Thursday, April 15, 2010

Bonnie's big baby bonanza!

When I checked Bonnie's tail ligaments yesterday, they were soft, so I kept checking on her every hour or sooner if I happened to be near the kidding barn. We had just finished rooing a yearling ram, and I was about to start evening chores when I heard a sound that caught my attention. Was it Bonnie? When I looked into the window, I realized the loud mouth was Andi (nothing new there), but Bonnie looked like she was in labor, even though she was quiet. I walked into the barn and positioned myself so I could see her back end. There was a big blob of bloody mucous under her tail. Yep, definitely in labor. I walked into the kidding pen and sat down across from her. She stood up, walked to the far corner of the pen, and stared at me.

"You don't want me here?" I asked. "That's okay, I'll leave."

I checked everyone's water buckets and gave the goats more hay, keeping an eye on Bonnie the whole time. When she was laying down and pushing beyond the point of no return, I stepped into the pen and sat down. Once a head emerged, I crawled towards her, ready to wipe off the kid's nose. As soon as the baby was born, I laid it next to her face, so she could start to clean it off. But instead of starting to lick it, she curled her lip up and continued pushing. What? I had only cleaned off the nose and didn't even know the sex yet, and another head was emerging.

I grabbed another towel, popped the bag covering the baby's head and started to wipe off the nose, worried that number three would be shooting out even faster. Moments later, kid number two was born, and I laid it on the towel next to Bonnie's face. Three kids for a first freshener is unusual, but her belly was still plenty big. She started to lick the two kids in front of her, and I finally was able to check the sex. The first kid was a buck, and the second one was a doe.

Less than five minutes later, Bonnie pushed again, and I saw another bubble emerging. Since Bonnie was quite busy with the first two, I decided to clean up the third one myself. It was a buck. Triplets are unusual for a first freshener. Usually they have only one or two, but Bonnie had been larger than normal, so I had already been thinking about the possibility of triplets. I'd be nuts to think she had a fourth one in there, although I wasn't completely sure what was hanging out of her back end. Was it the cord that's attached to the placenta, or was it membranes attached to another baby? Not seeing another kid after ten minutes, I convinced myself it was just the end of the placenta.

When Bonnie stood up, I thought, yep she's done. And then -- plop! A little bag of mucous fell out of her back end onto the straw. I wasn't even sure if it was a kid, but I started clawing at the membranes with my fingernails to pop the bag. I could feel bones, so I knew it was a kid, but it was so tiny, and there was no color. Everything was beige. I ripped at the membranes, pulling them off of everything until I found a nose. I wiped it off, but couldn't feel any movement. Maybe it's been dead for a week or two, and that's why it's so small? I kept wiping. Then a sneeze and a shake of its head told me the kid was alive.

I put a clean towel down on the straw and laid the tiny kid on it. Maybe this is going to be one of those tiny little kids that just doesn't make it, I thought. Don't get your hopes up. Don't get attached. It is just so darn cute and small and helpless. Of course, it's a doe. Seems like they're always the tiny ones. It would never have a chance to get enough food with three big siblings and a mama that only has two teats. And the mama is a yearling. Maybe in a couple years, I'd trust Bonnie to raise four kids, but not this time. I picked up the other doeling and laid her on the towel with the tiny one. I placed both bucklings next to Bonnie's face so she could continue cleaning them and bonding with them.

It's not fair, but in the world of dairy, girls are simply worth more. Since Bonnie is a first freshener, the little bucks will be wethered and sold as pets. They're simply not worth as much, so I'll be raising the does, while Bonnie learns to be a mommy with the boys. And in the real world, little goats have to be able to hustle to get lunch, and I'm less convinced of the tiny doe's ability to do that. The first time we were confronted with a situation like this, my husband asked if we were messing with nature's plan by coddling a smaller, weaker kid. What about survival of the fittest? At the time, I had no answer other than simple compassion. I couldn't let a kid die. After eight years of seeing little goats grow up to be big and strong, I don't necessarily think that their birth status is a big indication of their genetic potential. Sometimes, kids just get unlucky in utero and wind up with the short end of the placenta. Carmen and Coco, my first two house goats, are perfect examples of runts growing up to be big, strong, and healthy. But, I digress . . .

Back in the kidding barn -- The bigger doeling was already trying to stand, while the little one was still learning to hold up her head. Membranes were hanging out of Bonnie's back end exactly as before the fourth one had been born, but I was fairly confident that there were no more kids. Bonnie seemed very content to clean the two babies in front of her, so I wrapped up the girls in a clean towel, hugged them to my chest, and headed for the house.

"Bonnie had quads!" I yelled to Jonathan as I walked in the door. As we set up the playpen for the doelings, I thought about how lucky it was that last weekend we saved some of Cleo's colostrum. The day after her kids were born, her udder looked full, so we milked her and put the colostrum in a freezer bag, marked with her name and the date.

While the colostrum was thawing, I decided to milk Bonnie to see if I could get a little more, but her boys had already sucked down one side to nothing, and I barely got enough from the other side to cover the bottom of the bucket. The little boys are very tenacious though, so I'm sure they'll get plenty. I brought Bonnie's colostrum back into the house. It was an ounce. Cleo's colostrum had thawed enough that I was able to add two more ounces to the bottle, which would be plenty for their first meal.

Bottle-feeding is so complicated compared to nursing though. Kids just know how to nurse. It might take them a few minutes, but they get it figured out quickly. Bottles, however, can be tricky. Colostrum poured all over my hand and the little doeling's face. The hole in the nipple was too big. Next nipple! Same problem. Pritchard teats don't have a hole in them when you buy them so, I pulled out a brand new nipple and barely cut off the tip, to make the tiniest hole imaginable. It worked, but the little does still didn't know quite how to do it. It's 20 hours later now, and they still don't quite have the hang of it, but I'm sure that they'll be sucking like pros before the day is done.

Joy the bichon and Porter the English shepherd are both convinced that the babies are theirs. Joy stares and whines and paces next to the play pen. She barked at a guest who arrived this morning -- she has never barked at anyone, but I suspect she wants to protect her babies. When I give the babies their bottles, Porter is right there to clean the dribbles off their faces, and he growls at Joy if she gets too close, even when they're in the play pen, so I can't leave the two of them unsupervised around the kids. One reason I don't like bottle-feeding is because I get too attached to the babies, even if they are the brattiest goats in the barnyard. And this little one is just so cute and cuddly. But I really don't need to keep more does this year! I really don't need to!


Jenny said...

Awwww - but you should anyway!


Such a delightful story. Have you given the tiny one a name yet?


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