Monday, March 28, 2011

A kidding season of lessons and losses

I'm having a rough goat week and kidding season in general. Last week was our Sustainable Agricultural Conference which I attended all three days - and I've been intending on writing about what I learned and was inspired by. Zuri was due to kid on Friday, and all week while sitting in on goat and farming lectures, I was just sure she was in pre/early labor. On Friday night she entered active labor. She was progressing enough at ten p.m. that I dared not go to sleep for a couple hours. However, those first timers take forever! I watched her labor until four a.m. before I woke Dustin up for an extra set of hands. I always have a hard time deciding when to go in. You don't want to go in and risk infection or interrupt the natural process, but you don't want dead kids from waiting too long either. One of my goals for this kidding season was not to go in pre-maturely. In Zinnia's case, she had been having mild contractions sporadically but then her labor had stalled. She was dialated but the kids were pretty far in, so I don't know if she would have kidded on her own or not. In Zuri's case, her labor was long and also intense. She was really pushing for a while, but nothing was hapenning. I went in to my wrist and felt a mouth and tongue, with the hooves under or next to the face. I worked on grabbing both hooves and then hanging on. With her contractions I pulled the legs forward so she was in the correct position. Even then, the kid was big, and a first timer does not have a lot of room back there. It took a lot of work to get the kid out. Yeah, a doeling!

The doeling seemed fine. She was a silvery gray and white, with lots of white on her face. She was standing and nursing in less than an hour. I headed to bed about six a.m. sure that she was off to a good start. D checked on her a few hours later and reported that the doeling wasn't interested in nursing so we figured she was full still, or finding it on her own. At one p.m I headed down to check on her and she was flat on her side, limp and floppy. We brought her up and fed her with a drenching syringe every hour or two over the course of the day. She was the first doeling to spend the night by my bed. The next day she seemed stronger but still weak. We would take her down to see her dam every few hours. Then bring her back up.

Zuri was an overenthusiastic mom. When we first noticed the doeling was week, we wondered if her mother had pawed in an anxious attempt to get her daughter up and moving, and possibly kicked or pawed her own daughter in the head accidentally.Zuri licked her doeling constantly, and kept getting her wet after we'd dried her off. She would lick her so hard from behind that the doeling would topple over and have a hard time uprighting herself.

By Sunday morning she was standing again, finding the teat and nursing on her own. She spent all day Sunday with her dam. Dustin asked me if I was sure I didn't want to bring her in for the night. I was insistent that she was strong enough and that she would be better off if she could nurse throughout the night. I was positive that she would live. We would keep her. She is Zuri's first doeling. Zuri lost her dam, and has no family among the does. So we were overjoyed that she now had a daughter.

This morning I anxiously headed out to check on her. We have the barn divided into four stalls, three are closed off with a dam and kids in each, Zuri and her doeling were in one of these. The other stall is currently housing Xan the next doe to kid, who can come in and out through the goat door. Xan was outside and in her stall was the doeling. The doeling had gotten out through the slat in the sliding pocket gate and was trampled to death. I have a board that I usually wedge between the gate and a hanging waterer to keep determined kids from getting through the slat in the gate. It hadn't even occurred to me to put it back in place. I didn't think the doeling had the strength or incentive to leave her dam and go investigating outside her safety zone. Another lesson learned.

I can't be mad at Xanadu. She is a goat, and her actions were not abnormal for a goat. I can only be mad at myself.  Disappointed with myself for not being more observant and attentive. Full of regrets for not taking proper measures to insure the safety of the new fragile doeling. I nursed a doeling for two full days, put all my determination and will into keeping her alive, and then to have it lost over one small mistake. I'm regretful and very, very sad.

As of today I'm milking Zuri twice a day. She is amazingly sweet for a first time milker. She almost stands in her stall untied while I milk her. Today I got her up on the milk-stand for milking and she stood still the whole time, although she was obviously disconcerted and uncomfortable not being used to the stand or having her teats squeezed. She has always been close to my heart and I look forward to spending more time with her over the coming months.

Our kidding losses this year have given me lots to think about. For one, I'm resolved not to sell our goats to anyone who just wants hardy brush clearers. A goat vet presenting at the pre-conference said that ten percent of goat kiddings are assisted and probably only five percent really need it. I think about my kidding experiences over the last four seasons and how many times I've interceded. Most of my goats would be dead or would not have been born if I had not been there at the right time. I wonder about the dairy goat in general and if has been bred too much for looks and milk production and not hardiness. Or maybe I just have incredibly bad luck. I think about how much blood, sweat, tears, money, effort, labor, thought and research I put into our goats, and to think that I still have this many losses. I don't have the answers.

I promise to write about my recent soap making spree or setting duck eggs next post.


JeffJustJeff said...

That's so sad. Don't be too hard on yourself. Like you said, you'll learn from this. Everything you've done has been motivated by love for your goats. You can't be faulted for that.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear about your kidding losses. It's tough, no matter how many you have in your herd.

Summer is coming soon. I look forward to exchanging garden/homestead visits!

Miranda said...

Emily, I'm sorry about your kid losses. That must be so tough to deal with after having invested so much time, energy and emotion.

I hope the rest of the kiddings go super smoothly for you. If you want to keep focusing on the goats, that's fine with me, I love hearing about it!

Denise said...

Oh Emily, I am so sorry for your loss! It is so difficult when we make errors in judgement, but please remember that you are doing your best and you cannot change the past - only learn from it.

About that vet who said most goats kid without assistance ... I'd say that's true, in an ideal environment when pregnant does can get plenty of exercise and are not confined to a barn all winter as is the case in Alaska. As much as we'd like our goats to be able to go out and enjoy the world, they are not suited for this harsh environment. I think that causes difficulties in kidding. And it certainly causes difficulties in keeping them safe!

My prayers are with you, and I'm glad Zuri's turning out to be such a fabulous milker! Next year, my friend. Keep looking forward.

Sandy said...

You've done the very best you can and your goats are loved and cared for so don't be too hard on yourself. I'm sorry for your loss, I know it's difficult to lose a baby. Hugs!

Jewel said...

Emily I'm so sad for your loss, I would be devastated too...Poor Zuri. I have had some losses with chickens and rabbits, they're not quite the same as a baby goat though.
Farm life can have these hard life and death moments.
Take care, my thoughts are with you.

Buttons said...

Emily I am sorry you are having a rough time with kidding. I know exactly how you feel I lost 6 calves this year 3 from wolves, one from accident that may or may not have been prevented. Two cause I was not here. Like you and too I blame myself for not getting involved in time even though it probably would not have made a difference. Always a lot of guilt and self doubt but we must not give in to this. We just do the best we can and hopefully next season will be better. Farming is certainly not for the faint of heart.Take care Emily it will get better.

Emily said...

Thankyou everyone for your kind words and encouragement. I'm feeling a little more optimistic today. We've still got three healthy doelings and a buckling. Two are very friendly and we are working with the other two. Xanadu is due around April tenth. She is huge,so at least two large kiddos in there. Thanks again, Emily

keren said...

I am so sorry for you. I know how hard it is to lose a doe. I lost one the first kidding season and then the next one also, in the first 2 years I had goats. Hope you will feel better soon. Enjoy keeping up with your goats and family.