labor.

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          • I am not new to bovine births, but I certainly am with goats. They are quite different! I recently had one very positive experience where there was absolutely no intervening and one not so positive. The not so positive had many factors related to it and sometimes it just happens. The doe had her kids on her own just fine, I just didn’t get out there in time to help her with cleaning them off and getting them started, and they got too cold and died. She’s a first-timer and didn’t quite seem to know what just happened to her and wasn’t interested in cleaning them or anything at all.

            But, Chris’s story sounds like my goat that is actually (finally) kidding right this minute. I bought her and her friend back in December and wasn’t told they were bred or even exposed at all. However, I figured it out quick when they both started getting fatter and bagging up. I thought for sure she was going to start kidding over Easter because she had a string of whitish mucus hanging out and she was always getting up and down. She sure fooled me! The last couple days, she has been laying down more often and just looked miserable. She also had been stretching her head back like she was trying to scratch her back with invisible horns. Yesterday around noon, she had a little more mucus hanging out, but this time there was a tinge of blood in the mix and I figured she HAD to be close this time. I got up around 3:30 this morning to check on her and she had the thick, bloody string of “stuff” hanging out and was just slightly grunting. I let her be for an hour and checked again. She was grunting and pushing a bit harder, but no noticeable progress. I let her be, came in the house, and of course had to google how long to let a goat push before intervening. The first article made me nervous as it stated they should have them in 30 minutes after pushing starts. This is the second article I came to and it is excellent! Even the comments with other personal stories are so helpful; everyone’s operation is different, just like every goat is different. I just checked on her about 45 minutes ago and she’s got a foot sticking out! I’m going to check on her again in a bit and see how she’s doing. I would like to ask though, how long is too long to keep giving her time to do it on her own?

          • Hi Sam! Goats give birth much faster than cows do, so I hope you already went out there. Once you see a hoof, you should see progress with each push or at least every two or three pushes. If you don’t, then something isn’t quite right. It is really hard to say how long they should be in labor, because when people are new, they don’t recognize labor. Sometimes people think a doe is in labor and she doesn’t kid for days. Sometimes they think a goat is pushing if she is just lifting her chin and pushing her legs out. If a doe is screaming her head off and pushing her legs out in front of her while lying down, you will usually see something within half an hour, although some does will hold their breath during the final pushing, but you can hear a low, deep, soft noise coming from deep in their throat. It’s very hard to describe, which is why it’s tough for anyone to give online advice.

  24. I have a half pigmy half ND breed to a pigmy so about 12 days ago I thought she was getting ready to give birth she separated herself from the herd she stopped eating, so I moved her to her own pen and started watching her close she began to get very miserable there was many times I felt like she was pushing she would stretch her back paw, breathing very heavy after 5 days she had no progress still not eating hardly anything so I took her to the vet he did a ultra sound and he said she must not of been in labor and the babies are healthy and she is full term she should have them any day! I brought her home the next day she had Diarrhea I kinda thought that meant she was getting close after 2 days still nothing her diarrhea cleared up! She seams that she is not uncomfortable anymore and her belly is much smaller and it looks like she has less milk! It has been approximately 12 days now and I’m feeling like her babies died cause I can’t feel them move anymore and she has the diarrhea again! So my question is is it possible if her babies died she would absorbed them and not ever deliver? This is a really weird situation all the others that were breed the same time as her have delivered their babies no problems!

    Reply
    • This sounds like a false pregnancy, but you said the vet did an ultrasound, which is the only way to be able to tell the difference between a false pregnancy and a real pregnancy. A goat cannot absorb full-term babies. If she was NOT really pregnant and a false pregnancy ended, her belly would be smaller. In a false pregnancy the uterus fills up with fluid and the udder fills with milk because the body thinks the goat is pregnant. If this was a real pregnancy, and the kids died, she would most likely become septic and get very sick and die unless the kids were delivered by c-section.

      Diarrhea has nothing to do with pregnancy. It’s a sign of some type of infection in her digestive tract. It could be bacterial, viral, or parasites — or maybe she ate something that disagreed with her. Any chance she got into grain and overate? Or maybe you have some type of plant in the pasture that is causing the sporadic diarrhea?

      Reply
      • Thanks you for you help! Yes I did take her to the vet 8 days ago and he confirmed she was pregnant and full term! I have had many different feeling I don’t know what is going on with her I think that possibly she was having a belly ache or collic that caused her to not want to eat and have labor type signs! She acts like she fees better than last week so I’m hoping that she is going to deliver and everything will be fine its just been so many days of close watching her I kinda give up hope and wondered if it’s possible she might not go into labor! I will keep you posted thank you very much.

        Reply
        • When goats get closer to birth, their stomach may drop, which could look “smaller” if you’re not expecting it. They normally carry the kids really high up, so that they are pretty flat across their spine and belly, but when they get closer to birth, the kids drop, and they may even look hollow behind their ribs because the kids have fallen down into the lower part of the belly to get into position. You might find this post helpful — https://thriftyhomesteader.com/is-my-goat-pregnan/

          Reply
  25. This article was so helpful to Mr, a first time goat owner. My little doe is showing signs of being in labor: pawing, restless, some mucus and hollowing of her sides. I, too, have read all the intervention horror stories, wondering if I could do what was necessary. Your article has renewed my faith in God’s ability to get it done without my help. So, I’m watching & waiting–and trying to sleep (4 am on a rainy morning . Lol).

    Reply
  26. What about goats that have been abusive to there kids ? Last season my doe gave birth to triplets . She however did not have a lot of milk in the bag and when we found she had delivered the triplets [middle of the night and on her own] and we had arrived she was aggressively attacking her baby , using her horns to throw the kid every time it got close to her . We were scared she was going to kill the little doe so we pulled her away and she became our so far first and only bottle baby. This year that doe is pregnate again and looks larger then befor …. do you know if this behavior could or will happen again ? The other two kids[bucks] were fine with her she mothers them and protected them she just didnt seem to want her little girl.She due any day and im so nervous this will happen again.

    Reply
    • There is no way to know if this will happen again, but if it does, you need to decide if you want to keep her and keep a very close watch to be sure you are always there when she kids, or send her to the freezer. If you don’t already have a baby monitor (cheap $15 monitor from a discount store), I’d suggest you get one so that you’ll know when she’s kidding.

      Reply
      • Thank you !!! Ill let you know how it all turns out in the end =] im out with them several times a day but with Christmas its quite difficult.

        Reply
  27. Had a tail presentation last year. Lost that one when it took me too long to get legs, but mom and two siblings survived. This has been another bad season – new buck this year. One first fresher doe had either a premie or aborted baby totally sacked separately first, then a normal but small doeling and a third larger very deformed baby that breathed for maybe two minutes before passing. One week later baby girl still can’t get up on her own, and poor to no sucking. I’ve never seen a kid lay there just galloping with its legs like she does. Anyway, my big concern is my recumbent doe, treated two weeks ago for Meningeal worms. Bred July 27 for two weeks, so due any day. Her soft tissue is totally flaccid and two nights ago I stayed up with her watching contractions and baby movement. Mom’s vulva is very swollen, and I finally went in to check the cervix and am not sure if the soft moist squishy I felt is her sack waiting to rupture or what. I couldn’t find the cervix, so I hope that’s what is going on. My vet said we won’t know if she can deliver on her own in her condition or not. She defecates and urinates and can crawl a bit when she sees her grain. We have a sling, but fear the pressure would be a problem for babies and mom, so we are waiting to use it for nursing. Thanks for your articles!

    Reply
    • I’m sorry for all the losses and challenges. Whenever you have a doe that has kids that don’t make it, it’s usually a nutritional deficiency, such as copper or selenium. The fact that the one kid is having trouble walking and sucking sounds like at least selenium or vitamin E is a problem. Hopefully the vet will give you BoSe for her.
      https://thriftyhomesteader.com/goats-selenium/
      If that doesn’t help, she may need additional vitamin E.
      https://thriftyhomesteader.com/vitamin-e-goats/
      The kid that was born dead was conceived at the same time as the others but died a couple of weeks ago or maybe even longer, depending upon how small it was. All kids are in their own sac unless they’re identical twins that came from one egg.

      I agree with your vet that there is no way of knowing if the doe with m-worm will be able to kid. However, m-worm tends to affect muscles that are directly related to the spinal column that was damaged by the worm, such as legs and neck, which is why you see things like only one end is lame or the goat holds its head crooked — because the nerves have been damaged that lead to those various parts of the body. I wouldn’t think that it would affect her uterus, but there are not many goats with m-worm who’ve given birth, so who knows how it will play out. If she goes into labor, I’d expect her to act like any other goat in labor. So, try not to spend too much time staring at her, although I’m sure that’s hard in this situation.

      Reply
  28. Thank you for this article! I bought 3 pregnant does with sketchy background information, I know, not the best situation, but circumstances for the previous owner mandated it as such. I’ve done tons of googling but this is the best advice I’ve had so far! The does are active and healthy, so I don’t anticipate any problems, but I find myself watching them all the time, just to start to get a feel for what’s typical for them. This acticle really pinpointed all my “what-ifs”! Thanks again!

    Reply
  29. A profound thanks. My doe, Polly, started with a heavy stream of mucus on Friday. By late Saturday, no pushing but she was also not distressed. I, however, decided to stress. I finally called out CU Vet school (2 hours away) for advice. The vet suggested getting her up there right away for a C-section. I wighted it against your “Patience and 3 days” and decided on patience; it felt good.
    Sunday morning early she delivered naturally, a 12 pound boy. It was born dead and Polly is alive and healthy. I vote for MOM! I suspect that the kid was dead in-utero possibly from the other goats bashing her. She is the scape goat.
    That is a lesson, possibly separate her out in the last week.
    My grateful thanks!
    Valerie

    Reply
    • I’m glad Polly is doing well, but I don’t understand your reference to “patience and 3 days.” That would be a very long time to wait for a doe in hard labor, but it doesn’t sound like Polly was, based upon what you said. However it’s always a challenge to know exactly what’s happening when we share things like this online.

      Reply
  30. Hi, I have also been reassured by your article. We bought a bred Nanny and were told she was due end of Dec. Or first of Jan. Well we still have no babies. She seems to have dropped a few weeks ago. Has had a bag for a few weeks also. Pretty sure they were just off on dates. She is eating and not in any distress. I am concerned because it is so cold right now. She has straw and shelter. We have a heat lamp also. Have been leaving it on. So how cold is to cold ? I’m worried she will have babies when we aren’t home and they won’t be under the heat lamp. I’ve lost a lot of sleep .

    Reply
    • It is very common for people to not know when a goat is going to kid, which is one reason vets don’t want to induce does. It’s way too easy to wind up with premature kids.

      I do share your concern about her giving birth when you are not around. The kids could easily die from hypothermia if they are not dried off quickly enough. You can buy a cheap baby monitor at the store and use that. If you have a metal barn, you will need to put the transmitter near a door or window for it to work.

      Watch her udder. You will often see a big change in the 24 hours before they kid. You’ll look at her udder and go “Wow!” because the change is so obvious. If that happens, I don’t leave the farm. Without having a due date, the udder is probably your best indicator of when she’s getting close.

      Here is more info on kidding in winter —
      https://thriftyhomesteader.com/kidding-in-winter/

      Reply
  31. Bunny had 2 kids last march with no problems. It’s a week before she was supposed to deliver and while she had drained some this morning neither her ligaments at her pelvis seemed to have opened up. One hoof toes pointed sideways has been showing for ?2-3 hours and her contractions are weak and widely spaced. My herd has always delivered without problems and any intervention but I do feel that not only have I lost the kid but now I may lose her. And yes I did go in and felt that the kid’s head was wedged but could move nothing because her birth canal was so contracted.
    Glad I found you though. Thank you.

    Reply
    • If you were unable to get the kid out, that’s a time to call the vet. I hope everything turned out okay. You’ve definitely got time to save the doe, as it generally takes a couple of days for them to become septic if a kid dies and can’t be delivered, so there’s time to do a c-section. I personally have to drive two hours to get good veterinary assistance for my goats, so it’s not always easy to find, but a good vet is worth the drive.

      Reply
      • Thank you so much for being there for all of us who love our goats.
        Bunny delivered a 2nd beautiful baby, but it was lifeless and it too was covered with a chocolate mud like mucus that smelled unlike any birth material I’ve ever experienced.
        She was standing over it not even attempting to clean it as if she knew. Her ligaments only now are expanded the way all of my other does would be close to the time of their delivery. She also never ” momma talked ” during her pre-delivery. She’s eating responding to me as usual.
        Shaking my head over what caused this despite having 4season dining of of pasture, recently select cut old meadows turned woodland, thorvine kelp, organic carrots, garlic, grains & herbs. If needed, I use the herbs, vitamins and homeopathy I’ve learned but only now are aware of the herbs and homeopathy remedies to aid with contractions. Didn’t have on hand the usual raspberry leaves I would throw into their grain mix prior to birthing. WV ‘s high rainfall may also have affected the hay I’ve had to purchase.
        So many unknowns so having personal feesback is such a blessing.

        Reply
        • Mud-like stinky mucus sounds like decomposition. In other words, the kid(s) died awhile ago and was already starting to decompose. Since you said they were also a week early, I’m wondering if they were especially small? Was the entire placenta dark red and reddish-purple, or were some of the cotyledons (prune-like discs) a grayish color? That would indicate that the placenta stopped working awhile ago, which would cause the kids to die. If so, a nutritional deficiency is a possibility. Dead kids are almost always a birthing challenge because they can’t do anything to get themselves into the correct diving position for birth, so you get all sorts of weird challenges.

          Reply
  32. We have a first time ND doe who started giving birth around 5pm, it is now 1am. She has a sac of fluid about the size of a base ball out since about 7pm, that is 6 hours. She seems to be resting comfortably for the time being, but should we be concerned?
    She is definitely full term. And we are snowed in, couldn’t get to a vet if I had to. Any advice?

    Reply
    • Sorry I did not see this sooner. I hope everything turned out okay. If the doe had been pushing enough to push out something the size of a baseball and then quit, it is likely because there is a kid in a position that’s not ideal for birthing … such as ribs first … so it is not putting any pressure on her to continue pushing. A butt or a nose is small enough to get into the birth canal, which causes pressure, which causes the doe to push. A sideways position may leave the kid so high in the uterus that it’s not creating any pressure for her to push. In this situation, it’s a good idea to call a vet or an experienced goat breeder who can talk you through how to check the kid’s position and fix it, if necessary. Vets are usually happy to talk you through this on the phone.

      Reply
  33. Will you ever bring your book out in paperback? I loved reading this page and I agree with so much of it! I just don’t do the kindle or online books.

    Reply
  34. I have enjoyed and found this page to be very informing .I have a doe that had twins a week ago but 5 days later she stopped eating or drinking and her tits have turned purple but what I think is I was giving her dried persimmone with her feed and it didn’t agree with her I called the vet and he told me to give her imodium ad and Pedialyte she seems to be getting better but I’m concerned about her kids will her milk affect them or do I need to give them pedialyte

    Reply
  35. Excellent article. Nature does a good job most of the time. No need to introduce more bacteria/microorganisms to your doe’s uterus. If you absolutely have to go in, wash up and glove up! Don’t touch anything but your does’ vagina with your gloves on.

    Thanks for one of the most sensible articles I have read.

    Reply
  36. In the above article you showed a picture of a head only presentation. What is the right thing to do in a situation like that?

    Reply
    • Wait to see if the doe can push it out. If her pelvis is big enough and the kid is small enough, she can. If she’s pushed several times with no progress, see if you can find a front leg under the chin. Sometimes it’s right there, and if you pull it out and put gentle traction on it, she can push it out. If you can’t easily find a leg by just sweeping your finger under the kid’s chin or throat or sometimes over the back of the neck, then you may have to put your hand in to find it and pull it out, but that’s pretty rare.

      Reply
  37. Hi Thrifty! I enjoyed this article. I have usually been on the fence about intervention. I have done it twice now, reaching in. One time totally unnecessarily after 2 kids were already born…Well, my doe just kidded again and after the first one was born I “bumped” her and definitely felt a knobby thing. My doe was up and snacking here and there. Then laying down some, but hardly any pushing or grunting as for the first kid and as in previous kiddings (she was so dramatic in her first kidding). I waited, one, maybe two hours. Sack-like fluid gushed out, the gloopy stuff and it wasn’t until probably 40 minutes that I came back in the stall and was convinced there was a second kid. I put my hand in, and the top of the head was presenting, front legs turned backward, under it’s belly. I corrected it very quickly and pulled it out in sync with her contractions. It was not alive. No attempt to breath. Cloudy eyes. Mouth slightly ajar. But otherwise perfectly normal. So, where was my error? Should I have let her birth it without help (do you figure it was dead regardless of intervention), or had I saved it if I pulled it out sooner? I shared this story in a goat group and a few people claimed to intervene regularly, even right away or 10 minutes after the first kid is born. That was the general consensus actually, and perhaps no-one suggested a more passive approach. Another experienced lamber that I know personally says not to wait longer than 30/40 minutes after the first kid is born. So I’m all confused what to do from now on. But I think I’ll just stay on the fence and try to pay close attention and follow instinct + the available facts. I present at every kidding so far….do you happen to know if going through the pressure in the canal helps to push fluid out of the lungs as with human babies?…Also, how would one resuscitate a kid and when would it be a bad idea to try? If you have a post about this, you can just put me in that direction. Thanks!

    Reply
    • I am not surprised by the opinions you have received so far, but since those people never wait, then they have no experience in this realm. Kids pop out once they are in the right position. If they are not in the right position, and they are alive, they work to get themselves into the right position. This may take a few minutes or longer. I have a video series on Facebook where there was almost an hour between kid #1 and 2. Then #3 quickly followed. If you go to videos on the Thrifty Homesteader Facebook page, and go to playlists (click more), you will find the series of live videos of Florence’s birth. Here is the first one of her in early labor — facebook.com/ThriftyHomesteader/videos/1115458045250475/

      Have you ever noticed that once kids are born they are trying to crawl into every corner or tight little space like between your legs or between the water bucket and the wall? It’s instinct that gets them born. If this were not true, then kids would come out in a variety of weird positions rather than nose first most of the time.

      If they are butt first it is still easy for the uterus to push them out, although it will take more time because the butt is bigger than the nose and head. If they are in some other position, it is going to be more challenging for the uterus to push them out. If the kid is already dead, then the uterus is just trying to push out a blob. If you get lucky, maybe it’ll wind up with one end towards the cervix, but that is when you get things like ribs first or neck first, which are the worst. In 650 births I’ve only had one ribs first and the kid had been dead so long that the leg started to tear when I was pulling it.

      So, how do you know if intervening would have saved a kid? Cloudy eyes means it has been dead awhile, so there was nothing you could have done to save it. If you can pull hair off the kid’s body, it has been dead a few days already. If you can tear the skin, then it has been dead probably closer to a week. Perfectly healthy kids don’t just die because their sibling was born ten minutes earlier. An old experienced breeder once told me that as long as the kid is inside, it’s safe because it is attached to the umbilical cord and getting everything it needs through the placenta.

      It is also a mistake to think that if a kid dies within seconds of birth that you could have saved it. It could have something wrong internally that means it can’t make that transition to the real world, such as the lungs are not developed or are malformed. Those internal issues can cause kids to die at a variety of times. We once had a kid die at two months because the vet said its digestive system was not able to make the transition to being a ruminant.

      As far as resuscitation goes, everyone thinks that the only two options are a kid that is dead or alive. Kids don’t just die. Their body starts to shut down system by system, which means that you could wind up with a kid that is mentally deficient or blind. I had a conversation with a vet about this, and he said bluntly that sometimes it’s better if we don’t try too hard. And we also had an experience with it. Years ago my daughter looked in the pasture and saw a doe with a kid hanging out, head still inside. She jumped the fence and pulled the kid out. She thought it was dead, but she rubbed it briskly with the head hanging down so mucus could drain, and the kid started to cough and sneeze. Unfortunately we realized within a few days that the kid was blind.

      Ultimately I think that what people do during a birth has more to do with their own personal motivation and philosophy than anything else. If you think you can get a healthy kid out of every birth, you are giving yourself way too much credit and ignoring the reality that not every kid has all of the dots perfectly connected. As I said in the original post, my primary loyalty is to the doe. Losing a kid is nothing compared to how devastated I was when I lost a doe, and thankfully I have only lost one.

      Reply
  38. My daughter has had goatsbfor 3 or 4 yrs (this is the third year kidding). Her original doe had problems kidding. A really long labor, my daughter had to turn the kids. Two were dead born dead. 1 is still alive. This morning the doe was found dead. Ever since she birthed this time she was not right. My daughter (17 yrs old) went to bed last niht crying because she figured her doe would be dead by morning.
    Poor girl.

    Reply
    • So sorry to hear this. You never know if your 5% of problems will come after years of having goats or your first year. It really stinks when it happens right away. Hopefully her luck improves.

      Reply
  39. Thanks for this great advice! I completely agree with you. My first doe was quite neglected in her former home and was only 40 lbs when she came (pregnant) . I was really worried and spent hours researching. I gave her rosehip essential oil, black cumin and a lot of other stuff to try and help. Then one day, in the middle of shopping I get a call from home telling me “your goats giving birth or something” You can imagine my shock! (The owner said she was 3months along…and I had her for 2 weeks!).Anyways, I went home to a skipping healthy kid and happy mom. In most cases, nature takes its course with no help!

    Reply
  40. We had a horrible first ever kidding experience, for us and the doe, with a 13 year old doe who came to us unknowingly bred. (We got her as a companion along with her daughter who was bred.) I had no idea what to expect in a normal birth at all, other than what I could read or see on YouTube, but 30 minutes pushing with nothing but long front legs sticking out and no nose was glaringly obvious that something was wrong. That baby had his head turned sideways. I did my best to try to reposition the baby, but even the vet couldn’t do it and that doe ended up with a c-section and a stillborn buckling. Maybe if I had any idea what normal looked like, I could have at least got her to the vet in time; I will never know. What are the odds that things would go so wrong on my first time, really?!

    My second doe delivered twins with no problem and no assistance from me other than helping clean them up a little right after and making sure the airways were clear. We stayed back and watched from a distance and gave them their space otherwise.

    I think the main takeaway I get from your article is that things should go fine and you want to consider how you balance your management practices and genetics to encourage that they should birth well on their own. It is not harsh or uncaring to let nature do its thing, while keeping an eye on the situation. My first doe’s troubles began with the fact that she should have been retired in the first place. I’d worry more that getting too involved would be much like trying to help a butterfly from its cocoon. I know all I wanted was peace and quiet to focus and relax when I had my own children. ;P

    Reply
  41. Hello,
    I have written to you for advice before regarding my doe whom was struggling with ketosis and weight issues. She has since been doing better but I now have an issue with my senior doe. It wasn’t up until a few days ago that we were unsure if she was pregnant. Monday afternoon she was presenting with what looked like early stage labor. Each time she climbed on the fence she leaked urine and had otherwise seemingly healthy mucus discharge( possible loss of plug). Her ligaments remained intact and she has not presented with any sort or bagging up. Yesterday her discharge turned slightly tinged red with no further changes in ligaments or behaviour. I have been closely monitoring her day and night( thank goodness for the video camera).
    My concerns are: we cannot pinpoint the exact due date as I used the nom preferred method of leaving her with my buck as he would not cover her with my presence. I was so convinced she wasn’t pregnant ( we had her blood tested earlier in the season which was negative) that I wormed her two weeks ago with a wormer that has no reported studies on pregnant goats. She was showing signs of anemia on her famacha score so I wanted to rid the parasites before turning her out on pasture. She now has a bright watermelon famacha score with the possible consequence of undesired mucus discharge.
    I haven’t had the greatest experiences with my local livestock stock veterinarian so I am hesitant to have them out. I worry that they may try to induce her when nature needs to run its course.
    I am fully aware of signs of labor and she hasn’t presented any other than the discharge. My questions for you are, should I be concerned about the color of discharge? Is it possible that she is aborting due to being wormed? Do they lose their ligaments is such a situation? Should I take further steps of human intervention or wait and see what her body decides to do? I fear that my human intervention has gotten her to this point and the last thing I want to do is cause her more harm:/ I haven’t witnessed it myself but is it normal for her to present such discharge days/ weeks prior to kidding? I feel great guilt for not having been more cautious with my worming protocol and am concerned what be the result of my actions.
    I am hoping you can offer words of wisdom and advice so I can better determine veterinary intervention.
    Thank you!!!
    Jaime

    Reply
    • This is really challenging. All of the dewormers in the US are considered safe during pregnancy except Valbazen and Levamisole. The only one with unknown safety would be if you used the horse dewormer Quest-Plus, which has praziquantel in it. If you used Valbazen or Levamisole, it could cause miscarriages or birth defects, depending upon the timing. If you were not sure about her being pregnant, there is the possibility of a false pregnancy, which ends in a cloudburst. More info on false pregnancies is here — https://thriftyhomesteader.com/false-pregnancy-in-goats/.

      If she is fairly early in pregnancy, a miscarriage could be what you’ve already seen. Or she might be fine. I had a doe with a little bloody mucus discharge when she was about two months pregnant, and I kept expecting to see her come into heat again, but she gave birth three months later, so obviously whatever happened with the discharge did not indicate an end to the pregnancy. My general rule for all goats is that as long as she is eating, drinking, walking around, chewing her cud, I try to not worry. Getting lethargic and going off feed are usually the first two signs that something is amiss.

      Since you have no due date, I can’t imagine a vet would induce. Most are very reluctant to do that even when someone swears they have a due date because plenty of humans have been wrong on due dates.

      Reply
      • She would be fairly late in pregnancy ( the latest date she could kid would be end of June). Is there a way I can send you pictures? I probably am being overly concerned but I would find great relief if someone else saw what I am seeing.

        Reply
        • I just sent a message to the Gmail address that you used to register with on here. If you don’t receive it, send me a message through the “Contact” form on here, and I’ll respond, and then you can send the photo that way.

          Reply
  42. This was our first birthing season. We have 4 mamas. We had a total of 9 kids. We lost 4. We are so dismayed and wondering if we did something wrong..they are healthy feed grain, hay, and graze on grass. We feed pound of grain, as they have some pasture but not a lot, burmuda hay, and have a goat minereal lick. Just starting to think we have done something or didnt do something to cause the losses. So beginning to think we,are not cut out to do goats. We are cattle farmers and havent had such problems. Could this be because first time mamas?. Any thoughts? Very distraught and scared to continue on..

    Reply
    • If you were not there when they kidded, it is possible that the sac didn’t break during the birth, and the kids suffocated. Goats are not as good as sheep and cattle about jumping up, spinning around, and starting to clean the babies the second they are born. And seconds do count if the sac didn’t break. The umbilical cord breaks almost every time. It’s been years since I had a cord that didn’t break, but once it’s broken they need to be able to breathe. First time mamas especially are not good about cleaning off the kids because they have no idea what is happening when they’re in labor. If you’re there to clean off the kid’s nose so it can breathe and then stick the kid in front of the doe’s nose, she usually starts licking right away. She just has no idea that what just happened resulted in a baby that needs her care, if she’s never had a kid before. My birthing class opens again in the fall. If you want to get on the waiting list, page up and you’ll see the sign up so you’ll get notified when it’s open again.

      Reply
  43. I have a 6 yr. doe, first kidding, single buckling, buckling is nursing well, the first day the doe ate her grain and a little hay. This is the second day and she doesn’t seem to be interested in eating or drinking, I have been able to get to her to take a small drink but still not eating. She is leaking a small amount of blood from her vaginal area. My main concern is her not eating. Am I being over precautious. Should I just give her time and let nature do her thing?

    Reply
    • Discharge for about two weeks is normal. However, going off feed is always bad, regardless of whether or not a doe has recently given birth. Does the discharge smell like something rotten? Does she have a fever? If the answer to either of those is yes, definitely call the vet. Even if the answer is no, I’d probably still call the vet if she’s refusing food.

      Reply
  44. ( I needed to vent, nothing urgent here) Hi, I’m having all sorts of qualms over here. We’ve raised goats for 9 years (Nubian/Boer & this past year Nigerian/Saanan.) A friend & neighbor has a herd of Pygmy/Nigerians. I’ve never done anything for my goats for birth, except moral support & raisins & molasses after kidding.
    The neighbors have been calling me to come over after the golden google 30 min. window has passed w/ their last 2 kiddings & their goats seem to need help. They are first time fresheners & just seem to have a harder time stretching. I didn’t do anything to the first except lube the birth canal w/ K-Y & gently stretch over the head w/ contractions. Healthy twins. The one today was out in the main pen w/ the rest of the goats instead of their kidding stall, 3 bucks included.
    The wife was home w/ her new baby & reported that the oldest billy had been laying on the laboring end of the laboring goat. She was unable to get her out of the pen. Hooves had been out for 30min + w/ a cold nose & very red tongue, no water sack. I watched for a little bit, but I saw no contractions. I tried the stretching again & she pushed until the head was out at which point I backed off. But after 5 min. & still no contractions I tried gentle traction.
    This got her interested in pushing again. I think there was a flicker of life in the kid; the umbilical cord was still attached & still blue but the hooves were cold. I rubbed her w/ the towel & the mama licked her a little bit but promptly drank a gal. of water & fell asleep. By this time the baby’s nose had turned purple & blue was creeping up the tongue so I figured it was a wash.
    But one of the bucks jumped on her & woke/ got her up & one of her legs wasn’t working properly. Granted, the goat wasn’t walking before I got there & I don’t know if he, or I or the birth itself caused it. I’m horrified to think I might have injured their goat & am kind of down in general as we’ve never lost one in a kidding before. It’s got me re-thinking Nigerians, anyways.

    Reply
    • There are a number of reasons why a goat may have trouble walking or why her labor could stop. I would definitely suggest they give the goats a place to give birth without bucks. Bucks need to be kept separate from does unless you want them to breed today. Him laying on her could have caused problems.

      Goats don’t really have any problems with stretching during birth. The problem could be that the pelvis was too small, especially if these were first fresheners, so it was a very tight fit. Does should not be bred until they are 2/3 of their adult size, so I don’t breed my Nigerians until they weigh 40 pounds. If a doe is in labor for a really long time, her labor may just stop, and it does sound like this doe was exhausted, so you probably should have been called much sooner. That usually happens after hours of pushing, so these people may not have known how long the doe was actually pushing. It’s really hard to know what happened in this situation, but I doubt you did anything to hurt the goat. It sounds like you probably made the best of a very bad situation, which would have ended much worse if you hadn’t been there. Although you said you’ve never lost a goat, so does that mean this doe died?

      This is absolutely NOT normal for Nigerians. Maybe the does were bred when they were too small. Maybe the people were not as attentive as they should have been. Who knows? But Nigerians tend to be easy kidders.

      Reply
  45. I only had to assist two times when the kids were breech over hundreds of births. One kid was breech and the sack broke, luckily i was there and gently pulled down and out. Had to aspirate the little guy but he is a healthy buckling. This is good advice, let nature take its course.

    Reply
  46. Have you ever had a doe have 1 mega baby. Not a first timer. She had a single kid last winter unassisted. Bred her to the same buck.
    Today, we had to have the vet out. She was shivering, head hanging down, not standing up at all. Vet said baby was dead inside. She was dilated with bloody discharge; he had to separate the baby to remove it. It weighed 19 lbs. Her first baby weighed 10.5 lbs.
    Nothing changed with our feeding program, vitamins, vaccinations.
    Just a phenomenon?

    Reply
    • Wow!!! I don’t know if there is a world’s record for biggest kid, but I have never heard of a kid that was 19 pounds! That’s incredible! Since she is a second freshener and only had a single, I might re-evaluate your mineral program, especially if you have other goats having singles. If you want to share your feeding and mineral program, I’d be happy to take a look at it.

      Reply
  47. I think your blog is the best I’ve read, and I’ve literally been down the rabbit hole for months now, i would estimate a bajillion hours approximately. (I joke, but seriously I’ve read so many!)

    I’m a military wife living in Italy. We live in a beautiful house and our landlady and daughter live on the same estate, so we see each other often. Last summer she decided to get a goat! We have a lot of space here and one huge field that was perfect. She built a little goat house and goat a goat. I’m not sure what breed but she’s kinda tall with quite big horns and pretty skittish. After a few weeks, she would run up and down the field with me and let me touch her face and neck a little. She seemed super sad (she was alone 99% of the time) so I mentioned to the landlady that goats (from my beginners research) are herd animals and lonely if they live alone. So, The next weekend we got two pygmys! A buck and a doe, very young and sweet! The buck was a bit of a nuisance at first, often attacking me and chasing me, but after a few weeks he calmed down. We have a lovely relationship now and I adore him.

    So we realized in October that the little doe was pregnant. She was pretty round already! Fast forward to November and I was confident she was due at any moment! We went to the UK for a week and I just felt sure we would come back to a baby! Nope, she just kept growing. She looks like a balloon!

    The first week of december our landlady rescued a donkey. He’s a fixed male, but sooooooooooooo aggressive to humans. We can’t go in the field anymore as he literally rears up, kicks and bites. The poor goats are always on thin ice because he can turn at any moment. Because of this, I have been increasingly anxious about the pregnant mumma. They have a little area which the donkey can’t get to, and the pygmys are SO bonded, they sleep curled up together in a little pallet den I built, and hes so sweet to her.

    This month is the first time we have supplemented their pasture grazing with hay. They love it, and we give them hay several times a day, and hot water which they love. The pregnant mumma drinks plenty, often dunking her face in the bucket when I come out and sucking down a huge amount before coming up for air.

    Fast forward to this week. Her udders are HUGE. Like a balloon between her legs. Not shiny and tight yet but definitely filling up. Today I came outside at 4pm to find the donkey and other goats in the field, and the preggo mumma in her den, alone, pushing her head against the wall. She was also being ultra snuggly with me, resting her face against mine and allowing me to rub and pet her constantly which she usually doesn’t tolerate. Almost asking me for scratches which again, is rare. At this point we decided she should probably be away from the buck and other Doe, and definitely away from the donkey! So we took her to the make shift kidding pen which is under an open barn roof to protect from the rain. She is absolutely beside herself, she called out to her husband for hours. I sat with her until 8pm thinking she was due any moment but to be clear, besides my endless google and pinterest and YouTube and blog research, I also have absolutely no idea what I’m doing! I’ve been checking her every 60 mins / it’s soooo cold out tonight, around 0 celcius, but she seems warm enough. She has lots of hay as bedding and lots of food, and I’m replacing her water with warm when it gets cold every few hours. It seems like she’s absolutely not in Labour now – her vagina is sooooooo puffy, and there is a little bit of discharge but that’s been weeks now honestly. She is usually asleep by now curled up with her mate, but she’s wide awake.

    I guess what I’m asking is – her being away from her mate, is the best thing for her, right? There’s no way we can have her in view of the others so sadly there’s a building between them, so she really is completely isolated. I’ve been checking on her through the night for 3 weeks now (my anxiety I suppose! So scared she would have the baby and the others would kill them or they would freeze or drown as there is a river next to their pen!) but now she’s in the kidding pen, she’s literally so safe! I just feel bad separating her especially as I have zero clue if the babies will come soon! The other question I have, is regarding supplements and minerals. Everything I have read says that goats need copper and minerals and maybe a salt something, but despite mentioning it to the landlady several times (they are her goats, not mine) its kinda fallen flat. The person she got the goats from came over recently and said because they are in a pasture they don’t need anything else, they have all they need from the land. Honestly it was months of me begging before we got the Hay, so I don’t think they are open to the minerals etc. however! I would love to just order what they need regardless, I can get things from amazon (USA) here which might be easier given the Italian language barrier, but any advice you could offer would be so appreciated.

    I’m sorry for the essay. You genuinely seem like the most knowledgeable and approachable goat owner i have come across. If I’m asking too much, please just let me know! I added all the info I could because I see you often ask for more info in the comments.

    Oh! Lastly. They have literally never had any type of medical or herbal de worming or parasite anything. I’m also lost about that! The little ones have let me cut their hoofs, literally one at a time in the last few months, but the bigger goat would never never let me close enough! I’m so worried about that too. They aren’t my goats so of course it’s not my responsibility but I live here and I love them and I just want to advocate for the best care possible!

    Thank you again!!!!!!!!!!! I just adore your blog!!!!!!

    Reply
    • I totally understand what you mean — it’s tough not to fall in love with these wonderful creatures! Thanks for all of the details! You don’t have to remove the buck if you think that he’s being nice to her. Since you’re there, you are the best judge of whether it’s okay to leave them together. If she’s freaked out without him, it might be better for him to be there. I would take him away if she has any doelings so that he doesn’t get them pregnant when they’re too young. But then he has the other goat for companionship, and she’ll have her kids.

      If you find some minerals on Amazon that you can have shipped to you, let me know what you’re looking at, and I’ll tell you what I think. My favorite is Sweetlix Meat Maker and second choice would be Purina Goat Mineral, if you can get either of those.

      If the goats are in good body condition, don’t have poopy butts, and don’t have pale eyelids, then they don’t have parasite problems.

      If her udder is big, sounds like she will probably kid soon. Good luck! You can also find me in the Thrifty Homesteading group on Facebook, if you want to join there. Feel free to ask questions either here or there!

      Reply
      • I don’t have Facebook, (though at times like this I wish I did). So I’ll continue on here if that’s okay!

        Last night she was in her pen for the first time, and I checked her regularly. It was super cold so I was nervous, and even though I went out hourly, at 2:30 i stayed out for a few hours as she seemed restless and I couldn’t decide if it was anxiety or Labour. I put a blanket around her and she calmed down and chewed cud/dozed/rested her head on me (she didn’t lay down, all night from what I can tell). I’ve been out this morning and she’s pretty happy. No signs of Labour so I wonder if yesterday was a complete false alarm.

        Her buck is sweet to her, but he also tries to mount her and can get a little food dominant which she just walks away from – the pen is so small I don’t think she would be able to get away from him. In the pasture she spends a lot of time rejecting his advances, and though he is lovely to her, he’s also a pain in the butt so if it’s not too bad? I think it’s best he stays out in the pasture. She’s bleated a few times for them in the night when she hears the donkey bray but all in all she is pretty calm now. I’m sure it’s not her favorite place, being alone for the first time ever, but I like that she’s closer to us. Today my husband is going out searching for a long range baby monitor. I didn’t think this was possible as it’s a few hundred meters to the barn with no electricity but one night of sleep deprivation made me think an extra long extension lead and long range monitor would be better than nothing. I’m not sure I can manage another night like last night I’m exhausted!

        Thanks so much for all your help, it makes me feel much better! I’m gonna check amazon for the ones you mentioned! I’m a bit too tired to do that now and guessing if you’re in the USA it’s the middle of the night anyway!

        You’re awesome! X

        Reply
  48. Omg this morning at 9am I checked, she was totally normal so I took a leisurely bath and had breakfast, filled up a bucket with hot molasses water at 11 to take out and noticed she wasn’t looking at me. She made one tiny grunt and out popped a little baby! Then a few moments later, the next! Such a clever mumma! Thank you for all your help!!!!!

    Reply
      • It’s such a lovely way to celebrate the new year. Both boys, I named them Monkey and Mouse! I’m going to send you a picture on Instagram as I don’t have Facebook! (@mehndikajoeyhenna is my username, nothing to do with goats!) she’s doing so well!!!!! It’s a little chilly tonight so I expect I’ll be out there a lot checking on them. We don’t have electricity so a heater isn’t an option unless I buy a 100m extension lead. I’m just gonna play it by ear and see how they go!

        How long do babies and Mummas usually stay alone together? Away from Dad and their aunty!? (Not really but the other two goats!)

        Thank you really isn’t enough, you are brilliant! X

        Reply
        • Once they are dry, most kids usually don’t have any trouble maintaining their body temperature. If it’s going to be below zero Fahrenheit, you could put something small in there for the kids to crawl into, such as a plastic dog crate without the door or a dog igloo. That will help conserve the heat they produce. Lots of people in Canada do that.

          Looking forward to seeing your photos!

          Reply
  49. To share my experience today… I realize patience is a virtue. We waited through 4 hours of our doe trying to push out a kid that would not progress, though we could see what appeared to be a knee trying to emerge and then go back in. The doe was miserable. Finally my husband washed up and helped her deliver a baby that had a knee first with the head facing back and the other leg way back up and behind. It was dead. Then she easily delivered a live baby, who is doing fine. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m glad we didn’t have more patience and wait longer.

    Reply
    • AS I said in the article, sometimes you need to intervene. I would never suggest that anyone wait four hours while a doe pushed with no progress — especially if you see a body part that is obviously stuck. In situations where the kid is in a weird position and is not moving, they are already dead and have been dead for awhile. Live kids can change position — and I’ve seen it happen when we think we need to intervene, then go to get gloves, etc, and and SURPRISE, a kid pops out. The point is that a very small percentage of kids have problems. There are far too many people who freak out long before a doe is even pushing — and sometimes not even in labor.

      Reply
  50. Yes, I will have a better idea of when to intervene after this experience. Five hours after her birthing of the live baby, we went to bed. Sometime during the night she delivered a THIRD baby. We found it dead, still in the sack but with the nose exposed. The doe had symptoms of Periparturient Edema for the last nine days of pregnancy, but mostly in one leg, which made us wonder if it was simply injured until we found information on the condition. It’s hard to get a vet to see goats in our area. The leg swelling has gone down since she delivered. Our weather is bitterly cold. We didn’t plan this pregnancy — the buck broke into their pen in September. During the couple of days before and during delivery, Nutri-drench and oral B vitamin with probiotics gel gave the mother energy and stimulated her appetite, which wasn’t good. She continued to love her mineral block. She and little buckling are both tough and doing well three days later, despite the ordeals.

    Reply
    • It sounds like she may be mineral deficient. Pregnancy problems and dead kids are definite symptoms of mineral deficiencies such as copper. I do not recommend a block for goats because they have a small soft tongue, so very few goats are able to get enough minerals from a block. Plus most blocks do not have very high levels of minerals. Many are just salt. Here is more information about goat minerals — https://thriftyhomesteader.com/goat-minerals/
      What is the name of the block you’re using?

      Reply
  51. I read your goat minerals link and appreciate the good advice. We live in a part of Idaho where copper and iron are mined and plentiful in soils, and buy our hay locally. They do get to browse and graze for several hours a day around our steep, rocky high desert home in the warmer months. But I will look at the packaging on the various mineral blocks we get for them the next time I’m in town. I offered her loose “Goat Minerals” during the last week of pregnancy and sprinkled some in her grain and pellet mixture, but it was probably too late by then to correct a mineral deficiency. Other does in our herd have no problem with kidding as long as they have no more than two kids. Maybe the well water — very hard water with iron, etc., is blocking absorption of certain minerals. We live right along a creek, but they are more interested in drinking the well water than the creek water!

    Reply
    • Keep in mind that even if the mineral block is only 10-15% salt, goats have very small, soft tongues and can’t usually get enough minerals off the block. If your soil and water are both high in iron, that could be blocking absorption of copper.

      What kind of birthing problems do other does have when they are carrying multiples?

      Reply
      • The creek beside ours is named Iron Creek, if that’s any indication of how much iron is around!
        One young doe who was part Pygmy had four fetuses and died from pregnancy toxemia. A different doe that year gave birth to three babies, but struggled to nurse, and needed us to bottle feed them. She died of Ketosis eight days after giving birth. We assumed those deaths were mostly nutrition-related due to low quality hay and the extra burden of 3+ fetuses. The continuing success in our herd with twins threw us off from doing anything other than providing more browse, better hay and alfalfa pellets when only grass hay was available. Our half Pygmy, who had a history of successful pregnancies carrying twins each time was 8.5 years old this May. She was short and couldn’t reach the creekside browse that the others could after stripping the lower branches. She was bullied as she became large and slow. She had three fetuses and died of pregnancy toxemia. By the time we recognized the problem and gave her a separate pen and supplemental nutrition, it was too late. When she became weak, we were able to bring her to a vet who would not give her a CMPK shot, but instead sent us home with a prescription for more browse and vitamin B injections. There is a lack of good local goat knowledge and I have a hubby who has an old school attitude toward feeding goats and resists supplemental nutrition. With these recent sad experiences, I think he has finally come around ;-). At least we saved the life of this last mother and one baby with aggressive tactics once she looked like she had what my husband thought was an injured foot (but to me seemed more serious). I write all these details in the hope of helping other families to learn from our mistakes.

        Reply
        • My husband used to have a “survival of the fittest” attitude also, but I couldn’t just let goats die. And I’m glad I didn’t! After doing a lot of research I learned that goats never lived in North America in the wild. They are from the mountains and desserts of Africa, Asia, and Europe where they have a diet with a lot of browse. (So-called mountain goats in the west are actually members of the antelope family.) Goats have a much higher need for minerals that their cow cousins, and they can’t get what they need here — and then if you add water from wells 100 feet below the surface of the ground, which are high in antagonistic minerals, you’ve just put them in a no-win situation. In nature, they would be drinking rain water, but Iron Creek does not sound good! You can totally get away with not giving supplemental minerals to cows and sheep in the US without facing the kind of consequences that you do with goats. If your does can’t carry more than two fetuses, you are definitely dealing with nutritional deficiencies. Since getting our nutrition figured out, we’ve had five sets of quintuplets with 24 surviving kids that thrived. And we’ve had zero toxemia, even with all of the other quads and triplets. Since goats are not from North America, their nutrition is more challenging to get right than any other livestock that we raise here.

          Reply
  52. I’m so glad you addressed this issue. I have been so frustrated with the number of people who insist on intervening in every birth. It is ridiculous and very harmful. I blame a medical system that has convinced women that giving birth requires medical intervention and that birth is somehow inherently dangerous so you could never manage to give birth without the aide of an OB! I have even been seeing goat breeders who are inducing every goat!!!!!
    I have been raising livestock for most of my life, cows, goats, chickens, as well as dogs and have rarely been involved in a birth. Generally, I show up in the morning to feed or milk and find my herd has mysteriously increased by one or two over night. At other times someone doesn’t show up for dinner so I go on a search and find mom and her newbies hunkered down in a pine thicket doing just fine. In roughly 35 years of livestock raising, I have had to pull 2 calves and zero goats! I have never lost a mother cow or goat due to a bad birth. I have however had a cow to reject her calf because someone else, against my advice, insisted on getting all up in her business during and right after birth. I’m convinced they handled the calf too much and he no longer smelled like the cow so essentially she did not recognize him as hers. My advice to people is don’t be there for birth! If you are there you will get impatient and be tempted to “help”. Stay away, your presence only causes mom stress and can play havoc with the necessary hormone cascade required for an easy uneventful birth. There is a reason why animals leave the herd and find a quiet secluded spot to have their babies (if they are not caged up). Stress hormones interrupt the release of hormones necessary for normal labor progression. This is one reason so many women have failure to progress and intense labor pain; they are in a hospital being poked and prodded by strangers and they are understandably stressed. Home birth, by contrast, is peaceful, easy, and relatively painless (from someone who has experienced both). Leave them be! Yes, on extremely rare occassions you might lose one, but it is far far greater likelihood of your interventions causing problems and even death.

    Reply
  53. You are incredible! Thank you for being such a bright light in the dark. We are going through this process for the first time with our little Nigerian Dwarf, and we’ve all been worried sick since she started displaying mucous and taking shorter, noisier breaths. I really did not want to intervene, and your advice rang true in my heart. She can do this, most does can do this, God has taken care of that. Thank you so much!

    Reply
  54. My ND had triplets tonight and it’s been about 3 hours since she delivered the last one. She has this bubble of fluid still hanging from her along with what looks like a placenta? How long is this supposed to hang around and at what point do I get concerned?

    Reply
    • Sounds like the placenta. It can take a few hours, and that’s totally normal. You don’t need to do anything. If you went out this morning and nothing was hanging out, and you didn’t see a placenta, it just means that it came out and she ate it.

      Reply
  55. I have a ND doe that has kidded the last 3 years without any problems or intervention. A week ago she was bagged up, had clear fluid leaking, was up & down, pawing the ground & pushed only a couple of times in the 9 hours I was with her (near her but not hovering). So I thought she was not ready. About 4 days ago she became lethargic, not eating much, generally not feeling well. I dewormed with safeguard for 3 days, gave red cell, vit b complex, electrolytes & yesterday syarted her on antibiotics. She has not improved much. There is not a competent goat vet anywhere close (over 3 hrs away is closest). I am unable to get her there. Does anyone have any thoughts or anything? I wondered if I could use lute or something if I could get a vet to give it to me. I want to save my girl if possible.

    Reply
    • Using lute is always risky because of the possibility that you have the due date wrong and you could wind up delivering premature kids. It sounds like she might have pregnancy toxemia (ketosis). You can pick up ketone strips at any pharmacy. If she is shedding ketones in her urine, you can give her something that contains propylene glycol or Nutri-Drench or something like that a couple of times a day until she gives birth. You might also pick up some calcium like CMPK from the farm store because goats with toxemia are at high risk of hypocalcemia (milk fever). Oddly enough, the body temp goes below normal when a goat has milk fever.

      Reply
  56. I have a pigmey goat someone dropped off earlier today.thay said she had already had one baby but it was dead…and she still hasn’t had the other, but is still having contractions around every 15 -20 min apart .. from what I gather she has been in labor for almost 3 days having the still born kid over 12 hours ago… At what point should I try to help her by repositioning the one that’s still inside of her..

    Reply
    • Sometimes a goat only has one kid, which I hope is the case with this poor doe. What is happening now? Please provide as many details as you can.

      Reply
  57. I don’t want advice from FB, but I have a doe in labor, been 2 days, I have kept her hydrated , fresh hay and water. No signs of nose, feet, only goo and a bit of blood. I hope it’s just a long labor? So wait it out?

    Reply
    • It depends on what you mean when you say she has been in labor. I would need specific details. I’ve had people think they had a doe in labor when she was not even pregnant. A bit of goo could mean she is in heat, and blood could mean she’s having a miscarriage very early in pregnancy. What breed? What day of pregnancy is she at? Is she making noise? If yes, what? What is her behavior like?

      Reply
  58. Thanks for these eye opening information which I wish I’d read earlier. I bought 8 pregnant goats in order to have a large flock quicker. My error: never raised a goat or understood the goats’ history, nutrition or goat pregnancy. So two birthed prematurely, one nan died a day after. Now the Nigerian dwarf is looking like it’s ready to birth but I have no prepared place for her to birth or feed etc. I’m so nervous. I’ve learnt my lesson but pray for safe delivery henceforth.

    Reply
    • Not knowing what your facilities look like, I can’t help much. In most cases, goats don’t really need a special place to give birth. If you have good weather, she can probably give birth in the pasture.

      Reply
  59. It’s me again. One of the pregnant nans seems to be losing weight, and the belly reducing. What might it be? Please I’ll really appreciate your advise. I’m a complete novice on goats matter.
    And is it too late to make a separate home for the Nigerian about to birth? She’s not agreeing to leave the general pen housing 19 does and nans. (Yes I later got other not-pregnant goats)
    What do you suggest I do?

    Reply
    • If the only thing you’re seeing is the belly getting smaller, it could be that she was not really pregnant. If she had a false pregnancy, the belly could have just filled up with amniotic fluid, and when her body decides to end the false pregnancy, the only thing that comes out is fluid. Unless you are there when it happens, you will just walk out one day, and the goat’s belly is no longer big.

      If she is actually losing body condition, meaning that she is losing meat along her spine, then you should check her eyelids to see if she is becoming anemic. She could have a problem with parasites. Is it possible for you to get a fecal exam done?

      Reply
  60. Thank you for this! Been watching YouTube videos of goat births. If seems the vast majority of mainly newbie homesteaders all gloved up playing doctor. As a child I watched numerous goat birth out in pasture and marveled at mamas ability to handle the process with zero interventions. No human hands all up in her business, no pulling kids, no one “assisting” the kid over to mama to clean or toweling baby off. No human involvement at all other than a scrubby little girl watching in awe.

    Reply
  61. Yesterday morning I went to feed my goats like usual and one of them had a sac hanging out, s oh I put her in a pen by herself thinking she would give birth soon. I have walked around my property to see if she had dropped a fetus somewhere but I didn’t find one. This morning she’s exactly the same as yesterday. Stomach still the same size and the sac still hanging out. I’m really worried. I’m not sure what happened or what’s going on. If you have any idea please message me. I cant find anything online about what’s happening.

    Reply
    • If she does not seem to be in distress at all — not in labor — I’d assume she had the kid(s) and you are seeing the end of the placenta. If she was in a pasture, maybe a predator ate the kid (s)? Do you have a specific due date? If not, the kid could have been so premature that it’s just too small to easily find in a pasture, or that even a raccoon or cat could have eaten it.

      Reply
  62. Hello, and thank you so much for this article, it is very helpful as this is the first time our goat is kidding! I have a couple of question that I am curious about. How long can a goat be in labor for? And also how long can it take them up to kid? Thank you so much again for your information in the article!

    Reply
    • Like so many things, the answer to this question is “it depends!” The hardest thing for someone the first time — or even the first 50 times — is actually knowing when the goat is in labor. Way too many people think their goat is in labor when it is not even close — I’m saying that the goat gives birth a week later! I even had this problem for a few years when I was new. And I have helped many people who thought their goat was in labor just because of the way it was looking or laying or acting. For example, just because a goat may paw the ground when she is in labor does NOT mean that your goat is in labor just because she is pawing the ground.

      According to the goat vet textbooks, first stage in a first freshener is about 12 hours, and it is considerably shorter with subsequent births. When it comes to pushing — and I mean the doe is screaming bloody murder, throwing her head back, and pushing hard — you should see something within about half an hour, and once you see something, you should continue to see progress. But again, I’ve seen people think their goat is pushing when it’s just moving its head funny or pushing its legs out straight in front of its body. It’s not easy to describe these things.

      The thing to remember is that if you are worried, you have time to call your vet and talk about what’s happening. If you post in a Facebook group or something like that, odds are good that you will be able to find at least a few people who are going to freak out even if you just posted the most normal photo of a goat NOT in labor! That’s why I wrote this post.

      I also have a book —
      https://thriftyhomesteader.myshopify.com/collections/frontpage/products/goats-giving-birth
      and an online course with 20+ videos of kids being born —
      https://thriftyhomesteader.teachable.com/p/just-kidding
      When it comes to dealing with living creatures, you can’t give an answer that is always right. There are SO many variables.

      Reply
  63. I just came across your article and I too have a couple of questions. I have a Doe, “Sunny” who is pregnant. I don’t know when she got pregnant because the darn male “somehow” got in the girl’s pasture. Guessing by her size, birth should be soon, and this is her second delivery. Today, I noticed her udder is huge and she looked really uncomfortable. When I checked her udder, she is expressing milk, but her udder is pretty darn firm. Is her udder being really firm normal? I don’t recall that happening before or with any other of our goats. Oh, she is a Myotonic, if that makes a difference. Also, is there a way to tell if she’s really overdue? Thanks so much! Tina

    Reply
    • Everything you have described is totally normal, and you should NEVER express milk from a pregnant doe. If their udder is big, they have milk. You don’t need to test anything. Their teats are sealed up with a plug during pregnancy that keeps bacteria and other germs out. When you express milk, you’ve removed that plug, which could lead to mastitis. It will form another plug, and hopefully she didn’t get any bacteria in there (which could happen if she immediately went and laid down with her teats on the ground).

      What you describe sounds like a doe that is about to give birth within 24 hours. That’s usually when you get the “wow” udder.

      Do not worry about her being overdue. Even if you think you have an exact due date, very few vets will induce a goat because they trust the goats to give birth on time more than they trust humans to keep good records, and they don’t want to deliver premature kids. In the first few years I had goats, we’d have lost a few kids if inducing goats was a thing because we got due dates wrong more than once — especially with does carrying multiple kids that looked huge. We’ve had close to 700 kids, and I have only had two does every go past 150 days. And their kids were totally healthy.

      Reply
  64. We had an ewe birth a lamb 3 months ago. When we went to the pen this morning she has a new born perfect baby. No males have been in pen or around in 6 months. How is it possible for her to have another 3 months after first one born? Has this ever been heard of.

    Reply
    • When that happens it is usually a case of what is called “grannying,” meaning that one of the lambs was not hers. She stole another ewe’s lamb. We have had this happen with sheep before. I’d be looking at everyone else’s back end to see who has bloody discharge.

      Reply
  65. Our family of four just got back from an Airbnb farm stay. While we were there a couple of goats gave birth, so we were living on Cloud 9 cuddling baby goats every day. We didn’t see the birth, but watched a YouTube video out of curiosity. The owners who we have become good friends were going to their son’s wedding for the weekend and they asked if we wanted to stay and extra day and keep an eye on the goats. Of course we leapt at the chance. Two other pregnant moms hadn’t given birth yet and sure enough one went into labor while everyone was gone. At first we were excited to watch. Only the head was out and the mom, Della, was pushing hard so I thought the rest of the body would follow shortly. This was the state we found her in. After about 5 minutes I became concerned and called the owners. I didn’t get them right away, but about 5 minutes later. They advised me to pull the baby out. They have had goats for many years and never had trouble with their Nigerian Dwarf Nubians giving birth. The baby was not moving at all. I reached my hands into the canal and Della rolled over on her back. I found the tiny shoulders and pulled the baby out eventually with a lot of effort. As I brought the baby up the Della’s face, it was very clearly dead. It was a very large boy. I followed the owner’s instructions over the phone to rub the baby and blow on its face and after a while of trying, I had to admit defeat. I’m thinking the baby suffocated and that big babies coming head first can be tricky. Any thoughts? Thanks for your help processing what happened.

    Reply
    • There is no reason that a perfectly healthy kid would die in the middle of being born head first. It could have been dead before birth, or it could have something wrong with it so that it could not survive once the umbilical cord was cut. Many years ago we had a lamb’s head hanging out of mom for 45 minutes while we chased mama around the pasture, and that lamb was born alive and totally healthy when we finally got it out. That’s just one example of how resilient healthy kids are. Having attended close to 700 births now, I’d encourage you not to drive yourself crazy thinking about how you could have saved it.

      Reply
  66. Love your straight forward informative blogs. This is my first year kidding with my Alpines. My 2 year old doe gave birth last month on day 153. Kids were large-9.5 and 8.2 pounds. Only needed gentle traction on the 9.5 pounder because his head was stuck for 45 minutes. My concern now is my second doe (also first freshener 2 years old) is on day 153 today and has no signs of impending labor whatsoever. She is huge and I’m worried that these kid(s) in her are getting larger by the minute. Have you ever had to induce a doe? At what point would you consider it?

    Reply
    • I should add…since I know you like details. We absolutely for sure know the date bred because it was the only time she was with our buck and we watched it happen. Also I sent a pregnancy test 30 days after and it was positive. So I know for certain we are on day 153. Her ligaments have been softening for about a week now but otherwise there is no other sign of labor. I read elsewhere on your blog that you only ever had 2 does go past 150 days so I’m wondering why this would happen to both of my does in the same year? Would there be any nutritional reason you can think of? Obviously, the immediate question is “how long is too long?” I have not discussed this with my vet as she is not necessarily overly knowledgeable about goats and certainly does not lean towards holistic natural care as I do. I do not want to consider intervening unless there is a medical reason to.

      Reply
    • It is totally normal for standard size goats to give birth up to 155 days, so your doe is not at all overdue. Nigerians and pygmies usually go by 150. There is no reason to worry about size based upon number of days. Genetics and nutrition are the two biggest determinants of how big kids get. This is why I don’t feed grain during pregnancy. My does are in great shape, and don’t need grain, so if I did feed them grain, it would all go to growing bigger kids, and we don’t need that. Even when my does give birth to high multiples, they usually average 3 pounds each. And this is why I’m in favor of the max height rule for ND bucks. I think this is one reason NDs rarely have dystocia problems — and why I cringe when I hear people talking about using a boer buck on dairy does.

      It is extremely challenging to find a vet who will induce a doe because it simply is not necessary unless a doe has pregnancy toxemia that is not responding to treatment or there is some other medical reason to end the pregnancy. Plus most vets trust the goat’s body more than they trust humans. I personally have had does give birth three weeks after I expected them to — and one time I had worked myself into quite a tizzy thinking that a doe must have miscarried from the original breeding and then gotten pregnant when a LaMancha buck jumped the fence. I even called the vet and was all set for a c-section because the doe was so huge. But she went into labor and gave birth to four purebred Nigerians SIX weeks after her due date. I never remembered re-breeding her. I have heard MANY similar stories from other goat breeders. I am SO grateful that the vet said that even if we thought the doe would need a c-section we should wait for her to go into labor! Had they done a c-section when I thought the doe was due or even 150 days after the LM buck jumped the fence, we would have had four premature kids that would have been too small to survive.

      Reply
  67. So our for just had kids a week ago. She was out on the pasture and started pushing. I stood back and just whatched it happen naturally. Something seemed a little off when the baby came out and she refused to clean it but I waited. She walked away and started pushing again. The kid was breathing so I left it alone. Out popped the second kid and she just walked out to the rest of the heard. I was confused but I figured I would give her a few more minutes. I went inside to get the iodine dip and towels and when I came out she was still with the herd. The kids were cold and still couldn’t breath properly . I did end up getting involved I took them in and warmed them up. When I brought them back out she wouldn’t come near us or the kids. (She is our most friendly doe) I still don’t know what happened but I now have to bottle feed them.

    Reply
    • If she is your most friendly doe, that makes me wonder if she was bottle-fed. And was she bottle-fed because her breeder simply bottle-fed all kids, or was she bottle-fed because her mother had no maternal instincts?

      I do worry about maternal instincts being bred out of goats — not necessarily on purpose, but if a breeder is bottle-feeding all of their kids, then they would have no idea who is a bad mom or not. One thing about dairy goats that is frustrating is how many of them don’t clean up kids at birth, even if they do go on to mother the kids. We learned very quickly that if we were not at a birth, we’d have a 20-25% mortality rate because a kid would die of hypothermia or suffocate because the sac would be intact, and the doe would not rip it off. From what you described, if either of those kids had been born in an intact sac, it would have suffocated. This is why I want to be at all births.

      Reply
  68. Thank you for your article. I’ve read it a few times over the past few years, and was very reassuring to my friend who had two goats kid recently.

    I have a FF Mini Nubian who was bred twice: Dec. 21, textbook breeding. But she seemed to go back into heat again Feb 10… And I don’t have any documented heat in between. I thought it was odd, but sometimes a pregnancy gets lost early on, or the corpus luteum sticks…. The only sign the second time was calling softly, not interested in grain and bucks going crazy over her. Each time I put them together she was not willing at first, buck had to chase her, but she finally stopped and flagged and stood for him — he covered her once each day over 2 days. So I re-marked the calendar for July 11.

    So, about a month ago her little udder started filling. I thought wow, that is early. She was also uncomfortable while lying down earlier than expected too. Then, on May 20 (150 day mark) I noticed immediately in the morning it seemed her sides had started dropping … I checked the calendar and thought hmmm….. Over the last few days she has been flagging over and over (ligaments were softening too, maybe that feels funny to her). Now today, 155 days (in 6 years never had a doe go this long!!) doing little things like curling lip, yawning, back end looks puffy, occasional pawing, ligaments really got squishy over the last 12 hours. Also less hair around the teats. But most of the day she’s been real relaxed.

    I’m always anxious during kidding, and this time also a bit nervous because of the unsure due date and going 155 days. One year, her grand-dam had me completely fooled… after a week past due I did a bump test and she wasn’t even pregnant. Just fat and baggy. I marveled the whole time about how “spry” she was for being pregnant, too. This doe has a longer, leaner build, and definitely looks pregnant with a single or twins.

    Have you ever seen a false heat during pregnancy?? When the doe actually stood? She wasn’t real willing the second time, but why did the bucks go crazy?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Yes, it happens. The first time, I was expecting kids in September, and we came home from a Fourth of July party and found three kids in the pasture. I had been not paying attention to the doe at all because I didn’t think she was due for two more months. She was coming into heat every three weeks after she was bred. According to my breeding records, she had become pregnant at the first breeding. Ever since that time I always mark the calendar for a potential due date 145 days after any exposure to a buck. I have had a couple more continue to come into heat after getting pregnant.

      It is not unusual for a standard size goat to go 155 days gestation, and since this is a mini Nubian, she could have some of those genetics that cause her pregnancy to last a little longer, especially if she is a F1 or F2.

      Reply
      • Thank you for your quick reply! That is reassuring! So odd that they would go into heat again. I assume it’s really a false heat, but who knows?
        Thanks again!

        Reply
        • If a goat is pregnant and they come into heat again, it is a false heat. Another example of false heat is that they come into heat 5-6 days after being bred. In those instances, it has always been the second heat that was the real heat. This is actually way more common than a pregnant goat coming into heat again. But again, I always mark my calendar for the every date just in case I happen to have a goat that decides she wants to break the rules.

          Reply

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