Caring for Pregnant Does
With monoestrous breeding season upon us, pregnant does are likewise right around the corner. For the next 150 days after exposure to a buck and a successful breeding, does will be carrying precious cargo. While their bodies are nourishing growing kids, it is up to us to nourish them and provide the pregnancy care necessary to ensure an uneventful gestation on up until delivery time arrives.
Though it may be tempting to increase the amount of feed your does get immediately upon conception, the fact of the matter is that good body condition must be maintained throughout pregnancy without does carrying too much weight too soon. Just as we need to ensure does get enough to eat, it is just as important to ensure they don't get too much. The body score of pregnant does should always remain consistent in correlation to the stage of pregnancy in which she is, which is why it is important to pay attention to feeding guidelines.
If does are thin going into breeding season, supplementing with feed to get their body score up to at least a 2.5 is advised. Does that are already at that body score should not experience weight changes because at that stage they are just right. Once does are successfully bred, their outward appearance should change very little for the first three months or so. Despite a growing embryo, diet can remain much the same unless goats are in milk, in which grain should be reduced to help dry them up, a process that should be complete two months before kidding time arrives. During this time, it is also important not to stress does as it is easy for them to reabsorb the embryo. No drugs should be administered for the first month of pregnancy as it can pose a danger to developing kids. Body score should still hover at 2.5 or perhaps a little better and feed should consist of hay, pasture, and free choice mineral once goats in milk have dried up.
As goats enter the last stages of pregnancy, such as the final six weeks, that is when it is time to bring up their bod score. Since kids are growing much more quickly at this stage of pregnancy, it is essential that this be compensated for nutritionally. Body scores should come up to at least 3.5 by feeding hay, pasture, free choice mineral, and the slow addition of grain back into the diet. Determining how much to add should be done on a doe-by-doe basis and is not necessarily the same for each individual. A goat that is too low on the body score scale at this stage of pregnancy can experience some major issues such as hypocalcaemia, ketosis, or pregnancy toxemia, so keeping an eye on them is very important. Should anything appear to be off with pregnant does in late gestation, veterinary intervention may become necessary.
Photo: Braided Bower Farm
With pregnancy coming down to the wire, a few more steps must be taken. One is to administer a CD&T vaccine at about four weeks prior to the due date which will pass on to kids through colostrum. Also useful is a Bo-Se (selenium and vitamin E) injection as this, too, will pass on to kids and help prevent white muscle disease. Deworming should be done once again about a week before does give birth. Anything else, vaccinations or otherwise, should be discussed with and/or administered by your vet.
With a little luck and some TLC, your does will go on to birth healthy kids with little to no stress for either of you. Soon your farm will be alive with bouncy little ones playing and bringing smiles to the faces of those who lay eyes upon them. Enjoy those precious babies while you can because they sure do seem to grow up fast!
What pregnancy care steps do you take for your does? Is there anything extra you do to make pregnancy easier on all involved? Let us know in the comments.