Posts Tagged ‘babies’

Little Orphan Phoebe

It was a first birth for Claire and I was frankly surprised it went so rough. Her mom had always had an easy time getting her kids on the ground, and some of the time did it without any help. I was sure she would follow in her mother’s footsteps. This time I was wrong. It was Monday morning and I noticed that her udder was quickly bagging up (of course she was not going to do it over the weekend, when I had time off work- doe’s code of honor). She started to get “that look” in her eyes and I knew her time was drawing near. I called in to the office to let them know I would be late, and started my watch. By noon she was picking at her food and talking to her side- it should not be long now. By 2 pm she was down on her side pushing, but by 2:30 she was not making any progress. I got out the gloves and the lube. There was a tiny pair of feet in the birth canal but not a head to be felt. Not good. I let another ten minuets go by and still no progress. I have done this enough to know when it is time to call the vet. Dr. Bailey was not in the office but I did have his cell number. He was only a few minutes away and came right over. He could feel the feet as well, but not the head with them. He tried to turn the kid, and then only had the head, but no front feet.
There just did not seem to be a way to get this baby into the proper position. “Well” I said at last “Just bring the kid out head first.” Dr. Bailey always likes to have the feet as well, but decided to deliver the kid without then this time. After some pushing, and a few screams from the doe, a tiny doe kid was pulled into the world. Dr. Bailey was surprised to see she was still alive. He handed her off to me and reached back in for the next one. Again after much pushing and pulling, a tiny buck kid was retrieved, weak and sputtering, but alive. He weighed in at only 1 lb 6 oz, and she just under 2 pounds. I am not sure if it was the traumatic birth or just Claire’s take on being a new mom, but the doe did not seem to want to have anything to do with these newborns.  As Dr Bailey looked down at the two tiny, struggling babes on the blanket, he looked at me and said that I now had my work cut out for me. I think it was his kind way of saying these kids really did not have much of a chance at this point. If I could get them past the first 48 hours they might have a chance.

Newborn Phoebe

For the rest of the afternoon, I milked out the colostrum from the VERY uncooperative mother, and fed the kids with an eyedropper. I followed the doe around with the babes, hoping she would bond with them. Not only did she not want them anywhere near her- she actually turned around and butted them away, hard!
By that evening the night air began to chill, and I had no choice but to go to “plan B”, and bring the poor little things into the house. I found a large cardboard box, lined it with a plastic trash bag, and covered the floor with newspapers. Next I put down a heating pad, and then some large towels. this would keep them snuggley and warm. Both were too weak to suck on a bottle, so I fed them every 4 hours with the eyedropper throughout the night.
By the next morning, the little doe was strong enough to stand a bit, and I once again took her out and tried to introduce her to her mom. This time Clair knocked her for six, so I took her right back into the house. I came to the sad reallity that I would now be raising my very first pair of orphan kids.
The first 3 days were very tedious, keeping up with the feedings every 4 hours around the clock. By day 4, the little doe was finally able to latch onto the nipple of the bottle, but the little buck kid continued to grow weak, and he left us that same afternoon. It was touch and go every day with the doe. She did not gain much weight, and chilled easily. She was not able to stand up very well, and seemed weak in her front legs. Sometimes she did not want to eat at all, and I had to revert back to the eyedropper. I bought some Pedilite to keep her hydrated, and put a few drops of Red Cell in her milk at each feeding. Still she struggled.
I remembered when one of our goats had been anemic the year before, and we had given her injections of B-12, so I began to give the little doe 1cc of the B-12 every 12 hours.
At 1 week of age, she seemed unable to walk altogether, and was still not gaining any weight. I would hold her in my lap and move her little legs for her, so her muscles would not atrophy. This went on all through the second week of her life, until I noticed she was sometimes able to stand for a few minuets. I began to get behind her and just scoot her along so she would have to take small steps. I slept on the couch with her curled up in my arms to keep warm.
By week 3 she was taking more steps on her own, but was all but lame in the right front leg. I began to feed her a few teaspoons of greek yogurt every day, and continued the B-12 shots. She began to walk a bit more. Then one day I found her in her box laying stiff on her side. It looked she had seizured. She was still alive, so I got her upright and got her moving again. At one month old, I gave her 1cc of CDT and prayed. She still weighed a good pound less then the set of twins that were born a week after her. Her right front leg still buckled out in front of her, causing a limp.
More shots, more bottles, more prayer – day after day. I never even did name her, for fear every day that she would not live. Then the day came at last when she took a turn for the better. Her legs became stronger, she started to walk with ease, and then she delighted me one day when she jumped up the porch steps. At 5 weeks I tapered the B-12 down to 1 cc every other day, and then tapered off of it. We named her Phoebe, and she is now doing quite well. She downs 4 cups of milk replacer everyday, has gained weight, grown, and has started to nibble at some hay.

Our healthy, happy girl.

Now, at 6 weeks old, we go in back and have “play dates” in the nursery pen with the other moms and babies. We then race each other back down the driveway and into the kitchen. I marvel at her sweet but spunky personaility and try not to think back on those hard days we had together. Each day now she is less and less dependent on me, and goes off to explore her world more and more without me, but that’s ok. That is as it should be. As much as I enjoy the special bond we share I will be glad for the day when she will be able to go out and join the tribe.
For now I will just enjoy the last few weeks of the bottles, and the cuddling, and the sweet goat murmurs she whispers in my ears.
All the worry has been worth it, and it reminds me that I am indeed a goatherd, and to always be humble before God’s creatures.

 

 

 

Quinn’s Twins!

Buckling #1

Buckling #2

Winter’s “Tween” Week

December 21st  brought us once again to the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. The good news is, from here on out the days will slowly start to get longer once again. This is that in-between week when we start to put away Christmas and look ahead to the new year. Christmas cards have stopped coming but the good news is now the spring seed catalogs are starting to fill the mailbox! All the beautiful winter scenes – snowmen, stockings hung by crackling fireplaces  – are now being replaced by glossy pages of colorful spring flowers and plump, ripe fruits and vegetables. Stirring our hearts and minds into that euphoric state of happiness that helps us cope with the now freezing tempetures outside. The nights have been well under 30 degrees for at least the last 2 ½  weeks now (and yes, I do get to complain because this is Southern California).

During the morning feeding I get to go crunching across the frozen grass and push my way through stiff cold gate hinges to be met by frozen hoses as I fill mangers and de-ice water buckets.  The tribe of goats stay tucked down in the thick straw inside the barn and they don’t even budge when I fill the feeders with fresh hay. Nikki (the LDG) is usually somewhere in the middle of the pile of goats, all keeping each other warm, and only just barely lifts her head and opens one eye when I peek in on the group. They all know their breakfast will be waiting for them when they decide to leave their warm nest and venture out into the morning. For now, they will sleep in until the sun crests the mountain and the day warms up a bit more. To be honest, I can get these jobs done a bit faster when the animals are not all underfoot, but I miss the sounds of them pushing and calling for their morning meals.

As I look across the gardens and raised beds most everything is brown and crunchy and weary from the cold. Most of the dead plant matieral has been pulled up and tossed into the compost piles. The pomegranate trees were pruned back hard in the last few weeks and the piles of leaves and clippings have been burned as kindling in the fireplace. This week we worked on pruning back the roses and berry canes. I cleaned out the barn and treated all of the animals for lice since they are all sleeping together in closer quarters now. We took advantage of some of our time off to trim the spurs on all of the roosters and everyone in the barnyard received a pedicure this month (I have the blisters to prove it!) This coming week I plan to clean out the nursery pen and get it fixed up for the first babies of 2012 (due the end of January). There are currently three does in the breeding pens, and four more will go in late Febuary or early March for summer babies. This morning I dragged the plastic boxes from the garage back into the house and started to pack up the Christmas ornaments. Tonight I will try to finish this job, and then start to toss out the leftovers that have been pushed to the back of the fridge and forgotten about. I will eat the last of the christmas baked goods as I reflect on this season. Christmas is over, and the year is almost done. I am right in-between tired and happy this week. Not a bad place to be if you stop and think about it.

Farmwear

Each year in October St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Ojai hosts their “Blessing of the Animals” service. It is a service conducted in honor of St. Francis of Assisi. He was said to have a great love for all animals and even preached sermons to the birds. Francis wrote a Canticle of the Creatures, an ode to God’s living things. He knew that the bond between person and animals is like no other relationship.

No wonder people enjoy this opportunity to take their animal companions to St. Andrews for this special blessing. It is always held outdoors and I just love the sight of pairs of creatures – one human, one animal sitting close together, or held in arms. There is such a variety of dogs, large and small, that attend but each and every living thing is welcomed. Every year a large tortoise spends most of his time meandering through the rows of chairs set up on the grassy lawn. I remember one year a small clear plastic box being passed around with a very cool little horned toad, who looked prickly but felt more like rubber when touched. There have been birds, bunnies, snakes, and a large white goose in attendance over the years.

Katie with Junior

When the priest passes each animal for the blessing, he asks for the animal’s name, and then he welcomes them with a special prayer. As the prayer is offered they are gently sprinkled with holy water. Believe it or not, most of the animals take this sacramental spritz with dignity. During the singing of the hymns a few non-human voices can be heard lifted in song, and usually a very well-timed grunt or squeal is heard during the sermon, which makes everyone giggle. I think this is enjoyed by all who attend, regardless if they are pet owners or not…

Every year we go and take one or two of the baby goats with us. This year, I took Mercy and Val. Christy held little Val and I had the larger kid on a lead. She went from standing next to me to wanting to be held.

Christy with Val

Just as the service ended, I was sitting down with Mercy draped across my lap when a little boy approched us. He spoke softly so I leaned closer to hear him. He was around 4 years old with light brown hair and big blue eyes. “What is your goat’s name?” he asked me softly. “Her name is Mercy,” I responded. “What is your name?” I asked him. “Landon” he answered. “Landon, would you like to pet Mercy?” I asked. He immediately dropped onto his knees in the grass and made eye contact with her. He cupped his little hands and then gently put them under the goat’s chin, and brought their noses together until they touched. Then he gave the goat a gentle scratch on the head. He stood up again, and looked at me, “Ya know what?” he said. “What?” I asked. “I can tell that you are a farmer.” he said. “Really?” I asked, thinking that he was obviously discerning this from the fact that I was sitting there with a barnyard animal in my lap, “How can you tell?” He pointed to the overalls I was wearing. “Because you are wearing those, and that’s what farmers wear.” he stated confidently. “Yes, you are right,” I said, taken back a bit by this observation, “farmers wear overalls.” I was not even thinking that I had put on a pair of capri-length bib overalls and blue work shirt that morning. I didn’t do it to look like a farmer, just as something I wear to deal with the animals in. I guess somewhere along the way this little boy must have identifed overalls as something that only farmers wear- our “costume” for the job of farmer. I smiled at his statement as this was something that had never crossed my mind before. In another moment he ran off.I don’t think I will ever be able to buckle up into my overalls ever again without thinking about that exchange. Pointed out to me by a four year old boy, I will think of them always as my costume, my uniform that identifies me as a farmer. From now on I will wear my overalls as a symbol of my occupation, not as just a cover-up from barnyard debris. Thank you, Landon for bringing dignity to my farm clothes, I will wear them proudly from now on.

Welcoming the next generation

You can find in one of my earlier entries that I find it easier to garden by getting in sync the lunar cycles for planting and harvesting. This same wisdom also works well for our animals and birds here on the farm. You can learn much, kind of like having a sixth sense, when you are able to tap into the moon’s rhythm. It has served me well over all these years, and if nothing else, may help you out in being able to predict just when certain things are most likely to happen.

July 26, 2010 brought the full moon in Capricorn. This was the Buck Moon for the Algonquin tribe. It is a good moon for achieving a goal. Earth sign Moons are excellent for labor, especially physical labor, including birthing. This sign is feminine, receptive and watery. Also, goats come under the rule of the Capricorn influence. This is what made me check on the nursery pen just one more time before going to bed on the 26th.

Flashlight in hand, I did a sweep around the pen, and noticed my doe Kitty standing there staring at me with “that look” in her eyes. I turned right around and made a run for the birthing kit and a stack of towels and my camera. I knocked on Christy’s door to tell her the good news and we headed back for the goat shed together. Kitty was already having close contractions but it was her first birthing so I did not know what to expect from her. The moon was full, but not up over the mountain top, so we were definately in need of more light. I left Christy to watch and went out to string a long power cord from the greenhouse all the way back to the goat shed so I could get the light working. I told Christy to just holler out if things started to change. In a few minutes she called out that she could see the birth sack and I called back for her to let me know if she spotted the hoofs. A few more minutes passed and she said she could see the hoofs and then a nose. I put down the cord I was still untangling, and returned to the shed. Yep, two front feet and a little nose presented just right, but the mom was straining a bit hard. We would have to do this one by flashlight. I gently pulled the 2 front feet forward so as to give the head just a little more room to pass, and in just one more contraction, the kid slid right out. There is always that terrifying moment until you know if the newborn is passing air. We held our breath and said a silent prayer as I “swung” the kid (more about that later) until we heard that first tiny little squeak from the babe. It was a fairly cold night for July, but we had a nice thick stack of towels, and started to dry the new baby off. A girl! Yeah!
At this point, the new mom, not really knowing what to make of the whole thing, got up and wandered out of the shed. I left the newborn with Christy and resumed getting the light hooked up. Christy was texting her family a play by play description of the event. Techno farmers! I finally got the power cord untangled and the light on, and there was time for Christy to get a chair and make some nice hot tea for us – it would be a long night. After what seemed like forever, the doe came back into the shed and we put the towel-dried kid down in front of her so she could begin to bond with her new daughter. They squeaked and nickered their little sounds to each other in a language that only goats can understand.

Another while went by and the doe started to get restless again as her labor resumed. The second kid was much smaller and slid out rather quickly still encased in the birth sack. In this situation you have to quickly break the sack and get the fluid out of the nose and mouth or the kid will drown. Ok, no breath happening – this is where knowing how to “swing” a kid really comes in handy. It might seem like a harsh thing to do to something just entering the world, but it is harmless, and it works very well to quickly clear the fluid from the nose, mouth and lungs if any is restricting the airways. Your left hand goes under chest, right hand gets a good grip on those very slippery hind legs, and you stand up and literally swing the kid from the ground to up about your waist level. The centrifugal force clears the fluid out. Most first time witnesses to this procedure have been momentarily horrified, but then come to understand the necessity of the process. After about four swings, I could start to hear a sputtering sound and stopped to check. Yes! the kid was moving air on her own! I could feel a strong heart beat as she continued to cough and sputter up fluid. Another girl! We let out a cheer! Back to the mommy to get bonded and dried off completely.

The doe was not too sure of herself with the whole nursing thing, so I milked out the colostrum (first milk, very important for the kids to get) and fed both kids with a syringe. It was now getting to be the wee hours of the morning but we had to wait for another hour or so until the doe passed the afterbirth. When she did, and upon inspection it was complete, we moved the whole new little family to the nursery pen. We closed them in for the night so the new mom and kids could bond without any outside interruptions after their long night. Exhausted, cold, but smiling ear to ear from the miracle we had just witnessed, we trailed back to our respective homes. I crawled into a steaming hot shower then passed out right away in bed, still with that smile on my face, and the blessing of new life bestowed to the farm.

Watching and waiting…

We are in the throws of anticipation, as one of the does, Bella, is showing all the signs of impending birth. Her full name is Bella Luna because she was born here by the light of a beautiful full Libra moon. She is the doe I predicted would kid first this season. We have been able to feel the babies moving for about a week now. She kept walking herself into the kidding pen and taking her afternoon naps in it, as if she knows. Animals have such great instincts. Bella is a very good mother who has kidded many times before, so she is an old hand at it. She, like all of my does, has always had multiple kids, always twins except for two winters ago when she surprised all of us and probably even herself by presenting us with quads! 3 boys and 1 girl. All of her other births thus far were uneventful, but that one night she was screaming her head off in the yard at about 10:30 on a very cold dark night (right before Christmas), and that behavior is just not like her. Upon investigation we discovered a trail of four little squirming bodies along about a 20 foot path. Bella was a very confused and concerned doe, running back and forth between all of them, and trying to get our attention all at the same time. We collected the tiny, cold bodies and quickly brought them into the house. We filled the sink with warm water (normal blood temperature for a goat is 102-104 degrees) and submerged the tiny babies up to their necks.

The quads warming up in the sink

Once their core temperature was back to normal each one had a session with towels and the hair dryer set on low. When fully dry we made sure each one nursed from their mother before leaving the new family alone in a in a clean dry stall. Bella was very organized in raising them, having a very specific place she would have each one sleep, and then she would call two of them at a time to her to nurse. She had it down to a science! We did have to supplement the two smaller ones with bottles so they could catch up in size after the first week or so.
That was the same year that, within 48 hours and right up to Christmas Eve, we had a succession of 10 baby goats born. It started a set of twins, followed by a set of triplets, followed by the quads and then finally one more kid born right on Christmas Eve. It was so great that year – I had a group of 4-H girls visiting the farm that afternoon when the doe went into labor. After a few phone calls, the leader decided to stay with the girls so they could watch. A few other neighbors came over for the event as well.
As far as I am concerned, there really is nothing quit like witnessing a birth in a manger amid the sounds and smells of the animals and the straw, mixed with the anticipation and then the beauty of new life taking its first breaths. Having this happen right on Christmas Eve added a divine energy and just made it perfect. It was something I’m sure the people who were there that day will never forget. I know that’s true for me. For now though, I just hope Bella has a nice set of twins and all goes as it should, as we watch and wait……..

Pygmy Goats

Pygmy Goats


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