Signs of Labor

IMG_0263By now you are probably all wondering what we are watching for when we go out to check the pregnant does several times each day.  There are a few tried and true signs of impending labor and goat birth that we look for that we will detail for you.

First off, dairy goats freshen or kid 150 to 155 days after breeding.  As you may remember Henry went in with the ladies on August 13th.  We use this handy dandy goat gestation calculator to determine the first date we might start kidding.  We observed Henry breeding immediately so our projected freshening begins between  January 10th , at 150 days after August 13th.

These signs are what we look for to indicate a birth is coming soon:

Does in pre-labor:

  • Appear restless
  • Smell the ground
  • Look behind themselves
  • Paw at the bedding and make a nest
  • Are talkative
  • Have a very  full udder
  • Udder is shiny
  • Vulva is puffy and enlarged
  • Show a white goopy discharge
  • Babies are very still in uterus
  • Hollow sides, gaunt, starved look
  • Hip bones prominent
  • Seeks solitude away from the herd
  • No interest in food
  • Rise and lie down frequently
  • Strain and breathe hard
  • Tendons around tail very loose

An expectant pregnant doe might show one or more of these signs during the first stage of labor.

There are three distinct stages of labor in a dairy goat.

The first stage takes about 12 to 14 hours.  A number of metabolic changes take place unseen inside the doe but they trigger physical changes on the outside.  We usually see a discharge of gel-like liquid from the vulva at the end of this stage.  We’ll observe the doe finding a private corner in the hoop house, obsessively pawing at the bedding and we’ll know we are moving into the second stage.

The second stage begins with the rupture of the membranes and a stringing of mucous from the vulva.  This is active labor and we don’t leave the doe’s side at this point.  She will show discomfort as the contractions position the kids for birth.    Normal presentation is front hooves and nose on top of feet.  Sometimes the doe lies down to kid, sometimes she will stand, sometimes a combination of both.  Often the doe’s water will not break and a large bubble appears at the vulva opening.  The kid comes out slowly at first as the head and shoulders stretch the birth canal, then swoops out in a burst of fluids.  We make sure the nose is clear of fluids and membranes and dry the baby off.  Within ten minutes, if there is a second kid or more, it will quickly follow.  With a normal birth, this stage can lasyt 15 minutes to an hour, depending upon the number of kids born.

The third and last stage of labor is the delivery of the afterbirth.  This can happen several minutes or several hours after birth.    Often the doe will eat the afterbirth if given a chance.  It is not clear whether this is to provide extra nutrients to the doe or it was an evolutionary development to keep predators from finding the afterbirth and seeking out the doe and kids.

Ok, it’s time for us to go back out to the hoop house and check again. 🙂

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