What are the signs of goat labor?
It’s kidding season! This is the time of year when we have lots of cute baby goats running around!
But there is more to kidding season than frolicking baby goats! Before you can have cute babies you have to care for a pregnant doe and deliver the babies.
10 Signs Of Goat Labor!
(Just to let you know this post does have a couple of graphic goat pics. I include them to give you an idea of what to look for when your goat is close to labor.)
So, you have baby goats on the way! And you have all of your supplies ready to care for your newborn baby goats!
Your doe is as big as a house and you are impatiently checking on her every day (and by every day I mean every couple of hours lol;)!
How do you know when your goat’s due date should be?! What are the signs that she is going into labor?!
Don’t stress! I have compiled a list of 10 signs that your goat might be going into labor as well as when she should be due.
Now, I say might, because unfortunately, just like people, there is no hard and fast rules! But before you start stressing again, rest assured that these signs are (some more than others) fairly accurate that labor should be happening soon!
When is my goat’s due date?
First, let’s talk due dates! Goats generally give birth somewhere between 145-155 days from the day they were bred. In all of the years that I’ve been doing this I have never had a goat not give birth within this time frame.
Also, I have noticed that most of the time my goats tend to give birth at around the same number of days each year. So, mark on a calendar the day they give birth and next year you should have a pretty good idea of when she will be due.
Signs of goat labor
Alright, let’s get to the main reason that you are here! The 10 signs that your goat might be in labor!
As your goat gets closer to labor you might notice some white goopy discharge. Discharge can occur as early as a month before labor begins. The picture above was taken a month before the doe delivered.
As the doe loses her mucous plug discharge can increase throughout the month before labor. If you notice a lot of discharge at once then labor could be beginning. The picture below was taken of the same doe once labor had begun.
2. Swollen and loose vulva
As labor approaches your doe’s vulva will become more swollen. Also, as she gets very close to labor her vulva will become loose and will giggle as she walks.
When she lays down the vulva might be slightly open due to how loose everything is.
3. Drifting from the herd
From my experience a goat doesn’t do this unless she’s in the beginning stages of labor. If she starts standing off by herself, away from the others, I generally put her in a stall by herself.
Especially if she has some of the other labor symptoms as well. Now if she’s off by herself browsing and eating, that’s not the same thing.
For example, one of my does that kidded last month did this. It was in the morning and while the other goats were eating hay, she moved to another field by herself and just stood in a clump of trees. I quickly led her up to a stall and she kidded less than an hour later!
4. Milk bag becomes full and tight
This is a tricky sign! As your goat gets closer to labor her milk back may begin to fill up and become tight.
I say may, because I have heard of some goats not filling their udders until after birth. But in general a goat’s udder will become tight with milk just before birth.
The picture above of the tight udder was taken the same day that the goat went into labor.
Also, a first freshener (a first time mom) will usually start to form her udder about a month before birth.
A doe that has kidded before can start filling her udder anywhere from a month before to hours before. Or as I mentioned, sometimes after!
I know, it’s frustrating that they don’t make it easier on us!
With my does I generally notice them starting to fill up a week or two before birth.
The day of birth, or the day before, the milk bag usually gets really tight and kind of shiny because the skin is stretched tightly.
5. Acting differently
There can be lots of ways that your doe acts differently while in labor. She might become more or less affectionate. I have a doe that is usually very stand offish, but in labor she becomes super friendly!
I also just recently had a first freshener give birth that did this. When she went into labor she started following me around and calling for me. If I left the pen she would call and call for me until I came back!
Also, a doe might become more vocal. She might pace the fence calling at nothing in particular.
She also might appear to be calling to her belly.
All goats have different personalities. So if your doe starts doing anything that makes you think “That’s weird!”, then she might be in labor!
6. Getting up and down
Another sign of labor can be a goat acting more uncomfortable than normal. As she experiences contractions she might seem to get up and lay back down more often.
She might lay down, then a couple of minutes later get up and move to a new spot to lay down. If she does this a lot then that could be a sign that she is in labor.
7. Pawing the ground
When in labor your doe might start pawing the ground a lot. She does this as a kind of nesting instinct, trying to find a good spot to give birth in.
Almost all of my does do this when in labor. I only have had one doe this season that did not do this. She was a first freshener, so that might have played a part in her not doing it.
8. Licking you and yawning
Ok, I know this sounds weird, but I’m telling you it truly is a labor sign!
It kind of goes along with #5, acting differently. A lot of my does become very affectionate during labor. Most of them will lick my hands. And when I say lick my hands I don’t mean a lick here and there. I mean constantly licking!
It’s actually similar to how they will lick the baby after birth. I know that licking the baby stimulates hormones helping their milk to come in as well as helping them to pass the placenta. So maybe them licking you has a similar affect.
Also, a doe will tend to yawn when she is in labor. I don’t mean just once, she will probably do it quite a few times! I really don’t have an answer as to why they yawn, I just know that they do! Lol
9. Ligaments in the tail are gone
In my experience, this is a pretty sure sign that labor will happen within about 24 hours.
Starting along the spine near the hips there are ligaments that branch off towards the rear end. They are on both sides of the spine. As a doe nears labor these ligaments will begin to loosen and disappear.
The picture above shows how the ligaments should run.
The ligaments will feel like hard pencils or rods. But as labor nears they will become softer. Also, as they soften the tail head will loosen and rise.
Just before labor the ligaments will completely disappear. Her trailhead will wiggle back and forth and you should be able to almost wrap your fingers around her spine just above the tail. At this point labor should begin within 24 hours.
This really is the sign that I depend on the most. In my experience it is the symptom that never fails. When both ligaments are completely gone, we start getting all of our supplies together for birth!
And finally, the last symptom that we are going to cover is a definite sign that labor is here, contractions!
When a goat is having contractions she normally arches her back and her tail, such as the pictures above.
If she is laying down she will generally stand during a contraction unless she is already in the pushing stage.
If your goat is having contractions, then congratulations! Baby goats are almost here!
These are the 10 signs that I generally look for when trying to judge whether or not my goat is in labor.
I hope this helps you to determine where your own goats are at in their pregnancies!
Have you experienced any of these symptoms before with your goats? Are there any other symptoms that you know of that I have forgotten? If so please leave a comment sharing your experiences with us! And be sure to share pics with me of those cute little babies;)
To learn more about pregnancy, kidding, kid care, and everything else you need to know to care for your goats, check out the Raising Goats For beginners Course! This course has step by step lessons, videos and PDFs for everything from goat illnesses, feeding, milking, you name it! It will help you to raise your goats with confidence, as well as provide a group for personal help and support!