The past two weeks have been an odd mix of worry and excitement. Our three dairy goats Esther, Nan and Gretta are expecting babies any time and my mothering instinct has kicked in. Lord help the person who tries to get me out of the house for more than 2 hours at a time. I am still dealing with the “let nature take its course” mentality, and I do believe that nature knows best…I do. I know that goats have been doing this for thousands of years without human help. But goats in the wild also die, their babies die and freeze to death, they starve and perish sometimes and that too is a part of nature.
Our goats don’t live in the wild. We are responsible for them and that is a responsibility I take to heart. If there’s something I can do to ease their pain, make them more comfortable, healthier or successful in their pregnancies, then I’m going to do it…even if it means they have to admit me when it’s all said and done.
Last year we bred our Angora does, Knit and Purl. The first delivery went marvelous. We took a break from the watch to take a nap, and when we went out, there was a perfect little doeling (Beatrix) curled up next to Knit happily being licked from head to toe. Our other doe, Purl, was a stinker! She had a little trouble delivering our buckling Ichabod, and we had to re-adjust him. Then once he was out, she rejected him and wouldn’t allow him to nurse. We bottle raised him, it was trying at times but I can’t deny the bond it created between me and that little goat. (For more about the birth of our Angora Kids read my post Our Kidding Story)
It’s been really cold this spring and I worry that if something similar happens, the babies might freeze. I don’t trust heat lamps left unattended in the barn with goats. They’re too active and I worry about fire.
So needless to say I’m a little frazzled. The midnight trips to the barn, analyzing their bodies, behaviors and habits, trying to see if there is a sign that might indicate they’re ready is getting to me. I’m not complaining necessarily, honestly I’m enjoying the excuse of getting to spend more time with the girls. In some small way I feel as though I’m part of the gang. But I when I’m in the house, or the grocery store, my brain is in the barn.
Our goats were due approximately on the 24th of February. This was their estimated 150th day of gestation. This number is very approximated because we never actually saw our buck Gideon mate with all our girls, so it could be off by a week or so. But here are some differences that we’ve been noticing.
They’ve been consuming more water.
Nesting, laying in the straw bedding and arranging it around them.
Licking their sides and sort of “whisper maa-ing” to their bellies.
Grunting, yawning and becoming more vocal
Passing gas and relieving themselves much more often
Enlarged vulva and occasional discharge
Their udders have milk, but I would say they are only about half full. For our two does this is their first kidding so their udders are smaller.
You can see their rumen motion like a wave across their side.
Arching and stretching their backs
Holding their tails in an awkward almost bent looking position
Where the girls were carrying the babies higher and more to the sides, their bellies have dropped and now the babies are under them more. Their hips have sunken as well leaving a hollow spot right in from of the hip bones.
Only time will tell when the babies will arrive. I’m trying to be patient and trust in our girls to know what needs to be done when the time comes. I hope I can be there to witness the miracle, but if I’m not, the joy of new life on our farm is blessing enough.
For more about our goats visit our blog at Iron Oak Farm