Friday, February 21, 2014

Ruby's Passing & Jesse's Birth: WARNING GRAPHIC



I love my goats for many reasons; their unique personalities, their penchant for getting into mischief, their stubborn insistence on eating Sean's would-be grape vines, and the excited way they greet me each day among them. I am a freak that enjoys mucking out the stalls because I love how fresh and clean they look and smell when it is finished. I love the scent of our goats, maybe not Jedi in the fall so much, but overall, their scent is homey and pleasant to me. Don't judge me. I cannot be the only person in the world who feels so. I hate rising in the morning early, but I love the feeling of peace and calm that envelops me sitting on my milk stand, head resting on the warm fur of a doe happily munching her grain, the whoosh of a stream of warm milk hitting my pan, turning into a liquid tinkle as it fills. The knowledge that I will create delicious cheeses and healthy soaps for my family's enjoyment. So, when I say I HATE kidding season with a passion, please understand, that it is not that I hate caring for my goats. I love my goats. I hate kidding season. I hate the worry. I hate the possible loss. I hate the heartache that sometimes comes- even when you do everything you can to make things work out right.

In the midst of the joy of Jane kidding a healthy buck this morning and everything going just right with that labor (like Leah's yesterday), we lost Ruby. She was still laying down this morning. We set up to give her this morning's infusion. Overnight, she had swollen and dilated in preparation for kidding. We called for our vet to come out to help again this morning. With the potential for complications with Ruby's delivery, we did not want to chance going it alone. Having successfully administered her infusion last night, I felt at ease that I could repeat it, but if Ruby was unable to stand, we might need to take more skilled action than either Sean or I are trained for.

Ruby died quickly. We did not even get the IV infusion line connected to her port before she began calling loudly and straining hard- much harder than she should have been. Jen left us with some banamine yesterday, just in case. Banamine is a pain medication. We do not routinely administer it to our does in labor, but there are times when it is needed. We injected Ruby's thigh muscle with a dose. Ruby began to relax and her breathing returned to a normal rate. It seemed, like yesterday, she was making progress. Sean and I worked together to get her IV ready and in minutes everything changed. Ruby laid her head down, her eyes glazed over and she was gone. No time to grieve, we needed to get those kids out NOW. First, Sean reached his hand inside Ruby to see if he could feel a kid. Nothing. No kids were present.

Sean called Ridge Runner to see how far away Jen was, but there was no time to wait. Sean steeled himself for what had to be done. While I caught Jane's first kid, hastily got his airway cleared, and checked him over for trouble, Rachel from Ridge Runner was talking Sean through where to make the initial incision. The location was on the left side of Ruby's abdomen, just in front of the juncture of where her back left leg met her body. He cut through the skin to reveal muscle. I joined Sean and held Ruby's leg out of the way while Sean carefully cut to find the first kid. Careful not to open the multiple stomachs or intestines, Sean cut into the white sac holding amniotic fluid. Forearm deep in Ruby's body, he felt and found the first forelegs and pulled out a warm, but limp kid. On speaker phone, the calm, reassuring voice of Rachel talked me through draining the fluid from the kid by carefully hanging her upside-down and giving her a quick little jerk. The fluids poured out of the kid's mouth and nose. Rachel told me how to poke a needle into the goat's mouth (inside) at the place where the kid's upper lip joins with her nose- a pressure point to jump her into movement and possibly life. That did not produce any result. I sealed my mouth around the kid's nose and mouth and blew air into it's body. Her chest cavity inflated and deflated as I attempted resuscitation, but did not respond. Desperate to try anything, I asked, "What else can I do?" The answer, "I'm sorry. It's just too late, I'm afraid. I am very sorry." While I worked to save the first kid, Sean removed the second, a pure black boy with perfect lamancha ear buds. Sean attempted to revive Ruby's son, using the same methods, but it was just too late. We placed the kids with Ruby and covered them. Sean went inside to rinse his hands. Jane still needed our attention and she had another kid coming.

Jane's second kid came fast, like twins usually do, but there was no movement in its feet when she pushed- no signs of life. In seconds, Jane delivered her daughter, still-born. No! We attempted to revive this kid, too, just in case, by some miracle we could bring her back, but we were unsuccessful. The second kid was born dead.

Overcome with emotion and with nothing else pressuring us to remain focused, Sean and I broke down in tears. We held each other, surrounded by the sounds of the barn and wept tears for Ruby and her passing. Tears for the loss of three little lives that ended before they had even one chance to wiggle and play. Tears for being helpless to change this outcome.

Snuggling and watching the little guys that are thriving gives me some comfort to be sure, but it cannot completely cover the ache in my heart for losing Ruby and the kids today. I wish I had the luxury of keeping goats solely as pets, never to be bred. That is not realistic or possible, though. And, the thing is, if you stop doing things because of fear that something "bad" might happen, you also lose the potential of something "wonderful" finding you. Our first year, we lost no one during kidding season, but Ellie had a close call. Last year brought us joy in the five healthy kids born to four lovely Momma does. And, the heartache of losing Sapphira while kidding. The joy to be had in this season is found in being blessed with three healthy bucks to three thriving does. This is a working farm. It has to work. We all have to contribute our part. We do not breed our does every year as many folk do. We care for our animals the best way we know how. We take the good with the bad. Today, we are living our share of bad.

I am very thankful that Jane's first born is healthy and is doing just fine. He is a beautiful little buck. Our daughter, Meaghan, named him Jesse.

Jesse is going to be full of trouble- sticking out his tongue at us already!
We'll be back to update on the kids, their mom's, and any new kidding developments. In an effort to focus on the joy, we'll also have plenty of video and images of the new kids in the days to come. Here's one to start you off:



  1. OMG!! That is so heartbreaking. You both are so much stronger than I could ever be. So sorry for your losses and may you have many wonderful things happen from here on out. <3

  2. Oh Sonja my heart aches. Having a working farm brings many ups and downs.

  3. Aww Sonja that's so sad. I'm so sorry!

  4. I am so sorry to hear of the events on your farm. It sounds like to you EVERYTHING you could to help your herd. Sometime things are not meant to be. Sending hugs...

  5. Last night I could not read your blog after Dale told me the news and was awake half the night just grieving for you guys and the sweet goats. But your journal actually helped me a lot. I'm so very sorry for your loss, knowing that, for you, your animals are part of your extended family. But congratulations on welcoming Samson, Elisha, and Jesse!

  6. Okay, as I sit here this morning reading this post...........even though I had heard the story firsthand yesterday...I find my eyes swelling in tears, just as they did yesterday...My heart breaks for the sadness...I understand it, I get that the world works in mystical ways, but I also know that you and Sean did everything in your power to help Ruby and her unborn kids. I know that your heart broke yesterday and I know that you and Sean will keep that knowledge in the front of your mind so that if you ever have to do those things again, you won't pause because you didn't know what to do, you will act with sertenty, that I am sure of. Love to you all, I hope that you find some comfort in the healthy kids and their moms that you have to interact with. Kidding season is almost done for you, so you only have to hold your breath for a bit more.