Ruffled Feathers and Spilled Milk

Farming with ducks and dairy goats, chickens and children.

Troubled Waters.

Posted on | March 12, 2013 | 6 Comments

We started out with a Terrific Kid.

And a well-done Famous American (Neil Armstrong) presentation.

Which was great.  But then things went downhill fast.

Although I’ve never understood that saying.  Isn’t “downhill” easier?  I mean really, when things go wrong, isn’t it like going “uphill”?  You know, when you get all out of breath, and your heart is pounding, and your thighs are screaming at you to stop, and your brain is begging for chocolate.  That’s what it feels like when trouble starts around here.  And it really reminds me of when the treadmill starts to tilt and the screen shows me hiking up the side of an imaginary mountain.  That’s “uphill”, people, and it’s bad news.  But maybe that’s just me.

Regardless, when we found C.C.  laying down in the barn, I knew the trouble was starting.  I’m beginning to think that one of the C’s in her name must be short for Colicky, instead of Candy Corn like we were told.  Because that pony will go down just dreaming about eating a bag full of grain.  But all the feed bags were secure.  She didn’t have access to any spring grass.  And, even though the hay rolls were down to the dregs, there was plenty of hay in the racks to keep her tummy functioning just fine.  Perhaps just the thought of running out of hay was enough to knock her down.

In any case, this meant that The Other Half was sent off to walk her while I finished the feeding and milking.  By the time he returned I had discovered that Vixen and Brianna showed signs of imminent kidding and had to be put into separate pens in the kidding barn.  Which caused Brianna to immediately start bellowing, trying to force her way into the pen with Vixen.  When I couldn’t take the noise anymore I went into the kidding barn to find Brianna had rammed her head into the gate of Vixen’s pen so much that her head was bleeding.

Why would she do that, you ask?

Good question.

I had no idea.  She had never done such a thing before.  Brianna is the herd queen and I often put her in with kidding newbies in the hopes that she will clean up any baby dropped in the hay, still half in the amniotic sac, and dying before an inexperienced mom figured out what to do.  But with her kidding date at the same time as Vixen’s, and her body flooded with maternal hormones, I didn’t want to risk her trying to steal Vixen’s kids.  Plus, Vixen herself had a history of trying to steal the kids of a doe that was busy cleaning up the placenta.  Vixen just wandered over with her own 3 day old kid in tow and started pushing the new kid under her own udder.  So I decided separate pens was a good idea.

Apparently Brianna disagreed.   Figuring her discharge was not as impressive as Vixen’s, and that any goat that had time to bash her head against gates instead of panting quietly in the corner like Vixen was doing, wasn’t about to kid in the next few minutes, I pulled Brianna out of the kidding barn.

“Don’t even think about going off into the woods to kid,”  I warned her.  “I’m watching you!”

Brianna promptly started blubbering like a buck and mounting all the other goats that stumbled out of the barn to see what was going on.  So I stopped watching her.  Because I had no idea what that was about either.  And I gave thanks that I had already decided this would be Brianna’s last kidding.  I knew that breeding a 10 year old goat had the potential for complications.  I just didn’t realize that inexplicable craziness was one of those complications.

The Other Half returned with CC still on her feet and we set about on the chores we had planned for the day.  We were expecting to get fresh hay so everything needed to be mucked out.  Plus, the Silkies had to be completely moved out of the brooder room and that space cleaned and set up for chicks due the following week.  I also wanted to attach dividers to the feed troughs to stop some of the pushing around at grain time.  And to finally block off the hole in the cattle panel that Angel was using to sneak into the milking room so she could harass the doe on the milk stand.  The Other Half had a new plan to make it easier to corral the hay and keep the animals eating off one roll at a time.  While he sawed and drilled, I began hauling the dirty straw out of the brooder room.  He kept an eye on CC and I checked Vixen in the kidding barn on occasion.

As I moved the hose connected to the automatic waterer in the brooder room in order to rake behind it, the coupling ring snapped off the rubber tubing, releasing a full-on spray of water and soaking the freshly cleaned brooder room floor.  I dashed to the water hydrant to turn off the water, but I didn’t make it before the brooder room floor was saturated.  Because running uphill isn’t my strong suit.

I was standing in the brooder room, surveying the damage, and wondering why I always managed to break something when I was in the process of fixing something else, when The Other Half called to me.

“CC’s down again.”

“It’s fine.”  I said  “Just let her lay down for a minute.”

“It’s not fine.  It’s not OK at all.  She was already laying down but now I think she’s really sick!”

I came out to see, expecting CC to be having loose stools or to be rolling on the ground like she does when she has really bad colic.

But it was worse.  Much, much worse.

You have to be careful when you’re sick in the barnyard.  Because at any sign of weakness, the other critters might just kick you when you’re down.

Or kneel on you.

Knowing that The Other Half was right and CC would never tolerate such an affront in a healthy state,  I dragged her back to her feet and prepared to walk her.  I could hear Vixen repositioning herself in the barn and bleating softly.  Her labor was not progressing well at all.  And I knew it was time.

“Go get Pretty,”  I told The Other Half.  And off he went to the school.  It’s kind of a pain when your livestock manager is a full time student.  Luckily, on a Friday afternoon it was unlikely that she was missing anything of importance.  Although, for the record there should be another sign out choice on the school attendance computer.  As it stands, you can sign your child out early for “sick”, “doctor or dentist appt”, or “other.”  There is no choice for “colicky pony while a goat is in labor and the barn has to be cleaned before the hay arrives.”  Guess it’s an “other” kind of thing.

Once Pretty arrived, she took over walking CC while I finished cleaning the brooder room and hauled some fresh leaves into the pasture pen for the exiled Silkies to scratch through.

It was meant to be a consolation prize for finally being completely kicked out of the comfortable, coddling, brooder room.  Too bad they found the crunchy leaves to be terrifying and huddled under the roosts in distress.  It can be a big, bad world when you’re a small, soft Silkie.

Pretty managed to get CC to take in some water down at the pond and walked her until she began to nibble some hay.  Then she moved into the kidding barn to supervise Vixen while I tried to knock out the smaller tasks and The Other Half finished the barn clean out.  Your daughter might be made of sugar and spice and everything nice.  But my girl is like a bridge over troubled waters.  There isn’t anything she can’t smooth over.

While she hung out with Vixen I finished patching the cattle panel.

So Angel has to eat in the barn instead of stealing grain at the milk stand.

And I got the trough dividers installed so there is a space for each animal at the feeders.

Having Pretty at home made the difference between getting it all done and getting nothing done and still being late for work.  Which is why I was glad she was there when things went badly in the kidding barn.  She came to get me right before I got into the shower.  Which was perfect timing.  Because there’s no point in showering before the birth goo starts.  Pretty can handle a normal kidding on her own.  But what brought Pretty running into the house was the first part of a kid emerging.  And it was a back hoof.

Now, we’ve delivered breech kids before.  But in the past, both back hooves were protruding and the goat simply pushed out the kid backwards.  It helped that the particular goat was Brianna.  And since she was experienced and (how shall I put this delicately?) well-stretched out from many years of kidding, that kid popped out about 3 seconds after we realized he was presenting the wrong way.

If you’re new to goats, this is the normal or correct birthing position of the kid:

In this case, we had a breech, or backwards, presentation.  But what was worse, was the fact that there was only hoof.  And when Pretty and I fished for the other hoof all we found was a hock.  So my best guess was that the kid was arrayed more like this:


My biggest fear was that I was not touching the hock that belonged to the presenting hoof.  But the hock of another kid.

You can’t pull out 2 kids at once.  If you do it inadvertently you risk seriously injuring the doe and/or the kids.

So we called our friend, who had assisted with plenty of births.  She had her own goats, plus had owned several cows, plus she was a doula.  We were covering all our bases.

Since our friend also thought it was a hock, Pretty went in to try and hook the leg with her fingers, pulling the hoof out so we could deliver 2 back legs.  Although Pretty’s hands were smaller, she wasn’t strong enough to pull it out.  And my hands were too big to get far enough in to reach the inside bend of the hock.  We ended up pulling the hock and the protruding leg together.  Until we eventually got this:

A breech presentation that we could actually delivery.  Well, that Vixen could deliver.  Because Vixen did the rest of the work, pushing the kid out and immediately starting the clean up job.  You’ll notice that the right leg was tucked under the left leg.  The right leg was the one we had to grasp by the hock.  And I’m thinking the fact that it was under the left leg is what prevented Pretty from pulling it free.  In any case, the end result was well worth it.  A beautiful blue-eyed doeling, whose legs were completely fine, despite the rough start.  Welcome, Abby!

While we were in the kidding barn, The Other Half managed to get the barn ready for new hay rolls.

By the time I left for work, the new hay had arrived and by the next day it was neatly set up using The Other Half’s new system.

Plus, CC was back to begging for grain at the milk room gate, as usual.

So things are under control again.  Oh, I had a bad moment when the boys called me while I was having lunch with an old college friend to say they just got home and one of the pigs was loose in the garden.  Lunch in the capitol city, almost an hour away.

I’m pretty sure I was the only one in that restaurant who got a phone call saying her pig was loose.  There wasn’t a baseball cap with a feed store logo in sight.  The only clogs in there were the $150 kind, not the Sloggers kind.

I almost panicked.  But then I called back and Pretty was home, too.

“Yeah,” she said.  “Penny was loose but I just used an apple to lure her back into the pig pen.  Then I found where she got out, reattached the cattle panels together where there was a gap and then tied them to the T-post.  Everything’s fine.”

Like I told you.  A bridge over troubled waters, people.  Bridge over troubled waters.


6 Responses to “Troubled Waters.”

  1. Liz
    March 12th, 2013 @ 8:46 am

    What a blessing Pretty and all your kids are. You don’t need tv for entertainment!

  2. Tina
    March 12th, 2013 @ 10:31 am

    You lost me at placenta. I know who you met in the capitol city!

  3. Kim
    March 12th, 2013 @ 1:35 pm

    Pretty is pretty darn great isnt she?! She’s as cute as a Silkie, cleverer than a new mothering goat and sharper than a pig chasing an apple. Tell her she has to build a house next door to yours when she grows up.

  4. Lisa D
    March 13th, 2013 @ 7:56 am

    A steel bridge, indeed. That should keep the boys at school scared away for a while yet.

    But I thought the Famous American was Neel Armstrong? Or was it Niel? Kneel?

  5. Tina T-P
    March 14th, 2013 @ 8:41 pm

    Wow, that daughter of yours is a keeper – I’ll bet everyone of us is wishing we had our own “Pretty” when it comes to helping out around the farm. I agree with Kim – a house next door would be a great idea. 🙂 T.

  6. CC
    April 1st, 2013 @ 8:50 pm

    You tell that Pretty we were impressed with her the day we met her, and she’s only getting better. My girl has never forgotten their night in the tent, under the stars. Wow, way to go Pretty!

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