How to Resolve Problems in Your Goat's Pregnancy
3 of 8 in Series: The Essentials of Caring for Pregnant and Nursing Goats
If you have goats as part of your green, sustainable lifestyle, you might want to breed them. Pregnant goats require some special considerations even if the pregnancy is normal. Here are some conditions to watch for in the does you have bred and some solutions for dealing with pregnancy-related problems.
A goat's gestation is approximately 150 days, although it can vary between 145 and 155. Nigerian Dwarves frequently kid at only 145 days, and goats that have poor body condition or nutrition often kid later than 150 days. Always write on your calendar 145 days after the date that a doe was bred as the due date so you can start checking her ligaments and watching her around this time.
In a false pregnancy, the goat has all the signs of being pregnant, such as an enlarged udder, milk production, and uterine cramping. During false pregnancy, a pregnancy test will even come out positive.
False pregnancy is sometimes linked to uterine infection. It can end at any time, but most often go full term and end in a cloudburst, or the release of fluid but no kid or placenta. The goat will then go back into her normal cycle and can be bred again.
Abortion and stillbirth
Both of these problems can have a variety of causes, including the following:
Malformation or genetic defect: Kids with genetic defects are usually aborted early in the pregnancy. These abortions cannot be prevented.
Stress: Poor nutrition, cold weather, overcrowding, or poor diet can lead to abortion. You can prevent these stressors by providing proper shelter, not housing too many goats in a small area, and feeding a balanced diet.
Infectious diseases: Fifty percent of abortions in goats are believed to be caused by infection. The list of infectious diseases that can cause abortion is quite lengthy.
Infectious abortions are a risk for the whole herd, and particularly for other pregnant goats. If more than one goat aborts, save the fetus and placenta in the refrigerator and call your veterinarian or veterinary school to perform a necropsy to determine the cause of death.
Poisoning: Some plants and medications, such as certain dewormers and steroids, can cause abortions in goats.
Injury: Occasionally, a hard butt in the side by another goat will cause a doe to abort.
Hypocalcemia most commonly occurs at the end of pregnancy, but does can also get it during lactation, especially if they are heavy milk producers.
Signs that a goat is developing hypocalcemia are a loss of appetite, particularly for grain, at 12 weeks of pregnancy or later and even after kidding. This loss of appetite leads to progressive weakness, staggering, depression, low temperature, and lethargy.
You can prevent hypocalcemia by making sure that the doe has an adequate diet during pregnancy and lactation. She needs alfalfa for calcium, and getting too much grain early on can interfere with her getting it. She needs about two parts calcium to one part grain.
The steps you need to take to prevent hypocalcemia are different, depending on whether the goat is lactating (and getting grain and alfalfa) at the time she is bred:
If she is lactating and getting a heavy ration of grain and alfalfa at the time of breeding, continue this grain ration throughout the pregnancy. Continue giving alfalfa unless you dry her off before she is three months pregnant. If you dry her off, switch to grass hay until the three-month mark.
If she is bred when dry, do not give grain or alfalfa until the last two months of the pregnancy. Start slowly with only a handful of grain, and gradually increase the amount of grain you give her. Slowly replace her grass hay with alfalfa.
To treat hypocalcemia, immediately give the doe Nutridrench (according to directions on the bottle) or 60 ml of oral propylene glycol twice a day. Then contact your veterinarian to start her on 30 ml CMPK, a prescription combination of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium, subcutaneously every two hours to address the mineral imbalance, and provide intravenous fluids, if necessary. You can tell that this is working if her heart rate returns to normal.
Ketosis is more common in does that are overweight at the beginning of pregnancy and in those that have multiple fetuses. A doe with ketosis has sweet-smelling breath in addition to the symptoms of hypocalcemia. Treat ketosis with propylene glycol or Nutridrench, and also treat for hypocalcemia.