For our small farmstead, kidding season is usually over fairly quickly. However, it's been very spread out this year with three does expecting and their due dates spanning early May to late July. There's always a mix of excitement and anxiety. I look forward to breathing a big sigh of relief when everyone's kidded and everyone is healthy. We usually keep our kids till they're about 12 weeks old to ensure everyone is ready to be weaned, has been disbudded/healed up, banded (if needed), registered, etc... I enjoy our time with the goat kids. As long as everyone is doing well it's one of the best times of the year. They're so darn cute and hilarious. If you've ever watched them play you know how entertaining and adorable they can be. If you've ever dealt with a sick one, you know how much of a struggle and a heartache it is to try and nurse them back to health.
This year has been the most difficult we've had in our short time as goat farmers. It started out beautifully, Duchess had two kids, Jasper and Agate. This was her third kidding and she did so well. She cleaned them off so quickly and got them nursing right away. I was also thrilled to finally have a doeling. Duchess has given us four bucklings, beautiful boys, but I've been wanting to expand our herd with her dairy lines and slightly taller stature. And finally, she came through with Miss Agate, a tall doeling, and firstborn. She's now a month old and her personality, as well as her brother's, is just so sweet. I don't think we've ever had such friendly kids. Both of them immediately come up to play whenever we go into their pen. Their sweetness has really helped me get through what happened next.
Farming is hard. Like I told the vet and his assistant as they left our place at 3 am on the 25th of May, you have some amazing days on the farm, and some really awful ones. Thankfully the good outweighs the bad. Read on if you want the full story. If not, I understand. It's not a happy ending. Skip to the third to last paragraph.
Finally, Cookie was showing signs of labor. I honestly had decided that she wasn't pregnant. I wasn't feeling baby goat kicks, not for a lack of trying. She always has an udder, so that wasn't a good indicator. I figured she had just lost her figure over the years and had put on some extra winter weight. However, on day 151, she was calling me to the barn. She's not a very vocal goat, so I knew this was it. Cookie has had many kids in the past. She was our most experienced mama. So I really wasn't all that concerned. 151 days seemed a bit late to me, but not too far out of the norm.
Finally late in the evening labor had progressed and I saw some hooves. Front hooves, a good sign. But after a while, I started to get worried. She wasn't progressing. My (little) experience has been, once you see any glimpse of baby, then they're coming out really soon. Even Agate, who came out with one front leg back, came out within seconds... I put on gloves and checked to see where the head was. It was where it was supposed to be, this kid was in a diving position, ready to come out. I pulled gently with Cookie's contractions. Nothing much happened. Tried again. Grabbed the kid puller. I couldn't get it in place. There just wasn't room. I got very worried at this point. It was the middle of the night. Everyone I knew that could possibly help felt too far away to call. And deep down I think I knew this kid was too big. I tried again to help it out. This time I couldn't find the head... That's when I called the vet. I knew if I didn't that I'd lose them both. I really didn't have hope of saving the kid at this point. But maybe the vet could save Cookie.
Incredibly the vet happened to be in the area. Their office is almost an hour away, so I had some brief relief knowing they'd be here soon. They arrived around 1:30 am. They were so sweet to Cookie. By this time she was so tired, but still pushing her hardest. They tried some different positions, etc. but this kid's head was just too big. She had just one very big baby in there and it wasn't going anywhere. I will spare you the details, but over the course of trying to save them both, we lost the baby and Cookie had a tear in her uterine wall and was bleeding out. We made the decision to spare her any further suffering and the vet quickly put her down. It was the right thing to do. Above all, I didn't want her to suffer anymore. Definitely not how I thought things would go. Two years ago she had triplets on her own and had them pretty much cleaned off by the time I got to the barn. I thought she would live out her golden years here. Our first milker, the queen of the herd, still bossing everyone around...
Things I learned. For one, I can assist if necessary without hesitation. Had that baby been small enough to fit through her pelvic bones, I'm fairly certain I could've helped it out. Two, I now have a better idea of what it looks like when things aren't going how they should, which means in the future I'd call the vet earlier. Three, I will work on breeding goats to have wider pelvic bones in hopes to prevent this scenario in the future. Both our other does are taller with a bit wider stance than Cookie. We'll see how Chai does, as we're still waiting on her to kid. Four, and this is probably the biggest one, a vastly huge appreciation for our vet and vets in general.
Think about this for a moment. Veterinarians aren't paid nearly as well as doctors and yet they have to know how to treat a wide variety of species, they do home/farm visits (even at 1:30 am), and if the patient goes downhill, they have to put them down themselves. What?!! Add in the fact that those that do farm visits are not enjoying the creature comforts of a clean clinic or hospital... No, they've probably been knee-deep in manure more than once. Now I know animals are not people, it's different. I get that. But please join me in appreciating just how incredible the people are that do this job. Because they're definitely not doing it for fame and fortune.
Treat your vet like a beloved extension of your farm (or household). And give your animals an extra hug today and be grateful for their health.
I'm off to play with Agate and Jasper and check on Chai (pictured) again. Pretty certain we're looking at a mid-July due date. I was hopeful it was going to be this week, but she's not showing any signs other than a slightly fuller udder. This would also explain her sleek waistline. She's just not as far along as I had hoped. But that's ok. All I really care about is their health and happiness. (and goat cheese...)