We were looking forward to a particularly easy-going Sunday morning this week; we’d gone to Mass the evening before (very unusual for us), and didn’t have anything on the schedule before mid-afternoon. I figured I’d sleep in, and then spend some time in front of the fireplace.
Mother Nature had other plans, and proved that “farmers never get a day off.” Out in the barn, I got hay for the sheep and fed the chickens. Then, as I took hay to the goats, I spotted something very odd: a smallish white body of some kind of animal, laying under the hay feeder. My first thought: it’s a dead cat. Then, an instant later, I remembered that we have never had any white cats. A wild animal? Nope. Possums are the only white animals I can think of, and this was definitely not a possum.
Finally, my brain kicked into gear: STUPID. It’s a GOAT KID. One of the does obviously gave birth in the night, and this is where she deposited the kid.
All the goats were swarming me, trying to get the hay that I was still holding in my arms. I feared that if I filled the hay feeder the goat kid was under, the herd would trample the kid to death. So, brain now fully engaged, I filled the feeder at the other end of the goat area first, drawing the herd away from the kid. With the herd distracted, I filled the other feeder and then snatched the kid into my arms before any adult goats could get close.
Fortunately, the kid was alive. She’d been laying so still, and looked so dirty and neglected, that hadn’t been clear it first. Now came my next two tasks: (1) see if there was a twin laying around somewhere else, and (2) identify the mother.
A quick scan of the goat area revealed no twin. But identifying the kid’s mother proved more difficult. The kid was now bleating (which I took as a good sign of life), but none of our does was responding. And they were doing so much swarming and fighting over the hay, none was standing still long enough for me to get a good look at their backsides. At last, I found a young doe (Holly) with dried blood on her haunches — but it looked like it’d been a while since she’d delivered. Her udder and teats looked tiny, and she wouldn’t stand still for me to see if any milk had come in. Worst of all, despite the kid’s insistent bleating, Holly seemed oblivious to her.
Being only fifteen degrees outside (and about 25 degrees in the barn), I decided to take the kid into the house and confer with Mrs Yeoman Farmer. We put her in a box next to the fire and let her warm up a bit, and sent Little Big Brother [with Yeoman Farm Baby’s arrival, he’s not “Little Brother” anymore] upstairs to rouse his siblings. They weren’t happy about getting out of bed initially, but eventually came tromping down excitedly to see the new kid.
Our biggest concern: how would we handle the logistics of our herd? Holly and her newborn kid needed a separate place where they could bond and she could focus on taking care of the little one, but we already had two older kids in the kidding pen, in the process of weaning so we could milk their mother (Button). If we just turned those two older kids back into Gen Pop, we’d lose the morning’s milk. The two oldest Yeoman Farm Children volunteered to go out immediately and milk Button, and we decided that the kids could then stay with her in Gen Pop for at least the next 24 hours while Holly adjusted to motherhood. Perhaps Monday night we would put the two older kids back in the kidding pen with Holly and the new arrival, and see how that went. (The YFCs were of course pleased to realize they wouldn’t have to milk again before Tuesday morning.)
So, the YFCs and I headed for the barn. We took Scooter the Amazing Wonderdog with us, to help move Button’s kids out of the kidding pen — and move Holly into it. I got Holly a nice clean bucket of warm water with apple cider vinegar (as a good overall tonic), and a little bit of grain (to aid her milk production). As the YFCs began milking Button, I smashed ice out of the sheep water trough and goat water trough (both were frozen solid), then thawed the faucet and refilled both water troughs to the brim.
After taking the milk into the house, Homeschooled Farm Girl and I turned our attention to Holly and the new kid. The kid was still just laying in the stall’s bedding, and Holly was showing no interest in anything but eating. We wanted to make sure that the kid (and Holly) figured out the whole nursing thing, and that the kid got a good meal, before we left them to their own devices. HFG held Holly still, which allowed me to finally do a good inspection of the goat’s udder. There was definitely milk in there, but it was way up high and felt hard. I gave the udder a thorough massage, and HFG managed to express some milk from the tiny teats. She guided the kid to a teat…and Holly pulled away. HFG got a new grip on Holly, and I focused on keeping the kid on the teat. To get low enough, and at the right angle, I had to basically lay in the stall’s soiled bedding…but the kid did eventually get a good first meal. As the kid suckled, HFG and I had a nice conversation about goats and milking and cats and everything else that HFG likes to talk about. Which is many things.
Our mission accomplished, the two of us headed to the house so we could finally have some breakfast. After breakfast, with my prospect for quiet “Sunday morning time” in front of the fire long gone, I went out to the solitude of my office for a bit. About a half hour later, I heard the farmhouse door closing and wondered where the YFCs were going (and why). Ten or fifteen minutes after that, I got my answer: HFG appeared at my office door with good news. She’d just been to the barn, and the new kid was finally up and on her feet. And she was nursing on her own — and Holly was standing still for her to do it, and sniffing the nursing kid just like all the other mother goats do.
I thanked HFG for the update, and praised her initiative in going out to check on the new kid. And asked her if she’d like to take my camera to the barn, so we could share some photos of the new arrival with all of the blog’s readers.
HFG happily agreed to carry out that task. She brought back a nice photo of the kid:
Just another Sunday morning on the farm. Just another day when you have no idea what to expect.