Post Lactation Pregnancy Care For Edgwick Farm Does

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Our does have about two and a half months (or half) of their pregnancy to rest and grow their babies without the demands of milking.   For us, this is the months of November and December and early January.

This rest period is crucial because it allows them to build up their bodies for the next milking season.  Each pound of increase in body condition during the dry period will produce more milk later when they are in lactation.

This is not to suggest that a pregnant doe should be over conditioned or fat.  A dairy animal should never be fat, just in good condition (although we do have some fat does).  In fact, fat causes problems in breeding and pregnancy.  But the doe needs a well balanced diet.  Too much feed produces kids that are too large to be easily delivered.  Excess minerals in the doe’s diet will produce kids with too solid bones which also causes difficulty.

A fibrous diet with rather low protein is ideal for the months of pregnancy when the kids are developing slowly.  We feed low protein orchard grass in the hay feeders and no grain whatsoever during this period.  For treats, the does are fed chopped pumpkins and apples.  If a winter storm brings down branches, the herd will get maple and white pines which they will strip of bark and eat the buds and needles.  If we have saved fall leaves or dried nettles and raspberry stalks, they are offered those as well.  As always, the herd has free choice access to baking soda and a specialized goat mineral mix that we add a little kelp.

The treats are deliberately fed as far out in the exercise pen as possible to make the pregnant does get up and walk.  This exercise is crucial for their health.

Most of the kids’ growth comes in the last 4 to 6 weeks of pregnancy.  During this period, we gradually begin reintroducing their grain ration.  Two-thirds of the kids’ growth is taking place!  Each doe also needs to build up her own reserves for her next lactation.   We use a sweet goat feed that provides the needed protein, minerals and vitamins as well as molasses to provide iron as well as sugar to prevent ketosis.  We mix alfalfa pellets to beef up protein and beet pulp for bulk.  We start with a pound per doe every other day and then move to daily for the last two weeks.  This grain ration is also fed as far out in the exercise pen as possible to get the heavily pregnant does get up and move.

Three to four weeks before kidding, the pregnant does are vaccinated with their annual CD&T shot (which provides some immunity for their kids as well).  The does get a Bo-Se shot as well to prevent white muscle disease in the kids and they are dewormed with an Ivermectin injection.  Their hooves are trimmed at this point and general health check is performed to note how their pregnancy is progressing.

Then the waiting begins!

Our routine from this point is to start spending more time hanging out with the does as they rest in the hoop house during the day, observing their bodies and behavior.  We will write about that in another blog post.

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