Dystocia

Dystocia is defined as any event or condition that results in abnormal delivery of babies. It can include everything from early abortion caused by rough herd mates to failure of the mother's cervix to dilate at delivery time. Most cases of Dystocia in goats are caused by management error in the form of over/improper feeding, incorrect medication, lack of proper worming or sanitation, and overcrowding/overstocking. I'm going to cover only the cases where the kids are carried to term or near term and have a chance of survival. I consider this between 135 days after breeding through 153 days after breeding. Before 135 days the chance of survival of the kids is almost zero and after 153 days a vet should be consulted.
I am not a veterinarian and the recommendations in this and all of my articles is based on my best judgement and the experiences encountered in our goat operation. Always consult a qualified goat veterinarian for specific recommendations concerning the health and care of your goats.

First, Is assistance really needed? A doe that labors over 30 minutes with the front feet and nose of the kid showing and no further progress would appreciate some help. A doe that labors over 45 minutes with nothing or only a ball showing definitely needs help.

Second, Anytime you stick your hand, gloved or not, inside an animal you are introducing germs into an area that is extremely sensitive to this type of invasion. Consult with your vet as to the proper medication and dosage for eliminating or reducing the effects of possible infections. We use 5cc of AgriCillin administered intra muscularly once a day for three days.

If only the feet (or one foot) are visible for a long period of time you will need to gently push the feet and legs back in and gently, with a lubricated, gloved, hand, explore inside the doe for signs of the head turned backward (toward the does front) or entanglement with another kid.
It's sometimes difficult to determine the position(s) of the kid(s) but try this... Imagine what a kid looks like after it is born. Now, in your mind, put that kid in a sack of water inside another sack of water. Again in your mind, think what that kid would feel like to your hand if it were between the two sacks of water.

Many of the recommendations listed require that you insert your hand and arm inside the doe. We call this "fishing for kids". It's very seldom done in a rush - slow down and use whatever time it takes.
This type of fishing is best done with your eyes closed - that way it's easier to compare your memory (from the previous paragraph) with what you are feeling inside the doe. Another point... When maneuvering hooves around inside of a doe it's a good idea to cup the hoof in the palm of your hand to prevent it from injuring the uterus. The hooves of unborn kids come equipped with soft tissue "booties" but it's better to not take a chance. Always wash the vulva and the area around it very well with an antibacterial scrub such as betadine before you stick your hand in there.
Always wear rubber OB (shoulder length) gloves if available. If these are not available you can use exam gloves. Buy some OB gloves now... Experience has taught us that rubber dish washing gloves are to thick - they do not allow you to feel the structures inside the doe.
Always lubricate the glove well - If you don't have lubricating jelly now, get some. If it's too late you can use mineral oil.
You may also need an OB snare. They can be purchased from most livestock suppliers. Hoegger and Caprine Supply have them in their catalog. If you need one right now they can be made from a length of baling twine. Here is what a commercial one looks like:

OB Snare

The following are some of the more common incorrect ways that kids can get themselves arranged (malpresentations) just before birth. The figures only show one kid each for clarity. Remember that if there are two or more kids you will need to be sure that you aren't pulling on the left leg of one kid and the right leg of another kid - they WILL NOT both fit through the hole together.
Don't spend too much time trying to straighten out malpresentations. If you aren't successful on the first few tries call your vet. It's always better to call them too early than too late!

First, a review of the normal delivery position. Normal Fetal Position
This position looks correct at first but notice the way the forelegs are flexed.
Before this kid can be delivered the head must be pushed back and the legs pulled to an extended position.
Use the OB snare to keep the hooves from going back into the birth canal when you push on the head.
This is what we call the "jack knife". The forelegs are presented normally but the hind legs are in the pelvic canal.
The hind legs must be pushed back out of the canal while holding the forelegs with the OB snare.
Now, this little fella really doesn't know if he wants to be born or not. He wants to "test the water" with just one toe before he jumps out.
With one foreleg retained both the head and the extended foreleg must be pushed back and the flexed leg straightened and brought into position along side the extended leg.
If the head is turned to the side or flipped back along the spine then push the forelegs back to make room for your hand and move the head into the correct position. Hook the OB snare around the kid's head before you remove your hand because they will almost always put their head back where it was if it isn't held straight.
The head tilted down toward the belly can sometimes be straightened out without pushing the forelegs all the way back in. Capture the forelegs with the OB snare before sticking your hand in there to re-align the head.
With the head and neck turned all the way to the side like this you are in a difficult situation.
Push the forelegs back in, straighten the head and neck and hold them in place with the OB snare while you move the forelegs back into the birth canal.
It is not unusual for this position to result in a bad ending. Fetotomy or Caesarian section are often required.
This is the normal posterior position.
Gently pull the hind legs outward and down (toward the mamma's feet).
This is the classic breech position. It requires that you press forward on the rump and bring the hind legs into the birth canal. This creates the normal posterior position.
The posterior position with one leg retained requires that the exposed leg be pushed forward and then both it and the retained leg re-aligned together in the birth canal into the normal posterior position (as in the previous figure).
With the kid upside down you need to rotate it to it's normal position. Easier said than done but once accomplished he'll probably be delivered on the first few heaves after you remove your hand.
This position requires that you first rotate the kid to the normal feet down position then extend the forelegs and head for normal delivery.

Dystocia can be presented in may other ways but most of them cannot be overcome. Here are a couple that you at least stand a chance of correcting:

The kid is "sideways" - This can occur when the kid takes a wrong turn at the corner... it tries to enter the uterine horn on the other side of the dam instead of entering the birth canal.
The fix here is to slide the kid one way or the other to place it in either an anterior or posterior position and then deliver it normally (probably with a little pulling on your part).

Goats seem to like to roll on their backs to scratch and this can result in torsion of the uterus. The uterus becomes twisted along it's long axis and traps the kid inside. It's like twisting the top of a plastic trash bag.
If you can't reach the kid but can feel the twists call the vet immediately.
If you can get your hand inside as far as the kid you will be able to feel the direction of the twist and just "spin" the kid in the direction necessary to straighten the birth canal out.

I repeat... Don't spend too much time trying to straighten out malpresentations. If you aren't successful on the first few tries call your vet. Give the vet a chance to do the job she/he is trained to do.

Learn about Normal Delivery
Go to the Introduction