Newborn goat kids

Goats June 29, 2012 Print Friendly and PDF

Care of Newborn Kids

Survival and increased performance of newborn kids significantly improves goat producers' likelihood of success in the goat industry. The objective of good care and management of newborn kids is to minimize death and enhance health and performance. In most situations, does take care of their kids and minimal attention may be required by owners. Does with good mothering ability -- the capability to care and raise kids successfully -- and experience clean their kids by licking immediately after kids are born. Does bleat time to time to communicate and get the kids’ attention. Kids in good health and condition stand up, seek teats, and suckle within half an hour or so after birth. These actions of does and kids develop a maternal bond. Early development of a maternal bond is crucial for the survival and growth of newborn kids. Does keep their kids nearby and protect them from other animals in the herd. Does nourish their kids by producing and feeding colostrum and milk. Well-fed does provide sufficient colostrum (Colostrum), which is the only source of nutrients and immunoglobulin for the newborns. After two to three days, colostrum gradually changes to normal milk. Milk is the only source of food for young kids until they develop the ability to digest other feedstuffs, which starts developing by 3 to 4 weeks of age and completes by 8 to 9 weeks of age. Does that have a well-developed udder will produce enough milk for their kids if they are receiving a sufficient quality and quantity of feed. Because of good maternal care and nourishment, newborn kids survive and grow well in their early life. Although many does in a herd will take care and raise their kids with minimum problems, owners should keep their eyes on newborn kids and their mothers and be prepared to provide support when needed. Common situations when newborn kids may need extra support and vigilance are listed below.

Situation when newborn kids may require extra support

  1. Very cold and/or wet weather when kidding – Kids lose body energy very rapidly when in cold or wet environments. As a result, they may become weak and die.
  2. Maiden does – These does do not have experience to take care of newborn kids and may abandon their kids easily, especially to near-term does with strong maternal instincts.
  3. Does in poor health – Sick or weak does may show indifference to their newborns and/or may not be able to produce enough colostrum and milk required by kids.
  4. Multiple births – When three or more kids are born, even an experienced doe may not be able to provide enough care and nourishment for all kids.
  5. Weak newborn kids - They may not be able to stand up and suckle on their own.
  6. Does with poor mothering ability may not provide enough care and also may abandon their kids.
  7. Risk of predators – When the kidding area is not well protected from predators, newborn kids may be killed or injured.
  8. Poor sanitation and hygienic condition – Under such conditions, there is a high risk of infectious diseases and parasites. Newborn kids, especially those weak or poorly fed, easily succumb to pathogens.
  9. Crowded condition – Aggressive animals in a herd may approach and attack or steal newborn kids. Also, such conditions harbor more pathogens and make the environment stressful compared to less crowded conditions.

To avoid kid loss from any of the above situations, owners should keep breeding records and plan to attend kidding with necessary supportive knowledge, skills, and materials. Listed below are common care and management practices to increase the survival and growth of newborn kids. However, one must understand that help should be provided based on necessity. If everything is going correctly, intervention may not be required and may even be detrimental.

Prepare for Kidding

  1. Minimize likelihood of injury and infection. Keep pregnant does in a separate clean shed or new pasture around their kidding date so the chance of injury and infection is minimized.
  2. Be prepared with necessary materials and supplies:
    • Disinfected feeding bottle, supplementary CAE-negative colostrum, heating lamp, towels, disinfectant soap, water, lubricants, gloves, 7 promote iodine navel dip, tube feeder, scissors, injectable vitamin E/Selenium, syringes and needles.
    • Be prepared to help with kidding. Trim nails and clean hands with soap and water; use gloves before touching kids or does.

Care and management of newborn kids

  1. Make sure newborns are breathing. Remove any material from around the mouth and nose, clean and dry newborn with clean towel or rag. A piece of straw gently inserted up the nasal passage will stimulate breathing in a weak newborn.
  2. Keep newborns warm and dry. Provide clean, dry, and soft bedding. When the bedding gets wet, change it or add more bedding. If it is very cold, wrap kids with a warm towel or kid sweater. If kids are in a pen, a heating lamp can be used to increase the temperature, but be sure to install it safely and correctly; do not let animals chew the cord.
  3. Cut the umbilicus (naval cord) to 1.5 inches in length and spray it with tincture of 7 percent iodine to lower the chance of infection getting into the body.
  4. Unless keeping kids from CAE-positive does or bottle-rearing kids, do not take them away from does. While cleaning, drying, and performing other activities with newborns, keep them close to their mothers. The development of the maternal bond between kids and their mother is extremely important.
  5. Help weak newborns stand up and suckle. It is crucial that newborns suckle and ingest enough colostrum soon after birth. If newborns are weak and/or a dam is not interested in her newborn, be watchful as help may be required for subsequent suckling.
  6. Bottle feed colostrum to kids if does are not producing enough or suckling is hindered. If kids are not able to stand up and suckle, the does should be milked and the kids tubed or bottle fed. Give only a few ounces at a time based on the kids’ appetite. Extra colostrum should be refrigerated and fed later by warming (100-102 degrees F or 38-39 C) it just before feeding. The bottle should be cleaned thoroughly before and after feeding. If the mother is not producing enough colostrum, colostrum should be collected from other CAE-negative does kidding around the same time and having excess production, or frozen colostrum from last year's kidding can be thawed in a water bath and fed. Colostrum feeding must start within half an hour or so after kids are born and repeated four to five times a day. Kids will get enough immunoglobulin if 2.2 – 2.8 ounces per lb live weight (140 – 175 g colostrum per kg of live weight) is fed within 24 hours of birth. Overfeeding should be avoided because it may overwhelm the kids’ digestive system and cause diarrhea. The best thing to do is to satisfy kids’ appetite but not to force them to drink.
  7. Certain diseases, such as Brucellosis, Johne’s disease, Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis, and Caseous Lyphadenitis can be transmitted to kids through colostrum and milk. If does are infected with any of these diseases, kids should be removed from their mothers at birth, and only colostrum from disease-negative does or heat-treated colostrum should be fed.
  8. Keep the premises clean, well lighted, and ventilated. This will minimize the chance of infection.
  9. Make sure premises are safe from predators.

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, does’ health and maternal abilities are vital for the survival and growth of newborn kids. Moreover, good health of does is necessary for their own survival and continuous successful breeding during their productive lives. Therefore, mothers also must be carefully monitored and cared for to successfully raise kids.

Reference: Karki, U. 2002. Peripartum supplementation of maiden does to increase colostrum and milk production, kid growth and capretto quality. M.Sc.Thesis. Pages 85. The University of Western Australia, Australia.

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.