by Debbie Dahl
We started with 36 goats, mostly Spanish nannies, confirmed by ultrasound to be pregnant, and they were grouped together in the barn. Our herd totals 115 goats, most being bred to a Boer buck, many of them being first-time kidders. About 85 are Spanish goats from Texas, the others are mostly Nubians that have been milking for a few years. The heat detection records that I wrote down are proving to be a valuable tool in predicting due dates; our calendar indicates that the coming weekend will be the heaviest time for kidding of our half Boers, and in anticipation, I have supplies of Colostrum Supplement, kid bottles and nipples, and milk replacer (we decided to raise the kids ourselves, instead of letting them nurse the mother goats). I set my alarm for 3:00 a.m., to start getting up at least once during the morning hours to check for goats in labor. Arrangements have been made for outside help with my family of five.
Friday, March 3 - The morning brings our first kids due for the weekend, a beautiful little doeling out of a black Nubian, her first kid. She has gorgeously long ears, very feminine. Later that afternoon, a husky eight-pound buck kid born from a Spanish nanny, also her first kid. Both took the bottle feeding very well, nursing as soon as they were about ten minutes old. Birthweights are recorded, navels treated, and notes made. This information can be very valuable later in recording the weight gains of halfbloods.
Saturday, March 4 - I am surprised to only have a single buck kid born, a six-pounder who was already nursing his mother when I went out for the morning check - he was not willing to take a bottle since he was familiar with nursing the goat. Hunger wins over a few hours later, though. I decide to name him Husker, although I promised not to name any kids to avoid emotional attachments to certain ones.
Sunday, March 5 - First a doe (red head) is born, then a seven-pound buck with a black head, then the afternoon brings a solid white little doeling. All three are aggressively seeking to nurse before they are even dried off, and I am scrambling to mix colostrum supplement. The kids only a few days old are getting the hang of drinking, and I introduce them to a multiple-nipple feeder to feed three at a time. So far, so good - the mother goats are having no trouble giving birth. All the kids born so far are in boxes until they adapt to the feeding routine well enough to go outside - besides, it's cold and icy out.
Monday, March 6 - Four kids born, mostly in the morning, so I have no trouble getting them "on the bottle" good without loosing any sleep. Another set of twin bucks are born in the barnyard unexpectedly (ultrasound said they weren't due for over two months). They are perfectly marked red heads, with a white splash down the nose. They all down 8-10 ounces colostrum within the first hour of birth. I start mixing milk replacer in a five-gallon bucket. Kids are divided into boxes around the woodstove in the house, with mother's ear tag number on the box. The pitter-patter of little goat hooves as they run across the hardwood floor to get their daily exercise is noisy, and their cries of hunger demand immediate attention in order to let the rest of my family continue sleeping - even at 3:00 a.m. When one wakes up hungry, they all join in, which leads to all of them getting fed in order for me to get back to sleep. After all, they are only babies!
Tuesday, March 7 - Starts out slow, one kid born early morning (already nursing), another before noon, then several mothers that look close to kidding don't appear to be making any progress. Suddenly, at 6:20, I find four kids newly birthed, all in a pile together, all the same size, and only one mother goat licking them dry. No way to tell which Spanish goat had them, except to make "educated guesses" by coloring - black headed kids from black mother goat (?). I scramble to carry all four from the barn to the house at once. It's very cold, even in the barn, windy with snow and ice on the ground. A feedsack becomes a carrier, as I lay them side by side and gather it carefully in my arms to carry to the house. Two look premature, out of a doe that has been butted around in the confined pens. I manage to save one with a weak kid syringe tube, but the other isn't strong enough to make it - his lungs weren't ready. I spend the next three hours drying them off and mixing colostrum by the quart. At 9:30, I go to check the mother goats, and find ANOTHER four kids, newly birthed in a pile, and try to match kids with mother goats for my records again. All mothers are doing fine, no emergencies during the birthing. With ten kids born in twelve hours, I really have my hands full. My husband does the watering and hay hauling while I struggle with the milk bottles and washing rags to dry off new kids. After playing "mommie" to ten baby goats, I manage to get to bed before 2:00, only one hour before the next scheduled barn check, so I decide to wait until 5:00 a.m. At this point, I'm wondering why I let the buck run with the goats all day, five months ago, and I'm considering letting some of the next kids born nurse their mothers!
Wednesday, March 8 - Wake up time came very early this morning, and with another trio of kids born, I'm having trouble keeping up with feeding intervals, in addition to regular feeding chores. I manage to sneak a morning "nap" between feeding times. When I go to check the barn, I find a newly born kid in the yard (another kid that ultrasound didn't predict three weeks before). The first five kids born are moved to an outside pen arrangement which gives them shelter from the forecasted rain. It's warmer now, and they enjoy frolicking in a sizable pen. I am thankful these are Spanish goats, so that I don't have to milk dairy goats twice a day!
Thursday, March 9 - A set of twin does is born, somewhat small, but determined to drink. They start making sucking noises with their mouth as soon as their noses are wiped off. They would rather drink colostrum than snuggle up in the hay box. With the heaviest kidding period completed, I treat myself to a long nap. Feeding time is delayed two hours, but I didn't have enough strength to last without the rest.
Friday, March 10 - I finally feel caught up on chores, only struggling with the newest kids getting trained to bottle feeding. I take time to clean out hay, note detailed descriptions of the kids' coloring, and note the number of teats on all the kids, keeping in mind birthweights and coloring for future reference. No kids today, but more (mostly Spanish) are due next week, according to my records of heat detection.
I hope you have enjoyed reading about my experiences - it could have been easier to leave the kids on the mothers, but there wasn't enough barn space to allow for this. Also, we had previously decided to bottlefeed in order to let the mother goats breed back to the Boer buck, and to have the half Boer kids as tame as possible. We didn't have any emergencies or birthing troubles, no retained placentas or unbirthed kids, and I'm thankful we didn't have to call the vet out. There were no stillbirths, no deformities, no abnormal teat formations.
Over forty half Boer kids were born here since the first of February. Thirty-five are being bottle-fed, which comes to using a 25-pound sack of milk replacer every three days! Thanks to my genius husband, I have a six-bottle feeding rack which holds twenty ounces each bottle (using glass pop bottles), and it is hung on the side of the pen. This allows me to put out the bottles and then do another chore (grain feeding and haying never ends), coming back ten minutes later to refill the rack. It cuts my feeding chores in half!
With six years of raising livestock, I must confess that I have never been so busy. Bottle feeding is a labor intensive job, much like milking cows. Feeding three/four times a day doesn't allow for much "getting away from the homestead", but I did manage a trip to Lawton (with father-in-law) one day to look over a Boer herd and put a deposit down on a recipient doe carrying twin Boer embryos. They are due to be born about mid-June.
Debbie Dahl DairyDoll@Juno.com, RAD Ranch, Route 1, Box 147-2, Colcord, Oklahoma 74338 (918) 326-4291
Spanish, Meat & Dairy Goats
Debbie & Richard Dahl
Route 1, Box 147-2
Colcord, Oklahoma 74338
Telephone (918) 326-4291