Can a Premature Kid be Saved?

Can a Premature Kid be Saved?

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A premature kid needs immediate intervention and special care. Unfortunately, premature kids often turn into a loss for the farm. Not always, though. Evaluating the needs of a floppy kid as soon as possible helps you make an educated decision about your level of intervention.

Not many occurrences on the farm are as sad as losing an animal. When you await the birth of a new goat kid, only to find it arrived prematurely is devastating. Premature kids often die from hypothermia, breathing issues, and illness before we can intervene.

How to Evaluate a Premature Kid

When you find a premature kid, quickly gathering important information may enable you to save its life. Keep in mind that this does not always work out.   

The first piece of information needed begins before conception. Keeping breeding records is the best way to determine the level of prematurity. A near term, slightly weak kid will recover much quicker with intervention. A severely premature kid may require veterinary intervention to have a chance at survival.  

Time is of utmost importance because the kid will need colostrum soon. Colostrum is the first, thick vitamin- and energy-rich substance produced by the mother before the milk comes in. It is vital that the kid get this life-saving first food, but first, the kid must be ready to take it.  

Evaluate the breathing. Are the lungs functioning well enough on their own? The lungs are the last organ to develop fully before birth. Pulmonary surfactant is not produced until late in gestation and is needed for the lungs to stay inflated.  

Has the dam licked the kid dry and clean? If not, you will need to grab some terry cloth towels and dry the baby. Gently rubbing should help the kid begin to warm up, too. If the doe is trying to encourage the kid to nurse, that is a good sign. Deciding when to intervene is difficult. 

Warming the premature kid is necessary before attempting to help it nurse or offer a bottle containing colostrum. Hypothermia can be a cause of death in premature kids. After drying with towels, if the tongue is still cold, you can use a warming box or a heat lamp to warm the newborn further. Make sure the lamp is secured to prevent burns and fires.  

Is the premature kid able to stand on its own? The kid will not be able to nurse if it cannot stand and is cold. Once it is dry and warm, give it a chance to nurse. All these steps need to take place in a truly short amount of time, minutes, not hours.  

Bottle Feeding 

It is crucial that all kids receive colostrum as soon as possible. This is even more of an emergency with a floppy kid. As soon as the kid is warm, attempt to get it to suckle. If it cannot stand, then grab the baby bottle, milk some colostrum from the dam, and try bottle feeding. If the dam does not have colostrum present yet, use purchased colostrum.  

Chilled kids do not have a suckle reflex. You will need to keep warming the kid while trying to get it to suck from the bottle. Otherwise, it will choke on the colostrum. In a weak kid, tube feeding may be necessary once the baby is warmed up. 

Helpful tips for bottle feeding include covering the kid’s eyes to simulate being under the doe. Also, flicking or nudging the tail will mimic the doe licking the kid to encourage it to nurse. 

Severely Premature Kids 

These fragile newborns are often very tiny and undeveloped. They may only live a short time once delivered. The lungs are probably not ready for breathing. The sucking reflex is not developed. Often this scenario is an economic decision. The odds are not in the kid’s favor for long term survival.  

Have an Emergency Kit Ready Before Kidding  

These items are easily stored for the time leading up to kidding. Having them on hand will greatly increase the survival chances for a viable premature kid. 

  • Colostrum — often sold as a dehydrated powder that can be reconstituted with clean water 
  • Baby bottle with nipple 
  • Warming lamp 
  • Dry towels 
  • Cortisone injections to assist lung development (discuss this option with your veterinarian) 
  • Tube feeding equipment 

Causes of Prematurity in Goat Kids 

Premature kidding can happen even when the goat keeper does everything right. There are also some contributing factors that you might not know are present. Some of these are easily corrected. 

  • Selenium deficiency can be a cause of premature births in goats. BoSe injections can prevent this and prevent some premature births. 
  • Low-quality nutrition can lead to an underdeveloped fetus even in full-term pregnancy. 
  • Chlamydia is a bacterium that spreads through feces of infected birds, ticks, and other blood-sucking insects. Premature kids infected with chlamydia are often delivered up to three weeks early. The dam shows inflammation of the placenta, which led to premature birth.  
  • Toxoplasmosis gondii is a single-celled parasite that is spread by cat feces. It passes through the placenta to the fetus. 

Avoiding Cases of Premature Kids 

Protect your breeding does from outside causes of late-term abortion and premature births. Keep stalls clean and feed a well-balanced nutritious diet. Reduce overcrowding in the stalls and paddocks. Overcrowding can increase the incidence of disease and cause stress. Stressful conditions, especially during late gestation, can also cause lowered disease resistance. 

If you have does with a history of one or more cases of premature births, remove them from your breeding program.  



Causes of Stillbirths and Miscarriage

Deciding if Kid is Viable

Originally published in the January/February 2021 issue of Goat Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.

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