Kidding season got off to a bumpy start here at the farm. Our dear girl, Red, did indeed deliver on Saturday. When The Bibbed Wonder went out to do the morning barn chores, he discovered three little ones on the ground and mostly dried off. Eric returned to the house to get Jordan and me because we can’t miss out on the first babies of the year. Lo and behold, while we were out there, Red delivered a fourth baby. Two boys and two girls were born. In typical Red fashion, she delivered four gorgeous babies. Three of which had beautiful moon spots. I was thrilled that one of the little girls had moon spots and a white belt around her middle. She was gorgeous.
We kept an eye on Red and the babies all day. It’s difficult not to spend all one’s time in the barn when there are baby goats to cuddle. Throughout the day, all appeared well. All the babies were up and eating. Two of the babies had weak kid syndrome. This is not unusual with multiple births. It’s almost as if the littles are crammed into a too-small space, and their back legs can be a bit weak when they are born. The situation usually remedies itself in a day or so. Worst case scenario, the babies must be given a dose of selenium and their little legs splinted. We have had to do this once in the past. The two babies born on Saturday were not the worst-case scenario. They were up, a bit shaky, but they were nursing and standing on their own. We went to bed confident all was well, and we would go out to four healthy babies and a healthy big red mama in the morning. We were wrong.
Eric came in from doing the morning barn chores yesterday and was visibly upset. He reported that Red had “squashed” two of her little ones in the night. The beautiful little spotted girl with the white band around her middle was one of them. Sigh….sob…sniffle. He also alarmingly reported that Red was off. We went to the barn together to find Red standing with her head down; her eyes were glazed, her breathing labored, and she looked miserable. In the past, we have had mama goats go into ketosis, especially with multiple births. For those of you who may not be up on all your goat illness lingo, ketosis is when all the mother goat’s energy goes into making milk for her little ones. It is described as negative energy, but basically, the body begins to shut down because every ounce of her being goes into producing milk. If caught quickly, it is easily remedied with a high dose of sugar, like molasses or propylene glycol. If left untreated, ketosis is fatal, and it acts quickly.
Our postpartum care regimen is to give each girl a dose of propylene glycol once they have passed the afterbirth. We also provide them with a bucket of Goat YMPC, which is a blend of electrolytes and minerals to help them recover from the delivery. Each girl also receives goat treats, a bucket of sweet feed, and alfalfa pellets to boost them. Even with all these precautions in place, Red still went down.
We immediately went into action and got a warm bucket of Goat YMPC, a shot of vitamin B & thiamine, propylene glycol, power drench, and probiotic gel to help her belly. At first, we thought she had gone into ketosis, but then we took her body temperature, which was low. We thought that was unusual but figured it was not bad because a fever would indicate infection. I got a blanket to cover her, and she stood with her little head resting against me. Red is one of my favorite girls, if not my absolute favorite. All five of my original girls hold a special place, but Red is so sweet and gentle I tend to favor her.
Eric immediately got on the computer to research Red’s symptoms. Over the years, we have gotten pretty good at internet veterinary medicine. Not to say that searching the web can replace years of education and experience, but on the weekend, in an emergency, the internet and trusted sites help us give good care to our girls and have helped save them on more than one occasion. The symptoms of ketosis are very similar to another common illness, milk fever or hypocalcemia. Hypocalcemia, simply put, is low blood calcium. One of the tale-tell symptoms of milk fever is a low body temperature. Milk fever can be fatal if left untreated. My prepared little bib overall-wearing farmer just happened to have a large bottle of calcium gluconate on hand. Thank God for his preparedness.
He researched the dosage and decided to administer the calcium gluconate via an oral drench rather than intravenously. It is strongly recommended that a veterinarian administer calcium gluconate intravenously because it can kill the patient if given too fast. Eric did not want to be responsible for killing my favorite goat while treating her. Mostly, he did not want to deal with me if he accidentally killed my favorite goat. The Bibbed Wonder hates it when I cry. He’s a good man.
We treated Red three times with the calcium gluconate drench. With each dose, she improved little by little. God love her; even though she was clearly ill, she stood up and fed her little ones every time they fussed. She really is one of the best, sweetest creatures ever. So what did I do while my girl was obviously suffering? I comforted her the only way I knew how. I sat quietly with her while she rested her head on my head, and I snuggled her babies and kept them warm. I sat with her for three hours, with one baby in my jacket and the other on my lap. Once The Bean awoke, she came to the barn and snuggled one of the babies inside her coat. I genuinely believe that Red took great comfort from us being with her and offering her physical comfort. You will never convince me that animals don’t have personalities, emotions, and souls. They are more deserving of love, compassion, and comfort than anyone. We love our farm family, and they reciprocate the feeling.
I am thrilled to share that Red is doing much better this morning. She is alert, standing, eating, and caring for her little ones. She is also fighting her treatment, which is a good sign. We will continue to treat her throughout the day and keep an eye on her little ones. My concern now is that she stops producing milk. We don’t have other girls in milk, so changing the babies to milk replacer could be challenging. However, I will not permit my mind to worry about such a pessimistic scenario. For now, Red is making enough milk for her babies; she is doing well, they are doing well, and we are tired but grateful farmers.
We will continue to check on Red and the babes every hour or so. Red will continue her treatment throughout the day to ensure she is genuinely recovered. As is par for the course, we have learned something new, and thankfully, we were prepared for the unexpected. Fingers crossed that the rest of the kidding season goes smoothly and everyone remains healthy. It is always sad to lose babies, but losing one of our beloved mama goats would be devastating. If you are so inclined, please send some good thoughts our way. We appreciate you.
On this snowy March Monday, stay safe, be smart, send out good thoughts for Red and her littles, and keep washing your hands.