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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Beatrice...or Stressful day(s) on the farm

Since Leah kidded early, Beatrice decided to delay a day.  Friday morning, her due date, her sides had sunk and her ligaments were soft, but she showed not the slightest inclination to stay in.  Fine.  Out she went.

Saturday morning, she still wanted out, but there was something in her actions...just a little something...that made me want to keep an eye on her.  Sometime midmorning, I laid out my clothes and towels to take a shower.  As I headed for the bathroom, I decided to take one last look at Beatrice, and get her into her stall.  I just wasn't comfortable with her being out and the gate closed to keep the others out of there.  I called her and she came and immediately went into the stall.  Now that's different; Beatrice likes to be outside.  I knew the time was approaching.  I watched her for a few minutes as she stood quietly looking back at me. I thought, "I have time to take a shower," and went back to the house.  I checked my email, busied myself with odds and ends for a few minutes...and headed back to the barn.

Again Bea stood looking back at me, but as I watched, she turned and looked at her side.  A few minutes later, she pawed the bedding.  11:00.  She walked around a bit, lay down, and did nothing.  A few minutes later she started to push, and soon there was a nose and two front hooves sticking out of her.  Whenever she got a contraction, she'd push, but barely.  After 45 minute, she was still walking around with a nose and two hooves sticking out. I gave her 3 doses of Caulophylum 30C, 5 minutes apart, and within 15 minutes of the first dose, she pushed the baby out.  Well...almost.  The kid was hanging down with its hips still caught inside her, and she wasn't pushing.  She kept turning and I was sure she was going to swing that kid against a wall!  I grabbed her collar to stop her swinging around, rotated my fingers around the kid's hips to see if there was a malplaced leg, and when all seemed fine, I grasped the kid (pretty hard to do when they're so slippery) and when the next contraction came, pulled it out and down.  Birth, finally!  And a doe!  Beatrice loves to have bucklings, so I was very happy, even it it isn't a Sable.

Yes, we whisked her away quickly, after toweling her off a bit.  I "bounced' Beatrice and it felt like there was another kid in there, so I left the rest of the cleaning up to my son when he carried her to the house, and watched to see what would happen.

Again, nothing.  I milked her out, hoping to stimulate further contractions.  One side of her udder was almost devoid of colostrum, and the other gave me only 1/2 gallon.  Not good.  This doe usually freshens with a gallon or more.

After an hour I called my vet.  The second kid should have appeared by now.

"Scrub up and go in," she said.
"How far?" says I.
 "As far as you need to," she replied.
"How far is that?"
 "Oh, probably you won't have to go farther than a couple of inches of wrist."

Oh, goody.

I scrubbed my entire arm. grabbed hold of her collar with the other arm, and slowly inserted my fingers.  Nothing.  There are easier tasks than trying to put your hand  inside a goat's birthing canal while holding her with the other hand and trying to keep her still.  I finally just pinned her in a corner and against a wall.  The goo from her last kid was the lubricant, and I made sure I smeared it all over as I went in.  All the way to my wrist.  A little farther. I felt..something squishy.  I felt around a bit more.  Nope, no limbs, no head, nothing hard that would indicate another kid.  Must be just the placenta.  I extracted my hand, disappointed.

Shawn left and came back.  When he came into the house, he said, "I think you need to come in the barn.  I think she's having another kid.  I swear I saw something that looked like hooves and nose."
"Can't be," I replied.  "I felt around in there. There was nothing solid, just soft and squooshy."
"Come and look anyway," he said. " I saw a red bubble."

Now I was sure it was the afterbirth, and when we got out there, a small red sack was hanging from  her.  I saw nothing else, and neither did he.  I did not check closer, silly me.  "Well," said he, "maybe I was mistaken."  He left again,, taking my car to repair the struts.  I took the new doeling and put her in with Leah's two kids.

I spent the next hour or more heat-treating her colostrum. That's a chore in itself.  The colostrum has to be held at 135° F for one hour.  I did that by filling the sink with 140° F water, and checking both the temperature of the water and the temperature of the colostrum every 5 minutes, so the colostrum didn't go above 139° and turn into pudding.  Whenever the water temperature fell below 136°, I took out two quarts and added back in two quarts of boiling water. 

 When I finished, I went to the barn to see if she'd passed the afterbirth yet.  There in the hay stood a kid, wobbling on its new legs, still damp, and Beatrice licking the placenta.  I figure the kid, another doe!--had been born between 3:30 and 4:00, and most probably within the last 15 minutes.  I covered her with a towel and whisked her off to the house.  After a few minutes, she greedily took some colostrum and once she was almost dry, I left her with the brood.

Is there anything cuter than newborn kids? They stumbled and semi-hopped over to greet the newcomer.  Later when I went to feed them, they were all piled in the corner together.
 Beatrice's kids are strong! Violet's bucklings, Snowball, and Oreo took a couple of days to climb onto the low pallet.  Dandelion (#1 kid) and Dilly-Dally (#2 kid) were climbing onto it the first day.  Leah's kids look more delicate, Beatrice's kids look more stout.

The next morning I was up at 6:00, hoping to get kids fed, does milked, shower, and out the door by 9:00.  It didn't happen.  Violet is not an easy milker.  She stands quietly, but her teats are so small that it takes forever to milk her.  First there was the heating of the colostrum for the newborns and milk for the older kids, out to feed,  milk three does, warm packs on Leah for her udder edema, feed the horses and poultry...

Oh, forget it!  I let all the Guineas and Silkies out.  It was a beautiful day, they'd been in for weeks, and the snow was gone.  Let them fend for themselves today!

My sister and brother-in-law showed up to say Happy Easter to my mother, and Laura and I headed out to the barn so she could see the new kids.  Two in the corner piled up, one sleeping on the tall pallet, and ... the fourth was missing. I checked to see if she could have wedged her way under the door.  Nope.  We walked around and looked at the pallets lying one on top of the other, and little entryways into the innards.  Laura took one end, and I took the other, and we gently lifted it and moved it off the bottom pallets.  A little, dirty-faced goating looked up and mewled.  I lifted her oh-so-tenderly and carefully out of there, felt to assure that she was okay, and set her down on wobbly legs with the others, then we put back the top pallet...and filled every place of ingress with bunches of hay.  The nice thing about that hay sticking out is it gives the kids easy access to start nibbling.  There's a bright side to everything.

Friday, March 29, 2013

A busy day.

What a day! Because it was chilly last night, and they were still a little damp,  I brought Leah's kids into the house and left them in the dog crate, which sees more use for kids than it does for the dog.  I gave them their last feeding around 11:00 and rose this morning around 6:00 to feed them.  Snowball took her bottle easily, but Oreo resisted.  Yesterday, she'd been the one that grasped quickly what that bottle was about, but I couldn't get more than a few slurps out of her.

Around 11:00, a friend came over, a retired nurse.  She's my Visiting Teacher from the Church, but first and foremost my friend. Another friend and neighbor showed up a few minutes later.  "Hey!" she cried, "where are the kids?"  Just in time!  We fed Snowball, no problem,

and then she curled up under Marylee's chair.

Oreo just didn't seem interested,though, even when Laura, who has raised many a lamb, tried to coax her.  After Laura left, we sat there discussing what I could do to get her to eat, while my mother held her close.

Cuddling Oreo
 Marylee says she really comes over to see "her" kids, so I decided to put her to the test. "Okay," I started, "you must have put in feeding tubes when you were nursing, right?"
 "Sure," she replied.
"Would you show me how to do it?  I really think I need to tube feed this kid.  She refuses to eat."

After some conversation about what I'd need, I realized I had a tube feeding kit in the barn, unopened, one of those things I have in my kidding kit "just in case" and hope I ever have to use.  We watched a couple of videos on how to do it--she probably didn't need to watch them, but it made me feel better--and then I held Oreo while Marylee inserted the tube and fed the kid 2 ounces of milk.

That must have kick-started her little system.  I took them out to the barn to the big stall where they had room to play and a corner to snuggle in.  When I came out again 4 hours later, Oreo was ready and willing to nurse.  Yay!

Happy endings.  That's the way life's supposed to be.

Thursday, March 28, 2013


I woke up this morning thinking "Leah's going to kid today."  I wish I would listen to myself.  I kept thinking, "I need to give her Apis so she won't have congested udder", but kept getting distracted.  She didn't LOOK like she was ready to kid in the morning.  In the afternoon, I went out to check the goats, and to give Leah some Apis Mellifica.  She was in her stall, bleating softly.  Uh oh, where have I seen this before?  I hustled the other does out, gave her the Apis and closed the gate so no one else could get in. 

Leah in labor
 Two more doses of Apis and 45 minutes later she gave birth to her first doeling, all white.  Ten minutes later, out popped a Sable doeling.  Shawn was busy cleaning the first, while I cleaned the second.
Leah's kids
Off to the house we carried them.  Poor Leah, she never even got a chance to know her kids.  This is the worst thing about CAE, having to separate kids and mother at birth.  Happily, Violet had provided me enough colostrum to feed Leah's kids for the first two or three days, and I have both colostrum gel and powdered colostrum for Bea's kids when they arrive.  I'll give them that until I can milk her and pasteurize the colostrum, then they'll get the real thing.

I went out to the barn again later to milk her out.  Unfortunately, she has a congested udder, so I got only about a pint.  A dose of Phytolacca, and we're off and running again, hopefully only for 3 or 4 days, like last year, and not 4 weeks, like the first time she freshened.  I think this is the last time I'll breed Leah.  She produces lovely babies, but she needs just to be milked through for the next few years.  Once this resolves, she'll be her usual easy milking self and can have a job providing good milk.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Kids and kids coming

I went out to the barn to milk and feed, glanced in at the kids, who were now on their second day of being separated from Violet at night, and all seemed well.  I finished the feeding and milking, then went back to the house and got the kids' bottles ready.  I've decided that for now I'll leave them with her during the day, but I want them to be bottle-savvy, as you never know when they'll need supplements or other things that are much easier to give via the milk.

I went into the stall, sat on the pallet, looked up to call them over...and gasped!  Spotty's head was covered with blood!  I left the bottles, scooped him up, and carried him quickly to the house.  He either scratched himself with his hind hoof and broke through the disbudding scar, or smacked his head against something, or...who knows?  He's a kid!  Anything could have happened!  My mother held him while I cleaned him up first the head, then the face, then the head, then his legs, then the head, then her hand...that wound would not stop bleeding. 

Cleaned up but still bleeding
I had her hold the damp cloth on his head while I searched for bandages.  An hour passed, still bleeding.  Suddenly I thought, "Maybe I shouldn't have a damp cloth on it.  Maybe it's keeping it from coagulating."  Oh, the obvious truths that smack us between the eyes betimes!

The big band-aid I put on him only kept it in for a short time, long enough to give him a bit more milk.

I found some grocery-store cheesecloth, the kind that looks like gauze.  Cutting a large strip with the scissors, I folded it neatly and pressed it to his wound.  "Stop!" cried my mother, "You're hurting him!"  Yeh, I knew that, but it's pretty hard to apply pressure to a bleeding wound without causing pain, so I explained carefully while I kept the pressure on, then had her hold the gauze while I wrapped his head with enough bandage and tape to hold it on.

My mother loves animals, and loves babies of all kinds.  She was in her element, crooning to Spotty and singing him lullabies.  When my son showed up and she wanted to show him the wound, I decided it was time for Spotty to go into the dog crate until the bleeding had stopped completely.  An hour later, the gauze had fallen out, blood had stopped flowing, and I removed the rest of the bandage.  Spotty was so glad to get back to his momma and have a noon snack.  So much better than a bottle!

With that taken care of, I commenced cleaning the Saanens' stall.  I had cleaned the big stall where Violet had kidded the day before, but it was a piece of cake, as well should it be, having been stripped only 2 weeks before.  It's amazing how stalls can look reasonably clean until you start stripping away all the wet, compacted mess underneath the top layer of dry hay annd bedding.  A minimum of 13 or 14 much bucket loads later, I was able to put down fresh shavings and cover it with coarse hay, fill the feeders, clean and refill the water buckets, and know that all was prepared for the coming kids.

They're due on Friday and Saturday.  Okay, girls!  You have permission to kid now!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Violet's kids

Violet had two bucklings.  The first, with a spot on his forehead, weighed 7 lbs 10 oz, the second weighed 9 lbs 2 oz. She had me coming and going for a while, though.   

Early on, I though that maybe, just maybe, Violet was going to kid today.  She didn’t finish her breakfast and when I opened the door to let her out of her stall, she didn’t want to go.  In fact, Bella stood there trying to go in, and Violet didn’t even challenge her.  She just looked at me and gave a soft little bleat.  I closed the stall door and watched her for a few minutes.  She was bleating softly, little bleats here and there, then went and stood with just her front feet on the pallets, stretching, so it seemed, whimpering, looking at me as if I might be able to help.  Could it be?  Could it really be that she’s was in labor?  That she would kid today?

As time wore on, Violet would push, but ineffectually, and as if she really weren’t putting, or maybe even couldn’t put, a lot of effort into it. After observing her for quite a long time, l gave her a couple of pillules of Pulsatilla, just in case there were a malpresentation.   A while later I noticed that when she’d get a contraction and push, there were crackling noises.  And about an hour after that, the noises were gone and labor commenced fairly quickly.  At 3:30 the first buckling was born, and at 3:38 the second came along.  Violet was so busy licking clean the first that she hardly had notice for the second.  I cleaned him off thoroughly; it seemed as if he might have aspirated some fluid, though, because right away he was coughing and sounding like he had fluid in his lungs.  I sucked at his nostrils to get out any fluid, but there really wasn’t any way I knew of to take fluid from his lungs.  After a few more minutes, I placed him in front of Violet so she could clean him, too. 
Licking Kid #1 clean, while Kid #2 struggles to get up

Kid #2 finally meeting Mama.  Kid #1 is hidden by Violet's head.
It's wondeful to watch how quickly kids get to their feet, and nothing short of amusing to watch them try to figure out where the lunch spigot is.  They nibbled on her legs, on her chest, on her belly, on the inside of her thighs; they came from behind and nibbled on her hocks, tottered under her belly once again, and finally--TA DA!-- latch on!  

They both nursed well, and surprisingly (or perhaps not so surprisingly) the smaller of the two was the more vigorous.  But then, he did get to the birth canal first, didn't he?  

I watched them for a while, intermittently, leaving Violet alone but checking in several times.  Kid #2 still had a rattle when he breathed.  At 10:00, it was no better, so I gave him a nosode, Pneumococcinum, hoping it was the right remedy. It was.  The next morning, his lungs were clear.

Violet is such a good mother, and (okay, here I go with anthropomorphizing) is pleased as punch with her two kids.  I had to milk her out twice the first day, and 3 times today.  Once those kids start growing, though, they'll take it all.
Day 2

Encouraging the kids to step up

Proud mama

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Just kidding around

Violet was due yesterday.  I stayed up until midnight checking her every hour or two just to see if anything was happening.  She had dropped noticeably, with large hollows showing behind her ribs--as sure sign that birth was close.  I watched her stretch out and roll in the well-hayed stall.  Wouldn't that be a sign of her repositioning the kid (or kids)?  Once I even saw the white spot on her side give a distinctive "blip".  Could that have been a contraction?  As I sat on the pallets in the stall, she came over and rested  her head against my knee, allowing me to stroke and massage her along her head and neck.

The only thing that happened is that I got tired. 

This morning I checked her again.   Just as before, she was happily chewing cud, looking inquiringly toward me, with no signs of imminent birth..  Since it's Sunday, and I'm the Gospel Doctrine teacher, I left for church, taught my lesson after Sacrament Meeting, and left before Relief Society.  I could have stayed.  Again, nothing was happening.  I mean, she LOOKS like she should be ready to kid.  Her ligaments are soft, she's obviously dropped, the kid(s) look to be in place, but she wanted to go out so I relented and let her out.

What happened next was astonishing!  She has been in this small herd for well over a year.  Leah, who was the bottom of the heirarchy since day one, challenged her!  They were butting heads for several minutes, much longer than I would have anticipated.  Beatrice, too, had her hackles up and was making herself known.  Violet mostly ignored her,, giving notice that she wasn’t challenging Beatrice.  I finally had to pull Bea away, because she was about to slam her from the side.  Uh, uh, not allowed.  

I don’t know what’s gotten into them.  Violet’s only been separated at night, not during the day, but they acted like she was a new goat in the herd.  They seemed to find her scent different, because they were sniffing her all over.  Violet finally asserted herself enough for Leah to yield, but she was breathing very heavily.  When I was sure she was all right and Leah wasn’t going to start again, I came back to the house. 

I wish she would have those kids—or kid, as the case might be.  Violet is the doe that had a false pregnancy going last year, and of course, now I'm looking at her thinking, "Does she really have kids in there?  Or is this just nature at its deceptive best?"  This is NOT how life is supposed to be!

Sweet Violet

Notice the deep hollow behind her rib cage?  That kid must be in place!

Bulges on both sides.  That is not her rumen!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Homegrown: or A Tale of Two Chickens

Since it's so hard to find healthy food in the supermarket nowadays, what with genetically engineered and heavily sprayed foods presenting themselves everywhere, without even a warning label, I've been growing more and more of my own food, or buying local organic.  Now, I have no problem with sprayed, genetically engineered foods being sold.  If someone wants to buy them, it's not my place to tell them otherwise.  On the other hand, I come down firmly on the side of "right to know".  I have a real problem with someone, anyone, withholding that information from me.  It's MY body, it' MY choice, regardless of the DOJ (Department of Justice) arguing that I don't have a right to choose my own foods.  How any self-respecting lawyer could argue that in court is beyond my ken.  Perhaps they're not self-respecting.  Perhaps the job is more important than integrity.

It will come as no surprise, then, that I raised my own chickens last years.  Five of them, young cockerels, went to freezer camp.  Since I don't eat much meat, most of them have stayed there until lately.  The problem with freezing foods, you see, is the potential for freezer burn.  Canned foods last longer, and I decided to empty the freezer of all the meat and pressure can it.

I went through the freezer, pulling out anything that had been in there for several months. One of the chickens I pulled out was commercially grown chicken, while the others were homegrown.  As I prepared them for canning, I was struck with the difference between the two.  In all the pictures below, the one on the left is homegrown, the one on the right is commercially grown.  The difference is color is astonishing.  My homegrowns ranged far and free, all over the pasture, up into the berry patches, eating grass, weeks, and insects galore, roosting at night in the barn coop with the others.  The one on the right probably never saw the light of day or anything green and living.  The livers, especially, tell the tale.  The homegrown chicken was healthy and both the color and the texture of the liver show it.  It's dark and firm.  The liver of the commercial chicken, on the other hand, was not only lighter in color, but the texture was spongy and it easily fell apart.

Belly up.  The skin on the left is yellow, that on the right is gray.

Belly down.  Same story.

The livers.  That on the left is much healthier looking than the one on the right..

If ever I had wondered if it was worth it, I wonder no more.