The Normal Goat Birthing Process
Editor's note:
This article includes excerpts from Gail Bowman's excellent
book Raising Meat Goats For Profit. I recommend that this book be part of every goat owner's library.

Normal Fetal Position Normal Fetal Position

Somewhere between the 120th and 145th day after breeding the doe may start to "bag up". Her udder will start to fill with milk - it's not ready yet but is just getting a head start toward being ready to feed the kids. If you run an intensively managed mob this is the time you should move her to a pen near the barn or other shelter that you've designated as your kidding area. Some soon-to-be mammas don't bag up until the last day before delivery.

Two days before she delivers (give or take a day) she may start wandering around looking for an isolated, secure, area away from the herd. Some goats never express this desire; specially if they are in a small closed herd always kept in a small pen. This is also about the time she may start having a thick, opaque, light grey vaginal discharge. This is just lubrication so don't worry about it unless it's pink or red colored - then you probably need to call the vet and solicit their advice.

The kids are usually fairly active during the last month of pregnancy and watching them move around inside mamma is kind of neat. All that activity you see on the left side of mamma... forget it. That's the rumen moving food and digestive stuff around. The kids are on her right side. During the last 12-18 hours before birth most kids settle down and you won't see any "elbows" or "knees" moving around. Also, the prospective mom will start to show other signs about this time - The vulva will become more swollen and less firm. The ligaments just above and to either side of the tail will soften. And... she may start "talking" to her stomach. Another sign that kidding is near is that she'll become sunken in the flanks as the kids move into position in the birth canal.

The next normal activity is "stand up, lay down, stand up, walk around, lay down, stand up, dig the floor, lay down, stand up..." Well, you get the point. Even experienced mammas can get nervous and having you standing around staring at her doesn't help. Just check on her every few minutes. When she develops a thick, stringy, long vaginal discharge she's getting serious about having these kids.

During one of her laying down periods she'll start to "heave" - not the throw up kind, the kind where her rear end comes up off of the floor and she starts calling the buck every name in the book. These heaves will repeat every few minutes and eventually a small balloon of reddish-brown liquid will appear outside of her vulva. This is where the clock begins - note the time and stick around for one of the real thrills of goat tending!

With a few more heaves the bag of fluid may break or it may just get bigger and hang down to the floor - even when she's standing up. The contractions will get closer together and pretty soon she'll have another bag of fluid. Look at it a little closer and you'll see a couple of hooves inside the bag and as she has more contractions you'll soon see a nose. These were the easy parts for her to push out! Next comes the forehead which usually takes a few more very heavy heaves and almost immediately the rest of the kid will follow. If you've been thinking ahead you'll have a stack of clean newspapers laying near and can slip the sports section between the kid and the floor as the little critter comes out of it's mamma. You might want to help, now... use a paper towel to wipe the sack and fluid from around the kids mouth and nose and let mamma do the rest of the cleanup.

After mamma has cleaned the kid to a sparkling shine it's your turn again. Trim the umbilical cord to about 1-2 inches long and dip it in strong (7%) iodine - all the way to the belly. We use an old 35 millimeter film tube as a dipping cup. If you have a date that evening it might be a good idea to wear rubber or plastic gloves during this procedure - iodine stains.

If there is another kid it'll come along in a few minutes and you get to do the nose/mouth cleaning and the belly button dip on it.

Within a half an hour the placenta will be delivered and you can relax. If the doe eats the placenta it won't hurt her and it isn't necessary to nature's plan that she does. If you'd rather you can just take it out to the barnyard and bury it - or better yet, put it into the compost heap.
If the placenta does not deliver within 2 hours you need to call the vet. There is a good chance of a retained fetus.

OK... we've sorta' covered the way things are supposed to happen. Now, take a look at some things that require your assistance - Dystocia -.
Learn about Dystocia
Go to the Introduction