Hopefully your does all kid easily and without any intervention. If they need help, follow-up care will depend on circumstances and the recommendations of your veterinarian. For now, let’s assume that everything went great, and you only needed to help a little or not at all.
During labor and directly after kids are born, I give my does warm water with a little molasses in it, followed by fresh hay and grain. When I am sure that there are no more kids waiting to be born, I encourage my doe to get up and eat. This helps to keep her rumen functioning, avoids her having legs fall asleep from being in an awkward position for too long, and allows kids access to the udder. I make sure all kids are nursing and able to find the teat on their own. If they aren’t, I help them until they get the hang of it.
About an hour later, after I’m sure all the kids have nursed well, I milk the doe out almost completely to make sure she’s not uncomfortable and to encourage more milk production and shrinking of her uterus. If you don’t milk your doe out, she can end up with mastitis or a blown teat if her kids all decide to nurse from the same side.
The first few times I milk a first freshener, I just tie her to the wall and milk straight onto the ground or a towel. That way she can jump around without tipping over a bucket and freaking herself out. I just let her jump around and kick all she wants. I stay calm and quiet and don’t take my hands off her teats until she settles down.
I continue to milk out once or twice a day until the babies start eating more; then I milk out once a day.
If I am worried about a doe’s ability to produce enough milk for her kids, I will sometimes milk her out only once, shortly after freshening, and then monitor closely and milk only if needed. In these cases, I still put her on the milk stand every 12 or 24 hours and squirt a little milk out to make sure it’s not bloody or stringy. I also check to make sure neither side is staying more full or getting hard and that teats aren’t getting raw. It’s also a good way to make sure that new moms are getting enough grain.
I deworm does on day 2 or 3, disbud and vaccinate babies at 10–14 days, and start pulling babies at night and milking the dam in the morning at 2–3 weeks. I try to gradually keep babies separated from dams for longer and longer after pulling them at night so that they are completely weaned by 10 weeks and ready to go to new homes. I treat kids with Baycox® (Toltrazuril) because coccidia is such a problem around here. I check random fecals for other parasites, but only treat as needed.
By Sue Beck
If everything went well, and I don’t need to treat with antibiotics or address the need for further vet assistance, I too give warm molasses water and make sure they have access to whatever food they like. The does clean their babies completely. Babies stick around until the delivery process is good and done.
I milk the doe out completely when the kids are clean. I get my does used to being milked sooner than later. Nursing kids and being milked are completely different, so getting used to one process will not get them used to the other. And even if the kids are taking all of a doe’s milk, I would still suggest getting a doe on the stanchion and playing with her udder. First fresheners can have quite the learning curve when it comes to being milked. You’re better off starting sooner rather than later.
As soon as a doe kids, you don’t have to get her on the stand, start touching her udder while you assist the kids in nursing. Then afterwards continue to handle her, either milking once per day to relieve excess pressure, or just taking a few squirts to get her used to it. You may need to tie her or get her on the stanchion if she really fights it.
I bring the babies in the house, but it’s important they be out of sight and hearing of momma, otherwise it’s mean. Most of my does have never raised their own babies. I would imagine trying to start pulling kids from a doe that has raised her own every year would be quite upsetting. Because the majority of my herd are bottle babies I raised myself, the does actually don’t seem to care that much when the kids leave. They’re more worried about my leaving them. They would bond with their kids just fine, but they almost immediately transfer that bond to me. The few dam-raised does I have in my herd had a little more adjustment. But they, too, end up bonding with me more.
Back in the house, I get the kids to latch onto the nipple (some are easier to train than others) and try to get at least a couple ounces of colostrum into each one. I then go back to check on my doe, and I keep watch every couple hours to make sure she’s doing OK and passes her placenta normally.
After that things are pretty easy. I milk a minimum of twice daily, but often more frequently right after kidding to encourage milk production. I don’t always deworm after kidding, but I do as necessary. Kids are put onto a bottle-feeding schedule, introduced to hay pretty quickly, and eventually to grain when they’re several weeks old. I disbud at or after two weeks old, and deworm shortly before weaning, since many as leaving for new homes at that point.
By Ashley Kennedy