|Lini, Jessie, and Violet|
In the past I've bred my girls in late autumn to allow for kidding in the warmer half of spring. With the new barn being more snug than the old set-up, however, I feel a little better about winter babies.
|Jessie and Lini|
Many people prefer winter kidding, because cold decreases the risk of coccidiosis. This is a parasitic infection which can cause severe diarrhea, dehydration, weakness, and death. Goats develop an immunity to it as they grow, but it can kill kids. The protozoa are especially active in warm wet conditions, like spring, hence the tendency of some to have kids earlier in the year.
The negative of winter kidding is the potential for hypothermia. If the kids can't be dried quickly and get a tummy full of colostrum, they become weak, lose their sucking reflex, and die. Mama goats will usually lick their kids which helps dry them, but they don't cuddle them to transfer body warmth. First fresheners (first time mamas) aren't always sure where these little goats came from, nor what to think about them. Experienced moms are often busy still having twins or triplets, to give their full attention to each kid as they come along. This is why I try to be there when they kid - to assist with the birth if needed, but also to help get the kids dried off and make sure they are able to nurse on their own.
|I made three baby goat coats last year when Daphne was|
due in February. Here her twin boys show off two of them.
Some people use a heat lamp to help warm them. This seems this works best if used in conjunction with a box the kids can go into. I've found that they don't necessarily go to where there's warmth. I've sometimes found them huddled in the coldest corner of the stall, away from the heat lamp.
In general a heated barn is not a good idea. Some people worry about keeping their goats warm in winter and so install heating. The problem with this is that without exposure to cold, goats won't grow their winter coats. Then they'll be cold any time they go outside. No good. Of course goats aren't born with winter coats, so to help I've been knitting more baby goat coats while I wait on my approaching due dates.
What goats need in winter is protection from damp and drafts. Our Little Barn is snug but not insulated, and I'm finding that unless the overnight temps get down into the teens F (single digits C) then there is no ice forming on the top of the girls' water bucket.
Deep litter in the stalls helps. This is a technique whereby the stalls aren't mucked out frequently, but rather straw is added to balance out the manure and waste, which then begin to decompose (like compost) and produce heat. The key is to keep enough straw ("brown" in compost terms) to keep the decomposition ratio correct (30 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen).
Many people think goats need extra grain to stay warm. WRONG! We monogastric humans use those extra carbohydrates to produce energy and warmth, but goats are ruminants and the mechanism is different. Goats need ROUGHAGE, particularly rough, long-stemmed hay or straw. I learned about this when I did my research for Critter Tales:
"Something that surprised me is that goats don't need high energy feeds (grains) to keep warm during cold weather. Among other nutrients, ruminal fermentation produces volatile fatty acids (VFAs). These provide over 70% of the needed energy supply, enough to enable the animal to stay warm."
from Goat Tales: Toward Sustainable Goat Keeping
This is part of the "roughage effect," whereby goats create many of the nutrients they need through fermentation of long stemmed roughage. So hay produces energy during digestion, whereas grain requires energy to digest. In other words, too much grain can chill a goat rather than help keep it warm.
How many baby goat coats will I need?
|Including last year's I've got 9 coats so far.|
There's no way of knowing. Last year I had all singles and twins, but for Kinders, triplets and quads aren't uncommon.
I didn't have pregnancy tests done so I can't say for certain that my girls are pregnant. But I'm pretty sure, since none went back into heat after their dates with the boys. And now that we're getting closer I'm keeping an eye on udder development.
|Lini and Violet. (Looks can be deceiving.)|
Lini looks pretty big but Jessie and Violet aren't particularly large, so I'm thinking they'll probably have singles or twins. I have to say though, that Jessie's mom Helen surprised me with quads one year without looking very big. On the other hand, Daphne always looked huge but never had more than twins. I figure I'll just keep on knitting to make sure I have plenty on hand.
All of our due dates are for the latter half of next month.