Waiting for a goat to kid can be almost as stressful as waiting for your own baby to be born! It’s a waiting game- looking for every little signs that tells you today is the day. A goat’s gestation period is 150 days- sometimes they can go a bit early and sometimes late, but anything from 145-155 days should be okay. Each goat is different- so keeping good records of dates and symptoms can help you discover patterns in your herd, which can help you predict when kidding will happen that much sooner!
Check out my Busy Homesteader’s Goat Management Binder– which has record sheets for your herd and a breeding and kidding checklist to make sure you don’t miss anything!
How to Tell if Your Goat is in Labor
Since you should already be checking on your goats daily, be aware of small changes that happen to your does as they get closer to their delivery date. There are quite a few signs that will let you know that kidding is close and that you should be checking on your doe more frequently. Here are 9 of the signs that can tell your that your goat is in labor.
A Full, Tight Udder
About 4-6 weeks before kidding you should start to see growth in your does udder as it slowly fills in preparation of kidding. But just before delivery the udder will fill more completely. The skin will look tight and almost shiny. If you see this there is a good chance kidding will happen in the next 24 hours.
Just like with humans, not all signs of labor happen with all goats. This sign is usually more apparent with first fresheners, and sometimes a goat’s udder will not fill completely until after delivery.
The Loss of Tail Ligaments
There are 2 ligaments that run alongside where the tail meets the spine. In a non-pregnant goat these ligaments will feel like pencils, but as pregnancy progresses they soften and about 24 hours before kidding the ligaments will have softened so much they will have seemed to disappear. If you try to wrap your fingers around the spine at the tail head your fingers should almost touch.
This can take a bit of practice to get a feel for, so try feel for the ligaments on non-pregnant, late pregnancy, and goats at their due date to feel the differences. This is one sure fire way to tell if your goat will give birth soon.
Related Reading: 10 Medications No Goat Owner Should Be Without
Discharge is often one of the first signs that your goat is closer to kidding, but unfortunately it can happen weeks before the big day. The amount of discharge is often what will tell you the most. If your doe has a lot of heavy discharge, she is probably close to going into labor for real!
This is one of the signs I look for as a first sign. As the kids drop lower into the birth canal they will put pressure on the goat’s rear end causing it to swell and open slightly.
When I see a doe with a noticeably more swollen vulva I know she’s close- usually 1-5 days. This is when I start to do barn runs more often and start looking for other signs that tell me labor is near.
Behavior changes can tell you a lot about how a goat is feeling. When my most social doe doesn’t run to the fence when I come to say hello, but instead stays pressed against the barn, I know something is up. This is especially true if I am there with a feed bucket! If she is just off grazing in another area, that is okay. But if you see her just standing around, not chewing her cud. Then you should think about putting her in a kidding stall.
Another sign that usually means delivery will happen in the next couple of hours (or minutes) is standing alone with her head pressed against a wall or corner. This is usually a sign of contractions, pain, and bearing down.
Related Reading: Identifying and Treating Selenium Deficiency in Goats
Just before kidding your goat will likely separate from the herd. You might see her pawing at the ground and laying down, getting up, repositioning herself over and over again. She is trying to make her nest for kidding.
You may also notice her “talking” to her belly during this time. These nesting signs usually tell you that labor will start fairly soon.
Sunken Sides/Prominent Hip Bones
This is another first sign for me. As the kids drop lower and enter the birth canal, your goat’s body will change in appearance. Her spine and hip bones will stick out and be more prominent. And her sides will sink in and she may appear a bit skinny compared to the weeks prior. Her belly will appear to hang lower too.
I usually see this sign about the same time as the swollen vulva- about 1-5 days prior. And it tells me I need to up my barn runs.
Like with the sunken sides and prominent hip bones, the tail will change as labor gets closer. It will become a bit crooked in appearance- almost hooked. And it will stay that way until after delivery.
Contractions are a sure sign that labor is starting. You will see her arch her back and her tail will become even more crooked. You may notice her breathing heavy or panting between or during each contraction. If you see these, keep a close eye on her. You could be holding new babies very soon!
And that’s it! 9 signs to look for that will tell you that your goat is in labor- or will be very soon! Check out my Kidding Kit for everything you will need for the big day!