My goats are more than just livestock, they are beloved pets. But, in order to get milk, they have to be bred. When I breed my does, I want to give them the best care possible during their pregnancy. The closer my does my get to kidding, the more nervous I get, but I have found that problems happen very rarely, as long as I follow a few simple guidelines and know what to be prepared for during the various stages of their pregnancy. Here’s how I care for the pregnant does on my homestead:
First things first! Your doe should be in the best condition possible before she is bred. If your doe is young and she is just being bred for the first time, it is recommended that she weighs at least 65% of her expected adult weight. Personally, I like to wait until my does are about a year and a half old before I breed them for the first time.
My does already get grain twice a day, but if yours do not, you should start giving them grain about 2 weeks before breeding and continue for about 2 weeks after. Don’t breed a doe that is already underweight. She should also have unlimited access to loose minerals with a ratio of 16% calcium and 8% phosphorous. Give her as much hay as she wants and it’s best if she can have access to quality pasture and forage, too. Sadly, we don’t have a lot of pasture space on our little homestead, so our does get grain year-round to help keep their body weight up.
If you have ever been pregnant, you know that growing a baby can be exhausting. The last thing your girl needs is to have a heavy worm infestation while she is pregnant. However, I prefer not to de-worm unless it’s necessary, so I will usually have a fecal sample checked by my vet a few weeks before breeding. For me, this makes the most sense because different de-worming medications are more effective for certain types of worms than others, and my vet can tell me the best course of action. Wait about 2 weeks after treatment before exposing her to the buck.
You should also talk to your vet about Selenium deficiency. If you live in an area where selenium deficiency is a problem, you or your vet should administer a BoSe shot or gel(Selenium + Vitamin E) before breeding. I also take care of any needed hoof trimming before breeding so that it doesn’t need to be done while she’s pregnant.
From Conception through 6 Weeks Before Kidding
The average gestation period for a goat is 150 days, so don’t forget to mark your calendar! During the first three and a half months of gestation you might not see many physical changes in your doe. The embryos grow rather slowly at this stage, and I’ve often found myself wondering if my does were pregnant at all during this time. To avoid the risk of birth defects, do not give a doe any medications during the first 25-30 days of pregnancy.
During early gestation, it is also important that your doe is not stressed. Don’t try to move her to a new location and don’t bring in new animals she doesn’t know, if at all possible. Try to keep her routine consistent with what she is used to. Does that get stressed during this time have been known to reabsorb the embryos or miscarry.
As long as your doe has access to good pasture, she doesn’t need grain during this time. Free choice minerals and as much hay as she wants are all she needs. If there’s not enough good pasture, or if you are milking during this time, or if she is losing weight instead of maintaining or gaining weight, then you will want to give her grain twice a day. If I am milking a doe during this stage of her pregnancy, I dry her up at least two months before I expect her to kid.
The Last 6 Weeks Prior to Kidding
Now is the time when you will start to see drastic physical changes. The kids will be growing very rapidly at this point. However, I have had one doe that showed no signs that she was pregnant right up until kidding. And then, surprise…you’ve got a baby goat! Goats are perplexing creatures!
Now is the time to increase her calories and nutrition, so you’ll want to slowly introduce a 15% protein goat pellet at this point. The amount of grain you give her will vary from goat to goat, but it should be slowly increased to at least twice her normal ration, and possibly more if she’s pregnant with multiples. You’ll need to use your judgement here. If she doesn’t seem to be gaining weight steadily, you’ll need to increase the amount, but you don’t want to give her so much grain that the kids get too big and cause problems for her during delivery. Continue allowing access to free choice minerals, as much hay as she wants, and pasture.
This is also the time when things can get dicey fast. Keep a close eye on her for signs of ketosis, hypoglycemia, or pregnancy toxemia. Act quickly at any sign of depression, grinding of the teeth, rapid breathing, staggering, or muscle tremors. I keep blackstrap molasses and propylene glycol on hand for emergencies, but don’t take any chances. These conditions can become fatal quickly, so call the vet at the first sign of trouble. For more detailed information about these pregnancy complications, read this article by FiasCo Farm.
About four weeks before she is due to kid, your doe should have a CD&T vaccine so that the kids will have protection from tetanus. They will get the immunity from their mother’s colostrum at birth. In selenium deficient areas, another dose of BoSe injectable or gel is also given at this time.
At one week prior to her due date, it’s a good idea to have another fecal sample checked for worms. Worm loads can suddenly increase at a rapid rate in the late stages of pregnancy. De-worming now protects not only momma, but the kids as well. Make sure your kidding kit and kidding stall are ready to go at least 1 week prior to her due date.
With proper care, most pregnancy problems can be avoided completely or taken care of before they become serious. If you are new at this, don’t hesitate to call your vet with questions or concerns. Goats can go downhill fast so acting quickly is always the best course of action.
In the next post, we’ll talk about what you should have in your kidding kit, the signs of labor, setting up your kidding stall, and the birth itself!