Gestation Lengths Differ Between Spring and Fall

It’s Wyoming, so 15 inches of snow the middle of April is no surprise, neither are single digit temperatures. But it doesn’t mean I like it, especially when I have four goats kidding. Not as in ha, ha, but dropping those cute white fur balls that need fed bottles four times a day.

Buttermilk kidded on Saturday. I expected twins, she surprised me with triplets, two girls and a boy. I was watching her close as she was due to kid possibly on Friday but more likely on Saturday. I keep a tab on when each doe breeds so the stress level of when she is due is eliminated. Couple the signs of impending birth and I save lots of time running back and forth to the barn to check. The sweetheart that she is, she had them all on her own. A bit more difficult with three all pushing to get out.


I don’t mind a doe having a single their first year but Ava got really carried away and now we have a Thor. It wasn’t easy getting him out. Her sister, Martha, had twin boys and pushing them out on her own but pinched a nerve in doing so. The next day she was fully recovered. Martha gets extra points in my evaluation for having twins the first year. By the second if they don’t twin, they are down the road. A doe that has multiples gives more milk, her bodies way of preparation to feed them all. It requires genetic traits to have multiples but proper feeding is required to make it possible or she will reabsorb one or more of the embryos. My does have the genetics and though I don’t grain during pregnancy, I do feed top quality hay. Imagine what the problem I’d have had if Thor had been grained while an embryo. I’d never had gotten him out. My does from two forward all twin or triple.

I start counting 24 hours after the doe bred in the fall and add 149 days. The 150th day I begin a careful watch for signs of impending birth. On 151 day, at least every four hours, I look her over good. I’ve never kidded in fall but I do know that the gestation of a doe in the spring is slightly longer than one in the fall. Spring litters are usually larger and viability of neonatal kids is greater too. The same goes for sheep which have a slightly shorter gestation of 147 days.

I can’t emphasize enough how much easier life is when you know your breeding dates. My dad managed a 1000 head of cattle and a 1000 head of sheep. He was on watch for weeks, and checked every 4 hours, day and night 7 days a week. He wasn’t worried about being there because he or one of the ranch hands was always there. Myself, I like to know what projects I can start for the day or whether I can plan a trip to town. Of course that is a rarity right now. The trips to town that is. This year, we had five does due in one week, accommodations are tight. The oldest, whose 9 having had 9 kidding dates, missed her due date this year. I’d guess she caught the next cycle as she is definitely pregnant. Never had an issue before?????

Knowing the dates helps me to make planned rotations of animals through pens and stalls though not everyone cooperates completely. I like to kid in the barn next to the small temporary kid pen with heat lamps. There is plenty of light, room, and its warm there. I slip into the kidding pen and milk into baby bottles and slip back out again and into the kids pen with the heat lamps. This works especially well well I’m trying to get in as much colostrum in as possible. I like to feed it fresh. I train my does to stand unrestrained in the pen. But if another doe is in with them, you can forget about that. For that occasion, I use a leash attached to the fence. That is all they need to stay still. It is one of the things customers raved about when they buy a doe from me.


  From the barn, the doe rotates to the stalls. I want to keep their vulva area in a clean stall and avoid infections such as mastitis in her udder from laying in a wet pen. Today, another blizzard raged, last weekend a blizzard raged and tomorrow it will start raining. Yup, typical spring in Wyoming. The frequent feeding of babies the first day of every four hours during the daylight helps to insure they ingest plenty of colostrum, the antibodies from the milk during the first feedings will aid the kid’s health their entire lives. Test after test has proven this without a doubt. Colostrum needs to be ingested within 12 to 18 hours after birth. If not many die within the first week but if not they will play a price their whole lives of poorer health.

I think this year I might of had a kid start to go into Floppy Kid Syndrome with her lower leg joints gradually weakening from too much milk but there was only 1 of the 3, yes, triplets, so I cut back to 6 hour feedings the next day which I normally do anyway. She popped right out of it within hours of the change. I don’t normally have a problem. 


My Saanen kids usually take 3/4ths a baby bottle from the first feeding so they eat a lot. By day 3, it is 1 and 1/4th bottles. My Nubian kids drank 1/3rd to 1/2 a bottle. I no longer raise them as they did not match our needs and went back to Saanens. What a difference, especially where we presently live.

My feed program is: every four hours the first day.  Then I switch to 5:00 am, 12:00 pm, 5:00 pm and 8:00 pm top off before bed for the next few weeks. My friend starts at 6 and ends at 10 with her lambs but at my age, the bed is calling too loudly and I can’t make it to 10. There is of course the occasional exception. I wean around 2 months, though with a few I’ve had to go to 3 months. Typically my kids are on hay and grazing to the point they just don’t ask for the milk. This is done by dropping the bottle feedings back to 3, then 2, 1, and finally none. I don’t have an exact weaning date. I listen to the kid’s needs.

If I can emphasize anything it is that if you only have a few, know your dates on each and everyone of them. Then you know if there is a problem like our 9 year old Comedy. She will kid but it took two cycles to catch. Not ever been  problem with her before.

If this were a young ewe or doe, she’d be down the road. You want the ones that breed in the first 17 days or so of when you put your buck in. They give the most reliable and profitable results. I know when my animals are cycling and in standing heat. I know the signs so I mark it down for each one. Nubians can be more sly but Saanens let it be known to all. Dates of breeding are great but you still need to know what to look for when it comes close to time to kid. It is very helpful to write down what your doe does each time. You will see a pattern and be better prepared next time. Comedy has an udder that fills with ever increasing speed. On the final 24 hours before birth, she gets so big she can barely walk around it. Her personality completely changes from friendly to,”Don’t you dare touch me!” Those two reliable signs for her were not there this time. I grew suspicious. Keep in mind your goat has not read your notes and there will be times things won’t go according to script. I’ve had occasion when they bagged up part way and finished while in labor. Those who do not bag up before kidding go down the road unless they have a proven track record of otherwise. It might be a fluke one year. If it is the first year’s kidding, I’ve learned it will be the second year too.

There are signs that are sure sign of impending birth and signs that can come and go as time nears. So what are they? Check the next blog post coming. I’m gathering photos from past and present kiddings to show and tell. This post just got to be too long.












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