Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Cleo's twin doelings
We had a visit last weekend from Sarah, our apprentice from November. She came back because she wanted to see a goat give birth. Starting on Thursday, Cleo's ligaments were so soft, that I kept thinking she was going to give birth "pretty soon." When I left for a speaking engagement in Chicago on Thursday, I figured she'd give birth later that night. When I left to pick up pigs on Friday, I figured she'd give birth while I was gone. When I got home with the piglets, however, Mike and Sarah said that Cleo had been waiting for me.
I went into the barn and sat down on the straw with her. She gave me more kisses than I've ever had from any goat. She licked my face and my neck over and over as I sat with her in the kidding pen. She kept making little two-syllable "ma-a, ma-a" bleats. She kept looking at my lap and pawing at my legs. I could tell she was thinking about crawling in my lap. She would lay down next to me on one side, and then almost immediately, she would get up again, turn around, and lay down on her other side. She was clearly uncomfortable. I went to the walnut grove where Mike and Sarah were finishing repairs on the fencing before releasing the piglets into their new home.
"Cleo is getting close," I said to Sarah. "You don't need to hurry, but I'm not sure if I'll be able to come get you later."
When I got back to the barn, I could tell that Cleo was very serious about giving birth. She was no longer making the little bleating sounds. Instead, a whispery moan escaped her throat with each push. She laid on her side and pushed her legs out in front of her body. Her big belly almost caused her to roll onto her back, but she jerked and pulled her upright again.
"No matter how many times you see this, you always get to a point where you feel like it's taking too long," I said to Sarah. "But really, she's fine. There's no sign that anything is wrong."
Finally, a hoof started to peak out, then a second hoof. "This is exactly the way it's supposed to be," I said. "First the front hooves, then the nose." And as if it were scripted, a nose appeared. "This is a textbook birth." The whole head appeared, and the body quickly followed. I put the little doe up by Cleo's face, so she could help me clean it off.
While Cleo licked her baby, I wiped it with a towel. The little doe shook her head and sneezed. Within minutes, she was scooting around the straw performing the goat baby equivalent of crawling. Cleo stood up and laid down a couple times. Then she seemed to stare off into the distance as if concentrating on something that none of us could see. I said to the little doe, "Okay, kid, you're on your own. It's time for Mommy to birth another baby." And the second kid was quickly born.
Two does! Of the 16 kids born so far this year, 12 are does. When you raise dairy goats, that's the equivalent of winning the lottery. Of course, we are only halfway through kidding for the year, and things could turn around, but I'm enjoying the dozen little does in the barn at the moment. And yeah, I'm keeping one of these -- the blurry one on the right.
Many thanks to Sarah for today's photos!