What a weekend we have had! Best of all, I received an amazing Mother’s Day gift–the opportunity to witness the miracle of birth!
I have decided to go into great detail here, partly because I know of a few folks who want details, but mostly because this will serve as my journal record for future reference. Sorry, but the rest of you can just peruse the photos and other ridiculously graphic images (don’t say you weren’t forewarned!) and ignore all the details!
The most interesting part of the weekend started Saturday morning. When I went out to milk Lilac, I noticed Sara was looking physically different and acting different as well. Knowing she was due to kid this coming week, I suspected she was in early labor. One of the first things I noticed was that she was walking funny. The best way to describe it is she was walking like her feet and legs were really sore, and moved with a somewhat jerky, sensitive-foot gait. I started watching, and began to see other signs.
Sara seemed restless and uncomfortable, standing up, then laying down, standing up, pawing, etc. It wasn't extreme at this point, but considering the fact that she is so timid she normally won't lay down when people are around, this was unusual for her.
By mid-afternoon, she did this a bit more. She would be laying down, then stand up on her hind end only, shift around somehow, then lay back down.
Her udder was swollen to about 3x where it was a week ago, and her, umm, hind end was soft-looking and puffy, as well as pinker than I had noticed previously.
According to everything I had read, I knew true labor could be hours or days away yet, but I officially declared myself on “baby-watch.” I went in the house, and began to assemble a kidding bag of very basic supplies, and I reviewed my books and videos of goat births so I would have a clue what to expect. Then, I made a point to check on her every 1 to 2 hours.
Now, before I go any farther in this post, I want to explain something about our belief system. We believe fairly firmly that God gave animals an instinct to take care of themselves and their babies a specific way. If it doesn’t happen the way He designed, then there is a good chance that animal (or it’s baby) won’t survive to pass on it’s genetics. It is the process of natural selection, and that process allows for the healthiest and hardiest of animals. Our ultimate goal for Red Gate Farm is animals that are hardy and fairly independent and low-maintenance. We plan to cull anything that proves otherwise (probably as meat, so no one else can breed and pass on poor genetics either). At the same time, however, until I got married, I was headed to vet school. I wanted to help and save lives. When it came to studying goat births, it seemed like only the “crazy naturalist” folks believed in this concept of culling and/or allowing natural selection to take place. Almost every video I watched involved someone pulling the kids out of the doe–be it because the babies were stuck (which should justify culling but for most, they seemed to re-breed year after year) or just because they felt they should speed labor along. I have tried to find a compromise, to which S holds me accountable. I will involve myself minimally if necessary, but will cull quickly if necessary too. In Sara’s case, I was determined to try to stay out of her kidding process. I did, however, want to watch and observe to make sure she came through it OK.
So, I had a long night. I slept in my clothes, and managed to wake myself every 2-4 hours to go check on Sara. At 6 am this morning, I went out, and she was still restless, and I noticed a small amount of white gooey discharge, but otherwise, she seemed no different. By 8 am, I went out to find her actually having contractions (I could see her sides heaving with the muscles tightening.) I notified S, and he got JR and M ready so they could come join me to watch. I grabbed my bag, still not knowing if it would be minutes or hours. She never would lay down, and pawing was minimal, but she tucked herself into her favorite corner and just shifted around constantly. At 9:30, it looked like her contractions intensified (though still nothing like the videos I saw), and she began stretching her back up. I assume this was to get the baby in position. At 9:45, she gave us this view:
You can just see the tip of a hoof, still enclosed in the amniotic sac-bubble. By the way, that is a chicken supervising.
About 5 minutes later, we got this view:
You can see the bubble growing as it comes out.
Everything I had read stated that once you see the bubble, a baby should generally be on the ground in 20-30 minutes. So, when we first saw it, I began watching my clock. By 10:15, I realized that she was not progressing. I began to watch closely for signs. I tried to examine her and the bubble more closely, but she wouldn’t let me, and S wasn’t available. I had no choice but try to observe from a distance. Finally, I got a better view during one of her pushes, and I could see that the baby was perfectly positioned in the “diving” position. I was also surprised to see that its foot would move a little, its mouth would open and close, and its tongue, as best I could tell, was pink. Based on my reading, I assumed these were all good signs, so I decided to give her a while longer. By 10:30, we were nearing the one hour mark, and she just couldn’t seem to get it out any farther. I continued monitoring the baby, and Sara wasn’t acting overly stressed, she wasn’t making any noises (unlike some videos I saw), and she never once laid down (so I assumed she wasn’t too exhausted). I gave S the heads up though that she might be having trouble. At 10:45, we hit 1 hour, so I decided I would either be watching the process of natural selection occur as the baby died, or I would have to help, and cull later. I decided on the latter option. I called S to hold Sara so I could approach her hind end, and I gloved up. JR caught the rest on video:
To summarize, I pulled baby just like the books and videos had instructed. It wasn’t that easy though. First, I popped the sac, but then realized one of the legs had completely disappeared. Slime and goo were everywhere, so first I got rid of that. I reached in a few inches, confident I had seen that foot a dozen times, but all I could find was the nose and mouth. Finally, she had a contraction, and it shoved the 2nd foot forward. I grabbed it, and pulled both. It quickly became obvious that the problem was the baby’s massive head. It was stuck! For a moment, I feared I would rip that poor momma apart! I worked for just a second, though, and finally, once I got the head through, the rest of the baby slid out–around 11:00 am. It quickly showed to be a perfect little white (dad is Saneen) buckling with LaMancha-type ears.
Just a side note: Sara did not read all those books I studied, and did not follow the rules of active labor at all! She never had visible major contractions, never showed “stringing,” her udder never pulled so tight as to shine (not that I could have told through all that hair anyway!), and very interestingly, never went off by herself. In fact, at one point, I tried to clear the stall of other animals, but as soon as we attempted to take Lilac out, Sara half-panicked. It was clear she found comfort in Lilac’s presence, so we left things alone and just watched.
Now I haven’t been around any brand new baby goats, but my instinct told me this little boy was massive! He wasn’t getting out of there on his own and live through it! I quickly wiped his nose and mouth off, and we shooed everyone out and sat at a distance to observe more. Over the next hour, we watched as the little buckling learned to stand, found his way to the teats, and tried nursing. Sara gave him a hard time at first, as she was a bit overzealous about cleaning him. She wouldn’t stand still while he nursed, but rather spun with him as he moved. Otherwise, though she was obviously done laboring, looked distinctly smaller, and seemed very comfortable with her new baby. After about an hour, I finally stepped in (as 1 book had suggested) and prevented her from spinning while he latched on. Once he got it, and she realized she could still clean him, she seemed content to let him nurse.
I had delivered a goat, watched him stand, and watched him suckle. Sara seemed happy and content, so I finally left about 11:30 to go jump in the shower. It was Mother’s Day, and S wanted to take us out for lunch. At 12:15, I ran out to check on Sara and the baby one last time before we left. You can imagine my surprise when I discovered a new, just born, still slimy, little doeling laying in puddle of amniotic fluid and birth goo. She was white like her brother, but had long, Saneen ears like her father. I quickly realized that Sara was so intent on still cleaning her little buck that she was totally ignoring the little girl. The new baby was very tiny, shivering, and seemed very weak. I instantly ran for my bag of towels, got her dried off a bit, wrapped her in fresh towels to warm her, and put her up to Sara’s udder in the hopes she would drink. She was very weak, but I finally got a few swallows down her. Once she started nursing, Sara turned around and started to clean her. At that point, she took more interest. Thankfully, at the same time, the little buckling decided to go explore Aunt Lilac, leaving Sara and the doeling for a spell. I stepped away, and after a few minutes, the baby stopped shivering, and proceeded to try to stand. When she seemed to be doing OK, we left.
So, that is my goat story. As it turned out, the buckling is around 8.2 pounds, while the doeling is about 5.6 pounds. He is all meat, and she is all bone. I have yet to be able to witness her nurse, though. I have tried to put her to the udder several times, but she shows no interest. At the same time, though, she has been walking around all over the pen with mom and brother. While she seems weaker than the buck overall, she seems to be OK, so I can only hope she is nursing when I am not looking. The 2 babies (dubbed “Lilly” and “DayJay” (yes, there is a story there)) and mom were all curled up for bed on last inspection, so I can only hope that she will last the night. My vet-tech experience taught me that the first 24-48 hours are the most critical for babies, so we will see.
I couldn’t believe how quickly they start playing! This little buckling is a riot! Although, in addition to stealing a good bit of mom’s colostrum before she birthed Lilly, as the day wore on, he also managed to steal half of my evening’s milk from Lilac–the little stinker!
Here are a few more videos for your enjoyment.
Now, I have already been fussed at by one goat-dairy owner for allowing Sara to go so long before pulling the baby. I confess, I still struggle with the idea of allowing nature to take its course at times. My husband is much more practical and realistic than I, and keeps me under control in that area. This was my first time, after all, and I am sure I made lots of mistakes. However, do me a big favor, and if you feel the need to inform me of a mistake, please also give me a good reason for your preference. The best the lady today could come up with was “wouldn’t you want someone to help you through labor faster?” (Considering my labor was around 72 hours by choice, I was the wrong person to ask this question to! LOL!) I would like to learn of other ways to handle similiar complicated situations, but only if you have a good basis for it.
Just for the record, I was considering culling Sara next year anyway, but after today’s stuck baby, having to assist with milking, and then having to assist the little doeling, we are planning to cull Sara after her milking season is over. I just need to find a replacement for milk next year first. I won’t say definitely, as who knows what the future holds, but that is the plan for now. We do support breeding “up” for improvement, and breeding responsibly. This may be our first test.
Thanks, and hope you enjoyed the nitty-gritty photos and details!