Friday, March 29, 2013

It's Been A Whirlwind!

Muffin gets lunch!
Happy Easter to everyone!  I'm finding it really hard to believe that April is almost upon us!  Perhaps that has something to do with the freezing temperatures and three feet of snow outside!  This time last year the snow was completely gone and buds were swelling!  It's been such a loooooooong winter this year; it seems hard to get excited about Spring because it still seems so far away!

March is a bit of a blur for me.  So much happened, so fast and I feel rather like I stumbled through the whole thing.  We've both been sick, we've both gotten some work off the farm, we've been dealing with a predator in the chicken coop and we've had a passel of baby goats!  I have vague memories of cold nights in the barn with the goats, finding murdered chickens in the coop, studying for a new job, sneaking around the house while Farmer Man sleeps after working a night shift, trying to find the energy to get groceries and coughing and sniffling during every event!

The end result is that we have six beautiful baby goats: five girls and a boy!  Mabel had triplets first, on March 9.  She produced a boy, Monkey and two little girls, Mink and Muffin.  If you follow this blog, you remember last year she rejected them completely and her kids were bottle babies.  This year she was more accepting and cleaned them up, but could not seem to feed them.  It was also very cold the night they were born (-25 C) so eventually they came into the house and became bottle babies.  Once again, I was so thankful for my Henry Milker, so light and portable, with clean milk ready to use.  Farmer Man was at work, so it proved to be a long, stressful and tiring night for me!  And, admittedly, we weren't as organized as we could have been because we thought we were at least a week away from having babies.

So imagine my surprise when I go to the barn to refresh waters the very next day and hear the wee cry of a baby goat!  Sixteen hours after Mabel, Choco produced the cutest little dark brown baby girl, Coco Chanel!  Everything was going well with these two; Farmer Man set up a heat lamp, we helped clean up and put a little coat on the baby and mother and kid were bonding and feeding very nicely in a short time.  We didn't think Choco was even near her due date: she didn't look very pregnant, she'd been very placid and hadn't exhibited any signs of nesting.  Last year, she was the last to have babies, fully a month after the first birth, so we assumed she had resisted Randi's advances again.  It being a weekend, I was around and continued to do hourly checks.  It was still very cold outside, so we wanted to make sure the new mommy and baby were taking advantage of the heat lamp, mommy was getting lots of water (the water was freezing quickly, and needed replacement often).

Early evening, as I went to check on things I found Goldie in the throes of birth.  One baby was already out on the straw and she was obviously working on a second.  Fortunately Farmer Man was home and he worked on getting a second heat lamp installed in an 'adlib' birthing suite for Goldie and her babies.  We helped clean up and dry off the babies and got everyone in the warmth of the new birthing suite.  Goldie had two girls: a lovely, almost ivory coloured kid we've named Ghost and a little chocolate brown girl named Giggles.

Whew, all our babies within twenty four hours and freezing cold temperatures.  It was worrisome.  The babies in the house were doing fine, Mabel was getting back in the groove of being milked but she wasn't producing enough for triplets and we didn't feel we could take away from the other new mommas right at this time.  Thank heaven for frozen milk!  We had frozen a LOT of milk while continuing to milk into the fall, long after last years' babies were weaned.  It was intended for soap, first and foremost, but also for our use through the winter.  We really hadn't thought about a stash for this years' babies!  The thing about frozen milk is that it separates and clumps, so feeding time became a little long as we had to warm the milk enough to 'melt' the clumps in it; some of it I've also had to put in the blender to re-liquefy so that it would go through the bottles smoothly and not clog the nipple.

By Monday morning, Farmer Man, on an hourly check, realized something was wrong with Goldie.  She didn't want to get up and was very lethargic; the babies weren't getting fed.  By an early afternoon check, Ghost was lethargic and shivering.  Into the house she came!  Farmer Man was worried enough to call me at work and I raced home as soon as I could.  The little girl was very still and weak: Farmer Man had prepared a bottle and would get it in her mouth and squirt a bit, trying to get her to swallow.  He went off to work and I continued this into the evening.  On a check, Giggles seemed to be fading, so into the house she came, too!  Now five to bottle feed - thank heavens for the frozen milk.  Thank heavens, too, for pals Nancy and Deb, who came to help feed (and to play with baby goats!).  The twins rebounded, a huge improvement in just twenty four hours of consistent feeding!  We tried milking Goldie, but she was producing hardly anything.  She continued to be lethargic the next day so we called our vet, Dr. Sherry of Wheat City Vet Clinic.

Dr. Sherry's visit was not good news, but at least we knew what to do.  Goldie had a high fever and an infection of some sort and possibly mastitis.  There was no benefit to waiting to diagnose mastitis - she had to be treated promptly!  So, we added to the routine two shots and a teat drench.  Mabel, too, had a bit of fever and lethargy so she was included in the treatment plan.  I was squeamish about giving needles so Farmer Man stepped up to the plate on that one!  I did the teat drench - which is kind of like putting a blunt needle into the teat and pumping in medicine.  Goldie's milk production dropped to nothing, and will likely not return - a huge loss for us not only in terms of feeding babies, but also for soap production this coming year.  But, what counts is that everyone seems much improved and all the babies are doing well!  Here's to hoping that April calms down!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Box of Baby Goats....

Farmer Man and I have been very sick.  February was the month of a respiratory viral infection, and we're still not right.  Neither of us have been this sick in years!  Of course, on a farm, there are still chores to be done: someone had to drag themselves out of bed to feed and water chickens and goats.  Doggies still needed to go outside occasionally.  So, somehow, I missed the signs.  We knew our three Mamma goats were going to have babies soon; by our calculations mid-March would be the earliest.  Imagine my surprise when I was hauling water up yesterday afternoon and heard the thin, light cry of a baby goat.

A goat's gestation period is five months.  By our calculations, based on when we put Randi in with the girls, March 16th should have been the earliest possible due date.  There's, you know, a courting period, the females have to actually go into heat which is often brought on by being with a male in rut.  Well, Mabel must have gone into heat in a flash because yesterday afternoon she presented us with triplets!  All girls, we think, but we've been wrong before so we're giving it a day or two.

I knew Mabel and Goldie were getting close.  The babies had dropped, giving the females an indentation high on their hips.  I'd been checking for the mucous plug that indicates the start of birth but had missed that sign.  Everything seemed fine late morning when I checked on them on my way to collect eggs.  Mabel didn't appear to be 'nesting' or pawing the straw or any other signs.  Admittedly, I wasn't there very long.

So, I arrived yesterday afternoon to find one wee baby goat.  I dashed up to the house, called for Farmer Man and grabbed a few things.  I wasn't as organized yet as I could be, thinking I had another week to prepare.  A second baby was coming as I got back to the barn.  The lovely thing was Mabel was accepting them this time and was working to clean up the first one.  Last year she had triplets and then retreated to a corner of the pen and would have nothing to do with them.  When she became distracted by the arrival of the second baby, I continue to clean up and dry off the first.  We are having babies earlier this year, when it's colder, and we're very conscious of that.  The first thing Farmer Man did when he arrived on the scene was to close the barn doors, so that drafts were at a minimum.  Then he got the heat lamp out and installed.

The third baby arrived quite promptly and Mabel and I worked to clean and dry them all.  Then I started showing them where to feed, hoping Mother Nature would kick in.  The babies just didn't seem to get it; only one showed a natural inclination but couldn't quite figure out which end.  The other two seemed to have no idea of why I was standing them up and placing them at their mother's udder.  Mabel didn't seem to get it either and kept walking away, returning to clean and muzzle them.  Time went by and I felt that these little ones really needed to eat.  Out came the Henry Milker and I milked Mabel - not ideal, clean conditions but I felt it needed to be done.  Trying to bottle feed the wee things right there in the pen was it's own challenge, but I got a little bit of colostrum (the initial momma's milk, full of antibodies and good things) into each one.  I kept trying to show them where to feed, and Mabel kept walking away or putting up her leg like she was going to kick.

Even with the heat lamp, the babies were shivering so I went and got some little doggie sweaters my dogs had outgrown.  I kept trying to show them where to feed but nobody was getting it!  After about three hours, one of the babies seemed to be getting weak and was shivering consistently so up to the house into a big cardboard box.  I milked Mabel a bit more and went up to the house to feed the little kid.  I was hoping I'd return to find the other two feeding but slowly, over the next hour, all three ended up in the house getting bottle fed.  We'd really hoped not to have the responsibility of bottle feeding triplets this year but you can't always get what you want, right?