The Right Start: Avoid Early Life Issues with Kids
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While exciting, preparing for the kidding season and beyond is often stressful. Each pregnancy, year, and kidding is unique, and no unforeseen event is off the table. But this period is also rife with opportunities to establish a solid foundation for healthy kids with simple protocols and precautions that help them navigate the trials of kidhood. Proper attention given during the early months of life — particularly the pre-weaning period — will limit early life issues and prevent weak immune systems or poor growth and development.
Preparing for Kidding
A typical gestation for goats is between 147 and 155 days. Kids born earlier are considered premature. A good indicator of a premature kid is tooth development. If the teeth are still fully in the gums unexposed, they are premature.
The biggest issue youngsters face is breathing problems since the lungs are the last to develop. Thus, it is essential that their airways and lungs are cleared as soon as possible after birth. One way to do this is to hold the kid securely by its fetlocks and gently, slowly swing in a back-and-forth “arc” motion upside down. This movement helps move the loose fluid out from the lungs and down the nose and mouth.
Wet and cold weather can cause premature and full-term newborns to rapidly lose body heat and energy, making them weak and lethargic. These environments can also lead to poor sanitation and make it hard to maintain good hygiene. If such conditions are inevitable, be sure you have essential tools in your kidding kit, including towels, blankets, a heat lamp, and/or a warming box. Kids who are cold-shocked (usually when they are found sometime after birth) can be given a warm water bath to help revive them.
No matter how old a doe is, having three or more kids can make it difficult for her to nurse sufficiently. Not to mention, multiple births often leave one or more small kids that are susceptible to cold and stress-inducing conditions. Even if you defer to dam-raised kids, have a backup plan for orphans and multiples, whether bottle feeding or adopting them to another doe.
Finally, spacing and environment are essential during and immediately after birth. If kidding in a group pen, ensure each doe can be secluded from the rest of the group uncrowded, and with plenty of dry bedding. Keep aware of the herd behavior and remember that some does may be aggressive or even try to steal or kill newborns.
When kids are born, check their breathing and remove any material stuck around their nose and mouth if the doe is not immediately cleaning them. Now is a great time to add more clean bedding to the area and offer some additional warmth if needed.
Once the kid’s immediate needs are attended, it’s good to do an overall health assessment, including checking the umbilical cord (and dipping it in 7% iodine) and genitals for abnormalities.
Nubians, Boers, and long-eared crosses are sometimes born with folded ears. These should be gently flattened and sandwiched between two pieces of cardboard as soon as possible after birth. They may remain permanently folded if not addressed early.
Don’t forget to check the doe and be sure she has passed her placenta and has plenty of water. Once she’s stable, see if she has colostrum by squeezing a teat. Frozen colostrum from last year is always the best option for a dry doe or one late to lactate. If that isn’t possible, you can buy a replacement. Just make sure it includes immunoglobulins or IgGs.
Colostrum is extremely important for the kid to consume during the first 24 hours. The antibodies it contains are only effectively absorbed in the first 18 hours after birth, so feeding as early as possible is essential. The amount of colostrum fed within the first 24 hours should be 10% of the kid’s body weight. To ensure adequate consumption, some people opt to give this first feeding with a bottle or feeding tube, even for dam-raised kids.
In herds with contagious diseases like caprine arthritis encephalitis (CAE) and Johne’s, kids should be reared separately and only bottle-fed pasteurized milk.
The question of providing additional supplements and nutrients at birth is hotly debated by goatherders the world over. What a kid “needs” depends on a multitude of factors: Region, soil composition, the doe’s diet, and even genetics. A good place to start is to ask breeders and veterinarians in your area for any specific nutritional deficits they encounter. For example, selenium and vitamin B deficiencies are common in certain parts of the country. Usually, these experts will be more than happy to offer a product and protocol to follow after kidding.
It should be noted that vitamin and mineral supplements should be given with caution and only after you fully understand the product. Some, like B12, are water soluble and extremely difficult to “overdose.” Others, like selenium, can be toxic at even minuscule excesses.
Be sure that the product you use is labeled for newborn kids or, if not, given only under the guidance and direction of your veterinarian.
Kid Growth Management
Limiting stress and exposure to pathogens while maximizing nutrition is among the most important components of growing healthy kids.
Growing kids metabolize food rapidly and are greatly impacted by poor nutrition and inadequate hydration. If a doe produces sufficient milk and is fed an appropriate diet, dam-raised kids seldom have nutritional issues. But they still may be subject to dehydration due to diarrhea caused by parasites or microscopic pathogens.
Kids raised on milk replacers can struggle if the formula is insufficient or improperly mixed. Likewise, bottles or bucket feeders not fully sanitized can lead to chronic illness, so these factors should be accounted for.
Raising kids can be difficult, but knowing how to prepare and provide the care needed can help with a positive kidding season. Preventing early life issues can protect the herd’s integrity as it continues to grow and for the future generation of your herd.
Knowing how to nip issues in the bud early in a kid’s life provides benefits experienced throughout its life. With proper care, it can have a strong and healthy immune system and be structurally sound to breed and grow the herd.
- Metzger, M. (2011, March 30). Artificial rearing of Goat Kids AIDS in prevention of disease. MSU Extension. Retrieved February 5, 2023, from https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/artificial_rearing_of_goat_kids_aids_in_prevention_of_disease
- Gasparotto, S. W. (2020, January 1). Health Problems of Newborn and Young Kids. Tennessee Meat Goats. Retrieved February 5, 2023, from https://www.tennesseemeatgoats.com/articles2/healthproblemsKids06.html
- Goats. (2019, August 14). Newborn Goat Kids. Goats. Retrieved February 5, 2023, from https://goats.extension.org/newborn-goat-kids/
- Roeder, M. (2022, November 30). Getting Your Kid off to a Healthy Start. purinamills.com. Retrieved February 5, 2023, from https://www.purinamills.com/goat-feed/education/detail/getting-your-kid-off-to-a-healthy-start
Originally published in the May/June 2023 issue of Goat Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.