Quintuplet meat goats born at SUNY Cobleskill

CEW-MR-2-Quintuplet goats288by Brad Johnson, Assistant Professor of Animal Science, SUNY Cobleskill

The Stork has been working overtime at SUNY Cobleskill, with the delivery of quintuplet meat goat kids on March 12. The litter of kids weighed a total of 27.3 pounds and includes two doe kids, weighing 3.1 and 4.1 pounds, and three buck kids, a bit more hefty, weighing in at 5.1, 6.9, and 8.1 pounds. The solid white doe, a Kiko-sired crossbred, and her litter of kids, all born unassisted, have been affectionately named Snow White and the Five Dwarfs.

The sire of the kids, Goats Galore Fowl Play, a purebred Boer bred by Goats Galore of Middleburg, PA, was purchased by SUNY Cobleskill from the Pennsylvania Performance Tested Ram and Buck Sale in August 2013, where he was selected for being the most phenotypically correct buck and scanned the largest loin eye area. Fowl Play’s sire, WJD All Chromed Out, was a Reserve Division Champion at the 2011 North American International Livestock Exposition at Louisville, KY and Overall Grand Champion Boer Buck at the 2012 Pennsylvania Farm Show.

Quintuplets are fairly rare, but not unheard of, usually occurring once in every 10,000 goat births. Some breeds are more prolific than others, but goats of the African breeds, Pygmies in particular, tend to have a higher number of births. A SUNY Cobleskill student has experienced quintuplets born to an African Pygmy doe and I’ve personally seen quintuplets born to a Hampshire x Suffolk ewe. The lambs, ironically, were all buck lambs.

“The University has had three sets of quadruplets in the past,” said Dr. Cindi Shelley, SUNY Cobleskill Professor of Animal Science, adding that she’d heard of quintuplets, but never seen them until this year.
Goats and sheep face much greater risk of complications from metabolic issues, such as pregnancy toxemia (Ketosis) or milk fever when gestating and raising such large litters.

“I don’t like it,” said Dr. Shelley, in reference to large litter numbers of kids and lambs. “Especially the metabolic issues. The kids have greater risk of complications from lack of space during gestation, which can result in kids of lighter birthweight, less vigor at birth, and greater chance for starve-out and disease. There’s also a much greater chance for abnormal presentations at birth.”

“The average goat birthweight is 7-8 pounds,” she continued. “Three pounds is kind of tiny.”

In previous years, Snow White has raised twins and triplets, according to Dr. Shelley. All of the does at the University were synchronized using a CiDR (controlled internal drug release), which contains progesterone, for an artificial insemination clinic in mid-September. Snow White did not become pregnant from the artificial insemination, but conceived on her subsequent estrus cycle 21 days later.

“Some folks have larger litters with CiDR’s, but they’re supplementing the protocol with PG600, especially when they’re breeding out of season,” said Dr. Shelley, adding that a CiDR does not result in superovulation of the ovaries.

Goats and sheep are seasonally polyestrus, meaning they cycle multiple times during specific seasons, generally periods of decreasing daylight (August through January). A few breeds naturally breed out of season, while others take some ‘convincing.’

“The CiDR and PG600 protocol helps the doe respond in a time when they’re normally in anestrus or not cycling,” explained Dr. Shelley.

Ideal management of the Five Dwarfs may eventually result in two kids being removed from the doe and being raised on a bottle using goat milk replacer. If another doe had kidded with a single kid at roughly the same time, chances are very good of successfully grafting or cross-fostering a kid, on the day they are born, onto the doe with the single kid.

The larger litter of kids results in the doe producing more milk and does raising triplets or more should be fed 4-5 pounds of a 12-14 percent crude protein grain mix, plus good quality grass or grass/legume mix hay, said Dr. Shelley.

“They need the energy more than they need the protein,” she added.

“The problem is, one kid initiates nursing and then they ALL will try to nurse at the same time,” she explained. “This causes great stress on the udder.”

“The doe has the capacity to raise three. Ideally, the decision to make bottle babies of a litter is made the first day.”

The three buck kids of the Five Dwarfs will sell through the SUNY Cobleskill Commencement Classic Sale, at 6 p.m. on April 25 at the SUNY Cobleskill Livestock Arena.

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