I shot six goats the other night. No, honestly! Selenium/Vit. E (or BO-SE) and Tetanus Toxoid vaccine. Just another thing that must be done to prepare does for kidding season. Even though the five months of caprine gestation are rapidly passing, I'm getting a little impatient.
Why in the world should I be impatient for kidding season? That time of year means getting up every 4-6 hrs and going out into the nasty cold to either check mamas or feed kids. You lose sleep, patience, and use the washing machine twice as much for really dirty towels, overalls, etc. You have to milk twice a day in the cold, give shots, make sure everybody is eating, and keep an eye out for infections that can claim your does. You can't go anywhere without leaving somebody at home to watch for labor, and and enjoy a good dose of panic when babies become tangled during delivery. Who would want to go through all that trouble?
While it is true that kidding is a lot of work for the caregivers as well as the does, I consider it the biggest highlight of caprine husbandry. There is nothing like pressing a hand upon your doe's swollen belly to be rewarded with a kick. I remember one of my biggest surprises came one day when I was "goat-gazing". Watching the activity of heavy enormous does, I was stunned to see the shape of a tiny hoof suddenly protrude from the side of Caprina. That was awesome!
There is nothing like soothing the anxious panicking young doe whose eyes and maa's plead with you to 'get it over' or the calm older doe who is mildly annoyed by all these people staring when she can birth her kids just fine on her own. The joy of pulling wet, sticky, bloody kids out into the world, suctioning little noses, hearing tiny coughs and bleats, rubbing shivering bodies, clamping streaming cords, is unsurpassed. Not to mention the beauty of watching the mother lick membranes and slime from her impatient offspring already trying to rise.
These little guys are on the move even before they are born! I'll never forget Caprina's first delivery. She had just passed the head of her enormous firstborn when she abruptly decided to stop pushing. Just like that, she got up and started walking around with her half-born buck's head looking around and bleating. It was hilarious in retrospect; at the time I didn't know what to think. As soon as the kids are born, they seem to think that it is their responsibility to instantly learn to run away. They crawl, they attempt to stand, they fall, they pick themselves up again. Within an hour of birth most can stand and walk quite well. With in a day, kids are literally "bouncing off the walls".
And did I mention that they are LOUD? My goodness, can they scream! Especially when they hear human voices and think it is milk time. And the does yell back.
Probably the icky-est job of kidding time, is cleaning up and milking out the mom. She's usually both exhausted from labor and fascinated with her kids, so dragging her away from the darlings up to the milking stand is hard work. Then comes the task of washing her swollen udder and coat of all the sticky reddish fluid that clings to the hair and skin. This project is even more difficult if you've forgotten to shave long hair before parturition.
Most does don't appreciate the first milking of the year. They are often jittery and jumpy. This is especially true of yearlings. Year old first time mothers can be a NIGHTMARE to milk, kicking and jumping, spilling their offspring's precious nourishment.
What makes the first milking particularly stressful is the realization that, despite kicking and jumping, you must obtain the colostrum quickly. If the kids aren't fed within a few hours following birth, their chances of survival are slim. If mother goat spills her colostrum, that is it. There is often nothing more (unless you have saved some of the thick yellow milk from another doe). And after milking, it takes a whole 60 minutes to heat treat the milk before the colostrum can be fed to the kids.
That's just a sample of the trials of kidding time. More later as the season approaches.
Currently we have four pregnant does and three others possibly carrying kids. The first four are due March 18, 19, and 21. Unfortunately, these dates fall on (guess what!) Holy Week!
NOOOOOO......! This will mean that our family will often be unable to attend services that week. Rats!
Here are a few pictures of last year's kids.
(Eleanor of Aquitaine (Nora) is actually from spring 2005. She and her brother (John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster) are the only ones we have ever failed to disbud. Note the horns.)