Just like I momentarily forget about ticks and mosquitos during the dead of winter, I also forget about worrying over baby goat health, 5 am milking, and stormy weather. It's not until it's too late to turn back, the goats are already expecting, that I remember the not-so-fun side. I mean it's there, it's just buried deep enough behind memories of snuggling soft fluffy babies. Sometime in the early spring (where we live that's somewhere between March and June, ha), the memories of responsibility creep back.
I'm 100% responsible for the health and survival of these adorable fluff bundles. Yes, their actual mothers are first and foremost responsible, but I'm responsible for the mothers, so I definitely feel the weight of responsibility like it was 100%. I also know, if there are any issues in the birthing process, I'm immediately a goat midwife with 0% experience. (woof) No, this is not our first year of goat kidding. This will actually be our third. However, I've managed to miss ALL their births except Duchess' first (luckily). She showed no signs (to my inexperience) of labor till I brought all the goats into the barn for the night and she immediately laid down and started pushing! I've never run so fast in my life. Nor put on my coveralls so fast. If you're an uber-homestead-nerd like me you've probably seen the 15-second overall challenge where people show how fast they can put on their overalls. I'm pretty sure I put my coveralls on in 2 seconds, just sayin'.
After super-speed coveralling (not a word), I had just enough time to grab our kidding kit and fly back to the barn to catch a giant buckling. Duchess didn't need my help, whew, but this was her first kid and she looked at it like "what the heck is that." It took me putting him in front of her repeatedly before she started cleaning him off. And then we did that dance all over again till she let him nurse. Maybe instinct would've eventually kicked in, but springtime here in northern Wisconsin is a bit chilly, and a wet baby whose mother isn't quite sure what that pile of goo is, well, things can quickly go downhill.
The following season Duchess had twin bucklings and I entirely missed the whole thing because I put the wrong dates in my calendar. Actually, no, I put the right dates in, I just didn't look at it because my brain had me convinced she was due a week later... Every kidding season I've learned something new. I didn't even realize Duchy had two kids in the barn that day till I went in to feed them and there were two little voices I didn't recognize. Thankfully she hadn't needed help, however, my worried brain thought these two kids were a week early and the one seemed so tiny. We brought him in the house, made sure he was completely dry, and then brought him back to mom. Then I looked at my calendar and felt pretty ridiculous making such a fuss over him. He was within the normal weight range, and right on time. Delivered literally on their due date.
Even without incidence, I don't take for granted the fact that things can still go wrong. As a mother myself, I know how different one pregnancy can be from the next, how different one birth is from another. I worry slightly less with an experienced momma, but just slightly. Part of me wishes I wasn't "Farmer Number 1" at this time of the year. I would love to have someone else in charge and confident that everything's going to go well. Someone with experience, that will know what to do if things don't go as planned. Eventually, maybe, I'll gain enough experience to worry less. Until that time, the best I can do is learn as much as I can and be prepared as much as possible. Today's lesson, practicing with a kid puller in a pillowcase with a stuffed animal...
Shout out to anyone who remembers developing film by hand! (yes, that's how old I am...) Remember putting the film canister in the black bag with the reel and then transferring it blindly from the canister onto the reel? This is what I think of when looking at this kid puller and imagining having to reach in a goat and blindly put a small cable around a baby goat's head, feeling for ears and feet... I'm sure it's very similar, ha. (Please, may I never need to use this puller.)
We have just a little over 2 weeks till our first due date. I'm VERY confident, ha, this time that I have the dates correct. I have photographic evidence of the date between Duchess and Buckles. She never cycled again, and I've watched her belly grow, her udder fill, and felt those babies kick, so it's happening. I'm happy that she's first on the due date list. She's an experienced good mother. My only concern is that she seems quite a bit bigger than last year at this time. Maybe that means three kids? Goats have two teats. You're welcome for that nugget of knowledge. That means if they have more than two kids, someone has to wait in line to saddle up to the milk bar. Nigerian Dwarf goats can have five kids, I think the record is seven (yikes). The more they have, the more likely you'll end up bottle feeding one or more of them. I also worry that it's all that more taxing on momma goat.
I'm hoping for 2 kids for each of our does. My actual predictions are 3 kids for Duchess, 0-3 for Cookie, and 1 for Chai purely based on their current baby bump size. I'm 100% sure Duchess is pregnant. 50% sure Cookie is pregnant and 50% sure she's just eating everyone else's food and needs a diet... I'm 100% sure Chai is pregnant, wholly based on the cutest little udder that she's developed over the past couple of weeks. Prior to breeding, she was flat as a pancake. This is a great indicator for a first-timer. It's also a fairly good indicator if your goats are completely dried off like ours are, and you see a significant increase in udder size. I've read that some goats' udders don't fill till they're about to deliver or even shortly after. Ours seem to start filling out around 14 weeks and really become pronounced as the weeks tick on. Because Cookie is our eldest, most experienced mother, she has somewhat lost her figure and her udder just doesn't bounce back like it used to, I sympathize. Unfortunately, this makes it more difficult to be sure at this point if she's carrying some kiddos or not. I've tried feeling for little kicks, but she does not hold still, even for a scoop of grain. So, instead of chasing her around the barn, we wait.
Circling back to the whole point of this post. We're in the countdown. We've got approx 17 days left, it's time to make sure we're as ready as we can be! This is the key to putting my fears and endless worries aside and instead focusing on being excited about new life on the farm. Number one, I've got three people on "speed dial". Is that even a thing anymore? One just for moral support, and two for goat experience and more moral support. I've re-read common birthing issues for goats. I'm working on printing and laminating our birthing binder. And I've re-stocked our goat kidding kit. Here's what's in it. I'll pop a few photos below, but the photo is missing the planner, birthing binder, Iodine (it's in the barn), and the microfiber towels, as they're being washed, etc.
Our Goat Kidding Kit contains:
Magazines, a book, and a sudoku puzzle (my wifi does not reach the barn)
Snacks & water bottle (for me)
Paper & pen
Homestead Planner (while I wait, it's a great time to update the record-keeping piece)
Puppy Pads (completely optional, but keeps straw and hay off newly born and very sticky babies, if you manage to put it down and "catch" them as they come out it makes clean up much faster)
Iodine & small container (to dip the cut umbilical cord)
Paper towel (to help clean off baby)
Washed (unscented) microfiber cloths (to help clean off baby)
Nasil Syringe (cleaning out nose/mouth)
Sanitized Scissors (clipping umbilical cord if momma doesn't)
Regular gloves and the kind that go up to your armpit...
Sanitized Kid Puller (not yet sanitized in photo)
Lube (I have two kinds. One that's ready to go right now and one that needs to be mixed with water.)
Not in the kit, but in the house on the ready:
Dark full flavor molasses
Once the kids are cleaned off and we've seen them nurse at least once, we get goat momma a bucket of warm water with some molasses mixed in. This helps them rehydrate and gives them a quick energy boost. I don't measure this, but estimate approx 1/4 cup molasses per 2-gallon bucket.
Our nearly ready Goat Kidding Kit:
***UPDATE: I've removed the J-Lube (pictured above/red X) from our kit after learning more about it. Instead, I'm sticking with OB lube.