"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Buck Up (Doe Down)

Yesterday morning, I sent Rowan out to feed the animals because my knee had slipped out of joint as I tried to put on my boots. There was still several inches of snow and ice on the ground and I didn't fancy my chances of getting to the barn and back without doing myself an injury. Soon, I'm going to write a whole post about the sorry state of my body and how I manage (or don't manage) to run the farm while being partially to mostly crippled. But not today. Today I'm telling the story of the new baby goats.

Rowan came running back to the house and said "I think you're going to want to come anyway, mom, Polly had a baby!"

The little girls ran out ahead of me, and as I was struggling through the snow, Paloma ran back towards me, shouting "There's two, but one's dead." Right behind her came Hope: "No, ALMOST dead!"

When I finally made it out to the barn, I saw Polly with a beautiful, strong baby buckling at her side, standing up and nursing. He had obviously been born quite some time ago, as he was dry and fluffy. On the ground nearby was a spotted doling, flat out on her side and, to all appearances, dead.

I cursed myself. The evening before, at second feeding, I had seen and remarked to Homero that Polly's udder had filled up and the babies had dropped. This means birth will be soon; but I checked her tail ligaments and I could still feel them easily. There were no telltale hollows on either side of her tailbone. I thought it would be at least 24 hours and probably more. We left her in the main barn, with the other animals. Then she gave birth sometime during the night, or more likely in the early morning hours. By the time I got out there, the little doeling had been lying on the cold, wet straw for at least two hours and probably more.

With the girls' help, I grabbed Polly and the buckling and put them into the mama barn. Then I picked up the doeling and brought her into the house. She was breathing very slowly and had her head curled back on her shoulders in what I call "the arc of death." I never like to see a kid with its head thrown back like that; it is a very bad sign. Most likely the little thing was already doomed, but I did what I could.

I heated up the oven to 200 degrees and then popped her in, first, of course, turning the heat off and leaving the door cracked. I went back outside and got some colostrum (the first milk) from Polly - making sure the buckling was nursing well, which he was - and drizzled it into the doeling's mouth with a tiny syringe. Over the next few hours, I repeatedly warmed up the oven, fed the baby, and rubbed her and talked to her.

I didn't have a car, or I could have gone to the feed store for lactated ringer's solution and given her fluids subcutaneously. Also I could have picked up a garage tube and tried to feed her nasogastrically. I've never done that before and the chances are good I would have killed her by pumping fluid into her lungs instead of her stomach, but at that point there was nothing to lose.

For a little while, things seemed to be looking up. She cried several times, and struggled to lift her head. Her mouth warmed up inside, somewhat. But then she just died. One time took her out of the oven she was alive, and five minutes later she was dead.

My other two does are due to kid anytime now. Homero helped me divide the main barn into two stalls with a cattle panel, so that we have another separated area for a mother to kid in. I have plenty of dry straw. Sometime today I should go to the farm store and pick up a gavage tube and some LR solution, along with a larger syringe. Just to be prepared.

Every year I struggle with timing breeding for the right kidding time. First of all, it isn't always easy to find a buck so sometimes I have to take him when he's available, even if it isn't ideal by the calendar. Secondly, who knows what the weather's going to be like in March? Sometimes we get snow here in April. Thirdly, I like to have babies earlier in the spring rather than later for a variety of reasons - 1) it gives me a longer milking season before the weather turns cruddy again in the fall; and 2) it gives the kids longer to grow to eating or market weight by autumn. If I had babies in mid-May, none of them would reach a decent eating size before November.

But it's a trade off. If I had babies in mid-May, I could worry a lot less about finding chilled, dead kids on the ground. Mostly, I'm terribly pissed off at myself for not locking up Polly in the warm, dry mama-barn that evening. I won't make that mistake again soon.