THIS week we look at management of goat kids or lambs in sheep.
Kid mortality is the single major challenge for most small stock producers in my view. Usually mature goats do not easily succumb to diseases although here and there a farmer can record mortalities in his/her flock.
Major losses are experienced in kids or lambs and therefore, it is imperative to look at management practices that can minimise kid mortalities among small stock producers. Most deaths occur in the neonatal period largely caused by starvation, lambing injuries, infectious conditions and difficult births, among others.
Special attention should be taken to reduce losses during this period through interventions such as assisting does/ewes with difficult births and making sure that the lamb/kid consumes enough colostrum.
The kid or lamb should consume about 60ml of colostrum per kilogramme of body weight within 24 hours of birth.
One of the most important functions of colostrum is to provide lambs/kids with antibodies that provide immunity for the first couple of months of life.
Colostrum is also a highly concentrated source of energy, acts as a laxative and is an essential feed within six hours of birth.
Actually allowing the lamb/kid to suckle colostrum is an important part of the maternal bonding process.
The immunoglobulins in the colostrum are absorbed intact by the kid through the lining of the gut. If a lamb/kid does not get enough colostrum within the first 24 hours after birth, its chances of survival are very slim. This is because the efficiency with which a lamb/kid can absorb immunoglobulins declines within just one hour after birth, drastically decreases after 12 hours and is essentially gone by 24 hours of age.
It is also important to ensure that does/ewes give birth in a clean environment to avoid the kid or lamb contracting an infection soon after birth. The cleanliness of the bedding on the floor is important as dirty bedding can transfer diseases to the kids or lambs.
The lamb/kid had been in a germ-free environment in the uterus prior to birth exposes the kid/lamb to the challenges of the surrounding environment such as pests and common disease organisms from the environment.
It is also important for small stock farmers to make it a point that they watch their does/ewes carefully when they are due for delivery.
This will help to timely notice if there is a doe/ewe which is facing a difficult birth and requires assistance.
If the help is offered in time mortality of that kid can be avoided. However, the challenge of difficult births is not very common in goats although problems are always a possibility.
First-time birthing ewes/does should be closely watched especially if bred to rams/bucks known to sire large lambs/kids as these are likely to experience difficult births. When your doe/ewe has given birth please ensure that the airways are cleared and this is usually done by the ewe/doe when it licks its newly born kid. You may therefore, need to physically check at the birth of a lamb/kid if the airways are clear and clean off any excess mucus which might be blocking the air passage.
The second step is to disinfect the navel by dipping the umbilical cord in iodine solution to prevent entry of disease causing organisms and subsequent infections. Dipping of the cord in iodine also promotes rapid drying and the eventual breaking away of the cord from the navel. Replace the iodine solution regularly to ensure its cleanliness. Another important management practice which reduces kid mortality is to ensure that the kid is suckling and the doe/ewe is producing milk. It happens at times to have does which do not produce milk or produces it in very little quantity for one reason or another and this can result in the kid/lamb starving.
Also ensure that there is no rejection of the kid/lamb by the doe/ewe and if there is take measures to foster the kid/lamb or induce the doe/ewe into accepting the kid/lamb. The kidding/lambing environment should also be warm so that kids/lambs do not die of hypothermia (drop in temperature) due to unfavourable weather conditions.
Predation is another cause of kid losses especially among smallholder farmers. The severity of predation depends on prevalence of wild animals in that particular area.
However, if extra care is taken in monitoring the kids/lambs losses due to predation can be significantly reduced.
A simple practice such as ensuring that your goats are penned at night and are brought to the pens before dark can actually prevent losses due to prevention.
Farmers may also want to take a leaf from Gwanda small stock farmers who are able to train their dogs to provide protection to the goats during the day when they are out browsing. These dogs also protect even during the nights as some of them sleep within the pens with goats. One obviously needs to be able to train the dogs to do that and I think it’s a practice that can be adopted and popularised as best practice among small stock producers in areas prone to theft and predation. Uyabonga umntakaMaKhumalo.
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