Kidding season is one of the most exciting, mysterious, and worrying times of the year for a goat rancher. The pregnant does seems to transform overnight from plump, mischievous nymphs into swollen, waddling matrons. And there are so many unknowns!
Like most mammals, does are most vulnerable during and after the birth process. Mechanics in kidding can and do go wrong. A kid presenting sideways or two trying to escape at once can lead to dystocia which may require human intervention. Hormones can awaken sleeping parasites, which leads to anemia, lower milk production, and, ultimately, parasites in the kids. We like to kid in winter to minimize the effects of these blood-suckers, but freezing temps can result in a cold kid that needs warming up.
A rancher’s worries are magnified for ‘first fresheners’: does having their first kids. In addition to the delivery concerns, producers are keen to have does with good mothering skills and excellent milk. Although these are moderately heritable traits, you never know what how a doe will perform until she’s up to bat. Some mothering traits, such as milk production, can be indirectly measured by weighing the kids. Others must be observed by watching how first fresheners interact with their kids. Are they promptly cleaning them up after birth and nudging them towards the udder? Are they talking to them, encouraging them to nurse often and stay near? Are they protective of the kids, keeping them safe from threats? A good rancher keeps copious notes which will guide decision making later in the year.
And then the kids! Are they active, noisy, struggling to rise? If so, good! The sooner they are up and nursing the rich colostrum, the better for the kid. How many in the litter? Kikos tend to have twins, but one to four is the common range. If more than two, is the doe capable of feeding and caring for them? And size! Are they very large or very small? Too large can increase birthing difficulty and too small may indicate prematurity or poor nutrition/parasitism. Again, copious notes and measurements are keys to future success.
This year, we had a largish number of kids who were tan/palomino, with white headcaps and some with white belting, all thrown by the senior herdsire, Ozymandias. Seven of 20 of Ozy’s kids were this color pattern! Patches Ranch Cash, a goat of many colors, has given us white, pure black, and everything in between. In early February, we will see Sir Tommy’s kids; he was matched up with a blue roan, a red roan, and a sable goat with white points!
Alas, we are over halfway through kidding season. Many of the worries are over this year as things have gone smoothly. Too soon, we will be champing at the bit for kidding season to resume, as the kids grow rapidly and the pace on the ranch subsides.