What a delight to have 13 wonderful baby goats at the Farm! And congratulations to Keiko Dynamite -- who was apparently much more successful at breeding, during his escapes from the buck pen, than I ever imagined a 6 month old goat would be! With the exception of a couple unusually marked brown goats, almost all the babies are white in color as Keiko Dynamite was.
We had some very cold weather during this birthing season, which led me to do frequent checks at the barn -- even during the cold of night. Imagine an alarm shrieking you out of sleep at 2:00am so you can trudge out through the cold & snow to the barn . . . I love farming! And, I really do! Yes, there are numerous struggles & discomforts. I have found, however, that it is these situations that build integrity. To quote a farmer at a goat conference which I attended: "If you raise livestock, you will become a person of character, and that character comes from being kicked and frozen and peed on. It is a true education."
Difficult situations measure our strength of character, just as they test the abilities of animals. Being in a financial situation where my goat herd MUST pay for itself, I can no longer afford to keep does that are not financially profitable. Thus, I have sold numerous does since last September. I sold three yearlings in the midst of this round of birthing: one miscarried, one had stillborns, and one refused to mother her son. That last situation truly saddened me. The baby boy was lovely, and she had no interest in him whatsoever.
Difficult situations call for immediate action. Upon discovering the situation, I had to measure how long it was worth trying to interest the mother in the baby versus how long he could survive without milk. It was a very cold day that "Orph" was born, and I knew he could not take the low temperatures without nutrition. After trying as long as I could to appeal to the mother, I pulled off my sweatshirt from under my jacket & wrapped Orph as warmly as I could. His mother was indignant from my efforts to get him to nurse, so I knew it would be of little use to try to milk her. I also knew that Orph needed that precious colostrum that animals produce in the first 24 hours after birth. I grabbed the container in which I had carried down the cat food to the barn (no, not the most sanitary, but this was a time for speed) and cautiously approached Oreo -- an older doe who had kidded the previous afternoon. Oreo was an absolute gem and let me milk at least a cup of that precious, life-giving nutrition from her udder. With that I grabbed Orph and hustled to the house.
"Grandmother! I need your help! Baby goat!" She came to the kitchen and picked up the baby -- he was still wrapped up in my sweatshirt . . . did I mention how cold I was?? -- and held him while I took my winter overalls off. I grabbed the tube used to directly feed milk to babies through the esophagus into their stomach. Luckily, Orph did show an instinct to suckle at my finger when I gently placed it in his mouth. So, then I began a quick search for a bottle and a nipple. I poured the still-warm fluid into the bottle, and worked to get a few drops of milk into the baby while I held him tight. Once Orph had some nutrition in him, I wrapped him in a towel and placed him over the register in the kitchen. 30 minutes later, I encouraged a few more drops into him. An hour of napping & warming, and then he was actively ready to nurse on his own! Wonderful! Except . . . soon I would need more milk and I looked to have an orphan on my hands.
Looking at how late it was getting after my adventures with Orph, I contacted my friends to let them know I would not be able to join them that evening for the Inaugural party we planned to attend for the new governor (sigh). I headed back to the barn, knowing I made the right decision to attend to my herd instead of socializing. Lo & behold, another doe named Face had one little boy that was doing great and one who had not survived. I moved the little wobbly baby & his loving mother up to the front of the barn (my maternity ward). Hmm . . . an opportunity! I took off my current sweatshirt -- this might be a reason I create so much laundry! -- and used it to wipe him off & warm him up a bit. Then I grabbed the sweatshirt, ran to the house, and rubbed it all over Orph. We flew back down to the barn as I explained to him that he was going to have a new mommy. I placed Orph next to Face's baby and made sure to rub more of the lingering placental liquid onto Orph. Face continued to lick her baby and began to lick the new one next to him. I stepped back and observed as her maternal instincts led Face to accept both babies as her own. Orph now had a mommy and a brother: "Morph"!
As delighted as I was at the great service that Face did for Orph and for me, I was saddened to turn around and sell Orph's natural mother a few days later. She had been a loving kid, and I had enjoyed her. I could not, however, tolerate a mother goat that refused her baby. I sincerely care about all the animals that I tend, but I must look at what is best for the whole herd. It is not good for a baby when his mother abandons him. These are part of the lesson that farming teaches. New births are a great joy! These babies inspire me and motivate me to be the best goatherd for them that I can be!
Photo Caption: Morph, Orph, and two of their half-siblings enjoy the heat lamp on a cold winter day!