Do you remember the first time you held your child? Oh, I do! He was 9 pounds 11-ounces at 3 weeks early, had a full head of red hair, and was the most precious little thing I have ever seen. As you can tell, he has his mama’s heart.
Now, birthing baby goats isn’t anywhere near birthing your own little miracle, but I’d say it is probably one of the sweetest experiences of goat pregnancy and birthing animal babies on a homestead.
So I want to give you some information on goat pregnancy and birthing baby goats (aka kids.) It is a little trickier than one might imagine. They are very intelligent and capable little creatures, but there are certain signs you should look for to know when a new baby is coming to town.
Plus, there are a few things you should be aware of in case of a birthing emergency, and also a few ways you can help the mama goat out after she has just delivered these sweet bundles.
Here is what you need to know:
How to Tell If Your Goat is Pregnant
The first few months of pregnancy (with most women), people are petrified to walk up to them and say, “Congratulations!” because how embarrassing would it be if they weren’t pregnant but had just put on a few pounds. That happens so easily in life.
Well, a goat won’t be embarrassed, but they are really hard to tell if they are pregnant because they carry all of their weight in the middle (like me!)
I’ve only found 3 ways to tell if your goat is pregnant:
The first is by waiting. When a goat is pregnant, when they are almost ready to give birth they will balloon so there is no denying that they are indeed pregnant.
Second, you can go visit a vet and have them do an ultrasound. I have no problem with this method, but it isn’t something I do because of the sheer expense of it.
However, if you have a veterinarian that you can call that won’t charge you an arm and a leg, then, by all means, do it. This is the most sure-fire way of knowing that your goat is pregnant, how many they are having, and get almost any other answers you might desire.
Finally, you can check the goat’s vulva. This isn’t a scientific method but has worked pretty well for us in the past. When a goat is pregnant, you will begin to notice her vulva dropping.
You will really notice it as she gets closer to birthing.
However, I can usually tell when my goats have been bred by simply lifting their tail. The vulva goes from being in a normal position to pointing down. I’m not sure if this is true for all goats, but it has proven true with mine.
How Will I Recognize Labor Signs?
On average, a goat is pregnant for about 150 days or about 5 months. If you separate your nanny goats from your bucks, then you should have a pretty clear idea when your nanny goat was bred.
However, if you don’t separate them (which we don’t) then you might have to play a bit of a guessing game as to when she will deliver her kids.
I follow a few signs to give myself an educated guess as to when my goats will deliver.
1. Their Ligaments Become Loose
Goats are really no different than a pregnant human. As pregnant women’s bellies get bigger, the muscles in their lower back loosen up to go with the stomach.
Well, female goats have ligaments right at the base of their tail that do the same thing. When you can touch your fingers together from either side of the tail, then you know they are very close to giving birth.
2. They Begin to Discharge
You can’t be shy when raising animals. You probably never dreamed you’d be an OBGYN for a goat or standing around watching two animals mate to see if your animal is bred or not.
However, you probably won’t ever catch your goats mating. The reason is they flirt all day long, and the girls will usually allow a male to mate her at night when they have privacy.
So when you begin to see discharge coming from your goat you can guess that her mucous plug is coming loose, and she will be ready to birth shortly.
3. Check Their Vulva
You don’t have to invade a goat’s space to do this. Just wait until they lift their tail. As soon as you see that their vulva is really drooping, then you know that a baby will make its debut shortly.
However, you might also notice that their vulva is very puffy. This is another sign that they are getting ready to kid soon. You’ll know to keep a close eye if you see either of these signs.
4. They Become All Belly
Easily put, they become all belly. It happens to all of us when we’ve reached the final trimester. You just become all belly.
As their sides sink in, their bellies stick out, and you know you are getting close to kidding.
5. Check Their Bag
Another way of knowing that your goats are nearing delivery is to check their bag. You will notice when they begin to become very full of milk.
Just like with human mothers, their bodies prepare them to feed their young. This is also a good time to get your milking station ready because you will have some great milk to use for lots of different items around your home.
6. Restless, Pawing, and Pushing
Just like with most expectant mothers, goats become uncomfortable toward the end of pregnancy. They will seem very restless and struggle to get comfortable.
Then you may notice that they will begin pawing at the ground or head butting the fence. This is very common as labor is a painful process.
How Long Does the Birthing Process Take?
The process of birthing a kid isn’t very long. When you begin to notice that your goat is showing true signs of labor, she will probably have the baby delivered within 12 hours.
However, when you actually begin seeing her push, she should have the kid delivered within 30 minutes. Here is what you can expect to see during the birthing process:
1. Your Goat Will Push
Sometimes goats will give birth standing and others will do it laying down. When you see your goat pushing, you know this is the real deal.
You’ll need to keep a close eye on the whole process. I will mention, often, goats give birth without anyone even noticing. Other times, you will be present. Don’t beat yourself up if you miss it. A goat is more than capable of handling this on their own.
However, there are very rare cases where they might require some help. So if you are close by and see your goat giving birth, go be with her.
2. You Will See a Bubble
The kid will come out in a bubble. You should see the nose and front hooves first. However, if you don’t, don’t panic.
Often, in a rare case that the baby is breech, a goat can still push the baby out. If you are present and you see the back hooves, you can help by gently pulling the baby out. The keyword is gentle. You don’t want to bring harm to the baby or the adult goat either.
3. Most Births Are Smooth
Most goat births are very smooth, but I will share the worst-case scenario just so you are prepared. When my first nanny gave birth, she had a rough delivery. She birthed one kid, and we thought she was finished.
However, a few hours later, she begins pushing and 2 after births come out. Then she tried to give birth to 2 large kids at the same time and one was breech. We had to help because they were stuck.
If a goat cannot get a kid out after around 30-45 minutes, you’ll need to step in. Try to gently pull the babies out. We did, and we were very fortunate to not have lost our mother.
Unfortunately, we lost the other 2 babies.
When our second goat gave birth, I went out to check on her because I knew she close to giving birth. I was actually getting ready to run some errands. When I checked on her, she had already delivered 2 kids successfully with no help and no issues.
So understand that most goat births are a smooth process. You really don’t need to step in because they have it. Just be watchful as some issues arise in rare cases.
What Do I Do Once It’s Over?
1. Grab a Towel
You will treat a goat kid very similar to a human baby after it has been birthed. You will get a clean towel and wipe all of the placenta off of the baby.
Be sure to clean around its mouth and nose so it can breathe. Also, try to keep it as warm as possible.
2. Rock the Kid
After the goat kid is clean and its mouth and nose are clean, then you’ll need to swaddle it like a human baby and rock it back and forth.
However, this isn’t to be cute. It actually helps get any remaining fluid out of the baby’s lungs.
3. Make Sure It Is Breathing
Finally, before you give the baby back to its mom, be sure it is breathing. If it is breathing on its own okay, then you’ll know that you don’t need to rock it any longer.
Then the baby should be fine. The mother goat will lick the baby repeatedly to make sure it is cleaned to her standards.
4. Watch But Don’t Panic
You’ll want to watch the baby with the mother. You are watching to make sure that the baby learns to latch within the first hour.
Plus, you’ll also want to make sure that the mother will stand still and allow the baby to feed. It is important that the baby latches within an hour or two.
However, if it doesn’t, don’t panic. You can always bottle feed. However, don’t do what I did. When my second goat gave birth to her twins, I stayed around to help.
I watched and watched, but the babies just couldn’t latch. It never dawned on me that it could take a little longer than 45 minutes with 2 kids competing over the same bag.
So I hop in my truck and rush to the local feed store. I get a bottle and rush home. I had determined that I was not losing any more goat kids if I could help.
However, the goats had other plans. As soon as I backed off, they figured out nursing in 2 seconds flat. By the time I got back, both babies were head butting their mom’s sack and feasting up a storm.
So just try not to panic if things aren’t going as you might think they should. You’ll know if the babies are in trouble. Trust your judgment.
Well, that is all there is to help your goats give birth. As I said before, they really don’t need our help. There are a few rare instances that they might, but for the most part, they just need you to be there just in case and to help them clean their babies.
Seriously, could you imagine giving birth, trying to clean the first one up while still being in labor and trying to give birth to a second or third kid?