Friday, February 3, 2023
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Kidding and Lambing Tips For First Timers and Old Hands

Back in 1999, one of the researchers at Utah State University had finished his research project, so he donated his 35 goat does to my project grazing firebreaks to protect firefighters. Figuring that more goats could graze more oakbrush and give me more data for my research project, I decided they should have babies. So I headed down to the State Fair and bought a Boer goat buck to cross with the dairy does. What I knew about the process was that 150 days later baby goats would start to show up.

The good news is that even if that’s all you know, things are going to turn out ok. The bad news is that until you’ve got a couple seasons under your belt, you’re going to spend more time than you really should worrying that you’re going to screw up.

If you’re that novice kidder, here’s a video I made  to reduce your worry a bit. It’s from the Handbook on CD, “Goats For Firesafe Homes in Wildland Areas,” that includes all the information I gathered as part of my research project. It gives you the basics of what happens and what it looks like. It even shows you how to help when a doe is having problems. I especially tried to include information about how long things take. Had I known some of this as a novice kidder, I would have been calmer and I wouldn’t have stepped in as often the first year to provide unnecessary help to the mom.

For more pictures and some instruction for what you can do once the kid is born to help it get off on the right foot, click on and download the “Photographic Sequence of Kidding” below from Nancy Weber, edited by tatiana Stanton and Katie Roberts.

The process is very similar for lambing. Here’s a photographic sequence for sheep from David Kennard of Wellscroft Farm and Fencing:

Part 1 covers the lambing process:

Click to Download

Part 2 provides additional animal management information:

Click to download

Problem Solving

Because I wanted the kids weaned and on their own before I had to take their mothers to work in the field, we kidded in February. This meant that sometimes it was very cold. So each pen included a heat lamp to provide a warm area for the babies. If you’re going to need to provide warming for your kids, be sure to check out this article by Sandy Miller on how to construct a kid warming-hut that ensures you won’t burn down your barn. Bill Fosher also provides these excellent instructions on saving hypothermic lambs.

Occasionally you’ll get a doe who is a bad mom and doesn’t want to feed her babies. I had a couple of solutions for this. One was to tie the doe up and let the baby nurse. This meant numerous visits to the barn until the baby was strong enough to sneak milk from all the other does, or it’s mom gave up and decided to take care of it. The other solution was to get another mother to adopt the abandoned baby. This works best if the mother has just given birth. Grab the placenta and rub it all over the abandoned baby so that it smells right to the mother and then keep the adoptive mom and the baby in a very small pen with all her other offspring. The long term solution to this problem is to send the bad mom down the road as soon as possible. (On Pasture Community, if you have other suggestions, share them in the comments below!)

Next Steps

Whether you’re a newbie, or you’re an old hand at kidding, you’ll find “Low Input Lambing and Kidding” a helpful resource. In addition to some great information on the kidding process, you’ll find plenty of tips on how to make kidding and lambing more efficient and not so labor intensive.

From the Introduction to the publication, here’s what you’ll find:

“Chapter 1 is a general overview of the relationships between management inputs at birthing, season of birthing, mortality rates and herd performance. Chapter 2 discusses specific management practices as they relate to lowering inputs for barn lambing and kidding but is applicable in many cases to pasture birthing. Chapter 3 centers on management considerations to lower inputs during pasture birthing while still ensuring good animal welfare.”

We hope these tips help make lambing and kidding successful and enjoyable!

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Kathy Voth
Kathy Vothhttps://onpasture.com
I am the founder, editor and publisher of On Pasture, now retired. My career spanned 40 years of finding creative solutions to problems, and sharing ideas with people that encouraged them to work together and try new things. From figuring out how to teach livestock to eat weeds, to teaching range management to high schoolers, outdoor ed graduation camping trips with fifty 6th graders at a time, building firebreaks with a 130-goat herd, developing the signs and interpretation for the Storm King Fourteen Memorial trail, receiving the Conservation Service Award for my work building the 150-mile mountain bike trail from Grand Junction, Colorado to Moab, Utah...well, the list is long so I'll stop with, I've had a great time and I'm very grateful.

3 COMMENTS

  1. According to a friend, rejected lambs often have very sharp teeth. Smoothing the edges with a file may help get mom to take care of them. I haven’t gad a rejected lamb since I was told this, anyone ever tryed it?

  2. Don’t forget that excellent nutrition and free choice minerals are vital to having a successful kid or lamb crop.

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