Wednesday afternoon a day that was going quite well – I had sold an ad, and signed employment papers for my new part-time job at the prosecutor’s office – turned sour fast when I went up to the goat barn. My daughter and I had only intended a short visit to drop off some water bottles before heading over to our neighbor K’s as I’d just received a text saying their last goat was in labor. But when I went into the barn I found Tinker, our dairy goat, standing over two tiny, limp, wet bodies in her pen. Blood caked her hindquarters and the straw beneath the bodies. I ducked through the gap in the fence and dashed to her pen, dropped to my knees and began rubbing the bodies. The larger one was still and cool, but the smaller one shuddered under my touch. I yelled for my daughter to toss me a towel and I pulled the tiny baby into my lap and roughly rubbed it. Once it was dry and wrapped up I picked up the limp one and in a last ditch effort to revive it swung it around by its back legs. Mucus dripped from its mouth but there was no movement, no breath. He was dead.
Mourning would have to wait – the living one was so tiny (only just 3 lbs we discovered later) and weak. Despite our encouragement she couldn’t stand – in fact she could barely lift her head. My daughter dashed off to our neighbor’s to get a goat bottle and I milked Tinker who had nuzzled her baby but stood quietly now, seemingly in shock. It did not take long to realize that the tiny goat was going to need some intensive care to make it. Unlike our neighbors’ goat babies who were up and nursing in very little time this baby was just lying there. We were going to have to bring her back to the house and feed her.
We warmed her mother’s milk and put it in the borrowed bottle but feeding her turned out to be more difficult than we had imagined as she seemed unable to suck and the nipple on the goat bottle was way too big for her little mouth! Months earlier I had ordered a “Kidding Kit” from Caprine Supply. It came with things like navel clips, iodine, probiotic paste, a record book and a leg snare to help pull a stuck kid from mom. After reading up on all the things that could go wrong I placed a 2nd order – for kid colostrum supplement and a stomach tube for feeding weak kids. Yes, I figured I was over prepared after watching three sets of kids being born healthy and strong to my neighbor’s goats over the past month but I wanted to have the bases covered. And it turned out to be a good thing that I was prepared – the baby goat’s first successful feeding (and the next 2 or 3 after that) was by tube. Momma’s milk, a warm dry bed and plenty of attention got her through the first night but the next day was supposed to be my first day at the new job! I didn’t think showing up with a newborn goat was the way I wanted to start it.
[Preparing to begin tube feeding]
Luckily for us we have fabulous neighbors and K agreed to ‘goat sit’ for the day. Shades of turning my kids over to daycare! K got to see the baby goat, whom we were now calling Doty as we were all doting on her, take her first steps and got to give her the first bath!
[Up and walking!]
My day was long. After a near sleepless night I spent 4 hours at work, then trudged through the rain trying to sell ads, ran into town for groceries, picked up my middle daughter who was at an afterschool meeting for Academic Team, ran home, changed clothes and went to see baby Doty. Less than 24 hours had elapsed but what a change there was! Doty was up and walking around and while she still would not suck the tube nourishment was clearly working (as were her elimination functions). K’s little dog, Daisy, had taken a very protective interest in the baby goat, no doubt providing some stimulation and company during the day. Then it was back home for a quick dinner, changing back into my work clothes and off to IU for the orientation meeting for the teaching program.
I was very tired when I retrieved Doty at around 10 PM last evening and as she had just been fed I tucked her into a big plastic tote with a headed dog bed and headed for my own bed to catch up on sleep. She was unenthusiastic at the middle of the night feeding but took some milk from the bottle when I squirted it in the back of her mouth. This morning after the children departed for school, I gathered up baby and the milking bucket and headed for the barn. Tinker must have heard us coming because she was standing up in her pen, hollering over the fence when we arrived. Doty clearly recognized mom as she started crying right back to her.
[Mom – that tickles!]
Minutes later the family was reunited and after some loving nuzzles on both side the light bulb went on and Doty started sniffing around mom’s udder. She still seemed puzzled about how to get the milk she must have smelled out so I reached under and gave her a little squirt! Mom was very patient as she fumbled around until she caught on.
Our first farm birth – we’d looked forward to it for so long, enviously eying our neighbors’ goat kids, and with such big expectations. When it arrived it was a surprise and a sorrow, at least initially. We are still sad we lost the little boy twin, but so happy little Doty has, with lots of attention and TLC, made an astounding recovery and seems on her way to a healthy happy life!