We raise Miniature Nubians, so kidding season is always a very busy time for us. In order to help keep things a little less chaotic, we have a kidding barn. We have worked very hard on this barn, and are pretty proud of how it has turned out, especially considering what it looked like when we started.
Each doe, when she is near her time to kid, is moved into her own private stall in the kidding barn. Each stall has clean straw, an elevated water bucket, a heat lamp, and feed/hay areas.
The kidding barn is equipped with a propane forced air heater to use if needed, a feed/hay/straw storage area, a tool bench, a storage cabinet, and various cleaning supplies. Another very important feature kept in the kidding barn during kidding season is the all-important kidding box. There are many useful things in that box, but there are five things I am never caught without!
1. Digital thermometer – Find one with a flexible tip, and one that reads as quickly as possible. A baby goat’s temperature should be at least 101℉ (normal range is 102 - 103℉) before it eats or it will not be able to properly digest milk.
2. Clean towels – These are a necessity for drying off newborn kids. They come in handy for wiping off hands, too! We use old ones from the house (you know, the ones with holes or stains) and we pick some up at garage sales or auctions.
3. Hair dryer – We use this to warm up the newborn kids if needed. The towels are used to make a tent and the hair dryer blows warm air into the tent, but not directly onto the kid. We monitor the kid’s temperature, and once it is able to maintain at least 101℉ under a heat lamp, we can do without the heat tent.
4. Honey and whiskey – This is my Grandpa’s method of giving weak lambs a boost, and it works for weak goat kids, too. Mix about 1/4 cup honey and 1 tablespoon whiskey. I keep it in a small jar in my kidding kit, and make it fresh before kidding season starts. If you have a weak baby, dip your finger in the honey/whiskey mixture and rub it on the baby’s gums. This can be repeated a few times every few minutes until the baby perks up (do it while warming the baby up). The sugars in the honey/whiskey help give the baby a boost of energy. A small amount (about a teaspoon) can be added to 2 ounces of warm milk to help give the baby an extra boost. There are other ingredients that can be used (such as blackstrap molasses and cayenne pepper), but this is my family’s tried and true method.
5. Bottle, nipple, and empty butter container – These are a must have. If the kid is unable to nurse in a timely manner, or must be moved away from its dam for one reason or another, a bottle and nipple are essential to have on hand to ensure the baby gets much needed nourishment quickly. I usually try to milk the dam so the kid gets colostrum, hence the empty butter container. If the dam is not able to be milked, we use whole cow’s milk rather than milk replacer if at all possible.
Some other items I keep in the kidding box include a bulb syringe to clean fluids out of nasal passages, Selenium/Vitamin E gel to give to kids with weak legs (if you are in a Selenium deficient area), Colostrum gel, a feeding tube (in case we need to tube feed a weak kid) with a 5 cc syringe to fit, a kid puller, a drench for the doe in case she needs extra energy, a drenching syringe, injectable Vitamin B complex, 3 cc syringes with needles, iodine and small disposable cups (for dipping navels), Vetricyn spray (in case of small wounds), notepad and pen, non-latex gloves, baby wipes, lubricant, and an extra thermometer. There are lots of other things I have on hand, but those are the things in my kidding box.
Also note, I do not keep my kidding box in the kidding barn year around. During the rest of the year, it is kept in the house in a climate-controlled environment to keep things from temperature extremes and to keep the box from getting too dirty. Each year prior to kidding season, I go through the box and discard anything that is outdated, replace anything that is damaged, and make new honey/whiskey syrup.
Lastly, be sure to have your veterinarian's phone number available, and a back up veterinarian's phone number as well. They can help talk you through a tough situation, make a farm visit, or recommend treatments, and are an invaluable resource!