Managing the kidding process

Knowing how to handle a kidding doe and new kids can put a young goat on its way to a productive life, says Johan Steyn from Boer Goats SA.

Managing the kidding process
Does can be bred from between nine and 12 months, or when they attain 60% of an adult doe’s weight. Breeding a doe too young can affect its growth and lead to loss in production.
Photo: Johan Steyn
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A Boer goat doe in top condition can produce multiple kids. She has good maternal ability and will readily rear and nurture them, ensuring rapid growth to produce goats at marketable weight in the minimum time.

A planned kidding season makes life easier. Kids can be born, weighed, tagged, vaccinated and otherwise managed as a group to reduce input requirements. However, kidding or post-kidding problems may still arise and a farmer must be able to manage them.

Problems may arise with too many newborn kids crammed into a small paddock with their dams. A doe can easily lose contact with her kid, leading to possible rejection soon after birth. Here are some commonly asked questions:

When should I assist a doe?

A first-kid doe may take longer to kid than an older doe. Keep her under observation and intervene only if the birth process is not completed after an hour or two. Older ewes that take longer to lamb may also experience problems, so consider assisting them.

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Carefully insert your hand, well-lubricated with petroleum jelly, into the doe’s vagina to check the kid’s position. It should be head-first, with its head on outstretched forelegs. If it is not in this position, try manipulating it into the birthing position as quickly and as gently as possible.

If this fails, gently assist the kid through the birthing canal by pulling lightly on its forelegs or shoulders.

What about a doe with triplets?

A well-fed doe in good condition can easily rear triplets, although you need to keep an eye on them in the kidding pen. A weaker kid will have less time at the teats and you should ensure that it gets its fair share.

You can also remove it and place it in another pen with a single-kid doe that gave birth at roughly the same time. After two to three days the doe will usually accept the foster kid.

Hand-rearing is extremely time-consuming, so try other options first.

What if a mother rejects her kid?
Manage a rejected kid like the aforementioned kid from a set of triplets. However, mark its dam as a potential poor mother and a candidate for culling. First-kid does should be given a second chance, as they are still learning.

How do I help a newborn kid that cannot stand?

A newborn kid is sometimes unable to stand due to temporary weakness in the shoulder or thigh muscles. Help such a kid for short periods, and increase the length of these sessions slowly; as the muscles develop, the kid will eventually learn to stand and walk unassisted.

Ensure that these kids gets a fair chance at suckling. It is vitally important that kids suckle within the first hour after birth. Survival rates decreases rapidly after this. If the kid is not suckling, help it to get enough milk.

To contact Johan Steyn, visit