We have babies!!! I love birth stories so much that I wrote one for a goat! Here’s how it happened:
(Please note, this post includes graphic pictures of goat labor and delivery.)
A month ago our breeder brought one of her pregnant does to live on our farm. Although she’s a permanent champion, she is no longer competitive due to a lop-sided udder. The show world is brutal. But she’s a very sweet goat and has wonderful goat babies. We weren’t sure of her exact due date, aside from sometime at the end of June to mid-July. I dove into the goat books (my three, plus three more from the library) trying to prepare myself, and Hubby got the kidding pen up last weekend.
I spent a lot of time in the goat pen on Friday. I was trying to finish up a few very small projects that took me too long to do. I noticed that Serenade’s udder seemed to have grown overnight, but not remarkably so, just noticeably. She also had a small amount of white discharge, but not the clear fluid I was supposed to be looking for according to the books. I had also noticed her in the pasture, suddenly eating more grass over the last two days. I went back inside, texted Hubby the update, advised it probably wouldn’t be the day, but we’re getting closer. Then I read that white discharge could mean anywhere from a day, to a week, to a month. Ok. And most goats stop eating right before kidding. Definitely not the day.
After lunch and some quiet time indoors, I went back out to finish the door to the kidding pen. Little Man was laying on a blanket in the yard with me, and the girls were inside drawing pictures for the pregnant goat. They wanted to do their part to get her ready for kidding, but they wanted to stay cool! I had just finished the door, but needed hinges for installation, when I decided just to take a peek at our goats and see how they were doing. As I neared the barn I noticed Felicity and Matilda hanging out outside. When I went in I found Serenade on the ground in the kidding pen with a sac hanging out her rear end! The babies were coming and I got to watch!
I watched as she pushed the first baby out. She was born in the caul, as they say for humans. I don’t know what it’s called for goats. She was still in the amniotic sac. It burst and I leaned in to wipe the nose off with my shirt. After ensuring she was breathing ok and mama was doing ok, I ran back into the yard to grab Little Man, went inside to tell the girls a baby had been born and another was coming, grabbed the kidding kit I had just finished assembling the day before, and headed back to the barn with everyone and everything in tow.
We got back to the barn and watched as Serenade cleaned off the first baby. Our neighbor came over to help as needed. I wasn’t sure how well the human kids would tolerate the birthing process, and I didn’t know if I would need to assist delivery. I didn’t want to be in a bad spot with three small human kids whining and crying and unable to help. We knew that at least one more baby was coming, so we kept waiting. Little Man was hungry, so I nursed him in the barn. Once we had a happy baby again, the neighbor went back home. Nothing was happening, Serenade didn’t appear to be in distress, so we took a break and went inside for a huge jug of Gatorade, to put Little Man down for a nap, and grab the baby monitor.
I had just begun texting an experienced goat friend as I was growing slightly concerned at how long it was taking for the next baby, when, exactly an hour after the first, the second sac appeared. It appeared and went back in a couple times, then Serenade pushed the baby out just as easily as the first. This baby was also born in the caul, and this time I was prepared with a towel to wipe her face off! Two girls!
After the second-born I noticed a trailing bloody membrane hanging out of Serenade’s rear, about 4 inches long, and it appeared to have cotyledons. I assumed this to be the beginning of the placenta and assumed there were no more babies. She began cleaning off baby number two. We went to get some grain, both for the goats in the ‘waiting room’ and for Serenade. I attempted to place baby number one under her nipple again. Imagine my surprise then when Serenade laid down and began pushing again.
Another sac appeared, but this one was different. I couldn’t see any ears like I did the first two. I quickly and (hopefully) calmly asked Littles Monster and Miss to pass me the box of OB gloves. They worked together to find the long white box I was describing and I gloved up to take a look at this sac. Was it the placenta? Was it another baby? I couldn’t see any legs. I had just determined that the black and white must be a baby butt when Serenade stood, pushed him halfway out, turned around, knocked the baby on the side of the barn, spun around, and plopped on the ground again to push the rest of the way out. The cord was still attached, but there was no movement. I didn’t hide my concern from the girls, but quietly said, ‘Uh oh, he’s not moving.’ He then flopped a little and I breathed a sigh of relief. The girls cheered. Serenade stood again and the cord tore. He was lying in the amniotic sac, although it was ripped on the side. I quickly tore it the rest of the way open, wiped his muzzle with the towel, then asked the girls to pass me the bulb syringe quickly, the blue ball thing in the box. I think Little Monster found it. I cleared the fluid from the mouth, he sneezed, and then began breathing clearly. And then there were three!
I thanked the girls for being amazing birth assistants. I couldn’t have done it without them! Serenade cleaned up this boy a little bit. Two goats finally latched on back to back to get their first bit of colostrum, and the placenta began to pass, for real this time.
Hubby came home. He checked out the babies and took the girls inside to cool down. It was hot in that barn! I stayed behind to make sure all the babies had a couple turns nursing and that the placenta was completely delivered. Once Little Man woke up from his nap Hubby and I communicated via baby monitor. I finally came inside for dinner and bedtime routine, then went back outside for evening farm chores, to check on everyone and take the evening hay to the goats. I made sure all three babies got another round of milk, saw some pees and poops, replinished the depleted waters, and locked everyone up for the night. And by lock, I mean tied the door I had just finished onto the structure!
I said a prayer for Serenade and her babies for the night. I wanted to stay out there, or at least check on them during the night, but I have my own family responsibilities too. All three of my human kids woke up at some point that night. The usual stuff, but a I went out at first light to check and all the babies were walking around. I saw a couple of them pee and poop, so all functions were working properly. They started finding the nipple on their own and seemed to be latching on well.
The whole kidding process was exciting and… anxious. I really had to just trust that Serenade knew what she was doing. I’m thankful I didn’t need to assist the delivery but that I was there to watch and ready if need be, although my inexperience may not have been a help at all.
Things I learned:
- Goats are often born in the amniotic sac. I had expected it to be easier to see which part of the baby was presenting.
- Regardless of prior experience, some mamas are just made to be mamas. I wasn’t sure if Serenade would allow her babies to nurse since babies from her previous two kiddings had been bottle-raised. I was pleasantly surprised and only offered minor assistance to get babies to the nipples for the first few feedings of colostrum.
- I didn’t expect the placenta to look like it did. I expected something longer with small cotyledons throughout, as pictured in one of the many books I read.
- I didn’t expect to be so sore the next day when I didn’t do the hard work. I just did a whole lot of squats. Now I know how Hubby feels after a birth.
- It’s normal for mama’s poops to change from goat berries to soft lumps for a few days after birth.
Included in my kidding kit:
- old towels
- bulb syringe
- iodine and shotglass for dipping umbilical cords
- OB gloves
- soda bottles and nipples, in case mama wouldn’t nurse
- feeding tube and 60cc syringe (just in case)
- Storey’s Guide to Raising Dairy Goats
- phone, with experienced goat breeders’ numbers stored
Would have been nice to have:
- lubricant, just in case
- a container to milk into, in case nursing didn’t work
- The Dairy Goat Handbook, which actually describes how to assist in abnormal presentations
- a phone charger and electricity to the barn
- Gatorades and other fluids for the human onlookers