Monday, February 28, 2011

It's all about me!

The last four days have been a complete blur. After spending Thursday in Urbana for Caboose's c-section, I tanked up on coffee before my drive home in the dark. I had only slept two or three hours the night before and really didn't have time for a car accident, knowing that I had six goats left to kid before the weekend was over. I knew I'd have trouble falling asleep once I arrived home, but it was preferable to death or being paralyzed or even simply rolling my car into one of the big ditches on Rt. 47 if I fell asleep driving. So, I finally fell asleep around 1 a.m. and got up about six hours later, which is not my idea of a good night's sleep.

Viola's doeling his tiny elf ears because she's a mini mancha.
Friday morning saw Carmen give birth to twin bucks, then shortly after noon, Viola gave birth to buck-doe twins. The whole time she was in labor, I kept seeing Lizzie out of the corner of my eye, and she looked like she was pushing. As soon as Viola gave birth, I needed to head back down to Urbana to pick up Caboose and her kids, because the vet said they were ready to come home. Katherine pulled into the driveway as I was leaving, and I told her she needed to keep a close eye on Lizzie. So, I drove down to Urbana, picked up Caboose and her kids, and headed home. Lizzie gave birth as I was driving back, but not without some challenges, which I heard about via cell phone.

I didn't get to bed until close to eleven Friday night, and then Coco woke us up screaming over the baby monitor at 5:49 Saturday morning. When I sat up, it felt like I'd been hit on the side of the head with a two-by-four. I really thought we would see a kid when we got out there, but instead, Coco was just standing there staring at us. Thus began what could possibly be the worst day of my life in terms of pain. By noon, my headache had blossomed into a full-blown migraine, and I had two does alternately screaming and talking to me until Cleo finally gave birth to twins around 4:00. Normally, when I have a migraine, I can't even stand to whisper, so being in a barn with two bleating goats was torture. Coco's weird progress was not helping my headache, because I was afraid I might be looking at another c-section. Around 6:00, I called U of I and talked to the vet, who said it sounded like Coco was just trying to rearrange her babies, and to my happy surprise, he suggested that I wait and watch. So, I went to bed and told Mike to watch Coco until Katherine got home.

I woke up at midnight when Mike walked into the bedroom, still feeling like I was half dead, and I asked if Coco had given birth. "It's complicated," he said. Bottom line is that she had quintuplet bucks, but one was born dead, and some of the others were having problems.

Sunday morning, I woke up with a headache, but nothing compared to the migraine from the day before. As Katherine headed out to church, she said I needed to check on Coco's kids. She thought one had a broken leg, and the others didn't seem to be nursing well. After breakfast and coffee, I was finally able to drag myself out there, and I felt like I'd just walked into an episode of "Goat ER." I saw a black kid spread eagle in the corner of the pen looking dead, so I picked him up and realized he was terribly cold but still alive. I plugged in the heating pad, and just as I laid him on it and covered him with a towel, I heard a long bleat from Claire's pen. She was giving birth. "I'm so sorry, little dude!" I said as I left him on the heating pad and ran to Claire, who had a head hanging out. After drying her twins with Mike's help, we went back to Coco's pen. I figured I'd splint the leg of the red and white buckling, then I'd get some colostrum into the black one that was trying to die. But as I was splinting the kid's leg, I realized he was also ice cold and would soon be in the same shape as the black one. Even with the splint on his leg, he was unable to stand. I milked Coco, who had plenty of colostrum, and I told Mike we had to bring the kids into the house.

Neither of them would suck on the bottle, and I'd read years ago that if a kid is completely depressed, it is best to use IV fluids first to get them perked up before even tube feeding them. Giving IV fluids to goats is really not that hard, because you just put it under their skin, and their body absorbs it. So, I gave each one 15 cc of fluids, which was 5% dextrose, and within minutes the black kid lifted his head, which seemed miraculous considering his condition for the past hour. I tried to give him a bottle, but he still wasn't sucking, so I gave him two ounces of colostrum via stomach tube. I did the same with the red and white buckling, because he was equally out of it. Then I put both of them on a heating pad and covered them with a towel and hoped for the best. Two hours later, I went to check on them, and both lifted their heads and then stood up. Each one took an ounce of colostrum from the bottle, so I was ready to celebrate. Then I realized that their body temps had fallen, so I put them back on the heating pad. By last night, they were doing quite well, and the little black one napped in my lap for an hour while I was online.

So, that's my side of the story for the past four days. For the rest of this week, I'll tell you the goat's individual stories of their kiddings. Katherine has agreed to write about Lizzie's and Coco's births, since she was the one who was there. It's been quite a ride bringing 20 kids into the world in only four days while also making lots of maple syrup. And in a couple weeks, we'll start again with seven more does kidding.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Our first c-section

I knew it would happen someday. I only hoped to avoid that day for as long as possible.

Wednesday night around nine, I noticed a four-inch string of mucous hanging out of Caboose's back end. Usually that means you'll see kids in a couple hours, so I stayed with her until past midnight. She wasn't even acting uncomfortable, but I decided to sleep in the barn, because you just don't see mucous that long before you see babies.


3:44 a.m. -- Caboose woke me up with a bleat that sounded serious, although it wasn't quite as long as most goat screams that mean the babies are coming. I pulled on my insulated overalls, boots, coat, and hat, grabbed an armful of towels, heating pad, camera, and phone, and I went to the kidding pen and sat down in the straw next to her.

4:37 a.m. -- I go back into the barn office and lay down on the futon, hoping to catch a little more sleep, because Caboose has done almost nothing for the past hour. Every fifteen or twenty minutes, she lets out a bleat that's about half as long as one that means she's really pushing. I spend the next hour feeling like a jack-in-the-box, as I pop up and look out the window from the office at Caboose when she lets out a short scream.

6:05 a.m. -- The sun is coming up, and I still haven't had any sleep, so I decide to check on Caboose again. She seems fine, so I start doing chores, feeding all the other animals in the two barns. About every fifteen minutes, Caboose lets out a real scream that sounds like she is serious now. I run in, thinking I'll see a nose or hoof or something, but there is nothing.

8:00 a.m. -- I decide to do a vaginal exam, thinking that the kid must be sideways or something. As soon as I feel a nose, I'm happy and assume that I'll be seeing a kid within about fifteen minutes.

8:33 a.m. -- Still nothing. I do another vaginal exam and realized that just beyond that nose is Caboose's very tight cervix. She has not been dilating. I immediately think of my friend with Nubians who had to have a c-section a few years ago because one of her does did not dilate. I call the University of Illinois vet clinic and am quickly connected to a professor. He is concerned that she is not dilated after hearing the history and explains how to manually dilate the cervix. If that doesn't work, he says we're probably looking at a c-section. I try to manually dilate the cervix and don't make any progress.

9:42 a.m. I come into the house to call Ellen, another breeder, to see if she has any tricks up her sleeve before heading to the vet clinic. She does, and adds that it could take thirty or forty minutes, so I try again.

10:30 a.m. I come inside and tell Jonathan to help me get a crate in my car to take Caboose to U of I for a c-section. Still no progress on dilating the cervix and when I pulled my hand out the last time, there was hair covering my fingers, so I knew the presenting kid was dead -- had been dead for quite some time and was probably responsible for the current situation.

11:05 a.m. I'm on the road to U of I. Caboose is absolutely quiet. I wonder if she's died. I second guess every decision I've made in the last eight hours. After half an hour on the road, I hear her kick, and my sleep-deprived brain says, "She's not even in labor!" because she is no longer bleating.

12:45 p.m. I arrive at the vet clinic. The crate is placed on a cart that is wheeled straight to the operating room. I feel my throat getting tight and tell myself not to cry. She is going to be fine. Margaret arrives ten minutes later. She is in her senior year as an engineering student at the university. I called her when I knew she was done with classes for the day, and I told her what was happening. Caboose was her goat before she went off to college.

Everything started moving really fast as more than a dozen people were buzzing around Caboose. A vet did a vaginal check and confirmed what I'd said -- she wasn't dilated. It was obvious a c-section was the only answer for a positive outcome. Caboose was weighed and her belly shaved as the surgeon kept reminding everyone that they needed to hurry in case there was still a live kid inside. They shaved her neck to insert an IV line. We discussed anesthesia options, and one vet explained that gas would be the quickest, least stressful option for Caboose, so I agreed. They put a mask over her face, and as soon as she was asleep, they put a tube down her throat. They shaved her ears and attached tubes and wires. Caboose is surrounded closely by six people: the surgeon and his assistant, the anesthesiologist and her assistant, and two students who are holding Caboose so she doesn't roll off the operating table. Half a dozen more masked veterinary students stand around the room to observe.

Caboose's buckling, Marshall Dillon
1:37 p.m. The c-section begins. Within seven minutes the first kid is delivered and handed to a waiting student with a towel. I don't see any movement and know that no one knows if it is alive or dead. I watch as several people start working on the kid and overhear one say that it is alive. I wonder if it is a buck or a doe, but I know that it really doesn't matter. The kid's airway is suctioned, and everything is happening so fast, I can't keep track. I hear excitement back at the operating table and see another kid in a towel. All of those students who were just standing around are now busily working on our kids -- drying them, administering oxygen, giving dextrose, injecting something else, suctioning the kids' airways.

Caboose's doeling, Miss Kitty
I see the third kid get pulled out, and it is obvious this is the dead one that had been stuck in the cervix. The amniotic sac looks like it is filled with mud. As I suspected, the kid has been dead for some time. A student wraps it in a towel and sets it aside. I look at it and see that it was a buck. I want to know exactly what happened and why, but as I start to look at him more closely, I realized a fourth kid has been delivered. At some point, I hear the anesthesiologist say, "Get me a crash cart" and know that's not good. I leave the dead buckling and walk over to the kids that everyone is trying desperately to save. The anesthesiologist looks up at me and asks if it's okay to intubate the kid that they're losing. I nod and say, "Yes, that's fine." A few minutes later, she asks if I want them to keep trying. I ask if there's a heartbeat, and when she says no, I respond, "That's okay. We have two kids."

Miss Kitty stands!
For the next two hours, the kids are the stars of the hospital. The little doe finds her voice, which brings everyone within earshot. People squeal like children when they see the kids -- the little doe learning to walk and the little buck wrapped in a "bear hugger" to bring up his temperature, which has dropped to 91.6 (ten degrees below normal). No less than five people say they want to take the kids home with them. Professors, students, receptionists, and custodians are all captivated by these tiny little angels.

5 p.m. Margaret and I finally decide to leave the vet hospital. Caboose is awake and now has a walking epidural, so she won't be in pain, although she attempted to stand once and was completely unsuccessful. The little doe is a champion nurser. The little buck never quite figured it out, so they fed him some of Caboose's colostrum through a stomach tube. It was hard to leave them at the hospital, but the surgeon assured us that they would be carefully monitored at least hourly.

If Caboose can do all the normal goat things like walk around, eat and drink, she and the babies can come home Friday.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Baby book, baby goats, and maple sap

Just when I was getting really frustrated by the seven very pregnant goats not having their babies, I received the most exciting email from my publisher. The cover for my book was attached! I was as excited as an expectant mother looking at her baby on an ultrasound. Unfortunately, it will still be another six months before I actually get to hold my book, which is starting to feel a lot like my fourth baby. I've heard more than one author use that analogy, and I'm beginning to understand it.

Included on the cover is an endorsement from Mother Earth News, because the book has been selected to become a part of their Wiser Living Series, and I could not be prouder. It is really exciting to have such a great magazine put their stamp on my book.

Baby goats
Now I just have to keep waiting for these seven goats to have their babies. Three are at day 147 and four are at day 146. We've never had a goat go past day 151, so as each day passes, I worry about having more than one in labor at a time. At least I have heat lamps in each of the four kidding pens, and the temperatures are not supposed to go much below the twenties for the rest of the week. I counted my goat towels today, however, and there are only seven. It usually takes one or two towels to get each baby dry. I wouldn't be too worried except that we seem to be having an unusually high number of quads this year, and Coco has had quads the last two years, and four of the goats out there have had triplets in the past, so this could get interesting. I usually spend about two hours with the kids after they're born, then it will take a couple hours to wash the towels, so this could work -- if there are at least a few hours between births.

So, why did I put myself in this crazy situation, you ask? Well, when a goat is in heat, you have to ask yourself if you want to breed her to kid in five months, or do you want to wait for her to come into heat again in three weeks. Considering that I have seven more due in two to three weeks, I'm glad I decided to breed these seven when I did. It should be warmer in three weeks, but I can't imagine how I'd feel if I have ten or twelve goats due in a short period of time. Seven is chaotic enough.

Maple sap
We collected twelve and a half gallons of sap over the weekend, and we spent most of Sunday and Monday boiling it down. Around nine, Monday night, Mike put up our first three pints of syrup, but the weather was too cold today and yesterday for the sap to flow. As soon as it warms up a little during the day, that will add another interesting dimension to our lives.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Bonnie's quads

 Lil Valentine at 8 days and 2 pounds, 9 ounces!
If I was a bettin' woman, I would have lost big last week. Bonnie was the least wide of the four goats that were due to kid. She had birthed quads last year as a first freshener, but she was much bigger -- at least, that's what I remembered. So, I was pretty sure she was only going to have twins. As each day passed, and she didn't give birth, and she looked wider, I started to think maybe triplets.

Mike had made fajitas with homemade tortillas on Valentine's Day, and I had just taken the last bite of my first one when we heard a goat over the baby monitor. I gave Mike a look. I suppose I should be thankful that I had eaten one fajita and didn't have to run out there with nothing more than the aromas of delicious food lingering in my nostrils.

At least it was warm enough that I didn't have to deal with the heating pad and blow dryer. With temperatures around freezing, a heat lamp and plenty of towels would be enough. When I walked into the barn, I saw something already poking out under Bonnie's tail. I ran into the office and grabbed the whole stack of towels without bothering to count. When Mike walked in a few minutes later, I was drying off the first kid. A few minutes later, a second kid popped out. "You know, she doesn't really look any smaller," I said to Mike. "Maybe she's having triplets."

And then this tiny little thing shot out! Bonnie didn't seem to notice. "It's another kid!" I broke the amniotic sac and pulled it off the kid, as I said, "I think it's dead," because it wasn't moving at all. I laid it on a towel and started cleaning it up. It shook its head and sneezed. "Oh, it's alive! But it's so tiny!" My excitement over the kid was short-lived though because Bonnie let out a bleat, and I looked down to see another kid presenting. Mike was at Bonnie's head and couldn't see what I saw.

"Here, take this one! Another one is coming! Gimme a clean towel!" I handed him the tiny kid in the towel as I grabbed a dry towel from him just in time to catch kid number four. "Quads again! I can't believe it!"

Blue-eyed buckling
We sat there for awhile making sure everyone was dry and nursing. And everyone was up and bouncing around in no time except for the littlest doeling. Seeing her next to her siblings, I was curious about the weight difference, so I weighed her and the biggest buckling. She was 1.5 pounds, and her big brother was 4.1 pounds. I had a feeling that she wouldn't have a chance against her siblings when it came to getting fed. In the ultimate proof that life is not fair, goats only have two teats, yet they can have so many babies! Although she did manage to stand a few times, walking was clearly not her forte. In the meantime, the biggest buckling was getting more than his fair share of mama's colostrum. It seemed he was always on one teat, while the other doe and buck took turns on the other one.

Luckily, Giselle had just kidded with twins 24 hours earlier. Normally when a goat has a single or twins, we milk them at 24 hours and put it in the freezer for emergencies or other situations where we need more colostrum than what the mama goat is producing. Hindsight is 20/20, but if I could have turned back time, I would have milked her right away, before the big buckling had made such a piggy of himself. Although it wouldn't be a problem to have the three kids nursing practically non-stop, because they'd get a little each time, milking her for the tiny one would be useless, because we wouldn't get enough to put in a bottle. So, the decision was made to bottlefeed the baby with Giselle's milk.

Buckling weighed 4.1 pounds, and doeling was 1.5!
What a week it has been with the tiny doeling that Katherine is calling her Little Valentine. We brought her into the house so that we could give her the frequent, small feedings that she needed. She didn't usually take more than an ounce at a time for several days. On the second day she drank two ounces for a couple of feedings, and we were getting excited, but then she reverted to one ounce a day on the third day, and her little mustard poops had streaks of blood. I had never seen that before, so asked some other goat breeders. One of them who bottlefeeds all of her kids said that she had seen it a few times, and it probably was not a big deal. She called the vet, freaking out the first time, and the vet listed several reasons why it could happen, and that it was not a problem. Because most of my kids are raised by mama, I don't see every single poop, which would explain why I've never seen it before.

The whole week with her has been one step backward after every two steps forward. She took three ounces at one feeding, but then reverted back to two ounces. I finally told myself that "normal" is a subjective term. This is her normal. It really does not matter that most kids at a week are sucking down four ounces in a couple minutes. She is just a little delayed, and there is not anything that anyone can do about it. Patience has never been one of my stronger virtues, but I'm learning.

This week on Antiquity Oaks: Seven goats are due, including two la manchas that will be giving birth to mini manchas that were sired by my ND bucks. And we've started maple sugaring!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Giselle's twins

Sunday, February 13 -- A couple days after Charlotte gave birth, it became obvious that Giselle was in labor. Unlike Charlotte and Jo, Giselle is not the quiet, stoic type of goat. Rather than running in at the last minute, we were with Giselle for a couple hours before she gave birth. I kept thinking that something was wrong and then I'd realize that I was just comparing her to Charlotte and Jo, who are truly extraordinary. And I reminded myself that it is not a good thing to have a goat scream once and pop out a kid in one push as I am running through the dark from the house to the barn.

Katherine and I were sitting in the pen with Giselle, who was so much more affectionate than normal. She kept laying down and putting her head on our laps, leaning up against us, and giving us kisses. I joked that her tongue was going to be too tired to clean off her babies by the time they were born. But she was determined to get us cleaned up!

Giselle's buckling was born first!
Once she plopped down and started pushing earnestly, the kids made their appearance fairly quickly. After the second one was born, Giselle seemed very happy -- as if she was done. But I was pretty sure that she must have one more in there. She was the widest of all the goats due last week, although I realized she is not very long-bodied. But that's why I thought three instead of four. Katherine and I debated the possibility of there being another kid inside, and finally I said that I'd believe there were only two if they were four pounds each. They were obviously pretty big, but I really didn't think they were four pounds each, so I weighed them in a canvas shopping bag hanging from my dairy scale, which was just checked for accuracy in preparation for milk testing. The little buck was 4.5 pounds, and the little doe was 4.1! That's a lot of kids to be carrying around!

Giselle's doeling
So, she was done. It was nice attending a birth when the sun was up and the temperature was above freezing. The kids are doing quite well, and Giselle has plenty of milk for them and has even been sharing with us. We haven't separated her from her kids at all, but we've milked her a few times, and we've gotten anywhere from a few squirts to a pound.

And I'm sorry I've given no credit to the father of all these kids lately. I guess I sort of forgot about his contribution since it was five months ago, but Silveraurora Apple Jack was apparently a very busy buck back then. Giselle, Charlotte, and Jo were all pen bred with AJ, so I didn't really know when to expect their babies to arrive. All the rest of the goats have a specific due date, so I can at least narrow down the possible birth dates to a six or seven day window. I don't think I'll be pen breeding for winter kiddings again. That was too stressful.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Charlotte's quads

In previous episodes . . . Jo gave birth to quads at midnight when the temperature was eight degrees below zero. The next morning, the bucks were refusing to eat or drink, so Deborah spent the whole day running them down to the U of I vet clinic, only to learn that they were stressed out. Arriving home in time for supper, Deborah didn't get to bed until after 10 p.m., and then at 2:24 a.m., she sat straight up in bed and screamed, "Goat!" as the sound of a goat screaming over the baby monitor awakened her . . .

Charlotte's buckling
I knew it was Charlotte, because she had all the signs and symptoms of going into labor soon. I jumped out of bed and got dressed as quickly as I could. Because the temperature was in the teens (above zero), I told Mike that he and I should be able to handle it on our own, so he didn't need to wake Katherine. I grabbed an armful of towels and ran to the barn. One kid was already born when I arrived. I started blow drying it as Charlotte licked it. Unlike her half sister, Jo, who is also a Sherri daughter, Charlotte gave us plenty of time to dry each kid before pushing out another one. It was very considerate of her, and we thanked her profusely. By the time we got all the kids to nurse, it was after 5 a.m. as we headed into the house. I can't believe how few details of this birth that I remember, but I was running on empty at the time. Final tally was four kids -- two bucks and two does.

Charlotte's mini-me doeling looks like mama!
The next evening I noticed that one of the bucklings was sucking on Charlotte's beard. I tried to get him to latch on, but he wanted nothing to do with it. I was thinking about cutting off Charlotte's beard, but then I saw him sucking on a sibling's ear, so there didn't seem to be much point in cutting off the beard. His tummy didn't feel full, but I knew he had nursed well at birth. I did recall that he was the second one to nurse, and I'd seen him nurse more than once. He was big and strong, so I wasn't worried. I thought that maybe he was just being weird. But the next morning he was dead. I had heard stories of baby goats and sheep sucking on odd things and starving, but it has never happened here. I guess I always assumed it was something that might happen at birth if there is no one there to help the kids get started. It never occurred to me that a kid might be nursing and then totally forget how to do it. I still find it odd, but it is certainly something that I will be more careful about in the future. Of course, it could have been something completely unrelated to that, but it's the first thing that popped into my head when Mike told me the little guy had died. It's hard to believe he could go from bouncing around to dead in only nine hours.

Sundgau doeling make me glad I'm not a goat mama!
Tonight when we were doing chores, I noticed that Charlotte's udder was huge. It really looked like she needed to be milked, so I got a milk bucket for Katherine. The dear girl isn't used to milking much right now because the goats have only begun to give birth, and they're all nursing kids at the moment, so her hands were in pain fairly quickly. I noticed that the bucket was more than half full. It wound up being more than a quart! So, Charlotte certainly has a lot of milk -- more than enough to feed four. I'm glad because we do have a bottle baby now, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Coming up: I still need to tell you about Giselle's twins before you hear the wild news of Bonnie's birth. And there are exciting developments on Homegrown and Handmade!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Jo's quads

I have to get this written before I forget everything! Tomorrow is the deadline to get my manuscript to the publisher for Homegrown and Handmade, but the goats don't know or care, and I don't blame them, of course. We've had four kiddings in the past few days -- three set of quads and one set of twins. Yes, that's a record for us. Last year, we had two sets of quads, and before that, we'd never had more than one set of quads in a year.

February 9 -- Jo's tail ligaments were rock sold, so we were all thinking she would be the third or fourth to kid. Charlotte's ligaments had been soft as a rubber band for days, so we were carefully watching her, thinking that she could drop kids at any moment. I even spent one night in the barn when it was really cold, because I didn't want the kids to get hypothermia. We finally found the baby monitor and got it hooked up so I could sleep in the house.

Jo's belted doeling
Wednesday evening, one of the goats was bellowing over the monitor for quite some time, although it didn't sound like she was in the midst of actually giving birth, so I sent Katherine to check on her. She came back with an inconclusive report. So, before I went to bed at 11:00, I decided to go check on her myself, even though she had been quiet for the last couple hours. When I saw her and checked her tail ligaments, I thought, yes, she could go at any time. So, I put her into a kidding pen with clean straw and bucket of warm water and came inside.

I was brushing my teeth, and Jo continued to make little "meh, meh, meh" sounds. As I was just about to get dressed for bed, Mike said, "I think I hear a kid." I listened, but I didn't hear anything. He insisted. "Don't you hear it?" Knowing that I would forever feel guilty if I didn't go check on Jo, I headed downstairs. As I was putting on my insulated overalls -- because it was 8 BELOW ZERO outside -- Mike yelled down the stairs, "That's a newborn sound!" He sounded really convinced, so I hurried outside. He said he would listen at the baby monitor, in case I needed help.

Jo's black doeling
I walked into the kidding barn and saw Jo laying right where she had plopped down fifteen minutes earlier when I left her. At her back end were three babies in a puddle of amniotic fluid. I started screaming a bunch of stuff that I didn't even remember five minutes later. It really didn't matter what I was screaming. I knew if Mike heard me, he'd come running, and I knew I needed all the help I could get. If we didn't get the kids dry and warm quickly, their ears could freeze, or worse, they would die of hypothermia. I ran to the office and grabbed the blow dryer and heating pad. When I got to the pen, I realized I needed towels, so I dropped everything and ran back to the office for the towels, running smack into the handle of a wheelbarrow in the darkness.

Jo's black and white buckling
Having no idea which kid had been born first, I spread out a towel, grabbed two kids and wrapped them up in it, while I toweled off the third one and began blow drying it. As soon as Mike arrived, I told him to start toweling off one of the other kids. We didn't even stop to check the sex of the kids until we'd been working on drying them for at least five minutes. Jo was making the most horrible noise. She sounded like she was dying, and she was shivering badly. We draped a towel over her back to help warm her. As soon as Katherine arrived, I told her to get the Nutri-Drench, which is a molasses and vitamin concoction that gives goats a little extra energy. I squirted some into Jo's mouth, and she continued making the pathetically weak bleating sound. About ten minutes later, she pushed out a fourth kid -- a doe. All of the kids were at least three pounds, so I wasn't worried about any of them.

It took two hours to get the kids dry, and by then, the placenta had passed. We helped the kids get started with nursing, and then shortly after 2 a.m., we went to bed.

Hope you'll forgive me for not getting any pictures of the blessed event. Jo's kidding was the beginning of a crazy few days, and these photos were taken when the kids were three days old. Unfortunately, I didn't get any non-blurry photos of the broken buckskin buckling, which is a shame, because he's really cute.

Coming up -- the stories of Charlotte's quads, Giselle's twins, and Bonnie's quads! Hope I can get those written before Carmen, Coco, Cleo, Caboose, and Lizzie start kidding! They're all due the 21st and 22nd, but Carmen has a history of going early.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Stress, anyone?

The last few days have gone by in a blur! Wednesday night, shortly before midnight, Jo gave birth to quadruplets when the temperature was 8 below zero, and I didn't get to bed until after 2 a.m. Without even having breakfast or a cup of coffee, I went out to check on the kids first thing in the morning to make sure no one's ears had frozen in the past few hours. Kids were fine, and I decided to feed the rest of the goats before I went back inside for my own breakfast. When I approached the buck's stall with an armful of hay, I had no place to put it because they had not eaten their hay from the night before. They looked up at me shivering. I put down the hay, grabbed their water bucket and ran to the pump room to get some warm water for them. The phone rang when I was in there, and it was someone at the University of Illinois large animal hospital calling me back about a couple of minor issues.

"Well, this wasn't why I was calling, but I have a whole new problem now! My bucks aren't eating, and they're shivering." My son had taken the water bucket to the boys and immediately came back to tell me that they weren't drinking either. I explained it all to the tech on the phone, and she said it sounded like some type of poisoning and suggested I bring in all six of the boys.

"And it says here that you have a buck that can't hear and has scours?" she asked. Scours is what they call diarrhea in livestock.

I laughed. "No! The man who took my message couldn't understand what I was saying, but I have a buck with SCURS. I even spelled it for him." Scurs are what bucks get when a bit of their horn grows after they've been disbudded. Huge difference between that and diarrhea!

She laughed. "Okay, we can take care of that when you come in. I guess this message meant that he couldn't hear you."

I don't think I laughed again for the rest of the day. I couldn't take the trailer because it was totally snowed in and also appeared to be stuck in ice. So we loaded up the bucks in dog crates on the back of the truck, which had to be dug out of the snow. I still had not had any breakfast, so I put some granola in a bowl and made myself a cup of tea for the road. I called Margaret, my daughter who is an engineering student at U of I and asked her if she could meet me at the vet clinic with a bowl of soup from Panera. She said yes. As I drove the two hours to the vet clinic, I wondered if anyone would be dead upon arrival. There must be something terribly wrong if the bucks are not eating or drinking. Normally, they clean out the hay feeder within 30 minutes of us filling it, and they love their warm water and usually suck down most of the five gallon bucket right away.

When we arrived at the clinic, I was relieved to see everyone had survived the trip. The vet students unloaded the bucks and began examining them. The intern and four students took the history and did physical exams. Then the vet professor came in, looked at the boys and said they looked awfully healthy. The students started giving her the history and the results of the physical exam. She asked if they had offered the bucks any hay since we arrived. No, they had not. So, she sent one of the students out to get some hay. He brought it back, and several people grabbed a handful and offered it to the bucks, which they eagerly grabbed and began eating. Huh?

"Are you guys spoiled?" the professor asked the bucks as they looked up at everyone when there was no hay left. "Do you want to be hand fed?"

The vet professor asked if I had brought any of my hay. Yes, I had a large trash bag full of the hay that I pulled out of their feeder -- the hay that had been in there since last night, untouched. The hay that was possibly toxic, which had caused them to be shivering and not eating or drinking. She and the students sniffed it, pronounced it beautiful, and offered it to the bucks, which they eagerly gobbled up.

Diagnosis: stress. Between their raging testosterone and the below zero temperatures, the vet felt that the boys were simply too stressed to eat or drink earlier. But it was 70 degrees in the clinic. While they took care of Pinkerton's scur, the other bucks continued gobbling up the hay that I had brought.

So, the bucks have been hanging out in the barn, having food and warm water brought to them regularly, and they're stressed? What kind of a rumble did they have Wednesday night that caused them to be incapable of eating? They weren't the ones delivering baby goats in -8 temperatures, blow drying ears for two hours to keep them from freezing. I'm sure they got more than 4 hours of sleep last night. They had dinner and breakfast offered to them, which they refused. And THEY are stressed?

I pulled back into the driveway at home close to 6 p.m., having devoted the whole day to my bucks, simply to learn that they were stressed. My shoulders were as stiff as bricks, and I had a raging headache, probably from not getting enough sleep, food, or water. Mike and the kids took care of the goats while I tried to catch up on email. Mike kept telling me I needed to get to bed, but I didn't make it until after 10 p.m.

Four hours later, at 2:24 a.m., I sat bolt upright in bed, not really awake, and screamed, "Goat!" as I heard Charlotte bellowing over the baby monitor. . . .

I'll tell you the stories of Jo's and Charlotte's births in the next couple days. And Giselle should be kidding today.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Milk anxiety

 Charlotte was pen bred, so I don't have an exact due date,
but her udder is big, and her ligaments are soft, so it should be soon.
For those of you who don't have your own milk supply, I can now say that I feel your pain. It's been a few years since we've run out of milk, and it was a terrible feeling. I scheduled the kiddings a little too tightly into a two-month period, and the last goat dried up in January before Athena kidded. And then my plans for starting to share milk with the babies was delayed, because I was worried about her little buckling nursing enough.

Giselle is due today, so she should kid this week.
My time without my own milk was a dark time. My children, who are accustomed to my rantings about commercially raised food, even got tired of listening to my angst, especially in the grocery store. I won't buy Horizon dairy products, because they're owned by Dean Foods, and they keep their cows inside, rather than letting them outside. And this isn't some animal rights propaganda. Dean/Horizon admits they keep the cows inside, as if there is nothing wrong with the practice. And since the class action lawsuit was filed against six different stores that were selling store-brand conventional milk labeled as organic, I'm worried about buying generic organic dairy. The label on organic creamer freaked me out because I had no idea what a couple of the ingredients were. Call me simplistic, but I think I should recognize all the ingredients in organic creamer.

Luckily, there is a local dairy that sells Jersey milk. I've been to their farm and seen their cows grazing in the pasture. I've asked the owner if they use rBGH, and he said no. Although their milk is pasteurized, it's not homogenized, so it is processed less than other milk. Although they don't feed organic grain, I understand because I can't get organic grain around here for my goats either. I'd rather have their milk than a certified organic milk that comes from a dairy across the country, where I have no idea how the cows are treated. The dairy world has become such a complicated maze, but I'm lucky that I have a good local option. I wish more people did.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Blizzard of 2011

Sorry I didn't post sooner, but it's been crazy around here the last few days! Yes, we survived The Blizzard of 2011! It was a scary mess. Visibility grew shorter and shorter as the shelters in the pastures disappeared one by one until I could only see the red chicken house, which is the closest building to our house. As the sun went down Tuesday, I felt like we were moving into a tunnel and started to feel a little claustrophobic. The windows gradually grew whiter and whiter as the snow whipped right through the screens and stuck to the glass. The windows also rattled, which was a little unnerving.

The college didn't close until 4 p.m., so Mike (husband and professor) and Katherine (daughter and student) drove home after it had already started. As they attempted to pull into our driveway, they found themselves stuck in the snow with most of the car still in the road. Although we weren't really worried about anyone coming by at that moment, we knew that it was only going to get worse as we had heard two feet of snow predicted, and we're just south of a wide open cornfield. We concluded it would be better to dig out a foot now, rather than wait until the whole thing ended the next day. Jonathan had attempted to get the driveway shoveled, but it was fruitless, so Mike finally managed to get the car moved into the end of the driveway, where at least it wouldn't get run over by a snow plow.

Then we realized that the lady llamas' shelter was filling up with snow, so they needed to be moved. Although I can normally see everything in their pasture with no problem, it was completely white by then, so I couldn't see anything. Katherine and Mike volunteered to go out there, halter them, and bring them into the barn. Llamas are not the friendliest animals around, but they cooperated far better than ever before. Katherine easily haltered Katy, although Katy initially balked as Katherine had to first walk her straight into the storm. Once the llama realized they were headed for the barn, she practically bolted. It was nerve wracking sitting in the house, having no idea how the move was going, so I was relieved when Mike and Katherine finally came back inside and said the lady llamas were in the barn.

If you were interested in the storm, I'm sure you got your fill via the media. Interstates, schools, and businesses were closed, because the snow was simply coming down too hard and fast for anyone to be able to keep up. Even after the snow stopped falling, the wind continued to make a mess of things. Because we're on the south side of a wide open field, the snow had nothing to stop it until it hit our farm -- and boy, did it hit!

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, so here you go. This was our west driveway on Wednesday afternoon, and that's a four-foot fence on the horizon. My husband's car was stuck outside the gate.

Mike finally got it cleared out by Thursday around noon . . . 

This is the front yard. The four foot picket fence is buried under all the snow. And those little pine trees -- they're actually seven to eight feet tall.

The three-sided shelters in the pastures completely filled up with snow. I'm glad we didn't have any animals in them!

Having a big horseshoe driveway seems cool in the middle of summer, but not very cool when you've had a blizzard. As of this morning, Mike is almost done with the east driveway! Once he gets past the gate, there is a bank of snow that's about six feet high from the snow plow. Yep, he did all of this with a shovel.

Overall, I can't complain. All the animals and humans fared well. I feel like we need T-shirts that say, "We survived the Blizzard of 2011 on Antiquity Oaks!"


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