Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Birthing Process

Fresh milk!!! I am so excited. I can finally quit using frozen. Good thing because I'm about out. Yes, indeed Belle gave birth last Wednesday. Those of you who follow Easy Living the Hard Way Facebook page know this and have seen the photos but since this is an informational post, I've got lots to teach some of you. The rest of you can tell me if indeed this has been your experience. 

 But first let me introduce the oldest, a lovely young doe with great potential. She was born around two in the afternoon. The hour in which Belle had her first set of twins, five kidding seasons ago. Yes, a doe will normally have her kids within a three hour window of the first time she gives birth. If you know the day your doe bred and how many days that particular doe's gestation is, then you know when to head for the barn and keep a close eye out for possible complications. This has become more and more important as the years go by and my energy level keeps taking vacations. Getting up in the night for nothing makes getting up in the early morning to get grandkids off to school much more difficult than when I was young.

That means I have a tendency when possible to cull the night kidders. Two o'clock in the afternoon is perfect and that is just when Belle's had her first lovely little brown doe.

I was a little late for her arrival but hey, she was still all wet and slimy so it could not have been by more than a few minutes. I ran back for towels and the Betadine to do my job. I waited as mom and baby greeted each other and kept looking for the tell tale signs of the next arrival -- nothing. 'Well, this was getting ridiculous', I thought so I slipped under Belle and filled a baby bottle with colostrum. You can see there is no shortage of it. Look at that udder. I always make sure each kid gets as much colostrum as possible in them even if I am going to leave them to nurse their mother.  The only way to accurately gauge that is to bottle feed them the first time. After that I can teach them to nurse or let nature take its course. Yeah, like I've ever really done that. LOL "What if they get too weak or one of the other kids pushes them aside." See, I just can't take the pressure so I interfere. No one seems to mind.

This particular doe I leave her to mother the little ones but she is not keen on nursing. She was not taught to by her first owner and it did not come natural to her. In fact she would not even mother her kids until she came to my house. I started to teach her to suckle her little ones but then I thought I would like to keep some of her offspring and bottle feeding alleviates weaning problems. My does will nurse forever if given a chance and the kids can slip through the tiniest holes to get their moms so no, I don't let any little ones I want to keep nurse.  The other reason I bottle feed most of my kids is that they can go to new homes right away since feeding them does not require their mother.  This gives me the milk I need for the kitchen.

As I gauged whether I was going to keep this little one, I kept looking for sign of Belle being uncomfortable and pawing the ground but she was relaxed and happy. Relaxed and happy is not what I needed. You don't have this size of an udder and sides sticking wa... y out for nothing on a hay diet. There had to more kids inside. Each of our does will follow a certain pattern year after year that is characteristic of her as an individual when she gives birth. There are odd years of course when the doe refuses to follow her set pattern but for the most part she will do the same thing year after year.

I decided to just watch and wait. I would on a younger doe pull the rest of the kids I knew were inside if she was in hard labor and they failed to appear within twenty or thirty minutes. That or labor was not progressing along meaning a possible breach birth or two kids who's legs were tangled near the opening. The reason is if you wait too long the kids will be dead. But Belle was comfortable and relaxed and this was not her first kidding season. Experience has taught me after thirty one years of delivering kids and a gut feeling born of, been there done that's. This felt right and so I bent down and filled a bottle as she stood licking her baby. Milking stimulates uterus contractions. Sneaky aren't I?

 I've learned that with older does they often have a longer labor. More light labor in the beginning and a period of rest in between kids is common. More so between the first and second kid. The third follows shortly after. Patience is a virtue with these older girls. Sure enough, a little under an hour later Belle acted agitated and pawed the ground a few times and just three pushes later I saw.....

 The water bag with two feed inside. They are the dark mass just below her tail. Three pushes and out came a strapping buck. Most of the time a water bag appears first and then the feet but not with this doe. Five minutes later and three pushes, out came a little doe looking like her mother. Belle was done, she had her triplets.
How did I know she was done? Three kids is the normal max for a dairy goat. I've only had one doe have four. Four is too many since a doe rarely has enough milk for that many. Besides there are the pushier kids that hog all the milk. If left alone one or two of them will die.You don't want four. I did not expect four and besides, Belle's sides were sunk in in an empty look.

Some does take a while to pass their after birth but Belle's began to appear shortly after. This is what it looks like. No water bag, and no feet sticking out. Nope -- notice the fibrous texture though. This is the placenta and it has little buttons inside. No, not buttons like the ones on your coat but round dark red solid tissue masses that they call buttons. When I would be in charge of a mare foaling for our neighbors, I was required to count the buttons to make sure the mare had not retained part of her placenta. 

I admit, I never count the buttons in a goat's placenta. I have no idea how many there are suppose to be so how would I know if they are all there? The only thing I make sure of is that the goat does pass her placenta and hopefully in one long connected mass. It should of course be in proportion in size to the amount of kids it held. If it does not come out it putrefies. Big time infection. If ;your doe fails to pass hers within twelve hours I'd head to the vet for a Lutalyce shot. It will put the doe back into labor. She'll hate you but it is for her own good.  How do I know this -- experience.

Don't be alarmed, when your doe bleeds a light amount after giving birth. This can last for a few days and sometimes slightly longer in goats that had a tough delivery. To slow and stop the flow on a doe who is in my opinion bleeding more than I'd lie, I milk more frequently. This naturally tightens back up the uterus, stopping the flow. The larger the uterus size due to multiple kids, the longer it takes for the uterus to shrink back to pre-pregnancy size. If there is an infection, the bloody discharge after birth will become a more maroon color, not a red blood color. It will be thicker, and have a nasty smell to it. Then she needs a penicillin shot, a few of them.

I've taught my does to hold still without restraint in the pen and I bend over at will to fill baby bottles right from the tap. Since I bottle feed four times a day, 6 am, 12 noon, 6 pm, and 10 pm, this is plenty enough to get things cramping. With triplets, for the first few days where there is only colostrum being produced, this method empties my doe's utter each feeding. If there is extra like there was with Belle, I freeze it just in case I need it for kids born to another doe. At night I am sure to drain the doe fully before heading to bed.

 At five years of age, Belle was in light labor for several days after giving birth. She did not eat a great deal or drink much. Then on the third day, it abated and her milk began to come in. By the next day she was crying for relief in the morning. "Please milk me!!" 

She gave 3/4 a gallon this morning and the same amount tonight. Impressive for a Nubian on her first day of her milk coming in. Her supply will steady increase for a while before leveling off. The second morning, this morning, she gave the same amount. 

Remember, the more demand for milk, the more the doe will produce, within reason of course. This means milking three times a day produces more milk than milking twice a day and of course once a day. Milking frequently will up production but if sustained over a long period of time, this will decrease the longevity of your doe. Since I was gone much of yesterday, I only milked twice. Today, I will milk three times and give this poor girl some relief as her production should be greater yet.

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