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Goat Midwifery

Welcome to the world little ones!

I don't know if I've ever written much of an introduction for myself or our little farm, maybe someday, but for this little post, just know, I did not grow up on a farm. I never owned goats and my only experience with birthing pre-goat ownership was pushing my own two children into the world.

We have a small herd and kidding season is typically short (and hopefully uneventful). This year it started out PERFECTLY. Ginger, our udder beauty queen, gave birth unassisted to little Mojo, who came out textbook, superman style. I helped clean her off, but beyond that, her mom did all the work. She's named Mojo for two reasons. First, because I felt like she gave me back my mojo after a very traumatic kidding last year. Secondly, because our naming theme this year is the Powerpuff Girls (a cartoon with three girl super heroes - Mojo is their nemesis, lol)

Mojo is sassy and sweet, and I instantly fell in love and decided to retain her, both for me and to give her mother a friend in the barn. Ginger, since she was our most recent addition, has been at the bottom of the pecking order. Keeping Mojo means she'll always have a friend in the barn.

After Ginger, it was Duchess' turn. Her due date came and went, and in crept my fear of another traumatic kidding. I called the vet and scheduled an ultrasound. Of course, the morning of the scheduled ultrasound, Duchess went into labor. I called the vet to cancel our appointment, but I knew he'd be in the area just in case I needed help. Duchess has had a single kid before, and twins (twice), so I wasn't terribly worried. However, labor didn't progress like normal. She pushed for a long time, too long according to all the books, and I saw no progress. I called the vet again. He was nearby and got to our farm very quickly. I remember him comparing hand sizes with me as he looked at the tallest of our little goats in labor... "You might have to do this," he said as he grabbed a giant thing of lube. In hindsight, I should've said "ya let me try" with him there to tell me what to do and help if needed. But I wasn't confident. I was worried I'd do something wrong. So instead, I held Duchess while he, within a minute or less, had little Buttercup out. I watched mesmerized at how quickly he had her out, but more so, just how far in he had to reach to get her. I wonder if Duchess would've eventually got her out on her own. Buttercup had been in the right position, just taking her sweet, sweet time. We'll never know. I thanked and paid the vet. Relieved, but also concerned. Why another single kid?

This breed of goat should have at least two or three kids on average. We're working with our vet on improving our supplements (specifically selenium) to improve our breeding/kidding next year in the hope of not having any more single kids. Obviously, single kids can get too big for this little breed to birth.

Finally, this last Saturday, our last doe, Agate, was ready to kid. Considering I was expecting another big single (as that had been the theme this year...) and she was a first-time mom, I was getting nervous again. However, Agate was in labor a day before her due date and I had been especially careful not to give her any extra grain. She only got a small handful occasionally in the last few weeks of her pregnancy. She's also tall and well-built like her mother. Things seemed to progress just like they were supposed to, she was pawing the ground, getting up and down, staring at the wall, etc. She literally had every sign of early labor. I thought, great, another textbook baby on its way.

Hours went by.

Now I know the first stage can last a long time, but the hours ticked away. We would get excited when occasionally Agate would get down and push, but then she'd pop back up like nothing happened, nothing to see here! She'd go back to eating or chewing her cud. Her little pushing sessions (aka 1 push) seemed spread out and not regular by any means. I wanted her to push wholeheartedly, repeatedly, so I could start the clock and make sure progress was being made... The books say 30 minutes of good pushing and that first baby should be out. Well, I threw out the book and decided to go in and check to see if I could feel anything. I gloved up, lubed up, and felt some hooves! This invasion of Agate's personal space we'll call it (ha), seemed to inspire her. She finally started pushing like a champ and out came an almost fully black buckling with a tiny white patch on his head and tail. I set him in front of her. She smelled him. It took her a minute or so to start cleaning him off, but she never gave him the look of disgust that Duchess (her mother) gave her firstborn. Duchess is a great mom, but that first time, took a lot of convincing. I remember repeatedly putting her little kid in front of her, wishing our pen was smaller so she couldn't run away... Finally, she cleaned him off, and then we did that whole dance again when he tried to nurse. "No really, this is yours. You love him".

Back to Agate. While her labor wasn't textbook, the first little buckling was, as he came out in the right superman pose, two hooves, and a nose. She had just started cleaning him off when my right knee suddenly felt very warm and wet. I had been kneeling very close to her backend and obviously, the water from the second baby's amniotic sac had just broken. I looked and next to my now very wet coveralls, there was one little leg sticking out from Agate. "There's another one!" I felt to see if the other leg and a nose were not far behind. I felt nothing. I mean I felt something, but it wasn't a leg or a hoof, or a face... It felt like a shoulder?? Agate was 100% paying attention to baby number 1 so I tried again to feel for anything discernable. Nothing. I remembered the words from my dear sweet goat mentor, the woman I bought my original goats from, "Stay calm." I also remembered just how deep the vet went in to deliver Buttercup. "I can do this," I said to myself. I knew I had to do something. Babies don't come out easily in this position, whatever "this" position was... The head needed to be in line at the very least. Even if I couldn't get both legs forward, I needed that head. In I went, nearly up to my elbow, and then, as if some other part of my brain took over, I pulled the second little buckling out. (I thought it was a girl at the time. It was getting dark out by this point.) How did I pull that baby out?? I have no clue. I don't remember thinking anything. I just remember deciding to gently, but steadily pull. On what? No idea. It happened so fast and I think purely by some weird instinct, not my usual overthinking side of my brain. Boom, there he was! I still don't have any recollection of what position he came out. I'm 60% sure he came out with his head and one leg forward, one leg back. He could've also come out backward and I may have mistaken a back leg for a front leg... I don't think I did, but all of this happened in seconds. And all I really cared about was that he was out and breathing.

I helped clean off the little boys, clipped/dipped their cords, got momma a warm bucket of water and molasses, ensured the afterbirth came out (on its own), and cleaned up the barn a bit before finally getting a shower, eating a crazy late dinner, and going to bed. I think it was nearly midnight. But I didn't care, I had successfully assisted. I may never be as skilled as the vet, but I leveled up my confidence and experience tenfold that night. Thrilled and relieved another kidding season over!


And now a request to any of my very few readers (thank you): What I've learned these past few years raising goats has been amazing, but I would like to learn more. I've been searching for places that teach these skills, or farms that do lambing/kidding clinics, workshops, etc. We have such a small herd that I never feel like I get enough experience in one season. If anyone has suggestions, please give me a shout. I'd be happy to assist a farm during lambing as well. It doesn't need to be as formal as a class. So far I've only come across a handful of options that are thousands of miles away through a couple of Universities. I'm sure there are more options closer to home and perhaps just not as well advertised.


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