[Delivery pictures from Harry Tate, used by permission]
This is the section that makes it really apparent that the title of the web site goatwisdom is a tongue-in-cheek thing. There is certainly nothing more humbling than to have a failure at birthing. The results are definitely final, and no "what if's" can can bring that limp little thing back to life if you didn't do things right. But there is equally nothing more exciting than to watch, or even better to help, a little life come into being right before your eyes. Sometimes they will stop breathing several times before they decide that they're going to share a few years with us. Sometimes they seem to be doing real well and then all of a sudden they're gone. I think it is our duty, if we are going to put ourselves in the position of breeding or creating little animals to prepare ourselves as best as possible to give the little guys the best chance at as good a start in life as we can. Having the right equipment at hand, doing all the studying we can, arranging our schedules so we can be there at the right time, honestly evaluating what went wrong in those cases we'd like to forget: these are basic requirements. Real "wisdom" comes in realizing that no matter how many deliveries you've done, there will always be the day when you wish you knew more, that you just can't figure out what to do to get that kid out through that tiny little hole and that horrible results are about to happen. The more you learn, the more you know that you do not know.
If hands will go together here, delivery is about 12 hours away (usually!).
Now that we've got the moralizing out of the way, let's think about planning. This started several months ago when we did our breeding. (I'll have a section on that before next fall, I hope.) We carefully wrote down when ALL our breedings took place and have calculated out the due dates. Now is when the theory of "supervised" breedings pays off. Add 150 days to the breeding day and, on average, your doe will deliver tomorrow. There are differences between some breeds and certain individual does just seem to go forever. You will want to record each doe's gestation length each year so you can come up with an average length for her. You wouldn't be reading this if you didn't have a computer, so you can easily set up a nice chart of past and anticipated delivery information. [If you send me an e-mail, I can send you a copy of a very simple one I use (in Excel).]
A week or so before the due date, you should check around the udder and back legs to see if any of the hair needs to be trimmed off. Extra hair in these areas collects dirt and may become a nuisance at milking. I like to trim back the hair on the tail so that post- delivery discharges don't accumulate. Does should be dried up (stop milking) 60 days before delivery. Up until delivery you can feed 12% protein concentrate feed, but you will need to up that to 16% after delivery. It is good to worm the doe at or around delivery time. There is reportedly some danger of abortion from Tramisol (Levamisole), so some folks wait till right after delivery. (More on worming in another section.)
Start by assuming the worst: It
will be in the middle of the
night; it will be raining
or snowing; it will be dark, cold. You will be dragging out of bed in a
less than alert
state. Got the picture? So we have to know where all that stuff is.
Make a "Vet Box," a
little suitcase, vanity case or whatever you want to call it that has a
that you can carry around with you and have everything at hand. In it
you will need: Some
OB gloves (buy in box of 100), small olive or marichino cherry jar with
iodine for the
navel, spool of thread (to tie off umbilical cord if you have to cut it
or it has trauma), nose and/or ear syringe as pictured for getting
mucous out of nose and throat, scissors,
twine or lamb puller (something to tie onto the head or a leg to help
align things), petroleum jelly, OB jelly (KY Jelly) to put on your
glove and doe's vulva, hemorrhoid
to reduce swelling of vulva after delivery. Additionally, you will need
towels [you always seem to run out!]. A good strong flashlight (the big
kind are best) even if you deliver inside. Over the years your list
will grow and I'm
sure I have forgotten several things. If you get separated from your
equipment the one
thing you always need at hand is a towel.
If you need to assist in the delivery or if you just wish to provide the doe with a nice, secure private place to deliver, you will need a stall about 6 to 8 feet square (it needn't be "square"). It needs to be small enough for her to feel secure and not run madly around if she gets upset yet large enough for you to lie down behind her to reach inside if need be. It will need lots of fresh bedding for her to dig at and to add to general cleanliness. There will need to be a place for feed (hay and grain) and water. The latter is important: she will usually want to drink quite a bit, especially after hard labor. If the weather is severely cold, the water can be warmed a bit. If the delivery is severe, some molasses can be added to the water. It is important, especially if there is a chance of you delivering the doe all alone, to have a couple of places to which you can attach a rope or twine to hold her in one place while you work on her or try to get her to let the kids nurse. The tying places should be quite low (about one foot) off the ground. If it is higher she will tend to choke or hang herself if she goes down when tied--which she will inevitably do if you don't want her to.
After the afterbirth is expelled, the area will obviously need a good cleaning.
If you live in a cold area, you may need to plan for a place to hang a heat lamp, Do NOT rely on baling twine or the clamps that come with the lamp. Hang it securely with strong wire. There have been an tremendous number of barns which have burned down because of heat lamps falling into bedding or against wood parts. Have this all thought out ahead of time. The red heat lamps are more expensive and less bothersome to the eyes. It depends on your preference and availability.
Early stages of labor
This phase causes a lot of nervousness both for you and the doe. There is the inevitable question of when to intervene. It takes a little practice to know when you should intervene and when it is safe to let nature take its course. I tend to lean toward the early intervention option.
This is what she will look like when she is really ready. Note the ears!
At first, she will tend to wander around quite a bit, occasionally arching her back and maybe doing a little "baby talking." The tail-head will drop and you usually can close your thumb and middle finger around the base of her tail (lower back). As the big event gets closer she will tend to get up and down more frequently. There will usually be some form of uterine discharge which is normally quite clear, but don't go into a panic if this contains some blood. Eventually she will lie down and do some pretty serious pushing. Of course, just when you think things are beginning to happen she will stand up and act like nothing is happening. She may dig at her bedding. She may want something to eat at this point. (Let her have it.) The rather prominent diagonal tendon which goes from the pin joint (above the rear leg) to the lower ribs will soften during the latest stages of labor and will practically disappear at birth. This is as good an indication as any that delivery is about to happen.
The Real Thing
Usually the pushing will cause "something" to start coming out. It could be a lot of different things. Normally it will be a "water bag." She will gradually expel more and more of this water balloon which has a tendency to break all over the eager helper. Welcome to goat birthing! When this happens look at your watch for later reference. The general rule of thumb is that if you don't have some part of a kid coming out within 40 minutes, you need to conduct a preliminary examination (stick your hand in her). In a normal birth, this will be followed by a second, darker bag [as in this picture] which will fill with two nicely presented front feet and then a nose. You can gently feel to confirm that this is the case. Are there really TWO feet? Now, it starts getting exciting! As the kid moves through the birth canal the umbilical cord may or may not break (or become restricted). This may cause the kid to start breathing. Obviously, you don't want it to breath that water in which it is immersed. Go ahead and break the bag. The doe should now be able to push the kid out with only the slightest of help from you. (It'll make both of you feel better!)
Sometimes the first thing to come out is part of the afterbirth. This can be a sign that something is wrong. When this happens the kid is not in the right position for delivery or is all tangled up in the afterbirth. A preliminary exam is in order. Put on one of the OB gloves over your bare arm (even if it's cold out...think of the James Herriott stories). Squirt some OB jelly on the glove with emphasis on the broadest parts of your hand and on her vulva, which you have cleaned. While someone holds her, GENTLY insert your cupped finger tips in the vagina. GO SLOW. Chances are her pelvic bones are not spread very far apart yet and you could cause her great discomfort. Varying amounts of the afterbirth will probably be in the way and you'll have to work your way around this stuff. Move your hand in with short pushes between (and not during) her contractions. Be patient in doing this so you don't rip anything. You are trying to get a lay of the land, trying to figure out where all the parts are and checking to see if they all belong to one kid or more than one. Generally, you'll want to push the afterbirth back in and out of the way so that you can slide the kid past it (to avoid severe bleeding). It may be that the actions of your hand and arm will have to be what spreads her bones so the kid can pass because the position of the afterbirth keeps this from happening normally. Try to get the two front feet and nose lined up for a normal delivery. Having done so you will need to decide whether or not to withdraw your hand and wait for a normal delivery or to stay in there and help all the way. There's really no harm in keeping a gentle hold on the front legs and helping things along. Don't pull very hard because she needs to gradually stretch things. If your exam reveals that the baby is not in the right position for delivery, you will have to move it around as described below.
Other than a water bag or afterbirth, about the only other thing that can be coming out first is part of the baby. Sounds simple, right? Now we've got to determine what that part is. It can be: a nose, one front foot or two front feet, right side up, up side down, one back foor, two back feet (which side up?), the butt, a front foot and a back foot, a front foot of one kid and the back foot of another kid-- the possibilities are really pretty endless. How can it get so complicated? Well, if you have four babies, you're going to have 16 feet to untangle and each of these can be in a variety of positions. That is what is meant by "abnormal presentation."
The Hard Ones
Now is when you start thinking about All Creatures Great and Small and all the idyllic stories of the country vet ripping off his shirt in the freezing snow, lathering up with warm water and soap and diving into the rear end of a wild and snorting cow. Well, it's sort of like that but there's probably no movie people there to catch it.
The first step is to get your (strongest) hand inside...and she doesn't want you to do this. With lots of KY Jelly ® on your gloved hand and her vulva, start with just your middle finger. After you're in about an inch, gradually get two, then three more fingers in just a little way. Remember that your hands are probably cold and this is going to be uncomfortable for her. Go nice and slow. Rarely is there so bad of an emergency that you have to hasten this part of the operation. Touch your thumb and little finger together and, between contractions, gradually move your hand through the pelvic bones. She will probably let out a God-awful scream. Always wait for her to stop pushing before you move another inch or two forward. Eventually you will notice that you either have your hand in a giant chasm or you've butted up against a baby.
If there is a baby in the canal and you can't get all the way into the uterus, you have to explore the position of the baby and figure out what's where. If you have a head pointed in the right direction and lying on two fully extended legs, then you are in good shape. Always feel for the head before you start pulling on the legs. Draw back a little and grab both legs and gently start pulling the kid out...just the least little bit. You really want to pull ONLY when she is pushing, so you may have to wait a little to get your rhythms synchronized. Usually, she'll get the hang of it pretty quickly. If she doesn't, always pull very slowly and gently. We can't set a rule that you only pull when she pushes or you could be there for a few years for there are a few that never push at all, but this is rare. Stop and check frequently to make sure that the head is coming along with everything else. If not you'll have to re-aim it. Don't let it flop backwards over the shoulder or you'll have a serious problem described below.
When the toes are almost out, start getting one foot out a little farther (about 1 1/2 to two inches). This will make it easier for the shoulders to get through the canal. You may have to stop from time to time to deal with the head. It may be a tight fit but you can usually get the end of your fingers over or around to the back of the head to exert a little down and out force on the head, the top of which tends to hang up on the various angles of the canal or the rectum of the doe. Things will go pretty smoothly for a while now until the shoulders get stuck. This is normally the hardest part of the pull, when you think that maybe you should call for the tractor and some chains.
Generally the doe will be pushing pretty hard now. Her eyes will start to roll and she may start screaming again. This is not the time to panic. Let the force of her pushing do most of the work expanding her pelvic bones. As long as you are making the very tiniest progress with each pull, you are doing great. Keep a solid pull on the kid so that it can't ever slide back in at all between contractions. Then each push on her part and pull on your part will moves things along nicely. Usually, the shoulders will slip through all of a sudden and you'll make great headway until you get to the hips.
If nothing you do can get the shouders out, stop pulling and relax and try to get her to do the same. Slide your hand to a position on the kid's neck or head (or legs if you can't reach the head) and in between contractions push the kid back in about two inches. Then with BOTH upper legs and the neck, or as much of the kid as you can get ahold of with one hand, roll it 90 degrees to the right (if you are right handed, to the left if left handed). This may take a little time and you'll probably have to push it back in a couple of times. With the kid rolled over 90 degrees the dimensions are a little more in your favor, with the broad part of the shoulders now in a vertical alignment. Now start pulling once again, with one leg slightly ahead of the other. DO NOT alternately move one leg ahead of the other ("see-sawing" as some experts recommend); always keep the same leg in the advanced position.
Now you and the doe are probably starting to tire a little. Get a little more forceful and, still keeping in sync with her contractions, pull the kid out. It sometimes helps to aim the legs and head downward toward its chest (hard to describe the angle you're now in!). The head should be out far enough that you have to start thinking about the kid's cord breaking and the start of breathing. More on that later. In cattle and sheep, there is sometimes a problem with the hips getting hung up, but this doesn't happen very oftern with goats. The cord has probably broken by now and you need to pay attention to getting the kid's airways cleaned out and normal breathing to begin, irregardless of whether the rest of the animal has come out. We'll talk more about how to deal with the kid in another section.
Most books on farm animal care
have nice descriptions on how to deal with abnormal
presentations. They are broken down into 10 or 15 sections each
describing how to deal with
the various problems. The problem is that when faced with a real
can't remember a single thing you read. We will do it a little
differently here. Start by
thinking about a BANANA. Yeh, a banana!
It is slighly curved and it is pointed on both ends.
Now imagine a side view of the banana with the ends pointing down. From
a distance both ends
look pretty much the same. The normal presentation of a baby goat is
shaped just like the
banana. The goal in abnormal presentations is to get the baby lined up
in a way that exactly
resembles our banana. So instead of trying to remember all those
various tricks and fancy
vet terms for various bodily parts, just think of our BANANA.
So, when you reach in there and don't find a BANANA, you have to make a BANANA. And just as a banana looks the same on both ends, the baby can be delivered either end first, just so long as it looks like a BANANA.
One Leg Back
Frequently, you will reach in and find a foot, a nose and, oops, there's only one foot. The baby may have trouble coming out this way. By pushing on the head or chest, move the baby back in about four inches (slowly and between contractions). Put your hand on the upper leg (of the leg that's bent back) and push back a little more. Do this until there is some room between the knee and the wall of the uterus. Roll your hand under the lower leg and end up with your palm facing upward against the shin and the heel of your hand on the knee, using your arm to keep space between leg and uterus. Slowly move your hand down until the ends of your fingers slip over the pointed front part of the hooves. You will now be drawing the toes toward you while pushing backward on the upper leg forcing it into the shoulder area. But most importantly you will be keeping your cupped hand or fingers between the sharp hooves and the wall of the uterus. This is essential. The wall of the uterus is pretty fragile at this stage and can easily be torn, which usually results in the death of the doe. Don't take too long doing this because there is some stress on Mom and kid while you're flipping the leg up. Remember to push the upper leg against the shoulder to give you room to work the toes up. You will do well and we've achieved the BANANA shape. Now you can proceed to pull the kid out as described above. If both legs are bent back you'll have to do the other leg as well, but this is rare.
This procedure should be done with the Mom in the standing position and being held firmly by your partner. If no partner you will have to tie her as described above: LOW. This is probably the hardest thing to deal with. Frequently the neck will be twisted and you'll find that the head is upside down. If this is the case, you will have to push the baby a little to the side and get the top of the head facing upward. Get some twine made into a loop or one of the the rubber lamb pullers that looks like a bungie cord. Pass this over the nose of the kid and pull it with your other hand. It will probably slip off the first time. Just keep trying. You may need to move it to the back of the head, with the front of the under the chin. Keep one of your fingers inside the loop so that you can be sure the know hasn't slipped and you're going to strangle the poor thing. You can also hook onto just the bottom jaw so long as you don't exert too much force and dislocate it. Whatever works for you is the right way! But remember to always keep a gentle pressure pulling outward on the nose or head because it has probably been bent back for a long time and will have a tendency to return to this position just as soon as you let go. Your partner may be able to help by exerting pressure on the outside of the abdomen where the head is. Don't let go of the twine until the head is out. While you are pulling the nose toward you with your twine, you will probably have to push inward on the shoulders with the flat of your hand. You will usually have to make several attempts at getting the head pulled around. Don't feel bad if the first few tries end in failure. You'll notice that in this position your hand and arm tire pretty rapidly. You have to keep trying. Once things are lined up and you have the BANANA, pull the legs with one hand and the twine with the other until you can proceed with a normal delivery.
Easy in theory: you have to get the kid right side up, like the BANANA! You can usually do this by grabbing the shoulders or chest and gradually rotating as you PUSH things back in. You normally don't have to worry about the lower body because that will take care of itself on the way out. It is best to check for the position of the umbilical cord so that you don't break it or get it wrapped around the kid by turning it the wrong way. Since the baby is upside down, it should be faily easy to find the cord. Check on the head frequently as you rotate so that the neck does not get twisted or the head bent back. Just ask yourself if it looks like the banana!
Another approach that can work very well, especially if the uterus is not full of other kids, is to simply roll the kid end-to-end. In doing so, it will end up right side up. It is probably best to take the end closest to you and go "up and over" pushing forward as you go. You will probably have to retrieve the feet before you can start pulling. Also check to make sure that the cord is not wrapped around the kid before you start pulling.
If your first check of the situation reveals that the pads of the feet are up, then you probably have a backwards presentation. No problem! You don't have to worry about the head this time: it will just follow everything else. Do you have BOTH feet? If only one, you'll have to go fishing for the second one, just like above remembering to keep part of your hand between the hoof and the wall of the uterus. The important thing about coming out backwards is that when the butt of the kid exits the Mom the cord is either breaking or pressed firmly against the pelvic bones and circulation will cease and breathing will be triggered. You have to pull rapidly now and get that kid out before it can breath in those fluids in which it is immersed. You can pull too fast...with the results being that the navel is herniated or pulled out of the abdomen, so don't get too violent. Just get on with business and be prepared to have to do some pretty vigorous clearing of the kid's airways [see below].
The Breech Birth
Technically, breech birth implies that all four feet aim forward and that you just have the pointy butt of the kid presented for delivery. This is the one that every body gets excited about, but it really isn't all that bad. It does NOT look like a BANANA, but by now you have a pretty good idea what you have to do to make it look like a BANANA (get the back feet coming throught the canal first). But the biggest problem we face here is recognizing what we have. You will reach in and probably not be able to identify a single bodily part, except perhaps for the tail. It will feel like rib cages, jaw bones, teeth, eye sockets, feet are all mixed up and in the wrong place. Frequently, this will be the second kid to be delivered. It just seems like nothing makes sense. You will suspect that you have this deformed critter with all the parts attached in the wrong places. [Actually, this does occur, but is extremely rare. If so, you may have to dislocate some joints or cut some parts off to get the thing out. Maybe I'll add a section on that later.]
So these are pretty good clues that you have a breech. If there is more than one kid left in the uterus, there may be some parts of a second one mixed up in this mess. So long as you don't get excited and get it pulled part way into the canal too soon, you can take your time and get things sorted out before you even think about doing any pulling. You are trying to find the back feet. They will probably be pointed foward toward the doe's head. The pads will be pointed down. Basically what you will be trying to do is to push the butt forward while pulling backwards on the feet. If you can feel the head, see if it is lined up straight and get it to tuck down a little toward the chest so you can roll the whole thing forward into a ball. You're going to have to get the butt as far forward as you can, because the back knees don't bend in the right direction to flip up like we did the front ones. Once you have it pushed forward and the back legs in hand, push the toes up against the stomach and bring the knee back toward you. You can do this one leg at a time but it is probably better to do both at the same time. With force being applied against the back of the knee joint slide you hand down and hook over the tips of the toes and bring them back toward you in a rather rapid motion. Be sure to remember to get your fingers between the toes and the wall of the uterus. You will have to lift the toes over the ridge at the base of the doe's pelvis and this will be the hardest part. She will really try hard to force the kid out while you are doing this and you have to be determined to not let this happen or you will have to start all over. If I have explained it clearly and if you do it right, you will have your BANANA now. DON'T let go of the feet. Rest for a little bit, because you and Mom are getting tired now.
Once you start pulling you have to keep going, no matter what. Pull the kid out. Hopefully, Mom will do some contracting to help you. But that doesn't matter too much now. You've probably had your arm in there long enough to stretch the pelvic bones as far as they're going to go and you're not going to gain much by being tactful. Remember again that when you can see the butt the damage to the cord is already done and you have to get it out. Pay careful attention to the initiation of breathing; you will probably have to twirl the kid in the air to clear out the mucous [more on this in another section]. I really hope that this has helped.
In one case out of a thousand (or so), the cervix will not dilate and the kids cannot be born. The doe will make most of the normal approaches to labor and delivery, except that not much will come out, maybe just a little afterbirth. Labor will sometimes seem to slow down considerably and you will begin to think that maybe things aren't going right. When you enter her to check, you will find that you cannot locate an opening to the uterus or that it is very small. At this point, you can either contact a veterinarian for hormonal injections and/or a Caesarian section or you can try to manually dilate the cervix. Does that do this tend to repeat in later deliveries (but not all).
If you decide that you're ready to try to dilate the cervix yourself, be prepared to spend the next hour with your hand and arm inside her. So get other things taken care of before you start! If you cannot even find the cervix, reach forward and slightly downward feeling for an area that is slightly thickened compared to the rest of the area. It resembles a donut in that the hole is surrounded by muscular tissue. By probing this mass very gently you will eventually be able to get one finger partially through. You only need to go as far as your first joint. Then you will reach around on the inside and very gently massage the inner edges of the ring. It will exert considerable force against your finger as you work your way around the circle. (If it doesn't feel this way, stop immediately and re-evaluate the situation. Never use any real amount of force to enter the uterus.) Effort is directed more at massaging the inner tissue than in expanding the opening. It is generally felt that stimulation of the upperpart may be more effective than the other areas, but I just keep going around in circles.
You will continue to do this for about one half hour. After you can get two fingers through the opening, you can feel that you have made considerable progress and can start making some attempts at expanding the hole. But take your time. The doe is usually not terrible upset by this procedure if your continue to be gentle. At about the 30 to 40 minute point you should increase the number of fingers that you can get through (one at a time) until you can get you whole hand through. Be sure not to withdraw your hand at this point. Your wrist is narrower than your hand so when the wrist is lined up at the cervix, things will tend to be a little more relaxed. Gradually start feeling around for the kid. Don't be in a hurry, but you can start positioning the head and feet for delivery. You will have to draw the entire kid through this hole, so let it expand as you go. The doe may or may not start to help you with her contractions at this point. Frequently, she will decide that you are going to do all the work. Don't get the head very far through until you're sure that the ring has expanded enough to allow for this. By now, you will have a clear idea of why this dosorder is called "ringwomb." Remove the kid as you would normally and be prepared to assist in removing the rest of the kids. You probably shouldn't wait very long between kids. She probably isn't going to be of much help anyhow.
The placental membranes, commonly called "afterbirth" will normally be expelled with a little bit of moaning and groaning about four to six hours after the last kid. It is really best to try to watch for this. There is some disagreement about whether or not the doe should be allowed to eat this. Generally, they will want to do so in about 75 percent of the cases. Some folks say that the afterbirth contains a lot of nutrients which are beneficial to the new mother. This is probably true, although I have never seen any documentation one way or the other. On the other hand, there are a couple of good reasons they should not be left alone to do this. In a very small percent of cases the doe will choke and die trying to injest the afterbirth. Also, if she is having problems with her appetite, which happens sometimes at time of delivery, the placenta may contribute to or add to problems of indigestion. We always try to watch for the afterbirth and get it away from her. Furthermore, if you are able to observe its complete passage (about the size of a flattened grapefruit) then you do not have to worry about the problem of a retained afterbirth (see "freshened doe"). If you find that she has, in fact, eaten it, don't worry about it; she'll be just fine.
I have a little routine I usually follow with pretty good success: Before the end of the day of the delivery, I givethe doe a shot of long-lasting penicillin and about an ounce of Power Punch®, on the following day I worm her with Valbazen® (delivery tends to trigger an increase in the worm load) and give the kids each 1/2 ml of BoSe®, and on the third day the doe gets 5 gr of Probios®.
There is no way that we can cover all the combinations of problems that will occur. You have to believe that you can do it. You may have to use a little creativity, but if you remember to base it on the theme of the BANANA, you'll do just fine. Remember to always be gentle. Whenever possible, do the above procures with someone holding the doe. Tying her to the wall and doing it alone can lead to some real disasters. Whenever you have had to enter the doe, give her at least one shot of penicillin or other broad spectrum antibiotic and, after passage of the afterbirth, infuse her with Nolvasan® or some similar uterine product. Realize that you will have some failures. But you will also have mostly successes. Experience IS the best teacher. Good luck and be sure to send me notes on how to improve this section. So much of delivering is based on spur-of-the-moment decisions that it is really hard to write this. I've tried to make this a "get down and get dirty" Web Site that will really be helpful. Your vet may disagree with some of the suggestions found here and the lack of tehnical terms for bodily parts may be upsetting to some. But I have a really poor memory and when you are in the heat of battle, you'll find yourself forgetting a lot too. If you have read through all of this very long page I know that you really care about your goats and that is plenty of reward for me. Thanks.
CONSULTANT © Cornell's Diagnostic program