Thursday, March 3, 2011

Viola's story

Viola's story actually starts years ago. She is a la mancha, a goat that is most famous for its apparent lack of ears. Yes, they can hear; they just don't have external ear cartilage, so it looks like they don't have ears. People either love it or hate it. Obviously, I'm one who thinks the no-ear thing is adorable -- so adorable that I'm trying to make mini manchas, which are little goats without ears.

Even if you've been reading my blog forever, you probably don't remember me mentioning Viola. That's because she has done little other than frustrate me for four years, and I don't like to complain. Viola's mama is the one that died from copper deficiency -- the one whose liver I insisted be biopsied to check the copper level, because four different vets insisted a copper deficiency was impossible if I were feeding a complete feed and had minerals available for the goats. She died when Clare and Viola were only two months old and after learning that her copper level was only 4.8 (normal is 25-150 ppm), I was amazed she had survived as long as she did. That also meant I was now the owner of two orphans who were severely copper deficient, because mama can't give her babies something that she doesn't have. And I was going it alone because the current vet was still obliviously trusting the feed companies and refused to give me prescription copper for any of my goats.

Being in grad school, I had access to the university database and could read veterinary journals for free, so I started researching copper on my own. I even started doing my own original research on copper in goats and surveyed around 40 goat owners to learn more about their use of copper and the incidence of copper deficiency and toxicity in their herds. The twins' growth was slow, and their resistance to parasites was low, but with repeated copper bolusing, Clare was big enough to breed by fall. I was worried, however, that Viola still might not make it, so I didn't breed her. Clare kidded the following spring with a single buckling. The next year I tried to breed Viola -- and the next year. When she was two, I was so desperate for her to get pregnant, I just let her run with the whole buck herd, not even caring if I knew who the sire was. Still, no babies. I had pretty much completely given up on her ever having kids. But last fall, I gave everyone their pre-breeding copper and selenium supplements, and a couple weeks later, Viola was in heat! I put her with Mardi, a Nigerian buck, and he bred her! I was ecstatic! I wasn't too worried about having a first-freshening four year old because the kids would be much smaller than your average la manchas.

Then I spent most of the next four and a half months thinking that she wasn't pregnant. Her belly wasn't really big, although I reminded myself that she would be carrying mini-manchas, because I bred her to a Nigerian buck, so they wouldn't be as big as if she were carrying full-size kids. Still, I thought she should at least look like there was something in her belly. A couple weeks before she kidded, I saw an udder, but she'd fooled me before with a precocious udder, so I didn't want to get my hopes up. Still, I did get hopeful, so I moved her and Clare to the kidding barn, because their due dates were only one day apart. As each day passed, I spent more and more time with them, staring at their bellies, feeling their udders, checking their tail ligaments. The more time I spent with them, the more I believed they really were pregnant.

About a week before they ultimately kidded, I noticed Viola's udder was really starting to get big. It was filling up in the rear, which never happened when she got a precocious udder. And each day as her udder got bigger, I got more excited that we really would have mini-mancha babies, at last!

Although Viola had no problems at all, I was momentarily freaked out when she was in labor. Mike had just walked in the barn to check on me, and I told him I saw a hoof. Then a minute later, I said, "Oh, this is not good. The hooves are upside down." After a couple more pushes, I realized my error. If you see an inch of a Nigerian hoof, it's the bottom of the hoof, which would mean the baby was coming out upside down or breech. But these babies are bigger, so I was relieved when I realized I was seeing the front of the hoof. How much bigger are they? The little buck was 7.4 at birth, and the doeling was 6.7, so they weigh about twice as much as Nigerian babies!

During Viola's labor, I kept noticing Lizzie laying on her side, looking like she was pushing a little, but she wasn't screaming, so I wasn't worried. I had to leave to go to U of I and pick up Caboose, but I knew Katherine would be home at any minute, and she would be able to handle whatever Lizzie threw her way. If this were fiction, I'd think, "Oh, foreshadowing!" but as they say, truth is stranger than fiction.


Jordana said...

You could write an entire novel based on this years kidding season, and it's not even over yet!

Mama Pea said...

What will we do for our daily dose of drama once all your goats have kidded?? All very interesting. Please keep up the posts. Pics are great, too!

Nancy K. said...

I'm so happy for you AND for Viola that you finally got your crossbred babies! I'm assuming that you'll keep the doeling and cross her back to which? ~ Lamancha or ND??? Will you use the buck on any of your Lamancha does?

Deborah @ Antiquity Oaks said...

Nancy, I bred Viola's sister Clare to a different ND buck, and as luck would have it, she also had buck-doe twins, so I have two breeding pairs. It's a line breeding on Clare and Viola's parents, but hopefully I'll get some nice kids. I don't want to breed back to a ND buck, because then I'll have a 50% chance for upright ears. I hadn't thought about breeding back to one of the LM does. That's not a bad idea!

bko43 said...

Did I miss something? What happened to Lizzie? I feel like I'm in the middle of a story and the page was torn out!!!

Deborah @ Antiquity Oaks said...

Lizzie's story is next!


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