Pregnancy Diagnosis in Goats


How do we determine if goats are pregnant?

  • Watch for return to estrus (heat)
  • Wait 4.5 to 5 months and watch for udder development and kidding
  • Ballot (bounce/palpate) abdomen at 4.5 months and attempt to feel kids
  • Draw blood to test for hormones that are normally elevated during pregnancy
  • Ultrasound any time after 32d post breeding


Why do we want to know if goats are pregnant? (why not just wait for kids?)

  • Allows for an accurate dry off period in dairy does
  • Late pregnant does can be fed differently than non-pregnant does
  • Allows us to accurately time pre-kidding vaccines and treatments
  • Make management decisions about keeping, depending on ability to become pregnant
  • Whether or not to rebreed!


How can ultrasounding my doe help me with my 4H project?

  • Ultrasounding between 32 and 50 days post breeding can identify whether a doe is having a single or multiple kids
  • Ultrasounding for pregnancy at 32 days post breeding helps make sure open does get rebred, and decreases unwanted extended lactations or keeping open meat does
  • Often if there are multiple breeding dates from herd breeding, ultrasound can identify the most likely date of pregnancy
  • Confirming pregnancy allows for timely CD/T boosters, pre-kidding fecals or deworming, and feeding your doe for peak milk production post kidding
  • Knowing pregnancy status will help CAE prevention programs


How do you ultrasound my doe for pregnancy?

  • An ultrasound machine sends sound waves away from the probe (transducer), and records how many bounce back and how long it takes.  It then creates a picture with white being bounced back the most and the fastest and black the longest
  • Fluid or air doesn’t bounce back sound waves = black
  • Bone or metal sends waves back quickly = white
  • For diagnosing pregnancy, the probe is placed against the abdomen, above the udder in the hairless area between the leg and body.  It then sends waves out, and creates an image of what it is pressed against.  If the doe is pregnant, images of the uterus, fluid in the uterus, and the skeleton of the kid(s) are seen.  If she is open, the uterus may not be in front of the probe, and intestines and bladder are seen instead.
  • For early pregnancy, days 30-40, sometimes the probe needs to be placed in the rectum to see the small, pregnant uterus in the pelvis.
  • Goat placenta:
    • Cotelydons: lumps of tissue on the placenta (kid side) that connect to the doe’s uterus
    • Caruncles: lumps of tissue on the doe’s uterus that connect to the placenta
    • Connected they transfer nutrients from the doe’s blood to the kid’s and transfer waste from the kid’s blood to the doe
    • Mom drives a CARuncle; Kid sleeps in a COTelydon


Why can’t I just blood test?  (sounds easier)

  • Blood testing for pregnancy tests for either progesterone or pregnancy specific protein B.
    • Progesterone testing is highly variable because pregnancy may not be the only reason for an elevated level
    • Pregnancy specific protein B testing (BioPryn) is more accurate at identifying open animals (99%), but 5% or more of the does the test say are pregnant may be open. 
  • Blood testing can not identify the number of kids
  • Having your veterinarian ultrasound your doe develops a veterinarian client patient relationship, which gives you a chance to ask them questions about your animals health, environment, or nutrition, as well as allowing them to legally prescribe drugs for your goats
  • You CAN blood test for pregnancy
    • Or, you can have your veterinarian pull blood to test for pregnancy
    • However, it is not as accurate as ultrasound, and cannot tell you singles vs multiples

It’s Time For Lambs, Kids, and Crias!

We at Henderson Equine Clinic are very excited to announce we are now treating sheep, goats, alpacas, and llamas in addition to our regular equine clients.  It is almost spring time, and with spring time comes lambing, kidding, and criating!  Are you ready?


Spring with expectant animals brings lots of questions, planning, and excitement. So I thought I would answer a few questions you might have about your ewe, doe, or female.


Question #1: Is she pregnant?

            Answer: Did you have her ultrasounded post breeding?  If so, you know if she is pregnant, and depending on timing and species, you may have an estimate of how many she is going to have.  If you didn’t ultrasound, did you draw blood for a species specific pregnancy test? (Llama’s and alpaca’s can have blood progesterone levels tested to diagnose pregnancy, though it is less definitive than ultrasound).  Or least specific, did you test breed her if she’s a camelid, or has she been seen to be showing signs of heat or been rebred?


Question #2: When is she due?

            Answer: Breeding dates can generally estimate due date within 5-7 days. 

                        Sheep Gestation: approx. 147 days

                        Goat Gestation: approx. 148-152 days

                        Alpaca Gestation: approx. 335-345 days

                        Llama Gestation: approx. 350 days


Question #3: What should I expect when she starts lambing/kidding/criating? (How long should it take?)


Sheep and Goats: Approximately 10 days before she lambs, the teats begin to feel firm and full of colostrum. Between then and lambing the lips of the vulva slacken and become slightly swollen. In the last hours before lambing, many ewes or does will separate from the flock.  As the uterine contractions start, a thick creamy white mucous, the remains of the cervical seal, is passed from the vulva and contractions of the uterus push the lamb or kid into the cervix, stimulating dilation. At this time the ewe or doe is uneasy, getting up and down, switching her tail and bleating frequently. There may be some straining. This is Stage 1 and can take 3 - 4 hours.

As the uterine contractions become stronger and more frequent, the lamb and amniotic sac are pushed into the dilated cervix. The sac bursts, releasing a watery fluid through the vulva. As the ewe continues to strain, the second sac is pushed through the vulva and ruptures, to release a thicker fluid.  The hooves and nose of the lamb can often be seen in the second sac before it bursts.  The ewe gradually expels the lamb, forefeet first, followed by the head. Once the head, forefeet and shoulders pass, final delivery generally rapid.  This is Stage 2 and should take 1 hour or less (30-40 minutes after first seeing feet).  A ewe lambing for the first time or with a multiple birth may take a bit longer.

The placenta serves no further function once the lamb has been born, and is passed 2 to 3 hours after delivery has finished. Nothing will be passed until after the first lamb has been born. In multiple births, there may be separate afterbirths for each lamb.


Alpacas and Llamas:

Stage 1

The cervix relaxes and uterine contractions propel the fetus into the birth canal. This stage may last 2-6 hours (or longer in first pregnancies). Signs include restlessness, discomfort, increased humming, increased defecation and urination, segregation from the herd and decreased appetite. Many alpacas show no obvious signs of being in first stage labor.

Stage 2

Uterine contractions increase in frequency to aid expulsion of the fetus. The female may lie down and rise up several times; there is abdominal straining; the amniotic sac (or water bag) may appear at the vulva and rupture. (Note: much less fluid is released than in other species). Both forelimbs appear together at the vulva and the head emerges either above or below the legs. Once the head appears, delivery is usually completed quickly but the female may rest before pushing out the shoulders. Most females deliver in the standing position. Stage 2 is usually completed in 30-45 minutes.

Stage 3

The placenta or afterbirth is usually expelled within 2 hours of birth. Alpacas do not eat the afterbirth nor lick their offspring.



Question #4: When should I call my vet?

Answer: Veterinary attention is required if ...

• Stage 1 exceeds 4-5 hours without signs of abdominal contractions.

• Stage 2 extends beyond 30 minutes without any signs of progression.

• Stage 3, if the afterbirth has not been expelled within 6-8 hours.



Now that you have brand new lambs, kids, or crias, enjoy them and watch them grow!


-Dr. Anne