Full term does should be capable of giving birth without intervention. It is important to allow the laboring doe to proceed with little or no human interference. If a doe must be moved, move her before she gives birth, and then leave her alone for at least an hour. Mother-kid bonding is very important, especially in large commercial herds. Eartagging and navel-dipping can wait until after the kids are cleaned off and are up and nursing.
If a laboring doe has broken her water and has been pushing hard for 30 minutes, or if the water has broken and the doe has made little effort to push for an hour, intervention is indicated. Normal presentation should include the appearance of two wax covered hooves that point downwards. These should be followed by a nose, head and body. If the feet point up and are followed by a tail, the kid is coming backwards, but no problems should arise. Intervention is indicated if a tail or a nose and/or one foot are visible, or if more than two feet are presented. Be gentle when pushing these malpresentations back into the uterus. Remove all finger jewelry, wash your hands if possible or use latex gloves. Try to sort out two matching feet and pull slowly in a downward direction. If the head is back, repel the body while encouraging the head to come around by pulling on a soft rope looped through the kid’s mouth, around the lower jaw. Extreme distocias must be delivered by caesarian section or attended by a veterinarian, so don’t delay in the decision making process.
After birth, the kid must receive colostrum within 2 to 4 hours. The colostrum contains antibodies manufactured by the dam in response to the vaccination program and these antibodies will protect the kid until its immune system is mature enough to produce its own. Antibodies are very large molecules and there is a limited window of opportunity that occurs perhaps as short as 2 to 4 hours after birth when these antibodies can pass through a porus intestinal wall and enter the kid’s bloodstream. After this time period, the cell openings in the intestine close and antibodies cannot physically pass through it. Colostral antibodies cannot benefit an older kid. A kid that receives antibodies quickly from a vaccinated doe will have a natural immunity to Clostridial, viral and other bacterial diseases and will thrive better than those that do not. If colostrum is not received in time, give the kid at least l0cc of C & D Antitoxin (even though the bottle says give only 5cc) to give a temporary immunity to C & D. Vaccine labelled for goats against Pasteurella haemolytica is available and will work in healthy kids. Another element of mother’s milk is Escherchia coli and Streptococcus faecium, some usually harmless intestinal bacteria. Kids need bacteria to help digest food and some scours are due to the lack of the bacteria in the gut. Products on the market to seed the intestine with E. coli and Streptococcus are available for calves and they work well in kids. Give 5cc when scouring is first observed and again the next day if necessary. These products can also be used preventively if the kid is on antibiotics for pneumonia or other infection to stabilize the gut flora.
Weak kids can be revived by warming under a heat lamp, on a heating pad, in an oven or in extreme cases in a bucket of hot water. If the dam’s colostrum is available, tube the weak kid and administer up to 20 cc of it or thawed, stored cow or goat colostrum. Never use a microwave to thaw colostrum as that will destroy the antibodies. Placing a stomach tube is not difficult, but care must be taken to insure that the tube goes down the esophagus and not the trachea. Before attempting to place the tube, measure the distance externally from the lips to the stomach and mark it on the tube. Stretch the kids head back gently and place the end of the tube at the back of the throat. Push gently until the mark is reached. It is possible to puncture the stomach with a forced tube. Kids with tubes in their esophagus will be able to breathe, and probably scream, normally; tracheated kids will gurgle. A tube down the trachea will encounter a ridged passageway, it will “bump” as it goes down. Also, it will not be possible to push the tube down to the mark as the trachea is a lot shorter than the esophagus.
Pour the milk or electrolyte solution into the attached syringe and pull back on the tube a bit to allow the liquid to enter the stomach. Do not use the plunger on the syringe to force it down, but allow gravity to fill the stomach. Withdraw the empty tube quickly. A warmed, tubed kid should be returned to its dam as soon as possible. If the kid is ultimately rejected, make sure it gets some colostrum and prepare to bottle feed. Newborn kids will need 20 to 40cc of lamb’s milk or kid’s milk replacer four to five times per day. Lamb’s milk replacer is $ 10 per bag less expensive and if used, mix at 3:1 instead of 4:1. Multiple kids can graduate to a lamb bar to minimize labor costs.
Bottle babies are prone to a variety of diseases. Runny noses, coughing and sneezing is probably due to pneumonia and aggressive treatment with antibiotics is indicated. Naxcel, given once daily at 0.1cc per 10 pounds body weight can be used alone or in concert with lcc/10 lbs Erythromycin administered 12 hours later in severe cases. If using penicillin, be doubly sure to aspirate the needle before injecting because if the vein is hit, the kid will die before it hits the ground. If all else fails, try .25cc/10 lbs. oxytetracycline or sulfamethazine (1/2 tablet per kid) in the milk. Pneumonia in kids is difficult to treat and may lead to death. Scours, on the other hand, is easy to treat with live microbial culture given orally at 5cc per day for 2 days.
Many diseases and some viruses can enter the newborn kid via the navel. In some instances, especially when kidding in confinement, it is necessary to dip the exposed umbilical cord in gentle iodine to disinfect it and prevent disease. At this time, the kid can be ear tagged, weighed and recorded. Many growers use colored ear tags or consecutive numbers to indicate year of birth (ie: all 1994 kids get a blue tag consecutively numbered 4001, 4002 to indicate the first and second kids born to this, the fourth generation on the farm. Smaller operations can use 401 and 402). Some growers use the doe’s number as part of the kid’s number and the tag color to indicate the sire or the year. Whatever system is used, it is smart to indicate somewhere on the tag, perhaps the underside or backside, the number of the dam as it is common to find a lonely and hungry kid. It’s a lot easier to identify the dam by looking at the ear tag in hand than it is to reference records stored at the office.
Some kids are born with weak or malformed legs. All the parts are there, but they cannot stand correctly or at all. This is due to overcrowding in the womb or being a day or two premature (undercooked, so to speak). This is not a nutritional or genetic problem, it is a physical one and will correct itself with time. Severe cases may require a splint until the ligaments have been restored to their normal condition.