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11 Goat Labor Signs You NEED to Know

If you are raising goats, then you need to be prepared with a kidding kit, when that time of year rolls around. You want to be as prepared as possible when the goat labor signs appear. Nothing is more nerve-wracking and awe-inspiring than watching life be born. This post helps complete my raising goats resource page, where you can find a lot more information about raising goats.

I have made it a point to be at each of my does side during labor and delivery. And I’m so glad it’s worked out. It is relieving to know I’m here to help, and it’s amazing to watch the miracle of life. I believe it will do you and your goat so much good to be apart of this process, even if you don’t have to step in to help.

11 goat labor signs you need to know

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Goat Labor Signs

Watch the video below or read the post…or both!

If you like this information, my YouTube channel is full of even more goat information. Please click this link: Delci | A Life of Heritage and subscribe! You can also click this link to watch this information on YouTube: Goat Labor Signs Video on YouTube

STAGE ONE LABOR: GOAT’S BODY PREPARATION

1. DOE’S UDDER WILL SWELL

Doe's udder swelling

When Sign Occurs: A doe’s udder can begin to fill 4-6 weeks before kidding or right before kidding. 

All does are different. Some may begin to fill up right before birth and finish filling after delivery. First-time fresheners may show this sign earlier and more prominently. 

Their bags will be tight and shiny when they fill.

Because all goats are different and because it’s so hard to remember every detail from year to year, it’s so important to record this information in a Goat Management Binder like this one. Taking notes on how your does progress into labor will help you in the next year. Each note you make will remind you and be your brain from year to year and you will see patterns and how each of your does act in pregnancy and labor.

Goat Essential ↓

2. KID(S) WILL “DROP” AND GIVE DOE SUNKEN SIDES AND PROMINENT HIP BONES

Goat kids dropped and preparing for labor

When Sign Occurs: This sign will usually happen in the last week (1-5 days) before kidding.

As the kids move into place for delivery, they will drop and give the doe a sunken look to her sides, spine, and her hips will become more prominent. Before this happens, her sides will usually look very full and pregnant.

3. TAIL LIGAMENTS LOOSEN

GIF showing the tail ligaments that loosen when a doe is in labor

When Sign Occurs: Throughout the last month or so of pregnancy, the ligaments will begin to loosen. When the tail ligaments are completely gone and you can wrap your fingers around the tail head, active labor will begin within 24 hours.

This sign is the most consistent and accurate. Become very familiar with these ligaments. 

Each goat has a ligament on each side of their tail that feels like a rod. As the labor gets closer, they will loosen and disappear, the tail head will raise and can be wiggled back and forth. When they are completely gone, you will almost be able to completely wrap your fingers around the tail head. 

Feel your goat’s tail before and throughout pregnancy. This will give you good practice on knowing how they feel when they aren’t pregnant, and what the tail area feels like as they loosen. 

4. LOOSE and SWOLLEN VULVA

Does with loose vulva preparing for labor

When Sign Occurs: A does vulva can begin to loosen sometime in the last month of pregnancy and will become more prominent in the last week of pregnancy.

As labor draws near, the vulva will become loose and may even jiggle as she walks. You also may notice that when she lays down, it will be slightly open. 

5. VAGINAL DISCHARGE

goat discharge preparing for labor

When Sign Occurs: Vaginal discharge can appear within the last month of pregnancy but will increase as the day gets closer.

If you notice a large amount of discharge along with several of the other signs, it will be a good indicator that she is in labor. 

6. DOE WILL SEPARATE FROM HERD

Doe standing off by herself preparing for labor

When Sign Occurs: Usually, a doe will separate herself from the herd to begin nesting and to find a place to give birth. This will happen when labor and birth are within 24 hours. 

Any time that a goat separates itself from the herd, is a sign that something is up! This is one of the first signs that your goat is sick…or in labor!

7. DOE “NESTS” AND PAWS THE GROUND

Goat pawing in labor and nesting

When Sign Occurs: A doe will begin to nest as labor gets closer. Usually, active labor will begin in the next 24 hours when this sign appears. 

When a doe is nesting, she is looking for a good spot to give birth. As she paws at the ground, I imagine her pawing in pain (am I the only one who felt like my womb was being crunched in a pain that is indescribable when I went into labor??), but she really is looking for that perfect place to lay down by moving the bedding around until it is just right. 

8. DOE WILL GET UP AND DOWN REPEATEDLY

When Sign Occurs: Usually,  active labor will begin in the next 24 hours when this sign appears.

This sign accompanies the pawing. As she paws around she will also lay down and get up repeatedly, trying to find that perfect position to get comfortable in.

As she lays down, she may also even “talk” to her belly.

9. DOE YAWNS (AKA–THE SILENT SCREAM OF LABOR)

Goat yawning and showing signs of being in labor

When Sign Occurs: Active labor will begin in the next 24 hours when this sign appears. 

A doe will yawn throughout labor. Why? Well, I’m not sure. But again, I just can’t help but think it’s the silent scream of labor. Poor girls. 

10. CHANGE IN BEHAVIOR

Doe has a change in behavior before kidding

When Sign Occurs: During the first stage of labor, many does will act like a different goat altogether.

In this picture above, Olivia at that time was a very standoffish goat. Hands-off-and-leave-her-alone was the way she liked it. But during labor, she became very friendly. Some does may even lick you over and over or follow you around when normally they wouldn’t. 

Or a very friendly goat may decide that she wants to be left alone and becomes standoffish. 

If you notice your doe is acting differently than she normally does, then this is a good sign that labor is imminent or in progress. 

11. CONTRACTIONS

Goat showing labor with a tail contractions

When Sign Occurs: Labor is in progress and babies will soon arrive!

During this stage of labor and while having contractions, the goat will arch their back and her tail will arch back and forth during the contractions. 

STAGE TWO: ACTIVE LABOR

Goat in active labor and pushing

In this stage, the doe is actively pushing. You will begin to see the bag protrude and if the bag has broken already, you will see feet. In a normal position, the bottom of the kid’s feet will be facing down. If you see a tail, the kid is breech, or backwards.

When all is right and progressing like normal, the doe will be able to have her kids without any problems. But if she has been actively pushing for an hour with no progress, it would be appropriate to step in to make sure that there are no problems. 

The hardest part is the waiting period between each kid. One kid arrives…how long until she begins to push again??

In my experience, the doe will deliver one kid and will probably stand up and begin licking, mothering, and drying off that kid. 

Most likely in the next 5 to 35 minutes, contractions will begin again and she will lay down again to begin to push. This waiting period will be the hardest part because it will feel like it is taking forever to begin again. 

You can carefully, carefully “bounce” her belly gentle up and down to feel for any other kids. This seems to also stimulate active labor as well. And may help reposition a kid that is out of place.

If there is a problem within this stage it will probably be because of one of these:
  1. Two kids have entered the birth canal at the same time.
  2. A large kid is stuck.
  3. A foot or head is stuck or backward.

I encourage you, I stress so much, to have an emergency plan thought out and in place. There is nothing worse than coming out of a kidding season with regrets. You can read about my sad experience in the link above.

As the dates draw near for your goats to kid, keep in contact with your vet, and make sure they will be willing to step in if problems arise. If it comes to a point where you don’t know what to do and there are problems, call your vet or experienced goat owner for help. 

Does a goat lay down to give birth?

Goat in labor standing up and pushing

Most of the time my does have laid down to give birth but some will stand up as well.

How long does goat labor last?

The first stage of labor can begin and last for 12 hours but when they begin active labor and are actually pushing, it should be within an hour that she has made progress and had her first kid.

How many kids will a doe have in one pregnancy?

A doe can have between 1 and 4 kids in one pregnancy, with 2 being average.

Kids are Born!

Goat kids after being born

My doe, Eva, shown throughout this post was exhibiting all these signs in the afternoon and that night, in the dark of the barn, on a cold, and snowy night, she gave birth to 3 healthy kids. 

After the kids are born, it is very important that the doe bonds with them. A new mother may need the kids to be brought up to her face to begin licking but usually, she will immediately move to begin licking and nuzzling. 

When my does have had three kids, I’ve had to be very watchful that she bonds with the last one. It’s very easy for her to bond with two and by the time the third is born, she can be so busy with the first two, she forgets or may not tend to the third. If you see this happening, move the third kid closer and under her nose so she sees it and can begin bonding and cleaning.

STAGE THREE: EXPELLING PLACENTA

Doe Expelling placenta

This last stage of labor is very important! The doe must expel the rest of the placenta within the first 24 hours. It is very important that all of the placentae comes out and is not retained. If any is retained, it will cause infection. 

But it is so very important to note: DO NOT PULL ON THE PLACENTA. Let the doe naturally clean out in her own timing. If it hasn’t cleaned out fully after a couple of days, call your vet.

Most of the time, my does clean out very quickly and they will eat or nibble on their own placenta. Usually, they will eat some and then go back and forth between licking her kids and then nibbling on it some more. But be sure that if they are still needing to mother their kids and clean them off and bond with them, that they do that. If they are showing more interest in the placenta than drying off her kids, then remove the placenta. 

Eating the placenta is normal and actually good for the doe. She has just exerted a lot of energy and this helps to give her nourishment and strength as she recovers from birth. 

Bouncing her belly gently may help expel the placenta if it seems to be taking longer than it should be. You can also bounce a doe’s belly to try to determine if there are more kids coming. And sometimes bouncing her belly can slightly reposition a kid that may be stuck or incorrectly in position. Bounce her belly gently. 

Bouncing doe's belly to see if there are any more kids to be born

And after you have helped your goat through this entire process, then you get to enjoy leaping and bounding kids in every direction!

Goat kids running with 3 year old girl

Wow. That was a lot of information. But it is some of the most important information you need if you are planning to raise and own goats. When you are raising animals that have multiple births to combat a higher death rate, you can run into problems. And that is heartbreaking.

So, study this information. Make sure you have a plan in place and be ready to take action if needed.

Although kidding can be a stressful time, try to enjoy it. It is new life and it is beautiful.

Goat kids jumping

Don’t forget to fill out all of your goat information and kidding statistics and outcomes from year to year in this Goat Management Binder.

Continue your goat journey:
Goat Heat Signs 
Pregnancy Toxemia in goats
Ketosis in goats before kidding
Hypocalcemia  relating to goat pregnancy

Further Reading: Goat Labor, Recognize Labor, Labor in Goats, Labor Signs

 
 
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Buster Browning

Wednesday 24th of February 2021

Excellent fantastic information. Thank you. Especially for a novice.

Delci Plouffe

Friday 26th of February 2021

I'm so glad it was helpful, thank you for letting me know!

TESTIMONY KAY

Saturday 19th of December 2020

I appreciate you so much. You just gave me a wonderful gift for the Xmas. God will continue to bless you and your home.

Delci Plouffe

Sunday 27th of December 2020

Thank you so much :)

mehedi

Sunday 21st of July 2019

lot of information.. thank you so much....

Delci Plouffe

Monday 29th of July 2019

You're very welcome! Thanks for visiting!

Johnstone Kainga

Saturday 6th of April 2019

Thank you for the research and efforts in filing the report. Its of much help to me because i was green on the subject. My Doe had shown signs of delivery and was worried it was taking long in releasing kid(s). I have , however ,understood that it takes several hours in labor.

Delci Plouffe

Sunday 7th of April 2019

I'm so glad it was helpful! I hope all goes well for you and your doe!