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Friday, June 21, 2013

An experiment in fostering

At the same time that I took the kids, I separated Violet's bucklings and started the weaning process.  I was going to do it last week, but delayed it because I hate milking Violet.  She's a first time freshener and has a "2 finger teat" and I still don't have my milking machine put together, nor does my Henry Milker work on her.  Now was the time, though.  That evening, I let them nurse again, and for the last time on Sunday morning. Sunday afternoon, I put the new kids in with Violet, and as Shawn held her while she ate Chaffhaye and grain, I guided their little mouths to her teats.  It took a few times, but they finally latched on.  Ah! here was the milk bar they'd been looking for all along!  Every 2 hours, Shawn and I came out, fed Violet, and guided the kids to the milk station.

Next morning, I tied Violet up while I made sure the goatlings could find their own way, helping only when necessary.  By the end of day 2, they had it down.  By mid-day, all I had to do was hold Violet, no food in hand, and she'd stand while they nursed.  She wouldn't stand without being held, but she wasn't aggressive, either.  Progress!

The one thing that I felt held her back was hearing her bucklings.  They would call, she would answer.  It must have been confusing for her to hear her kids calling, and yet here were these kids suckling on her.  I posted a request online to see if anyone local could take the bucklings for a week or two.

On day 4, Wednesday, I put Violet and the kids into a small enclosure with an electric web fence.  Oh, how hard it is to hold those tiny babies close to the fence until they reach out and touch it!  But how necessary if they're going to learn about electric fences without jumping forward and entangling themselves!  It was wonderful to see them sniffing the grass, playing on the stone steps, then curling up together when they were tired.  Violet was still walking away when they wanted to nurse, so I was still holding her every 2 to 3 hours so they could eat.

Midafternoon came and Violet asked to go in, so I carefully carried the kids, one by one, into the barn, then led her back.  She was not happy.  She wanted out, to choose her own place in the barn or near the barn, or in the pasture, or wherever, but not be locked up with no choice at all! 
Sorry, Violet.  The more time you spend with them, the more likely you are to accept them as your own.

Thursday was a repeat of Wednesday, and the hollering back and forth of Violet and her bucklings was getting me down.  I was convinced that their presence was the final impediment to her truly fostering the new kids.  Thursday night I got an email from another goat breeder in Morrill, offering to keep my bucklings for a couple of weeks so she couldn't hear them.  Today, I packed them into the car--my Goatmobile--and off we went.

Young goats are very resilient.  They took the car trip in stride, settled in to their new digs quickly, and didn't bat an eye.  "Hey! This is cool", they seemed to say.  We like adventure!"

Violet and the kids went into the buck pen, now empty, where there was grass and shelter from the sun.  In the morning, Violet was inside the shelter and the kids were curled up outside.  A couple of  hours later, the kids were inside the shelter and Violet was lying outside.  By early afternoon, the kids were at the back of the shelter, and Violet was also inside.  Progress.  All this time I was still going in every 2-3 hours and holding her so they could nurse, because she was still walking away.  I told her, "Violet, if you want to go out to pasture again, you have to be a mother to them. I promise you that if you take care of them, and I can trust you to watch out for them, you can get out of this small enclosure."  I hoped that would encourage her and show her what was at stake.

Tonight, though, oh tonight!  I went out around 10:00 to feed her a bit of Chaffhaye so they could nurse, while I prepared the feeders for the morning milking.  When I'd finished, I walked back to the stall to turn out the light.  There was Violet, standing looking at me, the kids nursing away, and the feeder across the stall.  She looked briefly back at one of them, touched him with her nose, and gazed at me again.  Success!  GOOD Violet!  You just came that much closer to joining the herd again!

Monday, June 17, 2013

New kids

Bella kidded on Saturday, two healthy strong kids.

I don't know where my head was.  I felt her ligaments while she was eating her morning feed and they had completely relaxed.  "Oh," I said aloud, "looks like she'll be going soon.  I'll have to check her later."  Then I completed spaced it out until early afternoon.  Shawn and I were standing near the barn and he was chiding me because I "freak out too easily".  I heard a loud bawl, and took off running toward the barn. "See?" he exclaimed, "there you go again!".  I hollered back over my shoulder, "No, I'm not!  I have a doe ready to kid and I think she just dropped the first one!"  

There in the middle of the communal stall (instead of the nice, clean stall I'd prepared), was a wet, gooey baby.  I ran in, grabbed the kid, and called to Shawn, "I'll be right back!"  Into the house I sprinted, grabbed a towel, and went back outside.  There I laid the kid in the sunny grass and toweled him (for it was a buck) dry, vigorously rubbing, and clearing his nose and mouth of any fluids.  I made note of the time and estimated that the kid had been born at 1:10.  I picked him up and carried him in to my mother, who continued toweling him down while I trotted off to the barn.

I got there just in time to see the second kid being born, completely enclosed in the sack; the water hadn't even broken.  Before Bella gave the final thrust, I broke the sack and water gushed out.  Thank goodness!  Now that baby could start breathing, and none too soon!  A moment later she was on the ground, and I grabbed her and took her away, leaving Bella bemused.

The biggest problem I have with CAE positive does is that I have to remove the kids or chances are they'll contract the disease.  These two kids are not going to have CAE, because they'll never consume infected colostrum or milk, but does love their kids, and it's hard to take them away.

Bella was fine the first day, gave 6 cups of colostrum, which I heat treated to kill the virus, but the next day, the bawling began.  I gave her Ignatia, a homeopathic remedy that's very good for grief, but she still bawled herself hoarse.  By the end of the day, she sounded like one of my neighbor's cows.  Today she's better, but still blubbering a bit.  Though she never really saw and bonded with those kids, at some level she still knows they're missing.