The general consensus when does are kidding is to separate them from the herd. Some breeders will separate them out of sight and contact completely from the herd. Others don’t separate at all, leaving does to kid where they will. When determining the best choice in my own herd, I tried to think of how it looks when they’re left to their own decisions.
In the wild, a doe in labor will retreat to a somewhat private location not far from the herd. She does this on her time, when her instinct tells her it is correct to do so. She will often leave her kids in that location for the first few days, leaving them only to eat and drink.
In our modern, highly managed herds, does are often moved into separation before they’re even in labor. I’ve heard of owners separating weeks before the doe is due. I ask: is this for the good of the animal or the convenience of the owner? As a general practice, convenience will lose out to the greater good, but the consequences of our choices are usually not immediately known.
So, back to the question of whether or not to separate.
When I had a herd of less than a dozen does, they kidded communally, each doe choosing the space that felt right to her. That looked a lot different back then than it does now – we used a 10’x12′ main stall and there weren’t a lot of options outside that stall. I always had a spot or two to separate in case a first freshener needed a little more stability or another laboring doe decided to claim someone else’s newborn kids, but for the most part, they kidded wherever they chose.
As my herd grew, it became more necessary to manage things. There were too many first fresheners, too many over zealous moms claiming kids that weren’t theirs. Even still, when I did separate it was only for as little time as was necessary, usually 8-10 hours or so.
Life has come full circle and now I am exploring not separating again, kidding out on pasture in warmer temps where the stakes are not so high. Yesterday, a doe chose to have her kids up on the hillside near the shade of the neighbor’s trees. She was near, but not among, the rest of the 20 or so does in the herd in the five acres they share. It seems to me that space can be another consideration as to whether or not goats need to be separated. Given enough space, does will separate themselves far enough away to not be interfered with by another doe.
In the end, then, you’ll need to make a decision based on:
- your own personality and whether or not you feel better managing more or less
- the number of goats you have relative to the space you have for kidding
- the time of year (cold temperature kidding requires more intensive management)
I believe that the more we can get out of the way and let them follow their own instincts, the better outcomes we will see.
Continue the discussion in the Kidding forum.