Exactly one torturous week since pre-labor signs began, Lilac finally delivered! And for the second time (out of 2 deliveries), I dealt with a goat that refused to read the manual or do things like “normal.” In fact, I had to deal with very sad results for the first time. Who writes these manuals anyway?
As of Tuesday afternoon, while she was out to pasture, I looked out and noticed her bag was much larger, and she was almost waddling around it. Upon closer inspection, it was not strutted, but it was quite firm and the largest I had ever seen it.
By late that evening, her back was taking more of an arched appearance, so the kids and I decided to camp out in the garage for the night. I was convinced she would deliver that night. Lilac was restless, but eating almost all night.
First thing the next morning, white discharge was visible, so I figured time had to be getting close. Of course, it was the day A’s appointment was scheduled up in Denver, and of course, it was snowing and cold, which would slow my trip down. Thankfully, a friend offered to babysit the kids here at the house so at least someone could be here if anything went wrong.
My first moment of concern came when I called JR before I went in to the appointment, around 12:30 p.m. He said “Mom, there is lots of discharge, and it is getting really colorful!” I know he can be a little mello-dramatic in his descriptions, so I I brushed it off at first. After the appointment was over, though, around 3:00, I call him again. He reported, “Mom, I’ve never seen a goat act like this! She’s panting, and making funny sounds, and there is lots of red, pink, and brown goo coming out!” At that point, I asked to speak with the babysitter to ensure I was getting a realistic account. She eased my fears and said, Lilac didn’t seem to be in any distress, and there was very little discharge at all. She was mostly just vocalizing and restless.
That helped for the 2 hour drive home, but I wasn’t confident I would make it. Around 4:30 p.m., I arrived home, and ran into the garage. Lilac was doing well, with still just opaque white discharge. Just before 5, she started arching her back and tail in very mild, but obvious contractions. She would go through spells of this, be restless and paw at the ground, then suddenly, she would seem to take a break, lie down, and just rest for 15 minutes or so. Around 6, the contractions seemed to intensify a little, and the discharge became very thick and sticky, like honey, but still white. I also decided to move Sara back out with the other goats, as her antics and mischief were driving me crazy, and she refused to let Lilac seperate herself.
Remembering Sara’s ordeal, and knowing Lilac had been showing signs for a solid 24 hours, I wasn’t sure what stage of labor she was technically in. So, I ran in and researched briefly. Some sources implied that her lying down meant she was still in early labor and not to worry. Other sources stated that once contractions were observed, babies should be on the ground in 20 minutes. EVERY site I looked at had photos of goats doing what Lilac had been doing for hours, and babies were always on the ground within 2 hours. I finally decided to glove up and check things out.
I immediately observed the cervix was gone, and while I didn’t want to go too far at that point, I reached in almost to my wrist and couldn’t feel any part of a baby at all. It was just empty space. I felt I had no choice but to assume that she was still in early labor.
Sure enough, around 10:00 p.m., she finally started producing some typical mucous-like discharge, though her contractions and rests still came in spells. After almost a week without sleeping through the night, I was exhausted, and decided I needed sleep. Of course, she would choose to do this on the coldest night of the month. It was 2* outside, and probably in the 30’s in the garage. I ensured the heat lamp was set up safely (duct tape keeps everything in place!), and turned it on. I set my alarm for 2 hours, and decided to sleep in my sleeping bag, in the downstairs room, right off the garage, just in case.
Just after midnight, and right before my alarm was set to go off, my husband woke me. Our bedroom is above the garage, and while I couldn’t hear a thing (surprisingly!), Lilac’s yells had traveled right through the floor and awakened him. We both ran out, and she was on her side, having her first serious contractions. It was time.
We got the kids, and I started watching the clock. Within moments, the brown bubble was visible, and on one of her up-downs, she burst it. She continued to strain with no results, so as 15 minutes approached, I gloved up. Then, I saw something, but didn’t know what. I realized it was a part of a kid that did not involve hooves or face, so I immediately went in. Amidst her contractions, it was impossible to identify one pointy joint from another, though I was confident it was all one baby. Suddenly, a large contraction pushed the kid right past my hand, and out. It was totally breech, butt first. And completely unresponsive. I quickly grabbed a rag, dried its face and nose roughly, swung and hung it upside down, tried chest compressions–anything and everything I could think of. It was clearly dead. I was completely heartbroken. It was a beautiful little buckling with black and white markings. I am convinced it had just died, as all it’s membranes were pink, and it looked like it would get up and cry at any moment. Alas, it did not.
Lilac, unfortunately, was tending to it with a vengeance, and I hurt for her. I needed to take it away, but she was so intent on cleaning it, talking to it, and getting it to stand that I wasn’t sure how to best handle it. God answered. Lilac suddenly leaned back, gave a big push, and out popped a twin buckling! It was in perfect diving position, and rolled over as soon as it hit the ground. Between the cold, the hard concrete, and the dead baby, I had no patience or courage to let nature run its course, and immediately grabbed the baby. I cleared its nose, dried its face, and put it by Lilac’s head for her to clean. Lilac immediately turned her attention to the new baby, and I quickly and discreetly grabbed the stillborn and handed it off to S to dispose of. As she cleaned, Lilac would periodically look around, and push straw with her nose, as if she knew she was missing a baby, but the live baby seemed to keep her distracted enough she never dwelled on the idea.
I closely monitored the baby, and as soon as it started shivering, I took it from Lilac and placed it under the heat lamp. This action seemed to give Lilac the break she needed, and she leaned back, pushed twice, and out popped a third buckling!! I was so excited! It, too, was vibrant and healthy, though I also cleaned its nose and put it straight under the lamp. Lilac turned around and started cleaning both.
After I ensured both babies had nursed, about an hour and a half after the last, I began cleaning up. I shoved the straw around to cover all signs of moisture, and to make sure there was a nice heap under the lamp for the babies to curl up into. Then, around 3 a.m., I headed to my real bed for some deep sleep.
I awoke at 7:30 this morning to find two strong babies, and also found the placenta recently dropped. Temps are still freezing, so my goal is harden off the babies today and tomorrow. Once they seem to be doing really well and quite strong, I will turn off the heat lamp. After I am sure the babies aren’t getting too cold, I am hoping to move them outside with the other goats during our next warm spell in a couple days. I’ll play that one day by day. In the mean time, the babies are nursing like crazy, and haven’t made a dent in Lilac’s impressive udder! Don’t worry, I checked to make sure everything is flowing. I think she is just replenishing as fast as they drink. I can’t wait to milk her. As full as she is, I may do it sooner than planned, even while the babies are still on her full time.
I am still so bummed that kidding season started with a stillborn–my first. Nonetheless, I realize that it is a part of nature. My children also observed this ordeal, and I think it gave them more of an appreciation for the live, easy births. An interesting observation is that both remaining babies are 3/4 Alpine, but their heads are shaped very much like a Nigi or Pygmy. That surprised me. The other surprise is having triplet bucklings out of Stallion, who is well known to normally throw about 50/50 does and bucks. The two gorgeous, remaining, black-and-white bucklings are both reserved, so I have the joy of contacting their new owner today. I look forward to speaking with him.
For you experienced goat folks, is there anything I could’ve done differently to save the first little guy? Or is this just par for the course of goat raising and natural selection?
For my own future reference, here is the timeline of events:
- 3:30 p.m.: Udder filled by another 30%, and hard, but not strutted
- 8:00: Sides hollowed out, vulva red and softer
- All night: restless, but eating fine
- 7:00 a.m.: Opaque white discharge
- 8:00: Vocalizing softly, stretching, yawning, looking at sides, ate her grain
- 12:00 p.m.: Discharge changed to tan-color
- 2:00: Restless, digging, laying down and getting up continually
- 4:30: Udder softened, and appeared to decrease slightly in volume
- 6:00: Staring off into space, all above continuing, trying to isolate herself, and thick, sticky (like honey) pure white discharge, obvious contractions begin. Ate her grain.
- 7:00: Decided to glove up and check things out…cervix fully dilated, but no kid felt by putting hand in almost to wrist; checking seemed to stimulate something and she started aggressively licking anything and everything.
- 8:00: Contractions intensified a little, still coming in groups though of about 2-3, vocalizing changed, everything else continued.
- 9:00: Laid down and seemed to take a break from contractions.
- 10:00: Thicker white, clear, and blood-streaked discharge started coming, but Lilac still seemed very content to lay there and/or eat
- 12:30 a.m.: Lilac’s screams woke us.
- 12:45: First baby visible, but not positioned correctly. I immediately went in. Lilac pushed it out during next 2 contractions. It was breech and stillborn.
- 1:00: 2nd baby visible, slid out easily in proper position.
- 1:20: 3 rd baby visible, slid out easily in proper position.
- Placenta was delivered sometimed between 3-7
- Baby #1..stillborn, did not weigh; baby #2 weighed 6.5 pounds; baby #3 weighed 8 pounds.