*WARNING to city folks:  graphic goat-bottom pictures and terms follow!*

Our first kidding of the season is scheduled for next Tuesday, the 10th (or Monday, the 9th, depending on which calculator you use).  However, since I am well aware of the fact that goats tend to not read the goat-raising manuals, and because Lilac is 1/2 Nigerian Dwarf, I know it can potentially happen at any time now. 

Lilac isn’t as big-bellied as I thought she’d be, but in the last week, it has gotten increasingly easy to find baby body parts and feel movement.  Fun, fun!

Last spring, my first time dealing with kidding, was a huge success (I thought).  It was as if Sara was one of the few does that actually read the “Labor and Delivery for Goats” manual.  I caught Sara in the early stages of labor, and was able to monitor her closely.  24 hours later, she delivered, and though she required assistance, the result was 2 healthy kids.  Sara was almost by the book.  24 hours prior, she was acting funny, her ligaments vanished, her vulva swelled all up (which was actually one of the first things I noticed), she was streaming mucus, she was digging, restless, nesting, etc.  About the only thing she didn’t do was have her udder get to the strutted stage, and she never laid down to deliver.  As a result of my experience with her, I felt much better about going through this winter kidding with Lilac.  Until now.

Lilac obviously didn’t read the book.  I discovered a thick, white goo over four weeks ago, and ran in to research, only to discover it was likely part of the cervical plug–normally presented within 1 week of kidding.  3 weeks ago, her ligaments began loosening.  2 weeks ago, her udder really started developing.  For a week now, she has held her tail in a horizontal fashion, with a slight curl down at the tip.

Over this past weekend, her vulva started changing.  Literally, overnight, it went from typical pregnant-doe look to huge, swollen, and soft.  I convinced one of my experienced, local goat “mentors” to take a look at it.  She agreed that Lilac was getting close, but still needed a few more changes.  As of yesterday, her udder is at least as big as it’s biggest last summer, when she was giving me almost a quart at each milking, though still not strutted.  Today, her vulva is huge, soft, and opening (at least, according to how Sara’s looked).  I know her ligaments aren’t totally gone, because I still can’t feel the whole tail bone, but I certainly can’t find the ligaments anymore. 

As if that isn’t bad enough, even her posture is starting to change.  The kids don’t seem to have dropped yet, as her back hasn’t hollowed out, and she is still pretty round rather than pear-shaped.  But, as you can see in the next pic, her rump is starting to steepen its slope.

It isn’t even within the normal 5-day baby-watch window, and I am already tired of trying to figure her out.   I have caught her doing a lot more stretching (understandable, as I remember those days) and yawning, but no talking or humming.  Although Sara never vocalized either.  The problem with Lilac is that our night time temps are in the teens and twenties.  I am scared to death I am going to walk out and find frozen babies.  The fact that a customer has prepaid for all her kids doesn’t exactly relieve any pressure. 

So, I officially began my baby watch yesterday.  I know it’s early, but she is already throwing me for a loop.  She delivered her first (triplets, no less) totally unassisted, and has proven to be a good mom, so I am not worried about that.  My fear is just the cold weather.  It was about 45 outside when Sara unexpectedly dropped her doeling to the ground while I was in the house.  I found her soon after in a puddle of fluid, and very cold and weak.  I have since read one too many stories about winter kiddings resulting in frostbitten ears. 

Thankfully, S helped devise a solution to alleviate some of my worry.  He cleaned out the spare stall of our fully-enclosed, attached garage.  Then, we borrowed a couple of fence panels from a friend and he set up a make-shift kidding stall.  I put a bunch of pine shavings on the floor for cushion and absorbency, and then covered that in a thick layer of straw.  And we both know that the vast majority of the shavings and straw are going to wind up all over the garage rather than lining the kidding pen.  Nonetheless, this will provide me the opportunity to check on Lilac regularly without having to bundle up and trudge through the ice and snow to the goat shed a gazillion times a day (and night).  I can also easily hang a heat lamp on one end if the temps happen to be in the freezing range. 

Like the pen?  2 sides are panels, and the 3rd side is the garage door, which doubles as the goat-entry point.  Told you it was make-shift!  But, we’re newbies, so that means we can get away with it, right?  Please say yes, or you’ll only add to my stress!!

Now, the questions remaining are when do I put her in the stall?  I am trying to wait until Thursday, and then I figure I will probably just put her in there at night.  And do I put Sara in with her?  They are best buds.  Actually, I think Lilac would be fine by herself, but Sara would totally freak out without Lilac.  In fact, I have noticed recently that Sara has become increasingly clingy toward Lilac.  She stays almost right by her side all the time, even resting a foot or her head on her many times.  I know animals can sense things happening, so perhaps Sara is tuned in?  So, I will probably have to put them both in for the night.  Of course, that means my nice clean stall will more likely be filthy by the time the babies are actually born. 

This is only my second kidding, and my first in cruel winter weather, but does the stress ease with experience?  I think I will drive my husband crazy if every kidding gets me this wound up.  And I’m even all about going natural!  I just want to be there for now, if possible. 

One thing is for sure….I will never EVER take my barn at Red Gate for granted after this barnless farming experience!!