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Keeping Does Healthy During Gestation

Keeping Does Healthy During Gestation

By Lacey Yates

Keeping does healthy during gestation is so important not just for your doe’s sake, but also for the kids she’s carrying.  It is not a time to sit back and feed them the minimum and hope for the best.  A healthy and well cared for doe will have less distocia issues, and will bounce back from kidding much more quickly.  Managing your milk goat well year round is much easier than dealing with the alternative.  Let’s look at a few things that will help your doe while she’s growing those kids.

Tips for Helping Your Doe

If you’ve been reading my prior posts, you absolutely know how vital a good feed and mineral program is.  This program needs to continue on during the 150 days a dairy goat is in gestation, with just a little tweaking.  Here at Raising Arrows, I continue to milk my does for 90 days after they’ve been bred.  The first 100 days of gestation, the goat requires only a little extra nutrients as there is, amazingly, little fetal development during this time.  While my does are still producing milk, they are fed the same feed (24/7 high quality alfalfa, grain on the milk stand, free choice high quality minerals).  I really don’t notice an increase in the amount of hay they eat, but it’s available for them.  I have noticed that there is a slight increase in minerals consumed during gestation.  I do continue feeding grain the entire time they are pregnant. 

Dry does the last 50 days still get grain to help ensure their high nutritional needs are still met. Most are fed grain as a group, like pictured above, but if any need to be fed separate, they are!

The most critical time for a doe is during late gestation, the last 50 days of her pregnancy.  Here is where you will benefit from your hard work and good feed program (in the form of less health issues and distocia problems!)  The doe should be dry the last 60 days, which alleviates the strain on her body of making milk as well as the uptick of growing demanding babies in utero.  Although she is dry, she still requires the extra calories of concentrates that she was getting on the milk stand.  “Energy requirements increase 28%, with a 42% increase in protein requirements compared to early lactation for a 154 lb. (70 kg) doe carrying twins.” ([NRC] National Research Council. 2007. Nutrient Requirements of Small Ruminants. National Academy Press. Washington, DC). The more kids she is carrying, the requirements are even higher.  

Late gestation does that aren’t having their energy needs met will be more susceptible to things like pregnancy toxemia, ketosis, and distocia.  Also, does that are growing triplets, quads, or quints… can have a hard time taking in enough nutrients just because there isn’t enough room to do so with all those growing kids crowding her rumen.  This is where quality over quantity comes in again… every bite of food your doe takes should be top quality and offer the most nutrients possible.  Every bite counts.  

You can do everything right, and still have a doe come down with milk fever, pregnancy toxemia or ketosis.  Working with your vet will help immensely, and can treat your goat if issues present themselves.  Keeping things on hand like calcium gluconate and propylene glycol (they’re cheap and better to have and not need!) can be life saving for your goat.  Remember, being proactive and catching things early is easier to treat than when the problem manifests into something big, like a down goat.  Spend extra time every day, twice a day watching and studying your goat for signs of toxemia or ketosis: depression, lethargy, poor appetite, dull eyes, low fecal output, changes in behavior, teeth grinding, and general “slowness”.  Also, grab some ketone strips from the pharmacy and check your does urine for signs of ketones.  

Pictured are propylene glycol and calcium gluconate kept in my vet box just in case.  

Keep good records!  If you have a doe that is susceptible to coming down with ketosis every year, you can tailor a feeding program to help transition that specific doe better. It may be as simple as offering her more concentrates in late gestation to avoid issues.  

The post Keeping Does Healthy During Gestation first appeared on Cheese From Scratch.

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