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Signs that a goat is nearing birth

Grazing goats

At first, my primary question with our new goats was: is Abigail pregnant? More recently, since Abigail's previous owner didn't know her exact breeding date, the question has morphed into: when is our goat due? I'm thinking the answer to that second question is: soon.

Signs of goat pregnancy

Goat butt near birthWithin the last week, Abigail has started showing lots of signs of impending birth. I've been keeping an eye on her butt for the primary purpose of seeking out mucous (a sure sign that delivery of kids is imminent), but less obvious changes arise a bit sooner. When you look at these three months of goat-butt photos, can you tell how the most recent butt shows very little wrinkling? In order to prepare for pushing a whole 'nother creature out of her body, Abigail is loosening up tendons and relaxing this area, and the change is quite obvious once you take a look at time-lapse photos.

Experienced goatkeepers also feel for the tendons above where the tail attaches to the rest of the body, expecting those tendons to nearly disappear as birth approaches. Unfortunately, I didn't feel Abigail up in advance, so I can't make that comparison now.

Dry udder

Other more subtle changes are also taking place in Abigail's body. Beginners always want to look to the udder to see if a goat is going to give birth soon, but the enlargement of the bag might not occur until right before birth in does (like ours) who have kidded previously. Mark and Goat belly drops near deliveryI both feel like Abigail's teats have become a bit more obvious, but I didn't take any before photos, so am not positive about the change.

On the other hand, I feel like the little baby bump on Abigail's right side (the left side of this photo) has changed considerably in shape over the last week. The bulge seems to have dropped down and become pointier, and if Abigail were a more patient mother-to-be, I probably could even feel for hooves right in front of her udder on the underside of her belly. However, our goat seemed less than excited about being fondled there, so I let that non-essential test slide.

Mind the gap

The final change I've noticed is behavioral. Abigail has always been a more greedy eater than Artemesia, whose little belly fills up in short order, allowing our doeling to get into mischief while our older goat keeps chowing down. But lately, Abigail has been even more adamant about rushing through her own breakfast in time to snatch part of Artemesia's much smaller portion, so I've increased our pregnant goat's ration to include an extra carrot and more sunflower seeds in the morning, and I'm also allowing her a full forty-five minutes of honeysuckle-or-oat grazing in the afternoon. From what I've read, the last few weeks of pregnancy require a lot of extra nutrients, so I suspect Abigail is just hungrier than she used to be, and I'm more than willing to indulge her expanding appetite.

As each of these signs appear, I turn into more and more of a nervous goat doula, and I have to keep reminding myself that, by all reports, most does kid easily with no help from their human lackeys. Since I don't know much about milking either, though, the unknown has left me feeling a bit jittery. But I'm also excited at the thought of tasting our farm's first homegrown milk and enjoying the antics of baby goats, so I'm continuing to watch Abigail with an eagle eye.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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some definite goat envy coming your way from california. excited for you guys.
Comment by melina w staal Fri Jan 23 13:07:39 2015

Ditto on the goat envy! They are in the plan for the homestead here, but probably not this first year. so excited to see the new baby! After watching tons of youtube videos on goats kidding, it did make me think twice, but, as you said, most of them do just fine.

Comment by deb Sat Jan 24 02:03:33 2015

Looks like I'm in your exact same goat boat. This is my first time with goats, so reading the signs is pretty blurry. After reading your blog post, I feel a lot more confident that my doe is indeed pregnant.

Comment by Roberta Sat Jan 24 14:24:45 2015
The ligament test is the best in my girls they can start bagging up a week before birthing but when the ligaments disappear it's a max of 24 hours to birthing ,they are about 1 to 1,1/2 inches from the tail root . Kids LOL , fences !!!! They are great escape artists ,they will get thru cattle pannel ,any six by three hole is fare game to them in till they grow , handle them A LOT then they will not run when they see you ,and with luck will come when called , kids can be a pain to catch and are VERY fleet of foot !
Comment by diogenese Sat Jan 24 17:54:47 2015

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