Friday, February 1, 2013

Kidding Season - Tips to Minimize Kid Mortality


A high survival of newborns is very crucial to be successful in goat business and other livestock enterprises. As goats are seasonal breeders, most goats are bred in fall with the beginning of shorter day length unless the natural breeding is hormonally manipulated. In most part of the country, September and October are the months for natural goat breeding. This breeding season results in winter kidding - mostly in January and February, when cold weather and poor nutrition pose challenges to majority of goat farmers.  Newborn kids are most vulnerable to the adverse climatic conditions. As a result, a high mortality can occur if proper care is not taken. Following are few tips to minimize kid mortality and increase profits.

Figure 1. Newborn kids suckling colostrum.

Tips to Minimize Kid Mortality

  • Minimize the chance of injury and infection – Keep the pregnant does in a separate clean shed or new pasture around the kidding date so that the chance of injury and infection is minimized.
  • Make sure does with newborn kids have access to a good shelter to get protection from inclement weather conditions.
  • Be prepared with necessary materials and supplies, and also to help kids at kidding     

    • Necessary materials and supplies – Feeding bottle, supplementary colostrum, heating lamp, towel or rag, soap, water, lubricants, gloves
    • Be prepared to help kids – Trim nails and clean hands with soap and water; use gloves before touching kids or does. 
  • Make sure newborns are breathing – Remove any material from around the mouth and nose to clear the airways, and clean and dry newborn with clean towel or rag.
  • Keep the newborns warm and dry - Provide clean, dry, and soft bedding. When the bedding gets wet, change it or add more bedding. If it is very cold, wrap kids with warm towel or rag. If kids are in a pen, heating lamp can be used to increase the temperature.
  • Spray tincture of iodine (7%) on and around the navel - It will minimize the chance of naval infection and related complications.
  • Do not take the kids away from does - While cleaning, drying, and performing other activities with the newborns, keep the newborns close to their mothers – it is extremely important to develop maternal bonding.
  • Help the weak newborns stand up and suckle - It is crucial that newborns suckle and ingest enough colostrum soon after birth (Fig. 1). If the newborn is weak and/or the mother is not very much interested in her newborn(s), which may be a sign that help is needed for subsequent suckling as well. Feeding enough colostrum soon after birth is very important for kid survival and growth.
  • Bottle feed colostrum to kids if does are not producing enough or suckling is hindered - If kids are not able to stand up and suckle, the does should be milked and fed to the kids. Give only a small amount at a time based on kids’ appetite. Colostrum feeding must start soon after kids are born (within half an hour or so) and feeding should be repeated 4 to 5 times a day. Kids will get enough immunoglobulins if 140 – 175 g colostrum per kg of live weight is fed within 24 hours of birth. Overfeeding should be avoided because it may upset kids’ digestive system. For more information, click this link - colostrum feeding.
  • Keep the premises clean, dry, well-lighted, and ventilated - This will minimize the chance of infections (such as pneumonia, coccidiosis, and colibacillosis – these are very common in the newborns) because clean, ventilated, and well lit environment is detrimental to disease causing organisms. Also, animals will be comfortable and less stressed under such conditions.
  • Provide enough nutrients to does – Nutrient and water requirements of does dramatically increase with the initiation of lactation. Supplementary feeding during last two to three weeks of pregnancy and first four weeks of lactation may be beneficial if they are being raised on poor pastures or low quality feed. 
    Figure 2. A doe with mastitis that
    developed after her kids were dead.
  •  Keep close eye on teats and udder of does for mastitis – Mastitis (Fig. 2) may easily develop if the does are kept in filthy environment. The chance of mastitis development is very high if a doe loses her kid(s) and she is left without being milked. Any mastitis case should be treated immediately by consulting a veterinarian. For more information about care of newborn kids and does, click this link Newborn Care.
  • Make sure premises are safe from predators – Make sure the facility is well fenced to prevent the access of any predators. Also, provision of guard dogs along with a close supervision of the herd will be very useful. 
  • Winter Pastures - Development of winter pastures (Fig. 3) can be very useful to provide enough quality feed to does in late pregnancy and early lactation so that she can produce adequate colostrum and milk for healthy newborns.
Figure 3. Marshal ryegrass-crimson clover pastures ready for grazing, Jan. 2013, Phenix City, Alabama.