Baby lambs and goat kids are undeniably cute and fun to watch, but goat kidding or lambing is also a serious responsibility. If you have a pregnant doe or ewe, or you are thinking of getting baby goats or lambs to start your herd or flock, we would like to provide you with a few important factors to consider.
Taking Care of Momma
Like other animals, you should make sure your pregnant doe or ewe has the proper nutrition before and after giving birth. Be sure not to overfeed, as this can lead to complications such as hypocalcemia and ketosis. Watch their body condition and adjust their feed and water as needed. One way to ensure they are receiving the proper nutrition during goat kidding or lambing is to feed the pregnant ewes or does separately from the others. The smaller ones may get pushed aside, reducing their amount of food intake.
Increase the energy and nutrient density of the goat diet during late gestation (the last 50 days) by gradually adding a concentrate feed to the diet over 7-10 days. Then, start increasing the energy and nutrient content of the goat diet even further during the last 30 days before kidding. Increase the total amount of concentrate diet fed weekly to achieve the amount required for lactation by kidding time.
Supplementation is critical as ewes enter the third trimester, when 75% of fetal growth occurs. If the ewe can’t get enough energy into her system during this timeframe, she can lose condition since the fetus is taking many of the nutrients.
If you have a large herd/flock, it is a good idea to isolate the doe/ewe when she’s ready to give birth. This will eliminate some of the chaos of other goats or sheep that are curious to see what’s going on, stressing out the momma, stomping on a newborn, etc. If there are difficulties during the birthing process, having the doe/ewe penned up separately will allow you to focus on the mother and baby and not have to deal with extra chaos.
Preparing the Goat Kidding or Lambing Birthing Stall
You’ll want to prepare a clean, dry place for the doe or ewe to deliver. Clearing out an empty stall (called a “jug”) would be good, but if you don’t have one, a makeshift stall made from plywood or even a wire hog panel with clean, dry bedding would also work. Either way, try to give them some protection from the elements.
This “stall” doesn’t have to be very big. Keeping it on the smaller side provides a more controlled environment, keeping the mother in closer proximity to her newborn and helps her to bond with her baby. When babies arrive in early Spring, the nights are rather chilly, at least in our part of the country, so having a heat lamp in the stall can be a lifesaver.
Preparing the Pen
Like babies of almost any species, kids and lambs are energetic, playful, and curious. Kids will get into and on top of anything they can. Take a close look at your fencing to make sure it is “kid-proof.” The openings in a cattle panel, for instance, are wide enough for a kid or lamb (and even an adult) to get their head through, say, to eat some leaves or “greener” grass on the other side. Once they’ve pushed their head through, their ears may make it difficult to pull their head back out, so they could be stuck there for a long time and even seriously injure themselves. Their legs can easily get caught, causing injury as well.
“Must Haves” Before the Babies Arrive
Carol Pryor is a local goat herder who has been raising goats for over 15 years and currently has around 100 goats. She has given us a list of items that she suggests you have on hand for goat kidding before your doe gives birth:
- Rags (old towels work best)
- Heat lamps during cold weather months
- Pepto Bismol (for the mother’s diarrhea)
- Hand towel to remove liquid from the baby’s nose
A colostrum supplement is good to have on hand. ASAP for Newborn Kids and ASAP for Newborn Lambs are products proven to be a great benefit for babies that are weak and need a little boost to get them up, nursing, and ensure that essential intake of colostrum. They are “must-have” first aid items for your birthing kit.
If you know an experienced sheep or goat producer, perhaps have a couple of conversations with them about lambing or goat kidding beforehand. It helps to talk with someone who has been through this before.
Have your local veterinarian on speed dial in case there are difficulties, like if the baby is coming backward, prolapse, an excessive time during delivery, or lots of straining.
Babies already arrived? Refer to our post 3 Priorities for Nursing Baby Animals.
*Extra tip: Studies have shown that goats prefer lighter-colored buckets to eat out of.
We hope we have provided you with some useful information about preparing for goat kidding and lambing. If you have any questions or suggestions, please click on the comment button. Thanks for reading!