We are just a few days away from the start of baby season. Every year the same questions are in our minds. Did we pick a good buck? Will the babies be small and easily delivered without too much stress on the does? Did we get our dates right? Will we have any surprise deliveries overnight? Are we stocked up enough on soap that we can avoid running out and keep up with babies and milking? The most stressful of all of these questions is will the mothers deliver without an issue. Our first kidding season we had made the mistake of keeping out girls on grain. It was a way for them to get the minerals that they needed and a way for us to easily check on them. It doesn’t take a day and goats get on the routine of showing up to eat. Unfortunately, when they eat grain their babies grow. Delivering a large baby is rough on everyone, the babies, the mothers, and us. We have eliminated grain unless the goats are making milk. They have constant free choice of minerals with a homemade mineral dispenser, made from some left-over PVC pipe and fittings. With all of the precautions in place the outcome of the season is out of our hands.
Two years ago, Big Red, one of our better producers and very sweet girl, had grown her babies entirely too large. They were coming out in the wrong position and stuck. We have all had to help deliver babies, both piglets and kidds, but this time was different. They were terribly stuck. Without being sure how much pulling was safe to not hurt her we had to make an emergency vet call. A call to the vet is sometimes necessary for issues that are beyond our scope, but they are always costly and not always resulting in the outcome we hope for. Red was trying to deliver and from what we felt, the kidd had its head tucked down, with one front leg hanging out. We both tried to reposition the baby but were unable to get the head up correctly. The biggest problem we faced was that we did an internet search a week prior and read that goats are not as tough as pigs or cattle so we were afraid to get to forceful. Within minutes after calling the vet we realized, that the vet was going to have to get forceful, so we should have just done it ourselves. Sometimes there is an advantage to having experience and learning from a professional. So, we waited for what seemed like an eternity for the call back. The vet was 20 minutes out and on her way.
While we were waiting, we knew that before Red tired herself out it would be best to help. We sent in our secret weapon, Jordan. Jordan has been as thin as a whip since she was dried off. There was only about a month while she was a baby when she had chubby cheeks and actual baby fat. For the rest of her existence she has been thin. Skinny arms are not enough to be helpful, but skinny arms on a fearless eight-year-old, that is priceless. Putting skinny arms on a fearless eight-year-old that does not see anything out of the ordinary with repositioning a baby goat and the ticket you have is golden! She was no stranger to helping animals deliver. In fact, she enjoys it. We would all rather have deliveries with no issue, but when there is a stuck baby, she is always ready to help. Her first experience with assisting a delivery was with Delila, our very first Hereford pig. When Jordan was able to pull out a stuck piglet, dry it off and start it nursing, she had a look inn her eyes of pure joy. Goats are a bit different in the fact that they can be positioned poorly and with the contractions need to be repositioned. We talked her through what we had thought was going on. The baby had on e front leg out, the head was down and the other front leg was nowhere to be found. She needed to reposition the kidd, and be as gentle as possible and try to get the head up and both front feet coming out. A good delivery looks like an Olympic diver, front legs first with the head down. Jordan went in. She could feel the head down and the other front leg, she could get the first leg back in to position the baby but could not get the second leg up or the head. Red was starting to get tired and it was turning into a bit of a log jam. With the baby in the wrong position the contractions were making it worse. We only had one option, wait for the vet.
When the vet arrived, we were all just about sick with worry. We had never had a goat with issues delivering before, but at least there was a professional with more experience. The vet jumped right in and started to reposition the baby. Apparently, everything that is said to be true on an internet search is not. She was more forceful than we had been and rightly so, there was no other option. Within five minutes the baby was out. It had not survived the delivery. The vet commented that the baby was exceptionally large and asked if she was bred to a different buck. She was not. It was apparent that Red had grown her babies too large and needed to be cut back on feed. It is always a terrible feeling when little ones don’t make it but at least Red had made it. Hindsight is always 20/20, and looking back knowing what we do now we should have been more forceful. We were afraid of hurting Red and loosing both her and the baby. We did not get Red bred the following year and just milked her straight through. The fall of 2019 she was bred again. This time her diet is just pasture and first cutting hay. She is not as fat and hopefully her babies are smaller.
As with all things farming, you can prep the ground and sow the seeds, but much of what is harvested is out of your hands. We have selected Abu as our buck due to the fact he should make small babies. We have maintained a low-fat diet for all of our girls. We have been vigilant about writing down dates when they are due and checking their condition three times a day and soon to be every few hours, as baby season approaches and they start showing signs of being closer to delivering. But in reality, it is out of our hands, it will be what it will be. We have done the best we can do for everything to go smoothly and now all we can do is hope for the best. It is hard not to get anxious and want it to be done and over with, just to get the stress and the what ifs behind us. Regardless of what time frame we want, it will happen, when it happens.