When we moved to our hobby farm five years ago, we owned zero animals. But rather than easing into the lifestyle, we flung our arms wide and fully embraced this hobby farm thing. Within weeks we amassed a menagerie of a dog, two cats, countless chickens and a horse. Along the way we added more horses, rabbits and eventually two goats.
We didn’t stop to think about the fact that we knew nothing about owning all of these animals. Sometimes I am convinced we weren’t thinking at all.
By and large the learn as we go strategy works for us. It doesn’t hurt that we have a vet on speed dial. But I have to admit, there have been infinite animal care situations along the way that caused me to scratch my head and wonder how this became my life.
Goat kidding was no exception.
I’ve wanted to try breeding our goats since the day we brought them home. I guess I fancied myself a Dutch milkmaid or something. I don’t know. It just sounded like fun to have baby goats and milk and be all Becky Homecky by making goat cheese and soaps and whatnot.
But for two years I never made it past the breeding step where I determine the goats are in heat. In my defense, the assertion that you just watch for when they squat and pee and bleat would mean that they are ALWAYS in heat – because they squat and pee and bleat all the time.
This fall, I asked a local goat breeder for some help and she hooked me up with hormone injections and a CIDR device that you insert … up there … to induce heat and make breeding easier to schedule.
After following all of the steps and bringing our goats to the farm to be bred, all we could do was wait. At one point, I asked my aunt (she’s a brilliant vet) if there was some sort of pregnancy test we could use because I didn’t want to wait another year if our attempt was unsuccessful. Her astute medical advice was this: if they have babies in the spring then you will know they were pregnant.
It was really helpful.
We waited and watched and read all the blogs but were not completely sure the goats were pregnant until we noticed their udders filling out. Hopeful that we were actually going to have goat babies, I doubled down on my goat birth research, joined a goat vet Facebook group and, after reading dozens of horror stories, prayed that NOTHING would go wrong.
I diligently peeked at the lady parts of our goats and copped a feel of their teats multiple times a day in the weeks leading up to their due date. In all honesty, I wasn’t quite sure what I was looking for. But I figured I would know it if I saw it.
Two days after their due date, I noticed some … stuff … happening when I checked under the tail. It didn’t look too exciting to me and all of my blogs said it should take 12 hours from the first signs of labor to deliver. So I deemed it safe to drive the kids to school. But I was no more than 3 miles down the road when my daughter called me frantic, “Mom it’s coming out!”
I gunned it to make a loop back to my house. My fourth-grader gently pointed out that she didn’t think it was legal to go 80 mph. But I gave her a conspiratorial wink and told her we were having a baby.
When I got home, my two brilliant children were armed and ready in the barn with clean towels and the medical kit of supplies for after the birth. One goat kid was already out and laying in it’s own goop. I quickly rubbed off the nose so it could breathe and put it in front of mom just like the blogs said to do.
Mom was not impressed.
She just stood there numbly blinking like she was in shock. I can’t say as I blame her given what had just happened. Plus, I suspect she knew something I didn’t – there were more coming. Everything that happened next is somewhat of a blur in my memory.
We tied off the umbilical cord of kid number one and saturated it with iodine. Mama was still contracting and I worried as we neared the hour mark that the first kid still hadn’t gotten colostrum. She delivered a tiny stillborn and almost immediately I noticed a third making its way out that I could tell was still alive. I milked out a little colostrum to entice the first baby to nurse even though it seemed cruel to make a goat nurse WHILE she was still in active labor. And I silently panicked, wondering how the heck many babies were going to come out of this thing.
I had no idea if I was doing any of this correctly and I had no cell signal in the barn to consult google or my aunt in the moment.
After our goat delivered her third kid, I hauled the stillborn out of the barn because mama was more enthralled with that one than the two living kids. There was slime everywhere and pine shaving coated goat kids to be cleaned. And it was no joke trying to get two floppy newborns to nurse from a goat that danced around because she wasn’t glad to be a mama.
But the good news is, everything turned out. We taught the new babies to nurse and mama to stand still. We witnessed the miracle of birth and managed to keep the twins alive. It was awesome.
Best excused tardy pass ever!
The next day we did it all over again when our second goat delivered twins. Her birth was actually more dicey because the first baby got stuck. But I was much more confident this go-round and with just a tiny bit of help she managed fine. The babies were dried and got their colostrum and all was well in the world.
We are so excited to be new goat baby owners. And in keeping with our strict policy of figuring things out as we go, we don’t know what we plan to do with the babies or the milk. For now we are just enjoying the new little ones and will keep everyone posted on where they wind up.