Thursday, February 6, 2014

Kidding at 17 below zero

For days the weather prediction for Sunday night was a low of -13 Fahrenheit, but then on Saturday, they were suddenly saying -3, which was certainly music to my ears because Agnes had not kidded yet. In jest, I posted the following status on the Antiquity Oaks Facebook page on Sunday morning:

Dear Sweet Wonderful Agnes (you know, you've always been my favorite) -- PLEASE give birth this afternoon at 2 p.m. when the high temp will hit 17 degrees. If you can't manage to give birth by sundown, then PLEASE hold on to those kids until tomorrow afternoon when the high will again be 17. Do NOT under any circumstances give birth in the middle of the night when the temperature is supposed to be 3 below zero! Your cooperation in this matter will be SO much appreciated! Hugs!!!

A couple of people responded that I had just guaranteed a middle-of-the-night kidding. And they were right. We have a video monitor over the kidding pens, so we can watch and hear what's happening in the kidding barn from the warmth and comfort of our bed in the house. At 2:59 a.m. I was awakened by that familiar scream of a goat giving birth. And this is Agnes, a Sherri granddaughter. If you've been around this blog for very long, you know that Sherri and her daughters and granddaughters don't make a sound until the kid is actually coming out, and they give birth very fast.

Mike and I jumped out of bed and pulled on multiple layers of clothes as quickly as we could. I actually keep all of my layers together -- turtleneck inside the sweatshirt and long underwear inside the sweatpants -- laid out in just the right position, right in front of the toilet, so that I jump out of bed and go sit on the toilet as I'm changing clothes. Multi-tasking! Every minute counts when you have a three-pound, soaking wet kid in sub-zero temperatures.

Mike made it to the barn first and began toweling off the little doeling that had already been born. Only a moment after I arrived, the second kid came flying into this world. I turned on the blow dryer and spent the next hour and a half blow drying the two little doelings. After coming inside, Mike checked, and they said the temperature was -17, which would explain why it took so long to dry the kids! We've had births in the single digits below zero before, and it only took about an hour to blow dry the kids, but the colder it is, the harder it is to dry them. I had to hold the blow dryer within a couple inches of the kids, and the only part that was being dried was the exact spot that I had targeted at any moment. Every time I switched kids, it was quite obvious where all the little cold, crunchy, frozen bits were.

Although one of the kids was pretty quick to start nursing, the other one seemed clueless. As we were finishing up the drying, and she still had not tried to nurse, I put my finger in her mouth to discover that it was surprisingly cool, and the kid had almost no sucking reflex. I asked Mike to go inside and get a bucket to milk Agnes and then a bottle for the kid. I wrapped the little doeling in the heating pad in my lap until Mike returned with the bucket and bottle. Of course, as soon as the colostrum hit the bucket in that temperature, it was cold, so he had to get a second bucket with hot water in it to warm up the colostrum. Finally I was able to get some warm colostrum in the little doe, and within five minutes, she jumped out of my lap, ran up to mom and started looking for the teat!

Mission accomplished! It was past 5 a.m. when we finally got back into the house. I was frozen and sore, so I got my own heating pad and laid on it for the next two hours, moving it from my feet to my back and neck and everywhere in between. Mike got half an hour of sleep, and then at 7:00, he had to get up to do chores before going to work at the college where he teaches. I felt bad for not helping, but my health issues are limiting what I can do outside. I'll explain more of that in my next post. In fact, I have a doctor's appointment today where I'll learn more.


Tiggeriffic said...

Oh the sweetness of babies being born.. They are so sweet and adorable...
Have a great day~!
ta ta from Iowa:)

Kelly said...

They are so cute! I hope the doctors can help you :)

Jill Mulvey said...

It rarely gets down below -10 here, but I am stealing the pre-assembled layers idea nonetheless. Glad everybody made it! Good story, well told.

mary said...

maybe I know nothing ,but why don't you move a dou about to give birth to a warmer shed prepared for that purpose, for your comfort and theirs

Deborah Niemann said...

That's a good question, Mary, and it has a really complicated answer. Prior to last winter, we only had two kiddings below zero in the first 11 years, so we don't have a place set up for that. We did bring two does into our barn office a couple weeks after this -- one had a c-section and one had quintuplets -- and it was so completely disgusting after just a couple of days. Goat breeders in northern Canada and Alaska say that you shouldn't suddenly change the temperature for a goat by more than 50 degrees, so I kept the office at about 45 degrees and waited until the temperature came back up into the 20s before putting everyone back into the barn so that they wouldn't get a big shock.


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