Have the pregnant does graze a pasture close to your house, so that you can easily check them. If you supplement your does with a concentrate or hay, feed it at night. Somehow late feeding delays birthing toward the early morning hours in the majority of animals.
It is a good idea to have some kidding pens ready for weak kids. It is not always easy to detect pre-kidding signs in goats: however, mucous discharge is a sure sign that kidding is imminent. Following birth, the navel of newborn kids should be dipped in iodine.
Nutrition of Newborn Kids
Colostrum is the first milk produced after parturition. Colostrum contains a high content of immunoglobulin (antibodies), vitamin A, minerals, fat and other sources of energy. Antibodies are proteins which help the goat kid fight diseases.
The ability of kids to resist diseases is greatly affected by the timing of colostrum intake and the quantity and quality of the colostrum fed. Reports from cattle indicate that if left alone, 25% of the young do not nurse within 8 hours and 10 to 25% do not get sufficient amounts of colostrum. Colostrum should be ingested or bottle-fed (in case of weak kids) as soon as kids have a suckling reflex.
In cases of extremely weak kids, they should be tube-fed. The producer must be certain that all newborn kids get colostrum soon after birth (within the first hour after birth, and certainly within the first 6 hours) because the percentage of antibodies found in colostrum decreases rapidly after parturition.
It is crucial that the antibodies in colostrum be consumed before the kids suck on dirty, pathogen-loaded parts of its mother or stall. In addition, the ability of the newborn kid to absorb antibodies also decreases rapidly 24 hours after birth. Newborn kids should ingest 10% of their body weight in colostrum during the first 24 hours of life for optimum immunity.
The extra colostrum produced by high lactating does during the first 24 hours following kidding can be frozen for later use when needed. Only first milking from healthy animals should be frozen for later feeding, and the colostrum from older animals that have been on the premises for several years is typically higher in antibody content against endemic pathogens than is colostrum from first fresheners.
Revaccination against tetanus and enterotoxemia (over-eating disease) 2 to 4 weeks before the kidding date is commonly used to improve the protective value of the colostrum against these conditions. Ice cube trays are ideal containers: once frozen, cubed colostrum can be stored in larger containers and the trays used for another batch. Ice cubes are the perfect size for newborn kids, thus thawed colostrum is always fresh, and wastage reduced to a minimum.
It is recommended to thaw colostrum either at room temperature or at a fairly low temperature. Colostrum should never be overcooked during the thawing process.
When to kid and when to wean?
Kidding season and weaning age depend on several management and marketing factors. However, kids born in very late winter and early spring (March-early April), when grazed with their mothers on lush, high quality small grains or cool-season forages, will grow faster and will be healthier than kids born during the heat of late spring and early summer when forages mature and worm burdens increase.
Letting the kids nurse and graze with their mothers for as long as the doe stays in good enough body condition so as not to impair the success of its next breeding season is a sound management practice that will ensure rapid growth of the goat kids.
Weaning is a very stressfull period for kids and coccidia infestations generally show up at weaning. It is important to frequently observe weaned kids. Kids showing signs of coccidia infestation should be treated immediately; otherwise they will dehydrate and die. Coccidia can damage the lining of the intestines and if not treated properly surviving kids may not grow to reach their normal size and production potential.