A Newborn Checklist for Healthy Kids: Ensuring the Well-Being of Baby Goats
The arrival of newborn kids on a goat farm is an exciting and crucial time. Proper care and attention during the first few hours and days after birth significantly impact the health and vitality of the newborns. This article provides a comprehensive newborn checklist for baby goats, guiding goat owners through essential steps to ensure the well-being of these adorable additions to the herd.
Before you even begin the journey into kidding season, you need to start with the most basic things.
Housing and Bedding:
- Provide a Clean, Warm Environment: Ensure that the kidding area is clean and well-bedded. A warm, dry environment is crucial for the newborn’s comfort and health.
- Place water buckets in a place where the kids don’t have access to them. This will protect them from falling into them and drowning or front drinking the water and filling their tummies up with water instead of milk.
When kidding is in process, most likely you’re on high alert. You’ve been watching and listening to your monitors and check frequently. When the kid(s) arrive, these are the things you need to be looking for.
- Always check first to see if the kid is breathing without problems. Clear the airways of any sack or mucous if needed.
Umbilical Cord Care:
- Inspect and Treat: Allow the doe to fully clean her kids. Then check the umbilical cord for cleanliness and signs of bleeding. Dip the cord in iodine to prevent infection all the way up to where it attaches to the body. Trim it if it is touching the floor. This will prevent it from getting stepped on and injured or creating a hernia tear. A 7% iodine solution is commonly recommended.
- Check the hooves. Make sure they are fully formed. They will be soft to the touch but will quickly harden.
Check the Mouth:
- Sometimes a cleft palate is a problem. There will be a length-wise split in the roof of the mouth. The kid may survive but as the kid grows the problem will become evident by lack of growth and development. You don’t ‘want this to be part of your herd. Consider culling if it’s been a problem.
- Look at the bottom front teeth. Usually the bottom teeth will have erupted when they are born. And sometimes when they haven’t, it indicates that they are premature. But I’ve had multiple kids that are born fully developed and on time, that don’t have their bottom teeth erupted yet.
- Check the kids sucking reflex. If you stick your finger in the kid’s mouth, it should start to suck. Lack of sucking can be a sign of premature development or that the kid will need some attention to make sure it gets enough colostrum and milk as the days progress.
- Check under their tail to make sure there is a rectal opening and for a doeling, that her vulva is correct. If there is no rectum, the kid will need to be put down immediately. There is nothing that can be done and the goat will suffer immensely.
- Ensure Early Suckling: Encourage kids to nurse from their dam within the first few hours after birth. Colostrum, the first milk, is rich in antibodies vital for the kid’s immune system.
- If the doe is busy cleaning the kid(s) but still birthing more, she may be too distracted to be feeding them as well. This can pose a problem if there is any severe weather, or too long of a period before the kids gets their first colostrum. Help the kids to suckle as quickly as possible.
- If a kid is unable to nurse or the dam has insufficient milk, be prepared to provide supplemental colostrum or milk replacer.
Vital Signs Check:
- Temperature, Pulse, and Respiration: Monitor the kid’s vital signs to ensure they are within normal ranges. A healthy temperature for a kid is around 102-103.5°F.
Bonding and Socialization:
- Encourage Bonding: Allow bonding time between the dam and kids. Socialization is crucial for a healthy, well-adjusted herd.
- Newborns have a very hard time controlling and regulating their body temperature. They need to be eating small meals throughout the day to regulate their temperature.
- To check to see if a kid is getting enough food, place your hands right in front of their back legs and feel their belly with both hands. It should feel firm but not sloshy or hard. Keep the kids feet on the ground while you check their tummy.
- Record the kid’s birth weight and monitor weight gain during the first few weeks. This helps assess the kid’s overall health and nutritional status.
- Usually the doe does a good job keeping a kid’s back end clean. But if she isn’t, sometimes they get a hard goo of feces stuck to their bottom. Peel it off or soak it and remove it. Watch that they don’t become constipated.
While this cute new addition to your farm gets used to its spindly legs, you can check the doe for any problems.
- Remove the seal from the teat opening if it’s still there. Squeeze out some colostrum to make sure that it is free flowing.
- If the doe had multiple kids, make sure they are sucking from both sides of the udder. Sometimes they chose a favorite side and “not knowing” that the other side exists, they won’t switch over to any other side but the one that they originally chose. Show the kids each teat and help them to suck from both sides.
- If there is a side producing more or not being used, milk it out to prevent mastitis and freeze the colostrum for future use.
- Make sure that her milk comes down in the next day or two. This is really important for the health and life of the kids.
- Make sure that the doe has sufficient and easily accessible water to produce enough colostrum and milk.
After the big day has come and gone, they start to quickly grow and the days speed by! These are a few things to keep watching for as the days turn into weeks.
Naval Ill Management:
- Monitor for Signs: Watch for signs of navel ill, such as swelling, discharge, or signs of pain. Seek veterinary assistance if symptoms arise.
- Implement Preventative Measures: Parasites can become a problem after the first month or two of life as they begin to nibble at things all over the ground and ingesting their own food.
- Maintain Detailed Records: Keep accurate records of each kid, including birth date, weight, and any health issues. This aids in future management decisions.
- Consult with a Veterinarian: Discuss a vaccination plan with your veterinarian to ensure kids are protected against prevalent diseases in your region.
- Ear Tags or Bands: Assign each kid a unique identifier, usually through ear tags or bands. This is essential for record-keeping and herd management.
A meticulous newborn checklist for baby goats is fundamental for fostering a healthy and thriving herd. By focusing on essential aspects such as colostrum intake, vital signs monitoring, and proactive health measures, goat owners can set the foundation for a robust and resilient group of kids. Regular veterinary consultations, coupled with thoughtful management practices, contribute to the overall well-being and longevity of the goat herd.