Sunday, September 27, 2009

Birth Of A Goat

6:30 p.m. I'm sitting on the milking stand, waiting for Blossom to have her babies. The goats are not in the milking room or they'd be typing right along with me. They are in the stall next to the milking room, and if I stand up and peer over the partition, I can see what is going on. I do this every five minutes or so.

Right now, nothing is happening, other than Virginia Slim slamming into sweet Alsiki. For all her dainty, porcelain looks, Virginia Slim isn't very nice to Alsiki, especially when they are in an enclosed space. But this is not something I can do anything about, and is typical goat behavior.

But back to Blossom. When I came to check on her at five on this rainy evening, I thought I had proof definite that things were imminent: a small amount of mucus (the seal that keeps the babies safely inside and germs outside) was draining out of her. The first look I took at her this morning had already told me that this might be the big day. Her udder, which had grown progressively over the last six weeks was, if possible, even larger. And she seemed clingier somehow, and talkative, she who has always been a practically silent goat. But these were “soft” signs, open to over-interpretation. No way I'm imagining the discharge, though.

I'm far from an experienced goat obstetrician. In the three goat periods in my life, I've seen fewer than ten births, and they've all gone swimmingly. So who knows, I may be here all night, waiting for the blessed event. One disconcerting sign is that goats usually stop eating when they go into labor. Blossom, on the other hand, hasn't stopped eating all evening. She's pulling great wads of hay non-stop out of the feeder, and she polished off her grain.

7 p.m. More discharge, and she's talking, making little strangled sounds that mean—what? That she's worried, looking for her babies, in pain? Giving birth makes goats talkative for the rest of their lives. They talk while they're giving birth, they talk to their babies after they're born, they talk when they need to be milked, they talk because the sun is out or because they have just caught sight of you behind the kitchen window.

This milking stand sure is hard to sit on. ..in case you're wondering, it is my plan to chronicle this event as it is happening, as faithfully as I can. I won't be taking pictures, though.

How many babies will Blossom have? Goats usually have two, but they can have one, or as many as four. Blossom is a Nigerian Dwarf—a miniature dairy breed—and these teensy goats often have triplets or quads. Blossom is as wide as she is tall right now, but she might just have one large kid...and that can make for a difficult birth, especially for a first-time mother. But let's not think about that.

I could be thinking about what I do want Blossom to have. My first impulse is to say, “it makes no difference, as long as it's healthy,” the standard answer of parents-to-be in pre-sonogram days.

In the world of animal husbandry, people devoutly wish for females: heifers, doelings, ewe lambs, pullets. They will give milk, eggs, babies. Bull calves, buck kids, rams and roosters can only give...meat (something for ovo-lacto vegetarians—of whom I was one myself—to keep in mind). Oh, yes, and they give sperm, too. But thanks to Nature's bizarre design, and to a technology that can collect semen and fly it anywhere, a single bull could theoretically supply enough sperm to impregnate every dairy cow in America. But the sex ratio of farm animals at birth is the same as for humans, roughly half males and half females. So the little boy animals get eaten.

Theoretically, then, I should be wishing for does. But I'm not trying to increase the size of my herd—the three does I have now are actually one too many. And I don't want lots more milk, thank you very much. In my dairy operation, smallness in size and number is key. If Blossom has a doeling or two, I will sell them. But does are considerably more expensive than bucks, and so perhaps harder to place. I do NOT want to get attached to these little animals. It's a slippery slope, and one can end up with a hundred goats in no time at all. Bucklings are often bought for pets, or as companions for horses or donkeys. Or for meat....

8:30 p.m. No further developments. Blossom is lying down, chewing her cud. This could be a long night. I'm going to cancel tomorrow morning's herding lesson. Wolfie will be disappointed, but I will need some sleep.

It is now raining cats and dogs, and I couldn't be more grateful that we when we built our little barn we attached it to the back of our attached garage, so I can go from house to barn without getting wet. THIS is real luxury.

9:30 p.m. Change of plans. It's clear that Blossom is not in active labor. I don't need to stay in the barn all evening, but I will sleep fully clothed on the couch downstairs tonight, with the baby monitor by my side. I've given all three goats what they love most in the world, a good brushing, and will leave them to get some sleep.

Now I'm going to check on the puppy Bisou, whom my spouse has been kindly babysitting all evening, and I'll post again as developments occur.

2 comments :

  1. This is infinitely better than CNN or any local news. You won't sleep well but try and what a household of babies and almost babies you have. Of course, by choice ;)

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  2. Actually we managed to be in bed by 1:30. Very considerate of Blossom, don't you think?

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