Oh, dear. It’s stalking time again! No, I didn’t mean talking time. I really meant stalking time! I hope no one calls the police, but then again, I am referring to the 80s band, The Police, who probably didn’t have goat breeders in mind when writing this song, but hey, whatever works! Maybe I am wrong and Sting, the writer, has some cute country cottage in England with lots of sheep and goats. After all, if you have a name like Sting, I have to assume he likes animals (bees, in particular)! In either case, when I hear:
Every breath you take,
Every move you make,
Every bond you break,
Every step you take,
I’ll be watching you…
I certainly think KIDDING TIME! This is what I do every spring as kidding time nears (in truth, I begin doing it from day 1 of breeding). Right now I only have one left to kid, and she is making me wait! I check goats two, sometimes three times a day. As the impending due date nears, I watch their every movement from my kitchen window and back deck (ok, I admit I spy on them from the window in my study, too). Often I peek in on them, watching for movement of those babies on the right side (kick! kick! Sometimes it looks like a ping-pong game going on in there). I pay attention to breathing, belching, stretching, moaning, groaning, crying, scratching, nibbling, licking– everything. I watch for broken ties with old friends and anyone who suddenly wants to be a loner or leave the herd for new pastures. I watch back legs, looking for nice angularity to give way to two–2×4 posts suddenly. I watch. I wait. I sigh. I moan. I groan. I guess. I hope in anticipation, and then I am let down. I wait some more and inevitably, watch some more. OMG… I AM a stalker–a goat stalker.
Some might think I am a bit odd at midnight, leaving the house with my silly-looking, waterproof headlight/flashlight combo, slogging through the red mud, wet snow, freezing rain, icy sleet, dense fog, and other icky nastiness that heads my way just to go to the barn to do a bedtime check before trying to go to sleep myself (no, not in the barn though I have considered making a lovely, little cozy warm spot out there somewhere to keep out the freezing rain a few times!). However, I know I’m not odd. If I were alone, then I’d be odd, but I’m not. No, there are a whole group of goat stalkers out there! I’m so glad I’m not the only geeky goat girl slogging through the ick. There are plenty of us, and then there are those who … yes, believe it or not… those who want to be us! (join now! Membership is only $25, and you can PayPal it direct to me! 🙂 For those of you who are ‘new’ to goats, or even for those who are considering goats, here are some things you should be prepared to watch out for when it comes to impending delivery of kids in future months/years/centuries (you vampire goat watchers).
1) Loose ligaments– The ligaments are located on both sides of the tail head. When they get loose and droopy, enough that you can or can almost close your fingers around the tail head, OR if the area around the tail head ‘visibly’ appears to be sliding down toward the ground, birth time is close. Some people will say kidding is within hours. I disagree, because I am a goat watcher, and I’ve had ligs soften up to 2 weeks ahead of time, especially on those goats that have freshened before. After ligs, look for the other signs, too.
2) Posty legs — If you look at your goat, and her legs have gone from curvaceous beauty to two, 2X4 posts, you have labor shortly around the bend (usually within 24 hours). There’s no missing postiness when combined with loose ligaments. The poor gal will look like she’s trying to do ballet around the barnyard while her tail is drooping toward the ground.
3) Pawing the ground — Yes, she’s big. Yes, she’s uncomfortable. Yes, she just wants to lay down and get comfortable, but no, it’s not going to make her feel any better. She’ll do it anyhow. Usually, pawing the ground directly precedes labor, and most will be happier if penned at this time with nice, comfy bedding to paw at before ‘pushing time.’
4) Crooning, Begging, Crying, Cursing at her stomach — Yes, and sometimes all of the above. Not all does talk to their babies, but many of them do. Many of them may think there’s an alien lifeform in there because they really do a lot of yapping at the belly.
5) I VANT TO BE ALONE! — Oftentimes does will separate themselves from even those who have been their lifelong friends when the time comes to kid and bond with their new babies. Some of them, especially first fresheners, might just be trying to hide from the alien that seems to want to come out, and perhaps, when labor pains begin, some are trying to protect the rest of the herd from what could be an enormous bout of flatulence–the worst ever! Either way, many do want alone time and will separate. This is why it is important to have kidding pens set up. If you let your do have the kids wherever she wants, she may become confused and abandon them or have kids in several locations where they could chill or be ‘forgotten.’
6) Contractions– A does breathing changes during contractions, and you will notice her abdomen hardening into a ball. She may cry out during this time, or she may ‘talk’ to you. Some want your attention during contractions, and some will even lick you in prep for cleaning their kids.
7) Streaming — Doesn’t that sound lovely? I picture a sweet meadow with a babbling brook, lots of fragrant wildflowers, chirping birds, and a gentle, warm breeze. Not. In fact, it just means she’s losing her mucous plug and ‘oozing’ it in a goopy ‘stream’ of fluid the consistency of jelly. This is good news though because it means…
8) Pushing — What else can I say but KIDS WILL APPEAR WITHIN MINUTES TO A FEW HOURS. HOORAY!!! The doe will bear down, sometimes brace herself against the floor or wall, and push. Does will sometimes lay down to push. I encourage mine to stand since I know gravity well help get those kids out of their faster.
Kids are born (normally) in a diving position with the head resting on front feet. In most cases, does do not need assistance, but if she has multiples or a precipitous (fast) birth, you can help clean off babies. If you are going to be milking, it’s a good time to get her used to your hands. Let her lick you, and you can ‘nurse’ (milk) from her, too, and she will be eager to care for you on the milk stand.
I hope the rest of your kidding season is great! Have a good one.