BABY GOATS! After 5 months of eager anticipation (the last 2 months of which were even more eager once we stopped milking in late January and instantly began missing fresh cheese), we have beautiful baby goaters!
Tisl birthed first, 48 hours later than her technical due date. She was stealth-preggers, barely showing any baby bulge right up to birthing. I expected only 1 kid out of her. But she produced 2 beautiful kids. I had just checked on her that morning- she had gone off feed the day before and I knew she was close. She looked birthy, the kids were sitting low in her body, but wasn’t in obvious labor at the time.
Late afternoon rolled around and I was on the upstairs deck of the greenhouse photographing new inventory to list on Etsy. In the distance I heard a long, low, garbled moan. It was coming from the barn. I stopped and listened to it, assuming I was hearing the complaining of a pig fighting for a spot at the feed trough, expecting the moan to escalate and climax into an angry pig squeal- but instead it trailed off into a throaty yell. That was a goat, not a pig. That was a girl goat! BABIES!
I grabbed the camera and suited up. It might have been close to 80º in the upstairs greenhouse, but it was barely 35º outside. I trotted down to the barn. Ruma was at the top of hay deck stairs, chowing on hay. She acknowledged me briefly and continued stuffing her face. I went down into the barn area (which is underground on 2 sides) and found Tisl in the back of the barn in a fluffy hay nest, licking off a fresh little goat. Yeeee!
After a few minutes of fussing with her new kid, she laid back down and began pushing again. Two little hooves appeared from her vulva. She was tired and moaning with each push. I assume her first kid, which was a huge baby boy, was difficult for her. I leaned in and grabbed the tiny hooves, then on her next push I gave a gentle pull. On her third push the kid slid out, accompanied by all of the glorious goo of birth. Tisl immediately set to licking her new daughter and freeing her of the womb-jelly that clung to her.
I stayed with the trio for a good long while and made sure all was well. With the kids clean, dry, and up on their feet nursing, I could excuse myself for a bit and continue working. Good job, Tisl!
I wasn’t sure what to expect from Ruma. That day was her theoretical due date. She was 3-goats-wide and still cramming food into her face like normal. I didn’t expect anything from her for another day or two considering she wasn’t off feed and she bred two days later than Tisl.
That evening and around midnight I ran to the barn to check on the new arrivals to make sure they weren’t getting cold. Once they dry off and fluff up they’re good to go, but when they’re still wet (from birth or from obsessively licking mamas) the cold is dangerous. All was well. Ruma was perky, alert, and… still eating. I allowed myself to get some sleep but woke up around 5-5:30, I had to get down to the barn to check again. The night was cold, probably in the 20’s over at the barn. The animal’s area is usually 10-20º warmer being underground and having warm bodies in it, but I still worried about those tiny new kids.
Upon inspection, Tisl and her kids were comfortable and warm. Ruma, however, was in the opposite corner of the barn making slapping noises. I checked on her to find her licking up a puddle of fresh goo. New baby on the way! Talk about timing!
I sat with Ruma for about 2 hours. She circled and squatted and pushed, then circled and sniffed in confusion, nickering quietly to the kid she had hoped would be there. She would squat, push, then immediately turn around and look for a baby again. Over and over and over. She would come to me and lick me experimentally, “Are you my baby?“. She would do likewise to the headlamp illuminating the affair, nuzzling it in hopes of it being her new baby.
After 2 hours I was falling asleep. And I thought it was a bit odd that so much time had passed. But then, I’ve never actually been able to be present for the birth from the beginning. My does have always just surprised me by multiplying themselves inconspicuously in the middle of the day. Humans can be in labor for a very long time, maybe goats could too… I wasn’t sure, but I felt uneasy. I stumbled back home and crawled into bed. It was now 7:30. Andy took the next shift, sitting with her for about an hour. Around 8:30 he came back and rousted me. He said he was worried about Ruma. She was laying down and pushing. She was moaning and panting and looked exhausted. He said all she was pushing out was a small, dark, round “sack” that felt like a bone.
Woah– that was an unsettling description!
We ate a speedy breakfast whilst I did some quick internet research and tried to be awake. I pulled out my “Where There Is No Animal Doctor” book and refreshed my memory on what to do for breeched babies. We gathered our supplies, I washed my hands and arms thoroughly, and we rushed back down to the barn.
Indeed, Ruma was miserable. Moaning and yelling and panting with each contraction, pushing as hard as she could but nothing was protruding from her vulva. I gave a preliminary feel with a few fingers- yeah, it was a small round bit of baby goat that felt like a bone. With profuse apologies to Ruma I eased my hand in. Once I got passed my thumb knuckle it was smooth sailing (at least for me- poor Ruma now had to deal with another obstruction in her pelvis!).
This is the first time I’ve had to intervene with a birth. It took me a few minutes to figure out what was going on by feel. The task was more difficult considering Ruma was doing her best to try and push my arm out along with the babies. The first kid in line had its head buckled forward and tucked against its brisket. One of its legs was pointed backward and the other was folded and pointing forward. That bony round thing protruding from her had been its front knee. Its head was stuck under her pelvic bone and the kid couldn’t progress any further. To make matters worse, another kid had moved in beside it and the two were creating a traffic jam in her birth canal.
It probably took 30 minutes of increasingly frantic efforts to correctly position the first kid’s head and leg in the birth canal. To pull its head upright initially I had to break its goo sack open. From what I remembered reading, that meant the kid now needed to breathe air. That’s a little hard to do inside a womb! So with each failed attempt to get it into the birth canal with its chin upright and front leg unfolded (which were extremely difficult to do simultaneously with one hand in a slimy, cramped womb), I held the kid’s face up and opened the birth canal up with my arm to let it breathe. Each twitch and gasp from the kid soothed my fears about whether or not it was alive. After a moment of letting it breathe I had to plunge it back into the womb again, and once again push kid #2’s goo-bubble even farther back to prevent them from both trying to leave at the same time.
Each failed attempt to get the kid #1’s head and leg out at the same time left Ruma screaming harder, me swearing more, and Andy trying his best to soothe both of us and to not yell “Just grab it and PULL, Jen!“
My mind was racing through nightmare scenarios. I wondered if we were going to have to cut the kid up in the womb just to save Ruma. Were the other kids alive? I hoped feverishly that all my unfolding and tugging on this tiny body hadn’t injured it any. What if something went wrong and Ruma’s uterus was punctured by the kid’s contorted body and hooves and she began hemorrhaging?! Could we get the kids out in time and keep her from bleeding out? Every new scenario had my brain speeding after solutions and preparing me for the increasingly-terrible ‘worst case scenario’.
Finally, somewhat desperate, I pushed the kids back farther than I had yet, plunging tricep-deep into poor Ruma’s uterus. Frankly I’m amazed it was that deep! If I hadn’t been desperate I wouldn’t have dared push that far in! With more room than I’d had yet, I was able to really push kid #2’s bubble back and get kid #1’s front hoof locked in my fingers next to the nose, with a good hook around the back of the head and give the kid one last guided pull back to the birth canal. I couldn’t actually pull the kid by the head into the birth canal, there was enough room for my hand and the kid’s head together. So all I could do was get the nose as far as I could and use that front hoof to pull it forward before the head folded up again.
A hoof popped out of the vulva as I pulled my hand out. Good! I got at least 1 needed body part out. I held the tiny hoof with my dry hand to keep it from disappearing and felt around with my wet hand- A NOSE! YES! We were in the clear! A hoof and a nose are all we needed!
At this point Ruma was done pushing. The poor girl was so exhausted. Andy and I fully expected the kid to be dead at this point. I don’t know how long it took but it felt like we’d been in this battle for hours. To coax Ruma to keep pushing, I had to rudely re-insert my hand. I felt bad, but this kid needed to come out! The discomfort worked, and she screamed at me and tried to push my fingers out. The hoof turned into a hoof-and-a-nose, then a leg-and-a-head. Then… A leg and a head and a giant sack of goo?!
The second kid had come back down the birth canal. Ruma was pushing in earnest and now the first kid was jammed in her poor abused vulva beside a bulging sack of fluid. Crap! I held tension on the first kid’s hoof and frantically began pushing the fluid sack (forgive my lack of terminology here) of the second kid back in, all inbetween each of Ruma’s desperate pushes. After a brief scary moment of both kid and sack being lodged side-by-side, stretching her vulva impossibly wide, the sack gave way backwards and slid back into the birth canal and the kid slid out onto the hay.
I held my breath, readying myself for a dead kid. Then it gasped and sputtered and kicked! “It’s alive!” I couldn’t help but exclaim it to Andy (who had been holding and comforting Ruma during the ordeal), even though he could plainly see, “Hurry, dry it off with the towel so she doesn’t have to get up!“
Andy rushed to the kid and slopped the goo off it with some fresh towels we had brought with us. He positioned the kid in front of Ruma’s nose so she didn’t need to stand up to lick it. She did so from her laying position while she continued to push the too-eager kid #2 out. Within 60 seconds that second kid was on the ground. A huge baby boy. Poor Ruma!
We did likewise for her second kid; cleaned it and dried it and presented it to her for licks. Ruma did not get up. She laid panting and licking her kids and talking to them (or swearing at us, hard to say).
“She still looks huge…” I said to Andy. We both wagered she wasn’t finished…
After just a few minutes of rest with her well-earned kids, Ruma began pushing again in earnest. After a momentary struggle, a third kid came shooting out butt-first. We removed its goo-sack and toweled it off quick as we could and once again presented it to Ruma.
Able to relax somewhat, I took stock of the situation. She was bleeding slightly, but I wasn’t surprised. It wasn’t an amount that concerned me considering her ordeal. I knew I’d have to douche her thoroughly. I began making a mental list of herbs I have on-hand for uterine healing and infection and hemorrhaging. After a few minutes of fussing with her children, Ruma stood up. She still had some strings of… I’m-not-really-sure-what hanging out of her. I prepped myself for a possible 4th kid.
We stayed with her for about an hour. She kind of looked like she might have another kid in there, but she wasn’t pushing. I was ready to wash up and hydrate, so we popped back home for a bit and left mama and kids to their bonding. Once home, the trauma of the ordeal set in a little bit. It was pretty intense, not knowing if we were going to lose the kids, or even Ruma. Poor Ruma screaming at me whilst I try to fish a folded up kid- who may or may not be alive- out of her. Not the kind of morning I expected. And consequently, my Etsy shipments scheduled for that morning were delayed an extra day…
I washed thoroughly and sat down to stare at the wall for a bit. The phone rang. It was a sheep-farming friend I had called that morning before the ordeal. I had called her, after Andy came back around 8:30, to inquire about how long a doe or ewe could labor before producing a kid (oddly I couldn’t find this information on the internet). She asked how the birth ended up. I filled her in on the details. She told me that most of her ewes had just finished lambing. One of the last ewes had almost the same problem- a lamb whose head was folded backwards, its body bent like a horseshoe. She said they tried and tried to unfold this lamb but couldn’t get it out of the womb in the right position. Fearing they would lose the ewe, they opted to kill the lamb and cut it up to remove it. The ewe successfully delivered the second lamb, a healthy little ram lamb. She dosed her ewe with electrolytes, a B-vitamin shot, and a preventative antibiotic. 3 hours later the ewe went into shock and died. Now she’s bottle feeding a ram lamb.
The story reinforced the urgency to tend to Ruma’s health. We kept our conversation short. I put some horsetail, avens, and usnea tea on the stove with a bit of mint for a soothing/cooling effect and also palatability. I rounded up the largest syringe I had and a livestock stomach-feeding-tube. While waiting for the tea to steep, I brought a gallon of warm water spiked with vinegar and liquid B-complex vitamins along with dried horsetail and dried avens herb down to the barn. I had been less than an hour since the last kid was born.
Ruma sucked the vitamin water down and nibbled a bit of the horsetail and avens, but she was very dazed. She was fading in and out of reality a bit, staring off into the distance and swaying, then coming-to and licking her kids, then zoning out again. I brought her some grain. She munched excitedly for only a moment then zoned out again. I watched her with concern. She began trembling. “Okay, she might be cold, her back end is wet and bloody, she’s probably in pain, some shaking is okay.” Her trembling spread from her torso throughout her body until her head started shaking- not good. Within moments she began swaying heavily from side to side, threatening to fall over.
I’ve been in shock before, and I know that, at least for me, physically moving the body around can help prevent it from taking hold. I took Ruma by the collar and coaxed her into walking. We walked around in small circuits through the barn. I talked to her, she talked to her kids. I kept her on her feet and moving for several minutes. When we stopped her shaking had stopped. Alright- now she just needed to stay stable until I could come back with the tea.
I ran home and prepped my remedies. I had a small bucket of strong tea with more B vitamins and vinegar in it, as well as a quart of tea for douching with the syringe and feed tube. When I got back to the barn Ruma was still looking good. She was nibbling half-heartedly on food and was somewhat alert. She sucked the tea down, drinking about half of it. I slightly cursed at myself for offering her the first round of vitamin water, because now she wouldn’t have the thirst for all this tea! No matter, Tisl polished it off and her uterus needs some TLC, too. I offered grain to Ruma again and this time she plunged into it with more of a normal gusto. I took the opportunity to slide the feed tube into her vulva and blast it out real good with the syringe full of antiseptic herb tea. She didn’t seem to mind too much, I’m sure her body had numbed most of the region. With each go ’round, tea gushed back out of her and trickled down her udder, cleaning the blood away (and also tickling her, this poor goat is so ticklish). I flushed a pint through her before she caught on to what I was up to and started to dance around and kick.
I sat with the goats for a good long while. Ruma looked good. She was alert. I put hay in the feeder and she went at it with enthusiasm. She had the tiniest trickle of blood-tinged fluid weeping from her vulva, but no apparent severe hemorrhaging. Satisfied, I went back home to start the next batch of tea.
I made the next tea with horsetail, avens, usnea, and basil. I’m out of holy basil, unfortunately, but I have ample sweet culinary basil which works well too. Basil is a nervine as well as antiseptic. I would have put it in the first batch but I hadn’t thought of it in my brain-scrambled state. I once again made a small bucket of strong tea and a quart of douching tea. I visited the barn once more and Ruma sucked down nearly half a gallon of the basil tea. Tisl fought valiantly for a share of it. They really seem to love basil tea! I flushed Ruma out a few more times. Her energy levels were good, she was spunky and fighting for first dibs on tea and grain in her usual manner. Her kids looked great. Kid #1, a doeling, was slow to get on her feet and seemed more exhausted than the others, but she looked great. I felt sorry for her, surely her little front legs were sore, surely her head was sore from me trying to pry her out of the two-kid pile-up.
By that evening, the small trickle of blood had ceased from Ruma’s vulva and she remained clean and dry. It looked inflamed and bruised, but otherwise okay. Thankfully it was an unreasonably warm day in the 40’s, followed by an unrealistically warm night in the 40’s. Her kids were thoroughly dry by nightfall and I had little reason to worry about them chilling. The barn was plenty warm for them, especially all snuggled up in a big kid-ball.
The next day was yet another ridiculously warm day of almost 50º. Woah! Forget the hat and coat, time to visit the barn in a t-shirt!
Ruma had me a bit worried with a milky-white runny discharge from her vulva. I tried to douche her again but she wouldn’t have it, so I settled for soaking and washing her back side in more antiseptic tea, and well as offering more b-vitamin-spiked antibiotic and uterus-healing tea, which she continues to love. Her health otherwise looked great. No, there never was a 4th kid. Just the 3, and that’s fine with me!
We’re just a few days out since the delivery and everyone appears happy and healthy. It will be a week or two before I let my concerns of uterine infection abate, even though her discharge has subsided. I will have Andy hold her still for me so I can flush her out again and make certain we don’t have to deal with complications. Her antibiotic teas will continue as well. The Avens and Horsetail are both great, providing extra fortification and protection for her body and organs.