It’s that time of year! Farms and homesteads everywhere are welcoming new babies of all shapes and sizes this spring. If this is your first year with newborn goat kids, you may be feeling a little unsure about how to care for them, and that’s completely understandable. Baby goats are adorable, and they seem so fragile! Once you and momma have those kids safely delivered, there are some things you can do to make sure your newborn goat kids stay happy and healthy.
What to do Immediately After Delivery
Does are notoriously sneaky about giving birth, and chances are good she’ll do everything on her own. If you can be there for the birth, that’s great! Have your kidding kit ready so you can jump in if momma needs assistance. Once the babies are on the ground, you’ll want to clear away any mucous from their little faces, so they don’t inhale any fluids.
Drying off the kids is also crucial. If it’s warm out, you can just towel them off and let momma do the rest. But, if it’s cold, you need to act quickly to get those babies dry. Never let goat kids get chilled. Towel them off thoroughly and then use a hair dryer to get them completely dry.
If the umbilical cord seems long, you can trim it to a more reasonable length. The cord should then be dipped in a little cup of iodine to prevent infection. Be sure that the iodine reaches all the way up to where the cord attaches to the kid’s body. Some folks like to dip the kid’s hoofs in iodine as well, because the soft tissue could allow bacteria to get in.
You also want to ensure that the newborn goat kids get colostrum in them as quickly as possible. Sometimes, all you need to do is sit back and watch to make sure the kids figure out how to find a teat and latch on. Other times, you may have to redirect the kids and provide a little guidance. If you are bottle raising for some reason, the kid still needs colostrum. It should be warmed in a water bath before you offer it to the kid and then you will need to have some patience while the kid figures out how to latch on and suck.
If your baby goats are going to be disbudded, it should be done within the first few days after birth. Disbudding is not usually a pleasant experience for the kid or the person doing the disbudding, so it’s better not to put off. If you have never disbudded a goat before, call in the vet or an experienced goat keeper to help you out. You should also check with your vet about vaccines. They are usually given when the kids are about three weeks old.
Ongoing Kid Care
Once the kids have nursing figured out, the most important thing you’ll need to do is keep a close eye on them for signs that they may be struggling in some way. Kids are fragile, and if your doe is an experienced mom, there may be times when she needs a little extra help caring for those little ones. If you know what you’re looking for, you’ll be able to intervene quickly and possibly save the kid’s life.
- Poop: Yep, as farmers, we deal with a lot of poop, and goat kids are certainly no different. There will be a lot of changes in your goat kid’s poop during the first week or so, and that’s pretty normal. You should expect day old kids to have poop that’s kind of tar-like and sticky. This is meconium, and it will usually last for one or two days. Eventually, the poop will become softer and yellow, and yep, it’s pretty messy and sticky, too. Sticky, yellow poop is normal for about the first week, or so, then it should start to firm up and become the pellets you’re used to seeing.
So, what’s not normal? Diarrhea and constipation. Watery diarrhea, or scours, is an issue that’s usually more common in bottle babies who are getting too much milk, but it does happen with dam raised babies sometimes, too. On the other hand, constipation isn’t good either. Constipated kids may not want to eat. Kids over three weeks old should also be watched for dark-colored, foul-smelling scours because that could be a sign of coccidian.
- Malnutrition: If your doe is raising three or more kids, be on the lookout for malnutrition. Sometimes, smaller, weaker, or less assertive kids will get pushed out of the way and won’t get enough to eat. If you notice a kid that not as playful, stands of by itself, has droopy ears, and stands hunched up with its tail tucked under, those are all sure signs of malnutrition. In some cases, you’ll notice shivering as well. Try offering supplemental bottle feedings to ensure that the kid is getting enough to eat. If that doesn’t help, the kid may be sick, and a trip to the vet may be required.
- Illness: Newborn goat kids are pretty fragile, and they can get very sick, very fast. If you are concerned about the health of a kid, or it appears to be in distress, start by checking its temperature. Note any discharge come from its eyes or nose. Also, look for signs of discomfort, like a hunched back, excessive crying, shivering, or grinding of the teeth. Don’t hesitate to call the vet if you notice any cause for concern because a sick baby goat can go downhill fast.
Raising Friendly Goats
The more time you can spend with your baby goats the better. This will help you learn about their personalities and behaviors, so you’ll be able to spot potential issues quickly. It will also make your kids more friendly. They will become used to being held and petted by humans, making it easier for you to care for them when they become adults. Even baby goats that are raised by their dam will quickly form a bond with the humans that spend time with them every day, and they will become loving, trusting adults that don’t shy away from human interaction.
There is nothing more adorable than a newborn goat kid! Although kids can be fragile, following these tips will help you through the process of caring for your babies so that they become healthy adults. Knowing what to look for if something goes wrong is half the battle.