Transition doe management

Posted on October 2, 2023 in Dairy Goat Performance
The transition period for dairy goats is the three weeks before kidding to three weeks after kidding. During his Vita Plus Dairy Goat Seminar presentation, Kevin Wellejus, VMD and partner at Calumet Goat Company, explained that during this transition from the dry period to milking, the doe’s physiology changes dramatically.

Changes include higher nutrient requirements late in gestation; possible reduced feed intake or feed intake fluctuation; kidding; the mammary gland preparing itself for lactation; dietary changes; and hormonal changes.

Some common problems during gestation include nutritional, i.e., underfeeding; genetic, i.e., congenital defects such as incorrect blood flow in the heart; disease; abortions; and dystocia or difficult obstructed labor.

Wellejus encouraged producers to balance necessary treatments that may decrease the desire to eat and to keep pregnant goats eating during the transition period. Make sure to ask what treatments are necessary and is timing of interventions appropriate?

Other requirements for a successful transition period include appropriate lying space, water access, exercise, good air quality, parasite control and vaccines.

Wellejus added that early abortions might be caused by malformations, toxoplasmosis, or nutritional factors leading to decreased conception rate or early embryonic death.

Late infectious abortions can be caused by Chlamydiosis, Q Fever, which is caused by Coxiella burnetii, Campylobacteriosis, Brucellosis, or Leptospirosis, listeria, salmonella or toxoplasmosis. Late noninfectious abortions can be caused by malnutrition and stress, inherited abortions, vitamin and mineral imbalance, toxic plants or drugs, and medications.

When abortions occur, Wellejus said that producers often must also deal with the aftereffects of the abortion, including metritis, shedding and outbreak prevention, and assessing if and when the doe can be rebred.

“It’s an economic factor, if the doe is 18 months instead of 12 months at first kidding,” added Wellejus.

At 18 months the doe could be over-conditioned, and it also changes the management of the older doe, i.e., different pen, different feed, etc.

Pregnancy toxemia
Wellejus also provided causes of pregnancy toxemia including ketosis, twin lamb disease, pregnancy disease, kidding sickness, hepatic lipidosis, and fetal toxicity. It can be caused by metabolic disease of energy deficiency. He added that it is the most common and potentially disastrous disease of goats and presents in three stages.

  • Stage 1: Decreased appetite, swollen distal extremities, stiff gait, decreased mobility or behavioral changes.
  • Stage 2: Anorexic and down, but the goat can stand for short periods with assistance. These does can still be supported and birth normally.
  • Stage 3: Down, obtunded and labored breathing with harsh lung sounds. Fetuses are probably dead or dying. The producer might consider a c-section to save the doe.

Once the producer identifies symptoms, Wellejus suggested that the producer consider chemical testing such as β-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) testing for hyperketonemia or moderate to heavy urinary ketone presence.

Treatment options in the early stages include dextrose, propylene glycol, banamine, vitamins, feeds/ drenches, or the producer can induce parturition.

Wellejus provided guidelines as to when to induce parturition.

  • When it is a situation of doe versus kid.
  • When the doe is more than 144 days pregnant
    • If inducing doe because of pregnancy toxicity, a single dose of 20 mg of dexamethasone may enhance fetal maturation and enhance survivability.
    • Does normally kid within 24 to 36 hours after induction.

Normal parturition
Normal parturition includes the following stages:

  • Stage 1: Initiation of myometrial contractions, lasting from 2 to 12 hours; restless, isolates from herd, up and down, cervical dilation.
  • Stage 2: Delivery of the fetus, 1 to 2 hours; once the amniotic fluid is out, kidding should progress.
  • Stage 3: Delivery of the placenta, less than 6 hours.

Wellejus added that 95% of deliveries require no assistance, but dystocias can be caused by fetal malposition, cervical dilation failure, simultaneous presentation of kids, or an oversized fetus.

Newborn kid care

Newborn kids should be observed for abnormal respiration and other signs of stress such as meconium staining. A healthy kid should stand within a few minutes and try to nurse within the first few hours.

Dry period

Wellejus also discussed milking through the dry period. He mentioned that there is not enough controlled scientific research, and that empirical evidence suggests we are choosing between preventing metabolic issues and maximizing milk production.

“The dry period permits udder involution and colostrum production,” added Wellejus.

He reviewed grouping and feeding dry goats and provided some general nutritional recommendations.

  • 1 to 1.5 pounds of grain and 4 to 5 pounds of forage dry matter
  • Forages exceeding 55% neutral detergent fiber (NDF) should not be fed to pregnant goats.
  • Energy and protein content needs to be adjusted to actual intake.
  • 12% crude protein and 65% total digestible nutrients are considered absolute minimums for feeding goats during the dry period.

For more information, contact your nutritionist or dairy goat specialist.

Category: Animal health
Dairy Goat Performance
Doe nutrition