So, I have been closely monitoring the condition of our animals this breeding season, seeing as how it’s my first.  I would love to hear your thoughts on how they are doing.  I know the risk of a fat and pregnant animal, and I know the risk of a skinny and pregnant animal.  My animals are so individual, though, I can’t compare them to each other to gauge their overall condition, and don’t have enough experience to have developed the eye for it.  So far, I have gone by the feel of the rib and the health of the coat.  Anyway:

First up, Lilac, our 2.5 year old Alpine/ND cross.  Here are some photos I took over the summer:

Now, my real question with her is, we bred her about 5 weeks ago, shortly after the buck arrived.  Since I have observed no signs of heat whatsoever since then, I am assuming she is pregnant.  Now, I know that Alpines commonly have twins, ND’s can have 3-5 kids, and Lilac had triplets as a first freshener in the spring of 2010.  Everything I read says you cannot see a rounding belly until about 6-8 weeks prior to delivery, which makes total sense.  In the last week, however, I have been very surprised to see a very obvious difference in her build.  The first time I noticed it, there was literally an overnight change.  I went to milk her, and her barrel was very tight and firmer than usual.  I spent the day monitoring her for bloat.  But it never went away, and everything else is working as normal.  Now, she is no doubt firming up and puffing up, but there is also no sign of a winter coat yet.  There is also no softness in the brisket or tail-head as my research suggests there would be if she were obese.  I would have to assume there should be no kid-related changes at this point, so is there a pregnancy-bloat in goats (after all, human women suffer from bloat!  Ask me how I know!)?  Or do I need to cut back on the feed?  Or is it remotely possible she is carrying multiple kids causing the roundness?  Other than a change in our hay (from pure alfalfa to alfafa/grass mix) there has been no major caloric change in the last 5 months, so I am puzzled. Here are photos from today:

I just think of a puffed up marshmallow when I see her now.  Her bottom line has gone from a nice curve to just flat and swollen, and you can see in the rear-view pics that her sides are definitely larger. 

Next up is Sara…a totally different case.  Sara has had a rough year, but has made drastic improvements.  I would consider her relatively healthy at this point.  My plan is to breed Sara in December, first, to give her some extra time to put on weight and build up that nutrient level, and second, so I can dry her up early in the pregnancy (as soon as I start milking Lilac after her January kidding.  I really started thinking about her condition this weekend, when Stallion began pulling his antics, jumping fences and bashing through gates.  What IF I found him in Sara’s pen one morning?  Is she ready?  She has a much leaner body structure and finer bone than Lilac, so it is impossible to compare the two.  Sara also has the more typical, boney, “dairy” structure, where her back bone and hip bones are more obvious.  With her, I have kept a closer eye on her ribs.  I can’t see them at all, but I can feel them easily.  She also does not have the pot-belly so typical of goats, and I can’t decide if she should or not.  So for my peace of mind, I would love to know your professional, experienced opinions…

Finally, there is Shiloh, the donkey. I am hoping someone out there reading this has more donkey experience than I.  We just got Shiloh.  She is possibly 3-4 months pregnant, and the pics I have seen of pregnant donkeys generally show the baby-belly to be low on the barrel.  The breeding was witnessed, but the jack was only a yearling.  I haven’t found much info on how young a jack can be when his equipment starts working (though everything suggests much older than a horse), so for now, I am assuming it was possible.  Shiloh has supposedly been pregnant twice before, but since she was a rescue, the story is somewhat unclear.  I know donkeys have fat pads in certain areas, and once they gain, those pads never really go away.  If she is pregnant, I want to be careful not to cut her calories much.  If she isn’t, though, it looks like those pads are already a bit bigger than they should be.  She only eats about 2 flakes (maybe 4-6 lbs.) of alfalfa/grass mix hay each day, free-choice kelp supplement, and a few hours most days of grazing our underbrush in the new pasture.  We have only had her about 2 weeks, so I wouldn’t think her diet here would have had much effect on her yet.  She is much more active now than she used to be, too.  What are your thoughts?

Any opinions are helpful and appreciated!  It’s always nice to have someone from the outside looking in, to provide an unbiased opinion.  Winters here can be harsh, and I want to make sure my critters are ready for the conditions!  Thanks in advance!