Special Care for C-section Kids
Maxine Kinne

A big part of a breeder's job is to try to avoid dystocia and the caesarian sections that may go along with it, both for our does' health and their ability to contribute to the gene pool as mothers, and for the health and vigor of their offspring. Even so, like the bumper sticker proclaims, "Stuff happens," and sometimes that's a C-section.

A doe who has had a c-section may or may not be in good enough shape to take care of her kids, at least right away. Your choices are to take over as surrogate mother until the kids are weaned, or take over just until she is able and willing to accept the kids. A third option is to euthanize the kid(s) if they will soon die, if they are deformed, or if you don't wish to continue to deal with physical problems in the kids or the genetics that caused the C-section in the first place. (I take heat for this statement but have done this on rare occasions to avoid future problems, and I have developed a trouble-free herd because of it.)

C-section kids may be in dismal shape, especially if the mother's labor was difficult or prolonged before surgical intervention. These kids often have severe acid-base imbalances and suffer the effects of oxygen deprivation which affect the brain. They may be weak, unable to stand or lack a sucking reflex, either from the dystocia, the anesthetic used during surgery or both. Also, they are much less able to absorb antibodies from colostrum that is given either by bottle or by stomach tube. As a result, they may do less well than herdmates who are born normally, at least for a while.

Don't forget to dip the neonate's navel in iodine. This can be easy to forget under duress.

Let's assume a worst case scenario where a kid is chilled, too weak to stand and lacks the suckle reflex. It must be kept warm and fed right away. Bringing it into the house is a good idea. A heating pad under a towel in a cardboard box or laundry basket will provide the warmth it needs to bring the body temperature up to the normal 102o F and keep it at that temperature. Cover the kid(s) with bath towels to retain the warmth of the heating pad until  the 102o F body temperature is reached.

Lacking a suckle reflex, colostrum will have to be given with a stomach tube. Dribbling colostrum into its mouth with a syringe is very ineffective in getting an appropriate quantity into the kid for energy and colostral antibody absorption through its gut. What the Pygmy kid desperately needs, as soon as possible after the birth and when its temperature is normal, is from 1 to 1.5 ounces (30-45cc) of colostrum at 102o F, delivered by stomach tube. Because they are inactive, slow kids should only have about 10% of their body weight in colostrum for the first 24 hours, divided into about 6 or 8 feedings. A subcutaneous injection of 2-3cc dextrose, warmed to body temperature, can give the kid an extra spurt of energy as it is being warmed up. After colostrum is given, it is usually unnecessary to continue giving dextrose. Kids who are doing better but still need to be tubed should receive colostrum in the amount of 15% of their body weight for the first 24 hours. After that time, colostral antibodies cannot be absorbed, so make the switch to milk.

If the kid is quite weak, turn it occasionally . Keep an eye on its rectal temperature and that of the heating pad. The kid will pant if it gets too warm, but it will grow more lethargic if its temperature begins to drop. Talking to and petting the kid has positive effects - its mother would do these things. It is OK for the newborn to lay flat on its side. An adult on its side would soon bloat, but the newborn does not have a functional rumen, so it is not important to keep it resting upright.

The mother should have received CD/T vaccinations about a month before her due date. If she did not, the kid(s) should get 1cc tetanus antitoxin for protection over the next two weeks. In selenium deficient areas, weak kids should also have a injectable kid dose of Bo-Se (1/4cc), especially if the mother did not receive it within the last month of gestation.

To test for suckle reflex, put your little finger inside the kid's mouth. When the kid begins to suck on yur finger, offer a bottle at 102o F. Newborns are extremely fussy about milk temperature.

A weak, c-section kid should begin to dissipate the effects of anesthetic and be more alert within 8 hours of birth. Keep up the good nursing care and feeding. Supplemental warmth can be discontinued if the kid can maintain its body temperature and has received colostrum. Steady progress should be noticeable. The kid should begin to lift its head and struggle to stand. It may take 2-3 days for the kid to be active enough to want out of the box and become interested in its surroundings. Again, any exercise it tries and/or stimulation you can supply will be good for it.

Many years ago I had an extremely oxygen-starved kid that didn't want to breathe very much. He was delivered manually at midnight in the veterinarian's driveway after I was unable to untangle him and his sister at home. All the way home I pinched his ears to make him holler - those deep breaths got more oxygen into his lungs. At four days old, he could finally stand and take a bottle, but he wouldn't try to walk. So, I held him under his tummy and crawled along the floor, dragging his feet to stimulate proprioception - putting one foot ahead of the other and recognizing where his feet were. I literally taught him to walk.

A kid in rough enough shape to be separated from its mother for more than a few hours may not be accepted by the mother. It helps to keep the mother's placenta and rub it on the kid when it is given back to her. It also helps to feed the kid the mother's own colostrum and milk. The mother may be periodically tied to the fence or put in a stanchion while nursing the kid(s) for a few days until she gets used to the idea. She may never be an excellent mother in all ways, but if she feeds them, you've won more than half the battle. (For additional information about mismothering and rejection, see my article Mommie Dearest .

What if the mother dies? Then, YOU get to be Mom for about 10 weeks until weaning.

Many kids jump-start quickly and can be given back to the mother within a few hours of birth. The earlier they can be reunited, the less stress they will experience. Keep an especially watchful eye on the whole family to spot problems quickly.

As former Chairperson of NPGA's Health, Education and Research Committee, which has delved deeply into dystocia problems in the Pygmy goat, and as a long-time breeder who cares deeply about the future of the breed, I have to say that many difficult births and c-sections can be avoided by keeping does fit, not fat. If you have an adult doe who is not fat, her pelvis may be too small to ever deliver kids vaginally. Buck kids out of mothers with insufficient pelvic capacity should be castrated to avoid passing this deficiency to future generations. Does who are built poorly should not be rebred. If a doe shouldn't have another chance at kidding, your veterinarian can remove her ovaries during the c-section to prevent accidental future breedings.

Related Reading

See Kid Care and Doe Reproduction in the Articles list


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