Posts Tagged ‘pygmy goats’

A Thanksgiving Daisy


It was a Thanksgiving eve well over nine years ago now, that I would unexpectedly begin to have a great love for a small and unexpected thing. I was just finished with the family meal, all warm and toasty sitting around the table drinking a nice hot cup of coffee (all very nice things considering it was one of those chilly, drizzly, cold nights that no one looks forward to going out into). Then the phone rang. It was a gal I knew, Roberta, who had a dog boarding facility up in the Ojai valley. She did boarding but also took in rescue animals from time to time if the shelter was full, or closed down for the holidays.  She mostly took in dogs and cats, but did have piece of land large enough to have a horse and had been known to keep a few exotics – llamas, a potbelly pig, and as I recall, even a mini donkey at one time.

“I need your help,” she explained after a few moments of greetings. “I had a couple of rescue goats come in here, and I really need to place them out tonight temporarily, until I can find homes for them. You still have goats, right?”
Well yes, I had dairy goats, but I never really made it a point to take in rescue animals into my herd. “Please” she begged me, “there are just two and I think I have someone coming in an hour to take one, it’s just until I can get them placed.”
At that moment in time I was way too relaxed and content from the meal to put up much of a fight and, reluctantly, I was on my way to Ojai. “I have had better ideas than this,” I was thinking to myself, as I went out into the chilly night air and cranked the car heater up all the way. It was not quite raining, just misty enough though to make it hard to see out the windshield and slippery on the road. It was just starting to get comfortably warm in the car by the time I reached my destination, where I had to once again venture out into the chilly night.

The fog and damp was thicker here and the breezeway on the side of Roberta’s house was not well lit, so we picked our way to the backyard by the beam of one very dim flashlight. From inside the kennel, you could hear much raucous barking from what sounded like about 20 different dogs all going crazy. “See”, she said to me, “this is the problem, the dogs won’t stop barking at them and it’s having a bad effect on them.” She shone the flashlight over into the far corner of the open corral and there stood two little masses huddled together, their breath white in the chilly night air.

Pygmy goats, at only about 40 lbs each, are much smaller than the large and elegant dairy animals I owned at that time. My first impression of this breed of goat was that it looked like someone had taken a normal size goat and put it in a trash compactor! Small, cobby and useless. The breed had no redeeming qualities in my opinion. The first doe, all black but for a white muzzle and ears, left the corner and started to come towards us as if maybe we had food or treats of some sort. The other animal, a caramel color, just stood, head down in the corner, and did not even respond to our presence. Her coat stood out on end and was beaded with droplets from the damp fog. This little caramel colored doe, I was told, was afraid to use the little shelter that was provided because of the barking dogs. She had survived a dog attack just a few days earlier and had some extensive damage done to her left back leg. The muscle had been severed, and she was now lame, full of stitches, and still on antibiotics for another week. A project to say the least. Well no wonder the animal was standing there in this state, she had just survived a dog attack, and was now standing in the middle of a kennel full of barking dogs!

That was the moment I made a decision. I had an old doe of my own that had gone lame just a few months before, and could not go off with the herd to the breeder this season. My doe had been lonely and upset for weeks. These two could keep each other company for a month or two until my herd returned. Then she could be placed. My guess was it would be much easier for Roberta to place the friendly little black healthy doe with the other people that were coming later that evening.
Roberta seemed relived at the prospect of my taking the injured animal, and had one of her grown sons scoop up the damp little creature and carry her to my car. The little doe was unceremoniously foisted onto a old blanket on the back seat of my car as Roberta and I discussed the treatment instruction left by the vet on how to treat the leg further, and what the outcome might likely be. By the light of the now fading flashlight, half a bottle of penicillin and a small bag of syringes was transferred into my hands across the hood of my car, along with the paperwork and registration that had followed along with the little goat. I glanced at the long name on the registration certificate, and my eyes picked out the last word in the name- Daisy.
“Ok Daisy”, I said to the damp, silent little lump of a creature now hunkered down on my back seat as I got back into my car, “it’s just you and me and an old dairy goat from here on out – no more barking dogs.”

I only questioned my decision once, as I pulled the despondent little doe off the back seat of my car when we arrived at the farm. She did not seem to react to much of anything, and I wondered how much trauma she may have suffered from her injuries, and if she would always remain this way. There is no lighting in my back pasture, so I carried the little creature through the darkness with only a flashlight and held the beam on her for a few moments in the barn so that she could get her bearings in the thick straw. My alpine doe, who had been tucked down in a warm corner, made a little sound at the newcomer, and they were headed towards each other as I backed back out of the barn and into the night.

First thing the next morning, I headed back out to the barn to see if the two does were getting along and found, to my delight, both animals snuggled up against one another happily chewing their cuds. As I opened up the barn door and they walked past me, I noticed for the first time that they both limped in the same rear leg. It made me smile. From that point on the two were inseparable and made a very funny pair indeed.  It made me laugh out loud the first few times I stopped to watch them. The Alpine, tall, flat boned, sleek and deer-like was the exact opposite of the short, furry, heavy boned, cobby, almost cartoon-like Pygmy. Although both breeds of goats, they were on completely opposite ends of the scale of appearance and both with the same lame gait as they ventured out together around the pasture side by side. I noticed they were never more than a few feet apart from each other from that point on. I often pondered on whether their instant bond was due to the fact that they were both lame in the same leg or the fact that they were each other’s only alternative to solitude, or just the fact that they were both goats despite how very different they were from each other in size, shape, and temperament. Maybe it was all three, but whatever the reasons, this very different pair accepted each other without any condition, and they remained joined together, loyal companions from that night on for many, many years to come.

I know there are some humans who could take a lesson from this as well. Some people need to learn to make a choice to accept the differences of family members, and learn to live with the little diversities caused by the close relationships within family units. This way we are able to survive as a group and be happy together. The best relationships are most often not the ones that bring together perfect matches, but the best is when each individual learns to live with the differences and imperfections of the others, and can admire the others’ good qualities and commonalities. We should revel in our differences instead of letting them put us off of each other. My $.02.

Ok, back to the goats now…..

Daisy’s “temporary placement” with us turned into a lifetime love of this breed, as this tiny goat worked her way into our herd and deeply into a special place in our lives, with her funny looks and silly antics. I did not expect it at the time, but a few years after that first night Daisy arrived, I noticed my flock of big beautiful Alpine dairy goats began to transition down into a short, squatty tribe of Pygmys, as more were added, and this new breed of gregarious little goats wove their magic spell around our hearts one by one. I currently have no Alpine goats at all, just the Pygmys (and a fiber goat, but that is a whole story in itself).

Both my little Daisy and the lame Alpine doe, Kellyann have since gone on to heaven, where I know they are both frolicking together in a big green pasture, with their legs restored from lameness. I miss them both very much and it still makes me stop and smile whenever I think about that first morning I saw them together, limping out of the barn.

So now when I recall things to be thankful for during this time of year, I always like to pause for a minute and remember the night I met this little Thanksgiving Daisy, and that unconditional and transforming love that she brought to this farm in a small and unexpected way.
Thank you Daisy!

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.

Welcome Nala!

Yes it finely happened! The thing we have all been waiting for all of these weeks! Our Bella had her kids at 8 a.m. the morning the 24th. The good news is, we have a lovely little light caramel doe kid, who was up and running about 10 minutes after she was born. The bad news is,  there were 2 others that we could not save in the birth process, another doe, and a buck. The lesson is – some things we just have no control over in this life. We have hundreds of births and hatchings here every year, but in each and every one of them, there is always “that” moment. That beautiful, terrifying, all determining moment in each and every new life, right when something is born, and just before it takes its first breath that is absolutely out of anyone’s control, except God’s, so it is in His hand that I leave this.  I will spend my energy enjoying and getting to know our newest member of the tribe “Nala” (and yes, we all now have that song stuck in out heads!) as we welcome her with open hearts and arms, and congratulate our Bella on her new daughter. She is our bright little rainbow after the storm, and we love her already!

Still waiting on Bella…

Here are some recent pictures to enjoy while we continue to wait for Bella’s babies to make their debut.

Miss Morgan gets up close and personal

Double delight rose

Broody Hens

Delicious artichokes!

Reno, Shari's horse that we love

Shari's garden is full of whimsical touches like this

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……..

Chi-Chi Watch 2010

We are now on what we call “chi chi watch” with the does. This starts about a month before our does are due to kid. We start watching for changes in the udders. The does will “bag up” anywhere from 48 hours to a month before kidding. After a while you get to know the way each animal acts, but sometimes they can fool you! I think Bella will go off first…we will see….

Now I will fast forward from my happy young days in the garden, to about the fourth grade and my first goat experience. I somehow ended up at the Los Angeles County Fair in Pomona one September day. I don’t even remember who I was with or just how I got there- but I DO remember standing in the goat barn during the dairy goat show. There was a lady who had a larger black and white alpine doe up on a milk stand in the aisle. I stood frozen, only feet away from this big beautiful deer-like creature, the likes of which I had only seen in books (or its squatty, horned counterparts that had chewed my hair at the petting area in the L A zoo.) I was in total awe! And then it happened- right then and there, so clear to me as if it was yesterday- the goatkeeper must have seen the look on my face, recognized it, and then she said those magical words…”do you want to touch her?” I immediately stepped forward and put my hand on the doe’s withers, and slowly ran it down her smooth top line and then over her full capacious belly. Her skin was fine, and the coat had been clipped short and glistened in the sun. The doe looked back at me just then, and blinked her big golden brown eyes and that was it. I was hooked. I have been hooked ever since. People are born to do certain things with their lives. I am, as it turns out, a goatkeeper. It does not matter that I wasn’t raised with livestock or on a farm. I have spent from that moment on knowing that I was a goatkeeper, and that I would not be truly happy unless this was somehow part of my life. It became my destiny, or as I sometimes joke, my density, depending on the day you ask me!

Pygmy Goats

Pygmy Goats

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