Wednesday, January 20, 2010

On Labor Watch ...

Here we are ... down to the wire with Kidding Season 2010.  We have 3 does in the freshly cleaned kidding pens ...  Watching and anticipating the new kids!  I like to put them into the kidding pen a day or so before their due date so they can get comfortable there.

So ... now we're on Labor Watch ... just waiting for the signs that will tell us that labor has started and delivery of the kids will be soon!

Here are a few of the things we watch for to let us know that labor has begun or will begin very soon:

The ligaments just above the base of the tail seem to almost disappear several days to weeks before the due date.  Normally you would feel ligaments about the size of your little finger along this area, but they loosen in preparation for delivery and your fingers can almost circle the top of the tail bone.

Tail Ligaments Loose

You might notice the hair on the tail getting sticky and if you're lucky you'll see the white mucus plug coming from the doe's vulva.  This usually happens a week or two before labor, but could be closer to the due date.

The udder will usually start looking full several days before the due date, but a day or so before labor starts, it will look very swollen ... as if it couldn't hold any more.  The teats will be full and the skin on the udder will be almost shiny.

Full Tight Udder

Sometimes the doe will "talk" to her belly.  I think she's telling the kids it's time to come on out!

Talking to kids

 Something I've noticed the past couple of years is that the doe will hardly touch her food just hours before starting labor.  If she doesn't eat her grain in the morning, I can almost bet she'll deliver that day.  Or, if she doesn't want her evening grain or hay, she'll probably have the kids that night.

When she's in early labor ... if she's not in a kidding pen by herself ...  she'll usually go off by herself ... away from the other goats.   If you see a doe (that is showing other signs of being close to her due date) go off by herself ... she's probably in early labor.  She may even put her head in a corner since she doesn't want to be bothered.

Separating from other goats

As the early labor progresses, she gets very uncomfortable.  She'll stand up ... lay down ... stand up ... paw the ground ... lay down .... over and over.  This may be an hour or two or more before pushing labor starts.


Almost always, there will be a stream of white/cream colored gel.  This means that delivery will be very soon.  It shouldn't be hours from this point ... only minutes.

White Gel

If the gel is red or brownish in color ... this is not good.  There's something wrong and you'll want to have an experienced person with you in case of problems with the delivery or go to the Vet.  The photo below is of Bell during my first kidding season in 2008.  She had a dead kid inside her ... along with two healthy kids.  For more details on this delivery ... see my post on My First Kidding Season - Bell.

Brown Gel

The doe will push and strain as labor progresses.  Usually with her back legs pushed out straight.  She will probably make some loud groaning noises as she pushes with the contractions. 


This phase of labor should not last very long.  If it lasts more than an hour or so ... you might want to take the doe to the vet for help.  Maybe even sooner, if she's pushing hard with no signs of delivery.


You should see a bubble shortly after pushing labor starts.  Be prepared for a lot of fluid when this bubble breaks!

Water Sack Bubble

Here comes the feet and nose.  This is a perfect normal presentation with the nose just on the far side of the feet.  The kid will be out with only a few more pushes and it will be time to dry her off and be ready for the next one!

Feet and Nose

Delivery Advice - from my past kidding experiences:

If you see only the two font feet (you'll know it's the front feet if they're pointing soles down) and no nose coming out with them ... you'll have to reach inside to find the nose and align it to the front so it can come out with the front feet.  You may have to break the water sack if it doesn't break on it's own.

If you see only the two back feet (you'll know it's the back feet if they're pointing soles up) It would be best to help pull them to get the kid delivered quickly... since the head is still in there and needs to breath.

If you see only the head and no front feet ... DO NOT push the head back in to find the feet.  The most important thing to have out is the head since kid has to breath.  It is much easier to reach in and down in front of the head (after it is out) to pull the front feet out to be born along with the head than it is to lose the head by pushing it back in to find the front feet.  DO NOT pull on the head without getting the front feet out first.  The shoulders are too big to come through with the legs tucked under and you could break the kid's neck.

If you see only the butt, you'll have to reach in and pull the back leg(s) out in order to deliver the kid.

The most important thing is to stay calm.  The doe depends on you to help her safely deliver the kids if she's having trouble.

I pray that you all have a safe kidding season!


Spring Lake Farm said...

Good grief! I'm going to be a nervous wreck when the time comes!!!!


Brenda said...

Sandy - I'm sure you'll do fine. Most deliveries are normal presentations and the doe does just fine without any help at all. But, I have to admit that my anxiety level is a little higher this time of year! I'll be glad when they've all safely delivered.

Linda said...

That was very instructional. Thankfully my first kidding was a breeze I hope that the next one will be just as easy, perhaps easier because it will be her second time. I do have another first freshener that is due in June... so I am a bit anxious about it. But not overly so. Nigerian Dwarfs usually kid without much problems. I do hope I never have to pull a kid. According to Pat Coleby, if a does has the proper minerals in her diet, especially copper, there won't be any kidding difficulties. And so I make a special mineral mix for my goats. My dark haired goat needs more copper than the lighter ones. Coleby also recommends apple cider vinegar because it ups the potassium in the diet and helps does have a easier time with kidding. Hopefully it all truly will make a difference - we will see - in a few more kiddings it should really tell the tale.

Feral Female said...

Great entry Brenda! Chocked full of information for people just starting or us old hands.

Good thoughts go to you and your ladies as the time draws closer!

taylorgirl6 said...

I have to admit, this post got quite a few stares from co-workers while I was looking at the slightly intense pictures of kidding. You know you're a farm girl when the sight of such things is fascinating instead of gross.

I'll definitely be saving all of this very helpful info for when we get our first goats in a few years. I wish it were sooner, but I understand the importance of having a good home for the little furry things, and I'd prefer to have a positive experience with everything. The way you write about the anxiety of birthing shows your calm experience, and I hope we all handle it so well with our own.

Brenda said...

TaylorGirl - I hope the photos didn't cause a disturbance with your co-workers this morning! Yes, you are definitely a farm girl when you find birthing fascinating.

Well ... I had a surprise this morning when I went to check on the does at 5am ... One of the does that isn't due until the 24th had her kids out in the big doe yard.... and it was raining pretty good this morning. They were under cover but still confused with all the does around them. I found 2 of them with the momma and brought them inside to a kidding pen to get settled in. They are doing great. I'll post photos soon!

Then when Mom went out a little later and came back in from checking out the new kids ... she said that she had heard a kid crying out behind the barn where the does are. I ran out to check and yes there was the 3rd baby! I'm glad she heard her. Great save Mom! It had been dark out when I found the first 2 and the other one was around the corner ... so I didn't see her.

So, it just goes to show ... no matter how closely you watch ... sometimes they slip one in on you a few days early!!

Anonymous said...

OOOOOOO!!!! I feel the does' pain...they look SO uncomfortable..brings back memories of being in the ninth month with my own "kids"...LOL!
Thanks for the reality check...yes, I STILL want to breed my goats :)

~Tonia said...

Yeah that you found them in time!! I am back online now.. Of course I sent you an email. Do we need to come Inspect the new babies?? LOL Baby Fix!!

Brenda said...

Welcome back, Tonia! You know you all are welcome to drop by anytime! Latte's first babies are SO cute! I'll have photos on as soon as I can download the camera!

Linda, I agree that the minerals are very important. I also give copper supplements. I notice the difference in their hair when they're needing some and the dramatic improvement just days after giving the copper.