Grit Blogs > Terra Dei Farm - A Life of Stewardship

Winter Kidding Season: Part 2

Alexandra head shotThe previous post left off with me sleeping on a basement couch.  Human baby on one side and newborn goat kid in an old playpen on the other.  Through all of this, and for the previous week or so, the wallflower character in the barn was my favorite goat, Micah.  She was a placid old girl, getting on in years and the last remaining doe from our original “starter herd.”  She’s a whole story in and of herself, maybe for a different time.  At the present, however, she was a concern.  She was bred to kid in about a week, but had started to lose condition a bit towards the end.  I’ll save you from all the veterinary details, but suffice it to say that the previous day she slipped severely downhill (figuratively anyway).
 Micah

We doctored her and pampered her the night before, when we were out in the barn working with Ruth and her babies, but nevertheless it was looking grim.  So, it was disheartening but not surprising the next morning when Matt came in from doing chores to deliver the news that she was slipping away.  However, he said he could also see movement inside.  Clearly, at least one kid was still alive - which presented a dilemma in regards to the dying mother.

And then Matt left for his day job.

(Grudgingly of course, he knew he was going to miss a big day on the farm!)

My mind scrambled quickly.  We are experiencing the same plight of all rural animal producers - a severe shortage of food and farm animal vets.  Even if our vet was in his truck and able to start towards our farm as soon as he received our call, it would still be an hour.  And Micah didn’t have that kind of time.  Or more specifically - her kids did not.  

I picked up the phone to call my cousin - a local cattle producer who I knew had veterinary experience in the matter at hand.  It was time for drastic measures.  Unfortunately, I was suffering from a nasty cold and had lost my voice the day before, so I felt the need to identify and explain myself as soon as he I heard him say “Hello?” (You know, so he wasn’t wondering why this scary, raspy voiced creep was calling him very early in the morning!)

“Hey, this is Alex, I just have a cold.  I’m sorry to call so early, but I have a huge favor to ask.”  (I probably allowed a few more jumbled and frantic sentences to spill out before allowing him a reply.)

“Umm, ma’am, I think you have the wrong number.”

*Gulp*  Sure did.  I apologized profusely before hanging up, although the stranger on the other end was probably just wishing I would hang up so that he could go back to sleep.  Or at least so he didn’t have to hear any more from this voice that sounded like fingernails on a chalkboard.

I re-gathered my wits and called the right number.  It was time for a c-section.

Micah was 99.9% gone when we met out in the barn a short time later, and fading quickly.  There was no doubt it was time.  We carried her out into sun for better light, spread old t-shirts on the frosty hay scattered on the ground and began.  I silently said “goodbye” to my old friend and, in an incredible illustration of the cycle of life, one body took its last breath, and we worked to get new bodies to take their first.  

One at a time we pulled them out, bulky twins for being a bit premature, and once they were out a third was found!  They seemed apparently dead, but within minutes all three were breathing and emitting hopeful sounds of life.  We dried them and carried them into the house to warm up, placing them into the same old human-intended playpen that already held one goat kid.  Our very own caprine newborn intensive care unit.  Why did I not take pictures of the process?  I don't know, I'm terrible at remembering to get pictures of important things, I get too caught up in the moment.  Oh, and my hands were a bit busy.

One of the triplets didn’t make it - he lasted about 24 hours but just never gained the strength.   The other two were strong enough to take a bottle after only about a day of tube feeding.  They were laying up on their chests within 24 hours and standing within 48.  A short time after that they were strong enough to move out to the barn with the rest of the herd - an incredible testimony to the resiliency of life!

They came into the world dramatically and have added the “normal” chaos to our farm that only bottle babies bring.  You know - kids who refuse to stay in the barn, pop right through the squares in cattle panels long after they should not be able to, are found grazing in the backyard, get out of the pasture to play with the dogs (and in fact, get out to sleep with the dogs at night instead of with the other goats...)  You get the idea.  Luckily, now that they are 3 months old, well weaned and too big to slip through cattle panels, they are now staying in and behaving more like goats.

They were born right before Christmas so we named the smaller kid Tiny Tim:
 Tiny Tim
Traditional markings for a Boer goat are, in short, white body with colored head.  The other kid’s color is not restricted to his head/neck but also goes down his right foreleg.  Therefore, he is considered “non-tradional”.  So we named him Elton John.
 Elton John

d4texas
3/3/2015 9:01:55 AM

In my part of central Texas, we have had our usual cold winter in spurts but we have had an UNusual wetness this year. Usually we can warm up the tents we have set up for heat lamps to keep the new kids warm but this year's wetness has resulted in numerous kids getting wet and then freezing in spite of the heaters. These kids love to accompany their mothers out in the field during the day, but going through the wet grasses result in their bodies getting wet whereas the nannies only get their legs wet. I would like some recommendations on heaters that can be set up to blow hot air into an area of the barn. Unfortunately these barn areas have straw bedding spread out, but here is also lots of dust in the air. I want to avoid heat coil type heaters, or space heaters with timers which may ignite the dust and straw by spontaneous combustion. But I've got to dry out these kids as well as warm them up during the cold wet days and nights. Letting nature take it's course is NOT an option. Coming out to the barn in the morning only to see a dead kid who froze to death overnight is unacceptable. Can anyone recommend the best setup to provide dry, warm air to an enclosure that also allows for ventilation?


nebraska dave
3/7/2012 3:01:35 AM

Alexandra, farm life can be a harsh at times. I'm glad to saved the offspring of Micah. Life and death on the farm are very much a part of reality. It's definitely a case of only the strong survive. It's good to hear that the two kids are doing well. Thanks for sharing your real life farm stories. Have a great day with the kids.