Posted on | February 15, 2014 | 2 Comments
There has been a leadership problem since Brianna left the farm. As Queen Bee, Brianna was in charge of all aspects of the goat herd. She was especially important during kidding season. I always put her in the kidding barn with does having their first kids. I knew Brianna would make sure all the babies made it out of the amniotic sac. She would ensure all babies were up, clean, on their feet, and seeking for their mother’s teat. She never left babies in the cold and she raised a racket when a baby was separated or stuck somewhere in the barn. At the sound of a baby’s cries, she always stopped what she was doing to investigate, even if the mother calmly and cluelessly continued napping or eating hay. She didn’t tolerate kid abuse from anyone in the barnyard—not ponies, not livestock guardian dogs, not sheep, not even other does. Any critter that started chasing or harassing a goat kid, whether it was Brianna’s kid or not, was met with a rock hard head butt from the Queen Bee.
I expected a battle for the throne from the other does when Brianna left the farm in December.
There was much napping. Lazing around. Lots of eating. An entire herd of pregnant does just relaxing and passing the time.
There was no pushing at the feed trough. No shoving for the best lounging spots in the barn. No head butting to sit on the well cap. On occasion the sheep would get an evil look or a threatening lowered head. But that was about all the dominance the girls cared to establish.
We were a ship without a Captain. An army without a General. An Olympic podium without its gold medal winner. ‘Cause the Winter Olympics might be about skiing and skating to the rest of the world. But on the farm it’s an Olympic task to get the goats through kidding safely, keep those kids warm and dry, and manage to get a few hours of sleep inbetween checking vulvas, tying umbilical cords, passing out the Nutridrench, and getting placentas away from the livestock guardian dogs.
To enhance the competition this year, I had four goats due to kid in February. But I only had three kidding stalls. Vixen was known to try and steal other doe’s kids at birth so she couldn’t share a stall. Vanilla and Julia were too big to be allowed to kid in the tack room (my emergency extra stall), where they could reach all the shelves and make a mess or hurt themselves.
I was still working night shift, which meant I wouldn’t be home most nights (every doe’s preferred kidding time) to supervise kidding. Vanilla had such trouble delivering at her last kidding that she had to go to the vet. Julia hadn’t kidded in two years so I wasn’t sure if she remembered what to do.
In addition, the temperatures were still dropping into the single digits at night. So I wanted each doe in an area with a heat lamp but I didn’t have the space to confine each doe with a light until she kidded. And I certainly didn’t have space to keep kids for weeks under heat lamps.
Plus, I had a new Great Pyr puppy, Bella, that was already killing chickens. I couldn’t leave a goat and her kids in an area that Bella shared because I didn’t know if I could trust Bella. And I didn’t know if I could count on the mother to defend her kids.
If I had Brianna I could let the does hang out together in the in the kidding barn and count on her to keep an eye on the does’ behavior. If I had Brianna I could leave some of the does in the main barn and rely on her to keep babies safe from the other barnyard animals if they were born unexpectedly. But I sent Brianna into retirement a few months before kidding season. That’s the kind of head-first-downhill-at-8o-miles-per-hour sport that I like to play.
So I lay in bed at night using my best visualization techniques to imagine success. A break in the cold temperatures. Two does kidding and clearing out of the kidding barn before the next two does were due. Triplet doelings. Right when the pressure was at my eat-chocolate-and-hope-for-the-best breaking point, Carmen went into the kidding barn and had her kids. She started laboring when I was out feeding the animals at 4pm. By the time I sent Pretty out to assist, she had one kid on the ground. In 30 minutes she had all three kids clean and dry.
Two doelings and one buckling.
I wasn’t even late for work.
Which made me feel like we might just have a new Queen Bee. A new Captain. A new General. A gold medal winner.
Vixen was the next to kid. I put her in the tack room since Carmen was still in the kidding barn. She kidded one night after I left for work. Pretty stayed up until midnight, waiting for all the kids to be born. Except there was only one.
Making this the second year that Vixen only had one kid.
And although the baby was an impressive glossy solid black….
….he was a buckling.
But it gets worse. On his second day of life, I found him in the barn covered in his own feces. A good doe keeps her babies clean, especially in their first days. By licking her kids’ rectums she stimulates the passing of the meconium and then the sticky yellow poop that kids get when they are nursing. Carmen took her cleaning responsibilities seriously.
So Carmen’s kids were adorable, huggable, and lovable. More importantly, they were clean and healthy.
Vixen’s baby was so caked in poop….
….that he had to be carried out of the barn, bathed and dried, and carried back out to the barn each morning. Meaning we had extra barn chores every day. Extra poopy barn chores.
Julia kidded next. She also had two doelings and one buckling. All with blue eyes.
Plus, she had the decency to have her kids on a late Sunday morning without any complications.
Except her kids were only nursing off one teat. Leaving her with an uneven udder and at risk for mastitis.
So (after cleaning Vixen’s baby) I had to put her on the stand each morning and express some milk to keep that side of her udder from getting engorged and keep the teat soft and malleable to encourage nursing.
With the kidding barn at maximum capacity, some doe had to be moved. I set up a makeshift stall in the big barn in the milk room. Then I moved Carmen and her kids into that space.
I was nervous because it was much more open to the elements. And there were a lot of barn supplies and equipment to get into in that area. But Carmen kept her babies tucked neatly under the heat lamp….
….and she didn’t trample eggs in nest boxes, topple food cans, or tear the place apart. Score for Carmen!
Now that we had extra room in the kidding barn, Vanilla went into pre-labor confinement. And we waited for her to kid.
And waited. And waited. And waited. On day 149 (goats are “supposed” to kid no later than 150 days of gestation) when we had a 6″ of snow and freezing rain, Vanilla finally went into labor.
Pretty and I huddled in the barn, with frozen toes and dripping noses, from 10:30pm until Vanilla finally pushed out her kids at 1am.
They had striking colors and blue eyes. You’d say they were the cutest mini-Toggenburgs that you’ve ever seen.
Too bad both of them were bucklings.
As it turns out we didn’t need any head butting to decide who would be the new Queen Bee. It’s pretty clear that the gold goes to Carmen. Congratulations to the Nigerian Dwarf with the calm temperament, nice udder, and clean babies.
Carmen, it’s an honor to have you lead our farm into the future.
Sorry I don’t have a medal for you. But the well cap is all yours.