“You’ve got to be kidding… Suzie’s kidding right now!” I squelched out, running around in a panic trying to find towels, and a box for the kids, as well as other miscellaneous things. After all, I know to start watching my does closely for signs of kidding at day 150, but this sneaky La Mancha (La Monster on our farm) decided 146 days was long enough to waddle.
Some “udder” things that can make does kid earlier are: being pregnant with multiples (three or more), falling or getting rammed, infection, or loss of one or more in utero babies for various reasons. Some genetic lines also tend to present their kids early. I had one La Mancha line that would go anywhere from 140 to 142 days, and thankfully, the kids’ lungs were fully developed by that time.
The tail tendons soften in the 12 hours before birth. Starting at day 138, I check tail tendons on the expecting does daily, comparing them with does that haven’t reached the 138–day threshold. This way, I get an immediate feel for when kidding is likely to occur.
There are a number of essentials I like to get together in a plastic container (or even a laundry basket), and in a smaller basket in preparation for kidding season. I keep these in a climate–controlled milk room, but a climate–controlled laundry room or back porch will work well also.
My list includes:
- A large basket/plastic container big enough to hold two to three kids if hand raising. (Please note that if the CAE or Johne’s status of the herd is unknown, one should bottle feed for the kids’ safety and future health.) A large basket for the newborn(s) helps keep cold air off of the sides of the kids. The freshening dam can still lick off the kids, as long as she doesn’t have any of the aforementioned diseases.
- Bath and hand towels. If I’m expecting three kids, then I like to have four or five of each. If you have multiple kiddings close together, plan for more than one set of towels. You can sometimes find decent used towels for next to nothing at thrift stores.
- A smooth hay rope without knots in a quart jar. I use this when delivering a kid whose head I have to keep straight. (I explain this and many kidding positions extensively in my book.) To disinfect the rope prior to use, I have a 10% alcohol solution of vodka or Everclear–types of alcohol (they have no additives) in a pint jar. An 80 proof alcohol is 40% alcohol, and would require 1.6 ounces or 48 cc’s of vodka, filling the rest of the pint jar with freshly distilled or sterile (boiled) water. Add the rope, put on the lid and shake. Do not use iodine or rubbing alcohol—they are poisonous!
- Some uterine support herbs such as fennel, crampbark, blue cohosh and/or raspberry. Or make it easier and more efficacious with Fir Meadow’s blend called, of course, “Ewe–ter–N.”
- Get herbs together for shock tea in case of a prolonged or troubled kidding, or a weaker doe. Cayenne, a way to heat water (hot pots are great), a jar with a lid, lemon, raw honey or black strap molasses, and cayenne, 40,000 heat units preferred.
- Lavender essential oil and eucalyptus essential oil.
- Evening primrose oil in case we have dilation issues with the cervix.
- Cayenne powder and tincture, 40,000 heat units. Mark the tincture with a red mark so it’s easy to see to grab fast in an emergency.
- Lobelia tincture.
- Some type of naval disinfectant—I use Nav–All tincture.
- Olive oil
- OB or other latex–types of disposable gloves.
- A clock to time how long labor/pushing is really taking. After 20 minutes of not seeing anything, I take a feel to find out if we have a problem with proper presentation. I feel sooner on a doe that is experienced, with a good birth canal. You get to know your does over time. Keep records.
- A drenching/feeding syringe. The ones that are made specifically for this are best. It is much easier to drench or give vaginal herbs with this than it is to try and do it with a syringe meant for injections. It is too easy to have those slip and aspirate lungs, as they don’t always operate smoothly.
- A way to make hot tea for you.
- Kid coats and one for the dam.
- Blackstrap molasses and a water bucket for the doe.
- Fresh straw to keep the bedding clean and to bed the bottom of the kid catching container.
- A small clipboard to record times, birth order, etc., that you want to keep track of and any issues that come up.
The day I discover I have a doe with dropped tendons she goes into her own kidding pen. Having a baby monitor or other monitor set up really helps reduce the amount of walking back and forth to the barn. At this time I make a hot Ewe–ter–N tea and carefully drench, or just let her drink it from a small bucket—most will suck it up. You can do this with your other choices of support herbs if wanted. I do this every six hours at proper doses, until she delivers. For a 150–pound doe, use one tablespoon of cut and sifted herb bits in her water to make a tea, or ½ tablespoon of powdered herb (use half of this amount for a 75–pound miniature goat). I leave the herbs in the tea and often add a tablespoon (1/2 for mini’s under 100 pounds) of black strap molasses (not feed store molasses) or raw organic honey to it. Do note that if the doe goes longer than 12 hours with tendons completely dropped, chances are good that the kids are positioned improperly to even press on the cervix to start the birth process. In that case you may need to get the birthing started. Often I find a butt–, side– or neck–first kid in these situations.
When it’s kidding time, the box filled with stuff, myself, and my husband (he coaches and hugs them) all come into the pen.
Once we start receiving kids, I will do a gloved check in the birth canal to make sure we have the nose and at least one front foot progressing normally. Once that nose clears the vagina, I use my smaller towel to start wiping the fluids and mucus around the nose and mouth, even swabbing in the mouth. I want the head a completely cleared–off of any birth materials, so that we don’t risk the kid breathing any into the lungs.
Once the kid has cleared from the birth canal and I know that it is not bleeding from the umbilical cord, I will drop either a smidgeon of cayenne powder or eucalyptus essential oil onto the nostrils—just a smidgeon. Either one will encourage the kid to sneeze out any “goo” that may be present in the nasal or bronchial passages. If kids are still having a hard time breathing after doing this, I will dab on a bit of eucalyptus essential oil or give them three or four drops of lobelia inflata tincture orally, both of which are bronchial dilators. Respect the lobelia, as it is an emetic in large doses which would make your kid vomit, and don’t mistake this lobelia for the common farm store flower—they are different.
If I get a bleeder kid, then I will throw powdered cayenne on the navel and also give the kid five to 10 drops of cayenne tincture into the mouth. Yes, it will be hot, but it will not harm, which is why I stay at the lowest medicinal heat rating for cayenne. Better a hot, but live kid than a dead, bled–out one. If the kid’s heart has just stopped, you can restart them with oral cayenne tincture or by pouring cayenne tincture at the base of the brisket between the front legs, and rubbing it into the skin. If the heart has stopped for too long this won’t work.
Once I know I have good breathing and the heart is pumping, I will disinfect the umbilical cord. Some choices would be goldenseal powder, cayenne powder, or some sage powder. Do not overdo the sage. I personally use a blend I make called Nav–All, because it not only contains antiseptic herbs, but I mixed it to give fast nourishment to the brain, heart, circulation, lungs, and vital organs, which tends to get the kids up and eating sooner than usual. Please do not use iodine or drinking alcohol on their navel—whatever you put on the umbilical cord will be drawn into their bloodstream.
I will then massage the kid firmly with dry towels as I clean it off. This is the same thing the doe does as she licks her kid hard to clean it. This hits their body reflex points, which stimulates their body and organs into “awake” mode. I do a lot of rib massage if a kid had a rough lung start. I also will lay them in the straw or on a towel with their butt elevated about six inches higher than the head, to allow for more fluid to escape the lungs.
If the doe needs more lubrication because the birth has taken longer than planned, you can draw up 60 cc’s of olive oil with 15 or so drops of lavender essential oil (use a pure medicinal grade, don’t chance it on diluted stuff) into the drenching/feeding syringe and give vaginally. I try to get it to the cervix and push fast so that it will flow towards the uterus. Make sure your olive oil is fresh; never ever use rancid oil. You might premix some olive oil and lavender into a ½ pint canning jar and keep it on hand for this type of situation. I also will lube my gloves with it by pouring some onto them so that I don’t contaminate the jar. Jars can be sterilized with a pure drinking alcohol by washing with hot soapy water, boiling and allowing them to dry upside down on a clean towel or dish rack. Don’t forget to sterilize the lids, too.
If a doe hemorrhages or has more bleeding than I am comfortable with, then I will put two ounces of cayenne tincture right into her uterus—even if she isn’t done kidding.
If my doe gets weak, tired, or shocky, I will drench 60 cc’s of shock tea, which is 1 pint of hot (but safe) water, 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of cayenne, and 1 tablespoon of raw organic honey or black strap molasses. (You can have some as well, if you feel you need it.) You can also give one to two droppers full of cayenne tincture orally if you don’t have the shock tea made up. If she has weaker contractions/pushes due to fatigue, you can give her another 60 to 120 cc’s of herbal support for the uterine muscles. If she takes longer than 20 minutes to deliver her placenta, then I give additional herb support for her uterine muscles.
We always blanket our dam after kidding, even in the summer, as they have just expended a huge amount of calories to have those kids. We also always serve her some shock tea in a bucket of warm water to help replenish her system quicker.
Here’s to a wonderful, joy filled kidding season!
Author’s note: I have a detailed kidding/birthing chapter in my book, and another chapter devoted to raising your young stock alternatively. This book, The Accessible Pet, Equine and Livestock Herbal is available from the Dairy Goat Journal website bookstore at www.dairygoatjournal.com or from www.firmeadowllc.com. Herb products mentioned in this article are also available from Fir Meadow, LLC.
About the writer
Kat lives with her husband of 24 years on a beautiful patch of Oregon dirt in the Siskiyou Mountains with their award winning La Mancha and Toggenburg dairy goats, Fjord horses, Suri and Huacaya alpacas, poultry, working farm pets and herb/veggie gardens. She also owns Fir Meadow, LLC, an herb product business, and is an author and conference speaker with a Master’s degree in herbalism and diplomas in reflexology, iridology and aromatherapy.
Jerry & Kat Drovdahl M.H., C.R., Dipl.H.Ir. C.E.I.T., Cert. Aromatherapy, herb products, consultations, La Mancha dairy goats, alpacas: www.firmeadowllc.com.