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?