Age: 11 months
March 15, 2004 Day after Lightning gives birth.
Dam: Lightning is a 50% recorded grade doe
DD: U-Say Ranch Dallas [DS: AZ Apache Valley Joseph DD: AZ Apache Vales Thelma]
DS: Jacobs Pride Peanut [DS: Six M Galaxy Milanis Pistachio DD: Six M Galaxy Aisha 5*M]
The 14th, Sunday, was Lightning’s official due date. Gestation is 150 days, with a week before and after being “normal”.
I went out to check on Lightning at 6am and discovered that she had yellow mucous — having been on “high alert” for kids for the past 10 days (another of our other does — Dallas — was due 5 days earlier, but ended up not being pregnant) I knew from the books that yellow mucous means business. I felt for her tendons, and they were gone, and her udder was bagging up, so I felt she would kid soon. I thought within an hour or two at most.
I got the birthing kit and brought it out with me, along with my knitting, the goat books, some ice water and a lawn chair to relax in. Our only other birth (last year) was uneventful, and all the books say that 95 out of 100 births will be uneventful, so just sit back and enjoy nature. I love birth, and have since I was a young child. I was always present while our dog and cat had their yearly batch of puppies and kittens. I am also my family’s doula, and have been present at 6 homebirths, and one hospital birth for three of my sisters. I was disappointed last year when I missed the kidding, and I wasn’t about to miss out on this one.
It was nice out, but a little on the warm side so I felt drowsy but didn’t want to sleep. Basically Lightning just kept standing in one position, then she would paw the ground, lie down for 30-75 seconds and be back up again. She would arch her back, and stretch. I offered her water, but she would have nothing to do with it. She was interested in eating unsalted peanuts in the shell so I offered her some of those every once in a while.
I went inside every couple hours to take a little break, and I was starting to feel a little worried by noon when Lightning hadn’t drank any water or eaten any food so I did a little bit of research on the ‘net to see if that was normal. I read that it isn’t necessarily a good thing, as the amount of amniotic fluid would lessen if she wasn’t getting enough fluids. I quelled my fears and just kept hoping that soon she would begin hard labor.
Finally just after 2pm she hunched over real hard while standing, this was different than anything she’d done earlier, so I figured we were finally about to have kids. David was already outside with me, and Kevin wanted to be present so I called him (used my cell to call the home phone) and he came out. David and Kevin attended Dallas’ birth last year, and as I said earlier, it was uneventful. But they were both ready with clean birthing rags and spreading out newspaper.
I had been reading over the goat books about birth during the hours of waiting, and I knew that Lightning should expel the first kid within 20-30 minutes of pushing. The books said that if the kids weren’t born by then, there could be a problem, and you should go “in” and see if there was a problem.
There are pictures of normal and abnormal presentations, normal being the two front hooves with the nose resting on the front legs. Lightning had a bubble, and David and Kevin explained once you see the bubble, it breaks and then the kid is born. Well, there was a bubble, but after two or three pushes, Lightning laid down and broke it.
Lots and lots of fluid gushed out, and Lightning was trying to lick it up. I figured since goats eat their placenta, and she was possibly dehydrated at this point, it wouldn’t be a problem. Soon she had another bubble, and this one burst, too. By now 40 minutes had passed by and I put my finger just inside her vulva and I could feel a kid’s mouth. Then I started seeing bubbles — it seemed like the baby was trying to breathe in there. I don’t know for sure, but one of the books said the biggest problem with a breech birth is that the baby can suffocate if the sack is broken and they aren’t born soon enough.
I was really starting to worry about the kids. It seemed like maybe both sacks had broken. Plus, Lightning was going to get tired and worn out from trying. I scanned all three books again, to see if it was considered a problem for the kid to present face first. None of the books indicated this was a good or bad thing! I decided to wash my hands and arms with antibacterial hand soap, dried with paper towels and put olive oil on my index finger and I could feel the baby in there, but no hooves were coming at the same time.
I had David hold Lightning for me, and began inserting my hand inside of her. It wasn’t too difficult, until I got to the knuckles on my fingers. I can barely insert my hand into the small mouth of a Best Foods mayonnaise jar… some days I can tell I am retaining fluids because I cannot. But that is exactly how it felt putting my hand into Lightning’s birth canal. The baby’s head was right there, and poor Lightning was screaming really loud and her uterus was contracting and pushing, trying to get the baby out, while my hand was in there.
The first thing I had to do was sort out what was what in there. That is so difficult to do. I started praying out loud immediately, begging God to help me figure this out. I had my hand on the right side of the baby’s head, and I felt down the neck, and then I found the left leg. It was curled up right by his chest. I felt and felt and felt directly over with my fingers, and I could find legs, but none seemed to be his other front leg. So I took my hand and carefully, slowly — while Lightning is screaming and bearing down — up and over the buckling’s head to the right side of his body, then followed down his neck and finally found his right leg. It was folded back straight alongside his body. I gently pulled it forward, and then tried to find the left leg again, but I couldn’t locate it with my hand in that position. So I had to pull that leg out straight, then move my hand back up around his head to the left side. I managed to hook the two front feet together in my fingers this time, at least I was hoping and praying I had his two front legs! When my hand was on the right side of his body, I also discovered the doeling’s head was right there, at his neck, trying to present at the same time.
I got the two front legs positioned in the birth canal, with the head on top of the two feet. Then we all let go of Lightning for a couple of minutes, to let her rest. Soon she tried again, and she got the boy’s left hoof out, then his nose and right hoof. She seemed to be having a hard time pushing him out, so I gently grasped his two hooves and pulled downward just so slightly all the while, hearing Kevin saying, “Don’t pull, don’t pull, mom!” But I knew it was probably the right thing to do, and right away the boy slid out of Lightning. We quickly started wiping him off, drying him and wiping the glop off of his little mouth and nose. Within a minute or so, Lightning was pushing again. I washed my arm real quick again, just in case, and this time the kid was presenting with the left hoof and face, but the right hoof folded back on the chest. This was a lot easier, I just put my fingers in, got hold of the curled leg and brought it forward. As soon as the girl was in position, she took slid out.
As you can see in the photo, Lightning was looking at her babies. David and Kevin were much better at whisking the Dallas’ kids from her right away, so she never bonded to her kids. Lightning did… and it is hard to hear her crying for her kids.
Being that I am a firm believer in breastfeeding, and a member of La Leche League in the past when my children were young, it was very difficult for me to make the decision that we will bottle feed our goat kids.
There are several reasons, the most important one to prevent CAE (Caprine Arthritis Encephilitis) a disease that is passed on to goats primarily by the kids nursing from infected dams. We have not been able to test our small herd, although I had hoped to get that done this year it hasn’t happened. It entails taking blood from each of our goats, and sending the blood to a lab to have it tested. It is easier to find new homes for kids if you sell them as bottle babies, I have heard, that is another reason. We have goats for their milk, so we want to get the dam used to being milked by humans, not by kids. And finally, of the reasons that come to mind immediately, it’s easier to wean the kids and separate them at weaning time. I have heard people tell stories of how the kids and the dams are screaming bloody murder because they want to be with each other. It’s really one of the saddest parts of having goats — that, and not being able to keep them all. 🙁
But on with my story. So we got the babies into their own area, and we didn’t even know what we had until probably an hour after they were born, it was just too hectic. But as you know already, we had a doeling and a buckling.
The little doeling looks very much like her sire, and it looks like she has his blue eyes and Nigerian ears, plus she inherited his waddles. The little buckling is so beautiful, and has gray eyes which will turn brown like a Nubian’s should be. Some people breed Nigerians to Nubians to get what they call Mini-Nubians.
We weren’t done by any means… we still had to milk Lightning, whose teeny, tiny teats are so tiny that I can barely grasp to milk her. We had to get the colostrum, and heat treat it, hopefully not curdling it this time, like I did with Dallas’ colostrum. Well, you guessed it. It got curdled again. I had bought a bag of powdered colostrum for this very reason, just in case. With Dallas, we not only curdled the colostrum, but she was not giving us enough milk to feed her two kids.
Thankfully, Lightning drank the warm molasses water that we gave her, and then proceeded to drink and drink and drink water. I was relieved about that.
I was also very concerned because I had had to go in, there was a possibility that Lightning could end up with an infection. Some people as a matter of fact give antibiotics if they have to go in, but I hate administering antibiotics unless they are really necessary. So I got some advice from some online friends who have goats, and decided to go with the advice to take her temperature twice daily to make sure she doesn’t start running a temp, and if she does, then start giving her an antibiotic. So I went to the feedstore today, bought a thermometer (because we could not find ours and besides this was a good one for using on livestock, only $6.90) and the antibiotics, [Bio-Mycin 200] just in case.
I took Lightning’s temperature today, and at first it read 105°F! I was alarmed because that would mean a fever for a goat. But then I realized that I had not shook down the thermometer (that is the very thing I did the first time I ever took my little newborn baby Matthew’s temperature when he was very hot). Then after I shook down the thermometer and read it again, it said 102°F which is about normal.
Poor Lightning… today she is screaming and crying for her babies… but I don’t know if it’s really for the goat babies, as she licked and licked all three of us, and she probably thinks we’re her babies. At least that is how it was explained to me, the idea is you take the kids, then let the mom lick the birthing fluids off you, then she thinks *you* are her baby, and then she’s more inclined to let you milk her!
Needless to say, it was a very busy day. Earlier, around 9am, I found out that a neighbor of ours, who I had only connected with briefly, had passed away. She was only 31 years old, with heart failure, and she leaves behind a 12 year old son who does not have his father in his life. That was very sad to hear, and affected me emotionally. Then having to put my arm into Lightning, while she’s screaming and screaming, and I’m praying and trying to sort out legs… I was *messed* up last night. I ended up crying on the phone with my sister, then with my mom for a couple of hours. I was just so upset about it all. I was second guessing my decision to help the kids be born, because I do not know for sure that face only presentation is a problem, since the books don’t say one way or the other. But I’m fairly sure that I saved their lives, and Lightning’s life. If she had labored any longer without being able to get them out, she would surely have become exhausted and dehydrated and unable to push them out.
So I guess we now have 94 uneventful births to look forward to… since one was uneventful, and the second one was EVENTFUL. 🙂
June 13, 2004
Milking notes: It took nearly one full month to teach Lightning to use the milk stand for milking. At first we lifted her twice daily, and even erected a ramp for her to walk up on since it was suggested as a possibility to me that her skeletal calcium was low, and she literally could not get up on the milk stand because it was too painful for her bones.
Also, it took quite some time of milking her with only two fingers before her teats enlarged enough to use three fingers. I still milk with my index finger curled up above the teat, resting against her udder. She is now a pleasure to milk, and has delicious tasting milk. Here are some udder shots before evening milking on day 84 of her lactation:
Lightning was bred October 16, 2004 to our buck Bambi. She is due to kid March 16, 2005. Gestation is 150 days.