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Doc Fleming
Boer Wild Farms
Jay, Florida, USA

Are You Hearing Fetal Heartbeats?
Doc Fleming Editor's Note: Doc sent this information in response to a question on the boergoats@egroups list. There are many procedures that can be performed by the average goat breeder that can help the vet help them when you make that panic phone call. Among them are the goat's temperature, breathing rate, diet, changes in diet, changes in activity, pregnancy, and if her unborn kids are OK. It's not always possible to hear the heart beat of a perfectly healthy fetus but if you *can* hear one (or more) the vet needs to know.

First of all, remember that the rumen is on the goat's left side . . . and, when functioning normally, it has a combination of gurgling, gastric, gulping sounds. The locations for finding kids' heartbeats vary, depending on the number of kids she's carrying. I have found that if I can catch the doe laying down (on her left side), the kids are forced farther outward on the right side . . . by feeling around with the stethoscope you'll find them. Sometimes it's a little frustrating and the fact that you're listening through hair doesn't help. I try to push the hair out of the way as much as practicable.

The following applies to TWINS:

I seem to find the best heartbeats closer to the right hip -- sort of high (about 2/3's the distance from the lowest part of the belly to the backbone). The kids' heartbeats are fast -- 120 [per minute] or faster -- so it's hard to confuse them with the doe's. In a normal presentation of twins, the first kid will be positioned with its front feet and nose toward the birth canal and rear feet pointing toward the doe's belly -- it almost appears (in cross section drawings) to be tiptoeing and reaching toward the birth canal. This kid is the one who's heartbeat I can find the easiest.

The second kid is forward of the first (toward the doe's head) and laying behind the last rib. Its arrangement is head down and rear feet up and with rear legs parallel to the backbone and pointing toward the birth canal. Its belly rides its twin's back. (sort of like they're spooning with their heads at opposite ends). You ought to be able to hear number two's heartbeat by listening right behind the doe's last rib on the right side of the body --- about the middle of the doe's side.

Depending on whether they are correctly positioned and at what stage of pregnancy they are, these listening positions will vary. The positions I've described are accurate for the last 45 days of gestation and only slightly different prior to the last 45 days. The goats are separated by a membrane, so they don't normally rotate or swap positions. It is possible for the kids to entangle once the membrane breaks. In the case of singles, the heartbeat would be found almost center of her right side (between the hips and last rib).


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