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  • Writer's pictureTina

Fergus The Bottle Baby

Our luck has run out. Don't panic; everyone is fine. However, we now have a bottle baby. Waddles, our Boher doe, who suffered a horrible case of mastitis and lost a teat, we now call her the one boobed wonder, delivered triplets on Thursday. All the babies and Waddles are doing fine. Although Waddles makes an excess of milk, nature has a way of letting a mama know what her limits are and how much she can handle. Nature told Waddles that she could handle two babies. If left to nature, the smallest and weakest baby would have perished. Our farm does not always follow the rules of nature.

I noticed Waddles was in labor as I walked the perimeter of the fence during my morning jaunt with The Heavy-B on Thursday morning. I went to tell The Bibbed Wonder and then returned to the field with towels in hand to help dry off the babies. When I got to Waddles, one little brown girl was up and nursing. Waddles had just delivered a second black and white baby, still engulfed in the amniotic sac. Waddles was not even attempting to clean him off. I quickly picked up the baby, cleaned off his face, got him up, and worked to dry him off. I noticed his breathing was raspy, and he was not making any noise. I focused on clearing his nasal passages and cleaning out his mouth. He continued to be lax and lethargic, so I hung him upside down and tapped his back. Hanging him upside down seemed to help him clear his nasal passages and improve his breathing. I made sure to dry him well, and I rubbed him aggressively to get the blood flowing.

We got Waddles and her two babies into a stall so she could focus on them without the distraction of the herd. We keep the new mamas and their babies in a stall for a day or two to give everyone time to adjust, receive extra care, and monitor them closely. A third baby was delivered, and she wasted no time cleaning him off and helping him get to his feet. The secondborn was obviously the weakest of the three. Despite being the smallest and the weakest, he was able to nurse and ingest the ever-important colostrum. Although Waddles only has one viable teat, she has successfully nursed triplets in the past. For this reason, we were not concerned for any of the babies.

We checked on the new babies and their mom throughout the day. At lunchtime, Eric came to the house with a small bundle wrapped in his arms. The Bibbed Wonder said he didn't like that the little guy was lying alone in a corner. Waddles was not paying much attention to him; he was cold and lying flat. None of these are good signs. We spent the afternoon nursing the little guy, warming him up by cuddling him to us while he was wrapped in a blanket and trying to get him to take a bottle. Little boys are always slower to catch on to the basics of life when compared to little girls. This little guy was no different. Eventually, we got him to eat almost an entire baby bottle of warm milk. Once his tummy was full, he lay on us and kept warm.

Once he had eaten and slept, his eyes looked brighter, and he was more alert. As with all bottle babies, he did not take long to bond with us. If I got out of his sight, he would bleat the loud familiar MA! that is so common with bottle babies. I made him a bed in a large tote. The tote was safe in the living room. The dogs were put to bed, and their interest in the baby goat waned throughout the day. I, too, tried to sleep in my own bed, but Fergus, we are now on letter F of the alphabet for our names, was not interested in sleeping alone, safely in his tote. After ten minutes of loud bleating, I consigned to sleeping on the couch beside Fergus. However, Fergus had other ideas. Eventually, I brought Fergus onto the couch beside me, and he slept curled against me for the remainder of the night.

With a full tummy before bed, Fergus did not stir until 3 a.m. I have decided I am too old to handle late-night feedings and needy babies. Regardless of my choice, a baby needs me, and I can't shirk that responsibility. However, after chasing down a baby goat and cleaning up baby goat turds from my living room and kitchen, I decided my new charge needed to return to the barn with his siblings as soon as possible. I waited until the temperature reached the fifties and then took my little buddy out to spend time with his mom and siblings. Waddles took him back without hesitation. However, he is not strong enough to fight for his place in nursing. One of us goes to the barn every four hours to give our little Fergus a warm bottle and snuggles.

Fergus is your typical bottle baby. He cries when he sees us, attacks us until fed, is happiest being carried and snuggled, and is somewhat of an outcast with the rest of the herd. His siblings, Fern and Farlow, don't really pay him any mind. They are bigger and stronger. Fergus can't keep up with them when they play. He is content to sit on our laps or follow us around. He has buddied up with two brown Boher babies who prefer sleeping more than playing. Our Fergie is an adorable little buddy, and it makes me sad to see him rejected. I know he will eventually find a friend to spend all his time with, just like Lester did. He will grow to be happy and content, albeit just a little bit different than the rest of the goats. Different is okay, and Fergus will have a special place with us.

On this lovely spring day, stay safe, be smart, care for those who need it, and keep washing your hands.

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