Smart Nannies Wait Until Decent Weather To Have Their Babies

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Hopefully, kidding season is going well, or went well as the case may be, for all of you that planned for spring kids. This month's column will address several different topics, so don't give up if the paragraph you are reading isn't of interest.

As I mentioned a couple of months back I believe that in my area a September kid crop is the way to go. Unfortunately, I performance test my buck kids, and to be eligible for the Angelo State University test they have to be born in January, February or March. Consequently I currently breed for a February kid crop. I should note, since several people have asked, that in earlier years before I started performance testing I did have some kid crops in September. Overall, I found those kid crops to be more successful than my spring kid crops.

As I write this on February 17, 2002 only two of my does have not delivered. The first kid hit the ground on February 7 and the most recent one was on February 15. Basically the entire herd delivered in an 8 day period. I suspect the other two will kid in the next week to 10 days. They cycled a day or so before I put the bucks in, so will kid a couple of weeks after everybody else.

This is our eighth kid crop, and over the years I have observed some interesting things.

First, these goats seem to be pretty smart, or maybe mother nature just did a good job with them. By my calculations they could have started kidding as early as February 1. The weather here from February 1 through February 6 was great for ducks, but would have been disastrous for a newborn kid. Highs in the 40's and low's in the low 20's, and for 2 straight days it drizzled almost nonstop.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining about the moisture. Anytime I can get 1.5 inches of rain that falls so slowly that it all soaks into the ground it is cause for rejoicing not cursing. However, I could hardly stand to look everyday when I pulled up to the kidding pens for fear that the ground would be littered with dead newborn kids.

Day after day though the does came through and held those kids in them until the weather broke. Finally, on the afternoon of the 7th, high temperature 62 degrees Fahrenheit, the first kid was born. The next several days was a blizzard, not of snow but new kids. During that period our daily highs were in the 60's and 70's. I lost exactly two new kids and none of the mothers. Both of the kids were from sets of triplets born right at sundown that probably got chilled.

Year after year my does seem to be able to wait out the really nasty cold spells and kid out during relatively pleasant weather. The gestation period for a goat is 145-155 days, and it seems that my does are pretty adept at finding a period of good weather in that window to drop their kids. I cannot remember a single year where my herd dropped their kids during a significant cold snap. Someday we will have a two or three week cold snap, and the does will have no choice but to kid in it, but so far that hasn't happened.

Another thing that always amazes me is that the vast majority of my does seem to kid in the afternoon when temperatures are usually the warmest. If you are there between 2:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. you will see almost all of the kids born. By the time the sun sets the mothers have the kids clean, dry and fed. A dry kid with a stomach full of colostrum/milk can survive some remarkably cold temperatures. Where I live even though the highs have been in the 60's and 70's during the day, the overnight lows have been in the 20's and 30's. Most of these kids are laying out in the open in areas with little shelter, but they still survive the cold temperatures and winds.

Those of you who live up north can stop snickering now. I know 20 degrees isn't cold where you live, but if you are a baby goat that has been out sunbathing in 60 degree temperatures all afternoon, 20 degrees in the morning is pretty darn cold.

If you regularly read my column you will recall that last year's kidding season was a disaster for me personally. For instance, I had 17 kids that didn't survive their first day last year, compared to just two this year. I also lost several does last year, and had all kinds of problems with retained placentas. This year I have lost no does and have had no retained placentas so far. I was also pulling kids on a daily basis last year, something I have not had to do at all this year. Boy are those last two does and their kids doomed now or what? Maybe since this won't be published until after they kid they won't be jinxed by it. Just in case I think I will go find a large piece of wood to knock on.

So what is different this year? No, I didn't replace my herd with better does, and the weather this year has been about the same as last. The only real difference is that this year I kicked the does out in the pasture and ignored them after the bucks were done with them instead of leaving them in the pens on feed.

Overall kid sizes this year were almost identical to last year. The average kid this year weighed 7 lbs. 11 oz. compared to 8 lbs. 0 oz. last year. The kids this year were 5 oz. lighter on average than last year, but I doubt that minor difference in weight made it significantly easier for the does to deliver.

If you compared the weights of the kids that actually survived, this year's weighed 7 lbs. 11 oz. and last year's weighed 8 lbs. 2.7 oz., further supporting my theory that the size of the kids did not contribute to last year's problems. If it had, the smaller kids would have survived and the larger kids would have died resulting in a lower average weight for the survivors than the overall average. In fact, the average weight of the kids that died was only 7 lbs. 3 oz. The does that had problems delivering were those carrying the smaller kids!

As I have mentioned before feedlotting breeding does is a disaster because of the pecking order, and kidding time is where that is most evident. The does that had the problems last year were for the most part the less dominant does that got less to eat, and were thus malnourished leading to small weak kids, weak contractions, retained placentas, ketosis, etc. These same does did fine this year since they were able to get adequate feed out on the pasture. Hopefully, I will never again be forced to feedlot my herd during their pregnancies, and if I'm really lucky I won't have to feedlot them at all.

If you are having a lot of kidding problems, you may want to take a serious look at the nutrition that was available to the does during pregnancy. If individual does are getting too little or too much feed, which is almost always the case if they are in a feedlot environment, you will need to take steps to correct the problem if you want to decrease your headaches at kidding time. In my opinion the easiest way to cure the problem is to put the does on good pasture where they can regulate their own feed intake.

Now is the time to start planning on taking your animals to one or more of the various performance tests. Last month there was an announcement in this publication about the tests that will be held at Fort Valley State University in Georgia, and I expect that the information for the other test sites will be available soon. If you are serious about selling herd sires to commercial producers you really need to be testing your animals and making improvements based on the results.

As a result of one of my earlier columns on guard dogs I received several questions from producers who were having problems with their dogs. One of the most common problems seems to be with the dogs, especially the 6-18 month old ones, catching kids and licking or chewing on them. This sometimes leads to the accidental death of the kid. If you are having this problem I suggest (and I have not tried this myself so let me know if it works or not) a little aversion therapy.

Try coating the parts of the kids that the dog likes to lick or chew with something that tastes really bad. Preferably something that won't wash off easily so you won't have to keep retreating the kids. I know of one product that is made by Becker Underwood, Inc. to deter deer from eating shrubs and trees that might work really well for this purpose. It is called Tree Guard and you can find more information about it at http://www.nortechforest.com/products/treeguard.shtml

Make sure that you don't get whatever you decide to use on a part of the kid that the mother will lick, like the base of its tail. Treat all of the kids the dog has access to so it doesn't just switch targets. In my experience the dog grows out of this as it matures, but who can afford to have it accidentally killing kids until it gets older? Some dogs never grow out of this habit on their own, so I recommend that you take action to curtail the behavior.

That's all I've got for this month.

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This page updated 03/19/02

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