This is what you work all year for. This is where your money comes from. It only makes sense that this is one important area where a little extra effort and attention pays off.
If you are looking for livestock to throw out in the pasture and forget about, then come back in eight months and harvest a crop read no further. A successful kids crop takes your attention.
The beginning of a profitable kid crop starts a few months prior to the breeding of the does. This article will deal with the kids after they are born, or in ‘goat lingo’ - ON THE GROUND !
We make it a practice and a priority to be present at every birth possible. Sometimes a doe will fool us and have her baby without our being there and ‘usually’ everything is just fine. However, problems can arise and we always feel our presence is an important beginning to ‘harvesting’ that bumper crop. Occasionally there are problems during the birthing process and that is the subject of a seperate article.
Assuming that the doe gives birth without incident the first thing we do is to be sure that the kid’s nose and mouth are clear of mucus, etc. Do this by simply by wiping the kids face with a piece of paper towel. We prefer paper towels to a cloth since it is a single use item and therefore more sanitary.
We then let the doe clean the kid up for herself. This helps to establish a bond between the dam and her kid and the licking also stimulates the kid to stand and nurse. We have seen vigorous Boer kids crawl over to the doe’s teats while she is still laying down (usually awaiting the arrival of the next kid) and nurse the dam, just like a puppy !
NOTE: we always squeeze a squirt or two of milk from each teat to be sure that all systems are working , making sure that the natural plug that is in the end of the teat to protect the udder from outside bacteria is flushed out. True, ‘in the natural’ the kids will suck out the plug and usually both teats are working fine; however, if there is a problem with one or both of the teats function you will find it right then rather than finding a kid that has starved to death the next day.
Make sure that the navel cord has detached properly, which simply means that it is not bleeding - if blood is flowing through the cord we tie it off with a piece of dental floss close to the belly. We have found that if the cord is tied off further down on the cord rather than close to the body often blood will pool in the cord and it will ‘bulge’ with blood and not dry up properly. A damp cord is inviting infection. We always spray the navel with 7% tiodine - don’t be stingy - cover it well. This will help to dry up the cord and also stave off bacteria. Again it is true that, in the ‘natural’ Kids do not get their navel sprayed. True- in the ‘natural’ kids die from navel ill.
Most of the time the kids will get up within minutes and nurse. Be sure that they do get ‘on the teat’ and drink. The sooner they get colostrum in their belly the better - as the kids system can only absorb the antibodies in the colostrum for 8-12 hours after birth. However, if a kid is a little exhausted from the delivery process let it rest and dry off for bit and gain some strength. We do make sure that every kid nurses by 30 minutes after birth. If per chance the kid, for some reason, is to weak to nurse than we will milk out some of the dams colostrum and feed it to the kid in a bottle. If the kid is to weak to suck from a bottle we may have to ‘tube feed’ the kid in order to save its life. (See Drenching and Tube Feeding).
It is a good idea to keep an adjustable dog collar and a double ended snap handy for those does that refuse to hold still for you or the kids. This way we can just snap the doe to the panel (our jugs are usually made of combination cattle panels).
If our kids are born during the cold of Winter we do use heat lamps to help dry them off and keep them comfortable for the first 24-48 hours of life, using the infer red lamps (yes they cost more that the white lamps, but the white lamps are hard on the kid’s eyes).
If you are concerned that the kids will not feel any warmth from a lamp hung this high over head just put your hand on the kid for a minute and you will begin to feel the warmth of the lamp. The lamp does not heat the air but rather the ‘object’ be it a kid or a wooden box. (There is a scientific explanation for this but I don’t recall the exact reasoning and it is really not important here.
Be sure that all lamps are secured so that the doe can not knock them into the bedding, causing a barn fire.
As soon as the kid is dry and stable we place an ear tag in the appropriate ear to identify the kid. (see Identification). If it is a buck kid and we do not intent to keep or sell it as a breeding buck we put an elastacator band on the kid when it is 24 hours old.
We have found that the sooner the kid is banded the less stress and discomfort the kid experiences. We have NOT found that banding the male kids at this early age effects their growth into a good well developed meat wether.
Some breeders prefer to allow the kid to grow and castrate with a knife or to use a Burdizzo. We have never used the ‘knife method’ so we can not comment on that. We have used the Burdizzo on two to three month old kids and even though the procedure was done according to instructions we have experienced less than satisfactory results.
Therefore, yes, we run the risk of banding a kid that could turn out to be a quality breeding buck. We would rather band a good one than let an inferior male kid remain viable.
If kids are born during cold weather we build what we call ‘hay ‘caves for the kids to snuggle into. Kids like the security of a closed in ‘hiding place’. The closeness of the hay cave helps to conserve their body heat, thus allowing the kid to put its energy into growing rather than keeping warm. Several kids will crowd into a hay cave so care must be taken not to make the cave to big or you will run the risk of smaller kids being squashed or other wise suffocated.