Ruffled Feathers and Spilled Milk

Farming with ducks and dairy goats, chickens and children.

Of Course!

Posted on | February 26, 2016 | 1 Comment

I totally forgot.  Didn’t even think about it.  Not once.  Until I got home from AAA with a bag full of TripTiks and travel books and the phone rang.  My friend had a doe whose labor was not progressing.  What did I suggest?

That’s when I remembered.  Of course!  It’s kidding season!  There I was with a handful of travel plans and not a single pregnant goat in my barn and it’s kidding season for rest of my tribe!

I listened to the details:  Active labor for a little over an hour.  No stringy mucous or vaginal discharge.  Doe not in extreme distress–still comfortable and cudding between contractions.  No previous history of difficult births.  I shrugged to myself and advised my friend to wait it out.  She has as much or more experience than I have in kidding goats.  But, of course, the temptation to intervene is strong when it’s your goat struggling through labor right in front of you.  When it’s your own goat, it seems like you’ve waited 10.3 hours for a kid to be born when it’s really only been 10.3 minutes since you last peered anxiously at the doe’s nether regions.  An important responsibility during kidding season is to talk each other down from unnecessary interference.  I remembered my responsibility and I talked her down.

I told her to call me back around dinnertime if the doe had not progressed.  I made that suggestion based on the scientific medical reasoning that it is better to assist kidding when dinner is done and out of the way but before you just want to go to bed already.  I remembered how miserable it is to be hungry and tired in the midst of a kidding crisis.  Of course, veterinary medicine advises contacting the vet if kidding has not progressed after an hour of active labor, but really, what do vets know?

By 6pm the doe was still laboring with no evidence of imminent kidding—still not even any mucous.  So Pretty and I went over to have a look.  When we arrived the sun was down and the temperature was dropping fast with a chilly breeze.  Of course.  I remembered how goats love to kid on frigid February nights, always bypassing the balmy 60 degree days that are scattered throughout the month.   Although Brownie got bonus points for settling for a cold night instead of in the midst of tornados that swept through the area the day before.  We all pulled our coats tighter and nestled into the straw out of the wind.

My friend had contacted the vet and the vet told her just to go in and get the kids out, but my friend couldn’t even feel kids during her first attempt.  I hoped that I could snag a leg or nose and get the first kid untangled and out.  I figured Pretty, whose hands are smaller, could snag the kid if it was necessary to reach farther in than usual.  Too bad that neither of us could really tell what we were touching and we had to reach really far to even brush against anything that felt like a goat kid.  We discussed the vet’s confident assurances that we just had to go in really, really far and really, really manipulate the kid to move it into position.  We talked about how vets just go in up to their elbows and start rummaging around in there like it’s the miscellaneous bin at Goodwill and how that’s normal and necessary and not a big deal for vets.

Of course there was on way in hell we were going to go that far.

So the vet came and and calmly reached in up to her elbow and rummaged around in there like it was the miscellaneous bin at the Goodwill  and the goat screamed until her tongue was hanging out and I thought the goat was going to die and I thought my friend was going to scream and beg the vet to stop and I thought how watching the vet dig around inside a uterus (using her heels to get leverage as she pulled) for 10.3 minutes seemed like watching it for 10.3 hours and must have felt like 10.3 days to the goat.  And when she finally freed the first kid, it was, of course, a buckling.  I remembered how that works.  The most difficult kiddings are always the males that you can only sell for about $50.  On a good day.  On a bad day you end up trading him for a few old hens or a sick piglet just so you can get rid of him before he tries to breed with his own mother.

The vet kept going and pulled out a second buckling.  Of course.

Then she kept going, amidst an alarming puddle of blood and goo, and finally pulled out a doeling.

And all 3 kids were alive and the doe went about cleaning her kids in the cold darkness as they rooted for teats.  Of course.  Just when I was thinking that a 21 day road trip out west was much better than a night of ghorific (yes, the combination of gore and horrific that accurately represents all traumatic births) kidding, the barn was filled with magical sounds of life—-the occasional muted bleats of newborn kids, reassuring murmurs from Brownie, and the rustle of hay as they all started settling down for the night.

The vet reminded us that it was best to get the vet out after an hour of active labor that hasn’t progressed and that it would have been cheaper to come in the afternoon instead of after-hours, too.  You know, better to call in the afternoon right when I was telling my friend to wait.   Because that’s the kind of awesome, additional after-hour expenses, bad-advice-giving friend that I am.  Then the vet mentioned how easy this delivery was compared to the prolonged and painful delivery of a dead calf she had finished that afternoon.  Which reminded me why I’ve never owned a cow.

The next morning I figured I could make it up to my friend by bringing over an old fleece for the kids to cuddle in.  I knew I had a dingy white fleece in the barn that I never bothered to pick or wash because it was so off-color.  Of course, in the light of day it didn’t look like the kind of gift that made up for an expensive vet visit.  Good thing we have been friends a long time.

The doe looked fine and the kids were up and about.  The kid that had been stuck had one floppy ear, which may resolve itself and may just be the end result of getting stuck in the uterus while your owner’s bad-advice-giving friend calmly eats dinner.  But he had blue eyes which may make him worth an extra $50 or another chicken or two.

For years I encouraged people to come and cuddle the goat kids born on our farm.  Handling dairy goats at a young age is the best way to keep them manageable throughout their lives and have them see humans as a reliable source of care and comfort.  But for the first time in a long, long time I sat and cuddled goat kids that weren’t mine.  And I realized why all those people were willing to sit in my barn holding babies while I trudged around doing my chores.

Of course!  The cutest, most adorable babies are the ones that you hold and snuggle and pet and then put down and walk away.  I left while my friend was figuring out that Brownie’s teats were uneven and she needed to express some milk and encourage the kids to nurse on both sides.  Plus, the doe wasn’t eating her current grain and was holding out for fresh.  And her other doe (who used to be my Vanessa and before that, her Vanilla) was pregnant but didn’t look it.  Maybe her dates were off or maybe she only had 1 kid in there or well, who knows, really….

Of course, I really don’t like buying milk from the store.  But I think I am really going to like visiting other people’s goats.  And then going home to look at my TripTiks.


One Response to “Of Course!”

  1. Andrew
    February 26th, 2016 @ 12:10 pm

    “I realized why all those people were willing to sit in my barn holding babies while I trudged around doing my chores.”

    No, I was willing to do it because one of the only things cuter than my Grace is my Grace holding a day-old goatling.

    …and I thank you for the chance.

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