Pictured: Cookie sitting like a dog, resting that big tummy on the floor of the freshly cleaned barn.
While we impatiently wait, I thought I might reminisce about past goat kidding seasons and share what I've learned (not a lot, don't get your hopes up). A lot of memories came back to me as I wrote the first Countdown to Goat Kidding post (last week), which might help me be a little more perceptive this kidding season as to when our goats are actually in labor. Maybe... I should just get a goat cam.
Our first year, we bred Cookie (Hattie) and Duchess with Wally (Narwhal), who is the Brad Pitt of goats (according to my dear friend Nina). I agree. He's a gorgeous golden brown buck. He's owned by Andy's Acres, where our entire herd originates. They have a beautiful herd with amazing dairy lines!
Cookie was due first and I had no clue what to expect. I was desperate not to miss the birth, but I had a full-time job off the farm and knew that in reality, I would likely miss it. I read everything about tail ligaments. They go really soft and seem to disappear when they're near labor. But without experience, I really didn't know what to feel for exactly. What I did know was that she was near her due date and she was breathing funny.
She was laying down (like normal) and breathing very loudly. I thought for sure this was it. I hadn't heard her breath like that before, so I was 100% positive she was in labor, ha. We sat in the barn and watched and waited. Every time she made a slight move, we were like "YES, this is it!" Hours went by... (This is why the first thing in our Kidding Kit is human entertainment.) We finally gave up and went about our day.
After about the third round of getting our hopes up waiting and watching, only to go out to the barn the next day to find Cookie, big as ever, munching on hay, we realized, for her, breathing heavily was just that. In hindsight, it made sense. It was hard for me to breathe normally in my last few weeks of pregnancy and she's a two-foot-tall goat pregnant with triplets! Of course, she's going to breathe like a hippo coming up for air. It's funny how logic just flies out the window when excitement is in the air.
Unfortunately, after so many unfruitful "this is it" moments, we completely missed the real deal. I disregarded her change in behavior the night before she gave birth. She was extra vocal and needy, essentially acting like she wanted me to stay with her in the barn. I thought this was just a ploy to get extra attention and more food. Nope, that morning I got up early to go check on her around 6 am to find all three goat kids almost completely cleaned off. I had missed it entirely. I was relieved that it had gone well and as an experienced mother, she knew what to do. But I sure wished I had listened to her the night before. Chai was the firstborn, based purely on cleanliness. She was perfectly clean and bouncing around. Half-floppy ears. Seriously adorable. Mocha was second and Latte was third. Note the name theme. We don't have a name theme nailed down this year, but we're considering gemstones. I need a goat named Agate. Perhaps one named Opal, Jade, or Rhodochrosite (just kidding).
Duchess was next to kid and it was her first, which I shared in my prior post. It's not very common for goats to have just a single kid, but I think this was good for her first time. Plus that buckling was huge and healthy! Looked a lot like his pappa, but with a couple of little white patches.
Goats hide early labor fairly well, like deer and other animals that are preyed upon, they don't want to alert predators that might be lurking. Even after 10,000 years of domestication, goats are still concerned about the coyote next door. I don't blame them, they're very loud out here. I've woken up to what sounds like a midnight coyote party in the woods just outside our window more than once. This is why all our animals are locked up at night in barns/coops.
I'm hopeful this year with accurate due dates, checking udders, feeling ligaments, and noting personality changes, we'll do a better job of being present for each birth. We're just 10 days away from Duchess's due date. I have a feeling she might go a little bit early, so I gave the barn a good spring cleaning this week. It's a huge chore at the end of a long winter of deep-bedding*. It took two days to complete. I'm sore, exhausted, and I keep sneezing dirt.
It's funny how much smaller the goats look when their winter bedding is removed. It's about two feet of old hay that's removed, so they're two feet closer to the ground. It's like I've taken off their hay-high-heels. At the same time, I also wonder if they're really eating any of the hay I give them. I swear they just take it out of the feeder and put it on the ground. I mean, look at this pile! (You can't tell, but it's nearly as tall as I am, and I'm 5'9".)
Next on the list, giving Duchy a backend trim. She still has quite the winter coat. She's shedding a lot, but considering it keeps snowing every four days... It's probably good that she hasn't completely shed her thick wooly undercoat. However, birthing is a messy process, and trimming up that backside and udder region makes for a cleaner delivery and easier access to the milk bar.
We use a rechargeable pet grooming clippers. Works GREAT on humans too. I've given many a "COVID haircut". I worked at a salon for a while in high school, so I feel totally qualified to give a haircut... (I was the receptionist.) If you see my husband with a weird cut, please ignore it and tell him he looks great! Thank you.
*Deep bedding - this means instead of cleaning out the barn once a month as I do during the summer months, we just add clean bedding on top of the dirty stuff. This dirty bedding starts decomposing and creates heat, keeping the barn warmer all winter. I never actually have to add bedding on the goat side of the barn. They do this themselves. They're picky, and all the hay not suitable for their delicate palates (insert eye roll here), gets put on the ground. The chicken coop side of the barn gets layers of old hay and wood chips whenever I smell that they need more.