I thought you may be interested in a glimpse of my evening last night here at Somerset Farm.
I was still waiting on two does to kid. Before bed I checked their rear ends for tell tale signs that something interesting may be about to happen. All safe, bed here I come.
At 10.30pm a ferocious wind came up. I could hear things banging and rattling around so I got up to secure outdoor chairs and the kidding pen door. Suddenly I heard a goat yelling in pain. A quick check and yes my biggest ‘fatty’ was missing. She was way down the back corner of the paddock in labour.
My torch picked up another movement down by her. It was a fox waiting to snatch the newborn, if it hadn’t already taken one. I ran down there but couldn’t see evidence of a previous birth, so Foxy was outa luck.
Why the hell do all these goats insist on giving birth in the dirtiest patch of ground they can find? She needed help. In my PJ’s I dropped down into the dirt with her and went exploring with my hand. The kid was stuck in her pelvis. I didn’t have time to get my birthing kit with restraints, gloves etc. Fortunately when you insert a hand into the doe she drops down on the ground and doesn’t try to get away. I had no choice but to help pull the baby out. Poor darling, it must have hurt like hell, she was bellowing, but once we had the baby out she was off like a rocket; she sure didn’t want anything to do with me. So I am sitting in what was now amniotic wet dirt, covered in fluids, mucus and blood, trying to clear baby’s mouth and nose with my hand. Then with the slimy baby clutched to my chest I am running after mum trying to show her the baby so she could lick and bond with it. This is all done with just a torch.
I know mum will have a second baby, she was too big not to. Doe #74 finally realised the mewling, wet object was her baby and let me put it down with her. Straight away mum went into her licky, talky, protective mode with the kid. I took the chance the fox had been scared off, I left the torch to give the fox even more thought about its safety and ran up to the house for my birthing kit. Both the doe and kids need an antibiotic injection because of the intervention and risk of infection.
|My birthing kit|
Well we sit there for 30 minutes with the wind raging around us while mum fluffs about the baby and waiting for #2 to arrive. I am getting concerned. Baby is getting a cold mouth and hasn’t stood to have a drink from her mother. She appears to become weaker.
Finally another amniotic sac shows but it keeps disappearing back inside. Peek-a-boo! I think mum was stressed with me there, even though I was sitting a good distance away, she wouldn’t let labour take hold.
Enough!! At this rate the second baby could be still born. I tied her to a tree. Next time the sac plays peek-a-boo the little feet are visible. A bit longer......No, I will have to help a little. Out slides baby #2. This one is stronger.
After 20 more minutes I am really worried about kid #1. She is lying on her side and not attempting to get up. Not good, death lurks. I have to move them to warmth and safety from Foxy Loxy.
Fortunately when I collected the birthing kit I had the forethought to bring my washing basket lined with towels. Both babies were warmly wrapped and put into the basket. The move to the kidding enclosure 250 odd metres away was a slow arduous trek. I had to take five steps put the basket down, shine the torch on it, wiggle the stronger kid so it would make a noise for mum to hear and continue following me. Half way there the mother ran back to where she gave birth, looking for them. Boy was I frustrated. I called Doe #74 a number of choice names.
By this time the alarm was singing on our inverter, telling me I was about to lose solar power to the house. Great! Forget mum for the moment. Put babies in front of the heater, put kettle on for the hot water bottle to try to warm baby #1, she was dying. Ran outside to put the generator on.
Needed to wash my hands of ooey gooey. Damn I had to turn the water back on for the house; we drain the water heater and pipes each night so they don’t freeze and burst in case we hit the minus degrees.
Mean while I have left a trail of blood and goo on everything I have touched, like a scene of carnage. Make what you will of that forensics!
OK, babe #1 now has hot water bottle under her and I’m rubbing her like crazy to keep her alive and she is responding.
It’s time to leave her in front of the heater and find her mother. Baby #2 is the lure. Out we go with dog lead. Mum has at least come back to the half way point. Gently prod baby to ‘talk’. Mum comes running to her. Grab doe #74 by the horn. Horns are the most wonderful handle! Snap the dog lead on her. Five steps put baby down, shine torch on baby. Sometimes mum runs straight to her, other times she is confused and I have to drag her the five steps. By the time we get to the kidding yard I’m exhausted. It is now after midnight.
In the pen I battle, and I do mean battle, with doe #74 to milk off some colostrum. She wants no part of her udder being touched by me or her other baby. She stamps, dances and kicks. Baby #1 needs colostrum desperately. It is the elixir of life. I’m more determined than #74 and get my milk! It was amazing how quickly kid #1 became animated and perked up after her drink.
I went to check on kid #2 and mother to find another bubble sac emerging from mum’s nether region. OMG a third kid and it’s over two hours since the first was born. I had no idea if it would be dead after such a long time between labours and moving the family to the safe kidding area. No wonder mum was not happy. Success a live boy.
Now she is calmer, allowing the babies to suckle. How traumatic all this must have been for her.
Doe #74 = 3. Fox = nil.
Towels! How can there be that many towels? I survey my kitchen at 2am and have bloody, mucusy birth towels everywhere, and ugg my PJ’s are disgusting even though at some point I changed into my jeans, which are just as bad. My heavy jacket will need washing as well. I trudge around; find buckets to soak everything in. Hit bed at 2.09am.
Then at exactly 2.15am that damn Willy Wag Tail decided to sit in the tree outside the house and starts its “Rikka-tikka-tikka-tik’ every 30 seconds. It is like torture. After 15 minutes of trying not to hear its mating call I went out there like the sleep deprived, crazed woman I am and shook every branch I could reach while yelling at it. The Willy Wag Tail departed for a quieter tree.
Willy =0. Kerrie = 1.
As per usual I am awake at 5.30 am to scare crows off, check all babies are accounted for and make sure the last pregnant doe hasn’t decided to go into labour.
All quiet on the Somerset Farm front.
Doe #74 and two of her babies are safe in the pen.
The next morning I notice the boy is standing on his pastern rather than his hoof, probably caused from how he had to share his living quarters for the past five months with his sisters. Cod Liver Oil (Vitamin A) is brilliant for helping with this.
It is littlest #1 I am concerned about; there is something very wrong with her. Her body demeanour suggests perhaps brain damage, or a spinal problem, and then I discover she is blind.
Birth blindness can happen from prolonged difficult labour but usually it’s temporary, rectifying itself within three days. I am hoping this is all it is. Time will tell.
I decided Cod Liver oil is good for the eyes too, so just for good measure (and in desperation) all three kids were given CLO now I stink like rank fish. The smell is awful and will not wash away.
I have become #1’s mother. Even if her mum could feed three kids on our poor native grasses this little one can’t find her mum’s teat. Her mum knows I have her. She can hear her baby ‘talking’ in the kitchen. Just that one night of bonding mother and baby know each other’s voices and can find each other across the paddocks just by calling to one another.
#74 has stationed herself and her other two kids at the back yard fence. She keeps calling to the little one and bellows at me every time I appear; it doesn’t help that #1 calls back to her from the kitchen. Noisy and stressful for all concerned.
I can only imagine how terrifying it would be for an animal to be blind to what is going on around it, sight is their survival. Unlike human babies a kid is fairly independent from the second day, running off to play and explore then catching up with mum for a drink. This little girl needs reassurance I am nearby, so I talk to her a lot.
I won’t name her for the moment. It would be too heartbreaking to do that, becoming too attached, especially if this body demeanour of head hanging turns out to be more than birth blindness. I have saved kids in the past that should not have been saved only to have them die at a young age of whatever complication caused them to be abandoned by their mothers in the first place.
All going well, an appropriate name for #1 will surface as time rolls on.