Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Marathon Goat Kidding Weekend (GRAPHIC)

I don't even know where to begin. What a kidding season so far. We have more than a dozen experienced does expecting kids this year and five first fresheners. Those worry me. Not panic, but the uncertainty of milk coming in properly, kids positioned normally and sized appropriately, among other things, weigh heavily on my heart and mind.

Julia on her way to Belfast Veterinarian
I guess the best idea is to try to arrange events chronologically. So, starting on Wednesday, that would bring us to Julia's kidding. Julia began labor around 10 am on Wednesday morning. Things progressed normally for several hours with mucus and contractions beginning. In the early afternoon, things started to go pear shaped. Contractions stopped being regular and slowed to almost a stop. We called our Veterinarian's office and decided to bring her in. If the kid were still alive, we hoped for them to be able to help her deliver it or if not, we expected to pay for a c-section. Upon our arrival 25 minutes later, their exam revealed that Julia's kid was dead. They helped her to deliver and we brought her home to heal and rest. A sad ending, but we took comfort that Julia is alive and expected to fully recover. 

Elizabeth with newborn son
Thursday was spent caring for Julia, watching Moms with their kids, and our normal routine. Because several does were due any time, we started checking does every 2 hours through the daytime and every 3 hours overnight. It makes for restless sleep, but it is necessary when the weather is in the single digits. 

Assisting Elizabeth
Elizabeth went into labor on Thursday evening and delivered a large, single boy around 8:45 pm. It was a challenging birth for her first time. The kid presented with one hoof forward and it's head. The second hoof lay straight back, along his back. Sonja helped deliver this kid after 20 minutes of pushing hard with no forward progress. Firm, outside pressure on the base of the kid's head, which was through Elizabeth's pelvis, helped bring him forward enough to then provide traction in a downward motion to help him be born. We helped Elizabeth to get him clean and dry. First time Mom, Elizabeth was immediately attentive and her son was up, walking and eating within hours. They continue to do well. 

Look at those Baby Bumps! 
At the 6 am barn check on Friday morning, Sean discovered Eve had a mucus discharge. We got her settled in her private kidding stall with water, hay and grain to await delivery. By mid-morning, chores were finished, tails were checked, and since no one seemed imminent, we went inside to warm up and eat something. Sonja cooked breakfast. Sean took out a warm water bucket to Elizabeth and have one last look around. The table was set when Sean returned with the news that in the 45 minutes we had been inside, Rachel- who showed no signs of kidding had delivered a son, who was clean, dry, standing and eating. Breakfast needed to wait. We thought we could move Eve out of her private stall to allow Rachel and her kid to have a safe space, inhale our breakfast quickly, then set up another stall for Eve- who was still only having occasional contractions.

Rachel and newborn son
Nope. No sooner had we escorted Eve out of her stall, that she started actively pushing. That meant delivery would be sometime within the next 30 minutes, if all went normally. Breakfast would wait. Sean set up a stall, moved Rachel and her son- who was bouncing along on his feet as if he were days old, into it and returned Eve to her original kidding stall.  

Eve's labor continued normally and around 1:30 pm, she delivered twins; first a daughter and then a son. Eve needed no assistance with the delivery of her first kid- perfect presentation and delivery. We helped Eve dry her daughter while we awaited her second kid. The second kid presented one hoof and head (again!). Twins are normally smaller and this one was being delivered just fine without our assistance until it's shoulder emerged. Then, the kid went stiff, then limp and its eyes rolled back into its head. It was clearly in distress. Sonja pulled the kid and began stimulating it by rubbing him firmly with a towel and suctioning his nostrils and throat. It seemed so much longer while it was happening, but in reality within 45 seconds or so, the kid was breathing and crying on his own. We helped Eve to clean and get him dried. Both kids were up and nursing in short order and Eve is a very attentive mom. They continue to thrive.

On Friday afternoon Sean left a message with Dr. Caputo to update her on Julia's recovery and in light of two more first fresheners getting ready to deliver, possibly over the weekend, discussed options for treatment if things went south. The receptionist confirmed that we could simply call and Dr. Caputo would meet us at the office. Armed with that knowledge, we felt as reassured as possible. Things would probably go just fine, but in case they didn't we had a plan.

Abby and her twins
Kid watch continued as Tierzah, Abigail, and Hannah were all due at any time. On Saturday morning, Abby delivered first with no complications. Within half an hour, she had given birth to a daughter and a son. Small twins, their legs were bent in strange angles and not strong enough to support them in standing properly. This is common; colostrum and time sort things without assistance most of the time. Abby was attentive to her twins, but we didn't have time to watch the new family closely because it was Tierzah's turn. 

Tierzah went into active labor around 10 am. With our new barn cameras installed, we messaged our friend, Shea from Knotty Goat Soapery, to see if she wanted to tune in and watch the delivery. When 20 minutes of steady pushing passed with no progress, Sean called Dr, Caputo's answering service and we asked Shea to come out to give her opinion. Things might have still been okay, but we were getting prepared in case they weren't. 

They weren't. First, Dr. Caputo's answering service informed Sean that she was out of town for the weekend. Our safety net was gone! Through mixed wires, we thought we were covered and discovered we could have a problem! We quickly messaged our local goat peer group asking if someone might have time to call into local large animal practices to see if we could be seen if necessary. We are so grateful for their willingness to help take that off our shoulders so we could focus on Tierzah. They were fantastic and within minutes we had leads on several potential experts should it come to that. 

It came to that- Tierzah had a large, singleton who was presenting head first, no hooves. While waiting for Shea, Sonja gloved up, squirted on lots of lubrication, and did a careful internal exam. She could feel the kid's head ready to be delivered, but no hooves present. Knowing we would need to push the kid's head back inside in order to find the hooves and that smaller, more experienced hands than ours were 10 minutes away, we decided to wait. 

Shea helping stimulate kid
When Shea arrived she did the same exam and reached the same conclusion: the kid's entire head was in the vaginal vault (past the pelvic canal) but her folded front legs were holding her back. Shea tried to push the kid's head back inside to try to grab hooves, but couldn't get her hand inside far enough. We paused and discussed alternatives. The BEST option was to have a veterinarian assist. They have the good medicines to manage pain and the ability to perform c-sections, episiotomy, and control complications. The closest veterinarian who could take us in an emergency was hours away- a ride which would almost certainly mean that we had given up on a live kid birth and would be trying to save Tierzah's life.

We decided that Sonja would try again. She pushed the kid's head back inside the pelvic cavity and was able to get her entire hand inside this time. She could just feel the smooth surface of a hoof, but couldn't manage to grip it hard enough to pull it forward. When she removed her hand, the head followed back into the vaginal canal. Sonja asked Shea, "Do you want to try again before we give this up?" Once the kid begins taking breaths, they can't be pushed back inside; they have to be delivered or die. Time was running out. Shea agreed. 

Tierzah and daughter
On her second attempt, Shea was able to insert her entire hand. She could just feel a hoof with her pinky finger. Closing her pinky and ring fingers together, she pinched the hoof and pulled it forward. As she withdrew her hand holding the hoof, the kid's head stayed in the forward facing position and followed. One hurdle passed. Tierzah's cervix was dilated properly, but as a first freshener, the kid's huge head had a hard time pushing through the vaginal opening. In the end, it took Shea applying pressure to the base of the kid's head, externally, from the base of Tierzah's tail with one hand and carefully easing the kid's head through with the other. Sean had the kid's leg and it's head pulling it downward and out. Sonja was holding Eve's head to prevent her horns from injuring Shea accidently with one hand and easing the other side of the kid's head through with Shea. Tierzah had the hardest task- she pushed and strained with all she had. And, it worked. Somehow, it worked. The kid was born, but our relief was cut short when it stiffened in distress instead of coughing or crying. 

Shea and Sonja stimulated the kid by rubbing it with towels and used a syringe to remove fluids from nostrils and mouth. It took longer than seemed comfortable, but in minutes, the kid began coughing. Tierzah was initially not convinced this wet, crying ball of goo was worth her time or the efforts to deliver her. It didn't take long for her to change her mind. For all the trauma of birth, the kid- a girl- was active and nursing in short order. The pair are doing great.

Shea left around noon. With everyone stable, fed and watered, Sean and Sonja grabbed a quick breakfast/lunch of tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. We called the back-up veterinarians who offered to take Tierzah to thank them for their time and confirm that we had one more mother due sometime within the next 24 hours. We were hoping Hannah would hold out until Monday, but in case she didn't we wanted to be set up. Most of the time, goats will kid without needing to call out a veterinarian, but when you need one, you NEED one. We don't dare be without a plan. 

Abigail's daughter
During the rest of the afternoon, we saw that Abigail's twins were having a hard time maintaining their temperature and they didn't have a rooting or suck response. We brought them inside to warm up on a heating pad. When they were warmer and began to be active, Sean milked Abigail and we offered the kids a bottle. The little girl drank 4 oz without hesitation. The boy would not suck. Not the nipple, not my finger, not anything. We took him outside to try to get him to drink from Abigail, but he wouldn't even try. He was clearly not doing well and needed colostrum. 

With no other alternative, we tube fed him 3 oz of his mother's colostrum. Warm and full, we returned the twins to their anxious Mother while we continued to monitor their progress. In the early evening, we attempted to get them to nurse again from Abigail, but they were weak and unwilling to try. It is not usual, but sometimes it takes a little bit to get sorted. We offered a second supplemental bottle of their mother's colostrum and this time both kids drank without a problem. We returned them to Abigail's care. 

I realize at this point, that this is an extremely long post, Dear Reader. However, we didn't get a break all weekend, and neither shall you.

At 5 pm, Hannah went into labor. She had contractions here and there, but nothing regular. First timers can take a longer time in stage one, so we were aware, but not overly concerned. By 8 pm, a large bubble appeared and popped in a whoosh of brownish liquid. A second bubble appeared immediately after. A little strange, but not uncommon. Some does have two or three bubbles appear before the real one shows. Worth noting, but no need to panic. The lack of visible contractions and pushing WAS more concerning, as was the lack of vaginal stretching in preparation for birth. Sonja asked Sean to call the Dover Foxcroft Veterinarian Hospital answering service to have a veterinarian call us back and she messaged asking Shea to come out again and give a second opinion. Shea arrived in about 10 minutes and the veterinarian called back at the same time. Shea agreed that the delivery wasn't looking normal. We decided to drive the hour+ to get to the veterinarian. Normally we would do an internal exam first, but we didn't want to rupture the bubble or have a half delivered kid, stuck and us having to drive for help. Under the circumstances, we loaded Hannah and went. 

Hannah and her son
We arrived at 9:50 pm and met the wonderful Dr. Kat. Her initial exam showed a perfectly positioned kid. What should have been an easy delivery turned into an hour long event. The kid was through the cervix, but stuck within the vaginal cavity. We all thought this must be a huge, singleton kid. Dr. Kat prepared and began pulling the kid with both it's legs; it's nose perfectly ready to come through. Sean held Hannah to provide counter pressure. Sonja waited out of the way. After a few attempts went nowhere, Dr. Kat tried to pull the kid using chains. It was unsuccessful. Sean and Dr. Kat switched places to see if Sean could apply enough pressure to pull the kid. Though the vaginal walls thinned and turned nearly inside out, the kid would not budge.  During this attempt, to everyone's surprise, the kid who had been limp up until now gave a twitch of it's tongue and leg. We had all assumed with the problematic delivery that we were dealing with a kid that had died en utero and we were just trying to save Hannah. This made everything more urgent and complicated. Sonja asked if she could glove up and help. We took a breath, gave Hannah a quick rest, and discussed trying once more before performing an episiotomy. Dr. Kat pulled legs, Sean held Hannah in place and Sonja pushed the base of the kid's head from outside, near the base of Hannah's tail.

All at once, with a swoosh the kid was born. Not huge at all. 5 pounds would be generous. Sonja got to work trying to stimulate the kid who had been in distress for a while by the look of the copious amounts of meconium staining and dark fluid. It was gasping for breath in slow spurts. Dr. Kat was busy with Hannah, checking her internally, injecting calcium, oxytocin, pain medication, antibiotics and drawing two steroids and an antibiotic for the kid- who we were all surprised to find alive. His nasal passages were clear, but the kid was shocky and not willing to breathe normally. While waiting for the steroids to be injected, Sonja gave him a couple mouth to nose breaths, which seemed to help him get oxygen. The towel was soaked with amniotic fluid and blood. With nothing else to hand, Sonja took off her undershirt and used it to continue to stimulate the kid to wake up. He started to cough and make weak crying noises. The steroids were injected and he began to perk up more and more. 

Understandably, Hannah wanted NOTHING to do with this troublesome thing. The shock of the traumatic delivery paired with the loss of blood and sedative effect of the pain medicines combined to make Hannah a sleepy mother. She slept next to her kid all the way home. We stopped several times to check on them, but they were exhausted. We considered Sonja carrying the kid during the ride home, but feared removing him would add to the possibility of rejection. 

Hannah and Jake Day 2
We settled the family in our laundry room for the night on a stall mat covered with absorbent pine shavings. The kids legs were swollen and he couldn't stand on them. Hannah was dazed and bleeding slowly. There was no way to get him up to nurse, but he needed colostrum. Plus, the act of nursing would help stem the flow of blood and the release of oxytocin would help with bonding. Sean milked Hannah gently and we bottle fed the kid, who ate thirstily and without any trouble. Hannah only had a little over an ounce, but it was a start. 

A few hours later, Sean milked her again and only came up with about half an ounce from both sides. Her udder didn't fill at all. She just wasn't producing milk yet. We weren't ready to give up. It can take a day or two sometimes. To help stimulate milk production, we kept milking her every few hours. When she didn't produce enough, we added some of Abigail's colostrum to fill the 3 oz we needed per serving. 

Hannah and Jake in barn
Through Sunday, the pair remained in the laundry room, where it was warmer than the barn stalls. Hannah lost so much blood and the kid was still unable to stand after 24 hours, though he could move his legs and was active. We bottle fed the boy, who Sean named Jake, every three hours around the clock. We gave Hannah pain medication and more antibiotics. The biggest concern is that though Hannah is not hurting the kid, she is also not cleaning him or coming to his calls. He may end up being bottle raised for nutrition, but if he can be raised beside his mother within the herd, that will be the best for him in the long run. 

Another issue arose on Sunday, Abigail's twins were having difficulty maintaining their temperature on their own and they still were not latching on vigorously, nor moving as actively as they should be. We supplemented with bottles again. The boy drank normally, but the girl (who had been doing so) absolutely refused. She would not latch onto Abigail either. We warmed her and put her back with her mother to try to get her to drink normally, but she refused to try. After 5 hours of nothing to eat and refusing to suck, we tube fed her 3 oz of her mother's milk and returned her to Abigail's care. When Sean checked her later that night, both kids were finally on their feet steady and rooting under their mother. That's a relief! We will continue to watch the family, but it looks like things have turned the corner there. 

As I write this Monday night, all of the families are doing great or improving their conditions. For those keeping track: 
1. Jemimah: 2 girls named Tamar and Ezri
2. Iscah: 1 girl named Ja'el
3. Becca: 1 boy named Riker
4. Tabitha: 1 boy named Quark
5. Keziah: 1 boy named Isaac/1 girl named Damaris
6. Julia, one stillborn kid
7. Elizabeth: 1 boy, unnamed yet
8. Rachel: 1 boy, unnamed yet
9. Eve: 1 boy/1 girl, unnamed yet
10. Tierzah: 1 girl, unnamed yet
11. Abigail: 1 boy/1 girl, unnamed yet
12. Hannah: 1 boy named Jake
Elizabeth and son
12 healthy mothers, 8 hearty sons and 7 thriving daughters so far this season. 
We have 8 mothers left to kid. This year's naming theme is Star Trek: TNG & DS9 for kids who will eventually be adoptable and as always, we use Bible theme names for those who will stay here forever. Do you have any suggestions for names? Comment them below! 

Thanks for visiting with us, Friends. We are happy you are here.
Sean & Sonja

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

GRAPHIC: Becca Gives Birth

Becca with her kid
Plans changed.

We thought I was going to make two double batches of soap and then work on some lotions for delivery to our friends at Tiller & Rye in Brewer, ME. Sean thought he was going to frame in and install a door in Bucksport, ME. Nope. By 8 am, plans changed. 

Becca was in active labor, pushing. A few days earlier than I had planned, but nothing to worry about. A quick check showed perfect placement; nose and hooves getting ready to greet the world. Larger than I would like to see in a goat of her size, which made me think she probably had only a singleton coming. I HATE singleton births. In my experience, 9 out of 10 times, a single kid is larger than kids born as twins. As such, they often require assistance. Sometimes that assistance is not enough and the kid or the mother is lost.  

First Milk.
Still, Becca is a pro at this and I was aware of the potential risk, but I wasn't overly concerned. Within an hour, and with very little help from us, Becca delivered a strapping, healthy son. Like Tabby's son, Riker- he was a monster in size and was quickly able to stand, walk, and nurse. 

Julia in labor
Just as Becca was finishing her delivery, Julia went into labor. Julia is a two-year-old, first freshener. (A first freshener means that this is her first pregnancy.) First pregnancies always make me nervous. Complications can happen to any goat, but I always worry more the first time through. I think it has to do with (1) the uncertainty of what might happen and (2) past bad experiences with unproven does. Does tend to follow trends, like whether their milk comes in early or later or how long they labor. With record keeping, (and barring fluke occurrances) you can almost map out a delivery. As to the second point, our worst experiences seem to come from young, inexperienced does. Julia worried me so much more than Becca. Would she have ring womb (failure to dilate)? Would she have kids in bad positions for delivery? 

My gut felt wrong. We messaged our local group of goat folks and asked neighbor, Shea Rolnick from @Knotty Goat Soapery to be on stand by. Sean called our veterinarian, Dr Caputo of Belfast Veterinary Hospital to let her know we might have a problem. Then, we waited. 

The first stage of labor can take some time. Does will sit and stand- seemingly unable to find a comfortable spot (I remember this well from my own pregnancies!), stare off into space, may want to eat or go off food. Until they start actively pushing, there isn't a lot to do. We try to keep the doe as comfortable as possible and wait with her. Around noon, Julia was still in the first stage and seemed to be making slow progress; her vulva was opening and a small stream of mucus started.  Knowing we could still be hours away, Sean and I went inside for breakfast and to warm hands and feet. We continued to check on her every few minutes. 

Around 1:30, Julia began to really dilate and actively push. We could just see a hoof. It was big. Too big really, but we weren't overly concerned yet. 30 minutes later, we messaged Shea asking her to come out. Julia continued pushing to no progress. I gloved up, slathered on lots of lubricant and carefully felt inside to feel what the situation was. I felt the right front hoof and head just above that. I slipped fingers along the other side, but couldn't feel the second hoof. Not perfect, but still maybe workable. I was most concerned with the kid's size. Normally, I would begin attempting to pull a kid, if I can, but concerned about the size, not wanting to put Julia through unnecessary pain if she was going to need a C-section at the vet, and knowing that a second opinion was only minutes from arriving, I decided to wait. 

Shea arrived and repeated my exam. She was also concerned with the size of the kid presenting. She attempted to pull the kid very gently, just trying to see if there was any wiggle room and quickly ascertained there wasn't. We were Veterinarian bound. 

At the Veterinarian
We carried Julia to Sean's van and drove the 20 minutes to Belfast. They took her in immediately. We waited in the parking lot. We explained we were willing to pay for a C-section if needed. About 40 minutes later we got the call telling us that the kid did not survive, but Julia thankfully did. 

Julia was sent home with pain meds, an antibiotic and instructions for watchful care over the next 72 hours. Back in the barn, Julia settled into her private stall and ate grain and hay with a decent appetite, but not her normally voracious vigor. That is to be expected with the pain meds she was given. 

It is always heartbreaking when we lose an animal- even one we hadn't truly met. We'll spend the night examining all the decisions we made; it is easy to second guess each one. And, we'll balance that with visiting with sweet, healthy kids and our beloved herd. 

Becca & Healthy Son
For those keeping track. We have had seven healthy kids born to five mothers; and one mother with a lost kid. By our count, we have ten more deliveries for 2021 before we can breathe easy. I hope the rest of them are as easy as the first five were. 

Thanks for visiting with us tonight, Friends. 
Sean & Sonja

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Molly Goes on a Diet

Maternity Photo Shoot
Photo Credit: Caitlin Phair

While Molly was pregnant, her food needs increased to help care for those growing pups. After her emergency spay and the heart breaking removal of her deceased pups, her dietary needs changed. We adopted two 6 week old Border Collie puppies for her to foster, feed, and care for. This is not something we planned for, but the back story seems important for context, so I will retell it here. (I wasn't writing at the time it happened, and only shared it on our FB page.) 

We were very pleased to allow Molly the chance to be a mom. Our dogs and cats are routinely spayed to help control the pet population. But, we decided to allow Molly to breed one litter for several reasons including her temperament, intelligence, age, and her disinclination to accept outside dogs to our lives. {Our 10 year old Husky, Fenn, was laid to rest the year before due to a marked deterioration in his health. Our 17 year old Pomeranian mix, Buster, passed in 2020, when Molly's adopted puppies were about 5 months old.} With Molly reaching middle age, we didn't want to wait until she was gone before welcoming another dog to love. We found a lovely sire in a young, healthy German Shepherd we knew. He had just the characteristics we hoped to meld with Molly's- intelligence, loyalty, desire to work, and the ability to deter wild predators from preying upon our herds. Black Lab/German Shepherd pups were exactly what we wanted and we had a waiting list of families to adopt the rest of the litter. With this being her first and only litter, and with minimal exposure, we hoped for a smaller litter size.

Molly in labor with her toy "babies".
May 3, 2020.
We got that right- Molly became pregnant with a litter of two. Honestly, that was perfect since both pups were claimed and would be loved. We would keep one and my eldest daughter claimed the second puppy. In actuality, it was not so perfect. The day of delivery things were proceeding normally. We were in touch with our veterinarian just in case there were any complications, but it looked to be going well. Within a short period of time, the first kid was born. It was stillborn. That was sad, but we didn't lose heart. We didn't know at the time that there were only two pups growing, so we expected the next pup would be born alive. Time passed. We called our Veterinarian again. Pups should be born fairly regularly in a normal delivery. Something was wrong.

An ultra sound revealed one other pup inside. It was giant. Much too large to be born naturally... and it wasn't moving. The veterinarian was almost certain the pup was already gone. Our hopes were further shattered when they advised an emergency c-section AND spay. It was too dangerous to Molly's health to allow her to try again. 

We were scared and devastated. Molly was our first priority. We pooled every penny we had to fund her surgery. What should have been a relatively easy (so much so that controlling the unwanted pet population is an ongoing challenge) and joyous event turned into a nightmare. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, we couldn't even be inside the building with her while she waited for surgery. The technician suggested we go home and they would call us in the morning. Nope. That wasn't happening. Sean and I waited in the van in the parking lot through the night. In the morning, we took our girl home.

Molly snuggling her new puppy, Luna.
Immediately, Molly was changed. I wouldn't have thought she knew what was wrong, other than the obvious after care of having surgery. The pain medication she was given kept her physical pain in check. Her behavior was something else entirely. She was in mourning. In the days after her surgery, she created nests around the house and filled them with squeaky toys. She frantically attempted to nurse them and frustrated howled and bayed when they didn't move or respond. I have never seen anything like this kind of deep, mourning in any animal in our care. I've seen cats lose a kitten, cry for it, then accept its loss and continue living. Sometimes a goat doe will call for her lost kid, they sniff the dead body, and accept its loss while they care for their living young. Nothing prepared me for the kind of mourning Molly was experiencing. After a return visit to our vet, a visit by a close friend (and former vet tech) who knew Molly personally, and much prayer and discussion, Sean and I looked for a pair of young puppies to adopt for Molly to care for.

I am convinced we found an answer to our prayer in finding a pair of 6 week old Border Collie pups. I found the listing in my search for fostering puppies who might need milk. I wasn't sure Molly would accept them or want them- they weren't tiny pups. At 6 weeks, they were drinking their Mother's milk occasionally, but were eating solid food already. We made sure that the farm would accept them back if that was the case. The point was to help Molly, not cause her additional stress. We carried the puppies home, wrapped in Molly's blanket to help transfer some of her scent. Molly's behavior changed almost instantly. She sniffed the pups, cleaned them, and offered them milk. She stopped whining non-stop and turned her attention to caring for the new pups. I was so relieved. Within 24 hours, it was clear the pups would be accepted and stay.

Echo & Luna
Belfast Dog Park 2020
The larger puppy became part of my daughter, Caitlin's home. She rents our basement apartment, so the transition when it came, was both smooth and easy. She named her puppy Echo. The smaller puppy joined our family. We named her Luna. Molly and Luna are best friends. Echo comes upstairs for doggy daycare while Caitlin is away at work and returns home with her mother in the evenings. The dogs have an outside yard that connects to both our back doors so they can come and go and play as they want to. It is an arrangement that works well. 

Molly is so patient with Luna
The puppies have very different personalities. Echo is quiet and loves to cuddle. She has learned to shake hands, turn in circles and sit when asked. She also loves chasing a frisbee and retrieving sticks. Luna is pure energy. Hugs are not appreciated, but she wants to be next to me wherever I am and constantly looks to me for direction whatever we are doing. Luna knows sit, lay down, catch, back up, off, to me, come and we are working on stay. She is getting better at catching her frisbee. She has been introduced to the goats with the mind that in time, she will help work them with us. 

Echo (left) & Luna (right)

Breakfast~ February 2021
Molly eats much faster than Luna!
All this brings me back to the point of today's post: diet.

While Molly was pregnant and nursing her adoptive puppies, she was fed a puppy food formula before switching to Rachel Ray's Nutrish Dish. We are not animal nutritionists, but we believe that feeding the best food we can afford has a positive impact on our animal's health. We like the ingredients: Chicken, chicken meal, dried peas, whole dried potatoes, pea starch, pea protein, poultry fat, cranberries, flaxseed, and vitamins and minerals. We also feed farm fresh raw eggs & farm made plain yogurt a couple of times each week. The puppies are doing great on this formula. In time, however, Molly began to gain too much weight. The combination of being spayed and eating this diet, caused Molly to be about 20 pounds over weight. We tried feeding less at each meal and increasing Molly's exercise, but that didn't work and the pounds stayed on. 
Rachel Ray Nutrish Dish
with added chicken

Concerned about Molly's health, we switched her to another dry food. She is currently eating Purina Beneful Healthy Weight with Farm Raised Chicken dry formula. The ingredients are similar, but it has only 8% fat compared to Rachel Ray Nutrish Dish. And, it seems to be working. She is starting to lose a little extra weight. At her next visit, we will re-examine her nutritional needs with our veterinarian and listen to their recommendations. We want this girl to be in good health and happy with us for as long as possible.

Purina Beneful Healthy Weight
with added chicken
Have you had good success with a particular brand of dog food? Or, one that you didn't like? Share your experience with us in the comments, please! 

Thanks for visiting with us today, Friends. We are happy you are here. 

Sean & Sonja

Saturday, February 6, 2021

A Birth Story: Tabitha & Riker

Riker: 24 hours old.
Look at those waddles!
Because we knew Tabitha (Tabby/Tabs) was getting close to her time to go into labor, we were still on goat watch around the clock. For those keeping tabs, this means that 4 of the last 5 days involved setting an alarm for every 3 hours to check for signs of new kids being born. We might not be needed, but it is February and as I have written before, freezing cold nights can cause hypothermia and death in kids quickly. Also, if we *are* needed, we want to be there as quickly as possible to deal with a complication. Tabby went into labor between the 3 am and 6 am barn checks.

Riker was positioned 3rd down on left side.
We assisted the delivery.
At 6 am, there was a discharge and the promise of a hoof just peeking out. Out first thought is always relief when we see that hoof appear. It should be followed by a second hoof and a nose in a perfect presentation. By 6:20 or so, the nose appeared along with the original hoof. She was making slow, but steady progress. We were conscious that the second hoof needed to be coming along, too. If not, we would be looking at two complications which might need our assistance. (1) It could mean the other leg is folded forward and caught up under the kid's chest. In this case, we glove up and glob on lots of lubricant. Carefully inserting a hand with fingers closed together to find the other hoof and help pull it forward. This usually releases the bottle jam and allows the Mother to push the rest of the kid herself. (2) It could mean the other leg is laying flat along the body, in what we refer to as the Superman pose. (See 3rd image on left of diagram.) One leg forward, one leg back. This position causes the shoulder area to be thicker than otherwise is normal and can cause a hang up. In our experience, gentle but firm traction on the delivered leg and head of the kid while the Mother pushes usually is all that is needed to get the second shoulder delivered. Once freed, the Mother can deliver the rest of the kid normally in most cases. 

Riker's head and left front leg presenting.
And so it went with this delivery. Once the head and leg were visible and no other hoof appeared, it was clear we needed to attempt to help. Sean was already gloved and ready. {I had been in charge of taking pictures and videos, so I wasn't wearing gloves. Plus- Sean is stronger than me... like a lot. All things being equal, when required Sean does more of the exterior traction and because my hands are smaller, I do more internal pulling~ if it is necessary.} He held onto the back of the kid's head and it's leg and pulled out and down with each contraction. Within minutes, the kid was delivered to its torso. Sean stopped assisting and Tabby was able to deliver the rest of the kid in 10 minute more. I made sure the kid's mouth and nose were clear of amniotic fluids and encouraged Tabby with my words and hands.

Tabby was immediately attentive.
Between cleaning her offspring, she curled
her lip to check his scent.
Tabby presented us with a gorgeous, single, strapping bucking. He is a beast in size and attitude. Within 10 minutes of being born, he found his feet and began searching for milk. Because the temperature outside was in the 30's, we filled a couple empty soft drink bottles with warm water to provide a warm spot where Mom and kid could lay. Heaters in the barn are a fire hazard that we don't take. These work great to give some ambient warmth on cold days. 

Goats have a vomeronasal organ (Jacobson's organ)
in the roofs of their mouth. Curling their lip helps draw
new scents into it to help identify them.  
Checking on the pair through the day was a delight. I love healthy, precocious kids who nurse without interference and experienced mothers who clean and care for their young immediately. I'll always be ready to help when it is needed and since I am generally worried about something, its not out of the way to add a new family to my list of concerns and prayers. But, the feeling of contentment and relief that comes in the wake of a good kidding, is the best. When I have nothing to do but enjoy the new life before me, take pictures and videos to share with you all, and pray in thanksgiving. That is the best feeling.

Almost clean
This handsome guy reminds me of beloved Asher, except he has his mother's waddles- which means I love him already in memory of his grandfather. I can't wait to see his personality reveal itself in the coming months. Sean has tentatively named him Riker. Because I know that financially, we cannot keep every single animal who is born here, I understand the need to find good adoptive homes for some of the yearlings each year. We don't separate kids from their moms before they are weaned. And, we don't offer single kids for adoption.

Dry and warming by a water bottle.
Based on the name Sean bestowed, I asked him, "Are you sure we don't want to keep him to be a future herd sire?"

Sean grinned, "Nope. But, for now he is Riker. If we decide he must stay, we can change it."

I can live with that. 

Thanks for visiting with us today, Friends. We are very happy for your company. If you enjoyed this story or if you have any questions, please comment below. I write because I love to and it becomes a diary of the story of our farm. Still, your comments make me feel like I'm not alone here. :) I posted a short video below of Tabitha giving birth. There is a jump from when Riker's head was delivered and his body while I assisted Sean and Tabby, but if you want to see what it is like to help bring new life into the world, check it out.


Sean & Sonja

Friday, February 5, 2021

Birth Story: Keziah and Damaris & Isaac

As we suspected, Keziah went into labor last night. It was text book in its simplicity. Within 20 minutes both kids were born and within an hour she had them cleaned, dry and nursing. If the rest of the season could go this smoothly, that would be really great. Really, really great. 

In lieu of a long story, since there really isn't much to tell. I have lots of pictures and videos to share with you. I hope you enjoy them. :) 


Getting ready to get
down to business

Isaac was born minutes later. 

I love this picture of Mom and kid looking at each other. 

Standing and looking for the milk bar. 



Damaris & Isaac, 12 hours old

Tabitha looks ready to have her kids any minute. If she has them tonight, I hope to have more videos and pictures to share with you tomorrow. Stay tuned! 

Thanks for joining us today, Friends. We are happy for your company!
Sean & Sonja

Signs that Kidding is Near

Farming, homesteading, husbandry... whatever you want to call it, this life is far from glamorous. For every sigh of relief, triumph of plans actually coming to completion, or simple progress there is the undercurrent of worry, lessons learned the hard way, and the feeling of never getting ahead to balance it. It is not for the faint of heart for sure. 

I do not have to tell you that 2020 was a nightmare. You lived it, too. But, we are pragmatic folk here. No sense in wallowing in the past; time to plan for the future as best we can. As the days lengthen and the promise of warmer weather is in the air, we prepare for the next season: Kidding Season.
We restock and have ready our Kidding Kit: 

Our kidding kit includes: 
* Nitrile gloves (in case we need to assist internally)
* Lube (lube is your friend if you have to assist; use way more than you think you need.)
* Disinfectant for hands or tools
* 6-8 Clean towels (to help drying kids, only if needed.)
* Puppy pads (very absorbant- helps keep area dry and relatively clean
* Scale (to weigh kid)
* Iodine (to dip umbilical cord)
* String (to tie off if needed, rarely necessary)
* Scissors (to cut umbilical cord if needed, rarely necessary)
* Selenium/Vit E paste (in deficient areas)
* Empty grain bag (to dispose of wet puppy pads, gloves, placenta, etc.)
* Kid pulling loop
* Laminated diagram of proper kid placement (helps with figuring out issues if you have to assist.)
* Thermometer (first question vet will ask- temperature of goat in distress)
* Birth Record Form (We record information for each kid. Parents names/breed(s), Birth Date, Weight, Birth Order, Complications, Vaccinations, etc.)

We also make sure to have medications and additional support items, which might be necessary, on hand. 90% of the time, these items aren't needed, but when they are, you don't want to have to locate them at a store after the fact. Being prepared is especially necessary in rural areas when your Veterinarian or the closest stores might be an hour away. 

These include: 

* an antibiotic+ (in case the doe needs one for an infection),
* Karo syrup (for quick sugar applied to gums), 
* pain reliever+ (in case of complications and mother needs some relief)
* colostrum (freshly frozen from another doe, if possible or a powder replacement)
* heating pad (to help warm cold kids. ONLY use with direct supervision. FIRE HAZARD)
* tube feeding tube and 60 ml syringe
* Oxytocin+ (in case of retained placenta. We have a herd of 50 and keep 2 doses on hand
* goat sweaters (only if needed, usually kids and Moms do fine regulating temperature)
* Pack n Play (if Mom dies or rejects kid and you need to bottle feed kids)
* bottles and nipples (if Mom dies or rejects kid and you need to bottle feed kids)

We have 2 kits stocked and ready to go.  Don't forget to have a way to take pictures of your sweet newborn!

+ These items may require a prescription from your farm veterinarian. We recommend discussing your specific needs ahead of time with your trusted veterinarian. 

Iscah presented us with a beautiful doe kid on January 31, 2021. We have many more deliveries to go. We suspect Keziah will kid overnight. She is showing All. The. Signs. She usually delivers in the wee morning hours, so that means we are still on kid check round the clock. Not far behind her is Tabitha. Exciting times! Kids being born means milk for cheese making and goat milk soap production and planning goat hiking activities. These are the things that help pay to care for the goats who live here. We did not host goat hiking in 2020 because we were all new to Covid-19 and what it meant for all of us. After a year of taking precautions under our belt and with the roll out of vaccines, we feel better about planning some private tours for 2021. If you're interested in booking an activity, message us or watch our web page for tickets to reserve your group's private tour within the next month.

Watch the Bangor Daily News video about Hiking with Goats HERE.

If you are new to goat keeping or would simply like to brush up on your reading, I recommend these articles. Because I want to make sure my information is factual and up to date, I prefer to stick to current university papers, or veterinarian written articles. It's not that folks, like me, don't possess knowledge, experience or wisdom, but I am always open to learning new and better ways to care for my herd. I feel that these sources offer the best guidance I can get, along with the advise of my farm veterinarian. :) 

How to Prepare Your Farm for Goat Kidding Season

Goat Reproduction Parturition & Kidding

Thanks for visiting with us today, Friends. We're happy you are here!
Sean & Sonja

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

First Kid of 2021: Iscah & Ja'el

Ja'el, hours old.
As kidding season closes in, does begin to show various signs of impending birth; the ligaments around the tail soften and feel like they disappear, the udder becomes full, and often there is a discharge. One of the sweetest signs is catching a doe "talking" to her belly. As we get closer, we take precautions to make certain our kidding kit is fully stocked and ready in case we need to intervene. We clear and set up our private kidding stalls and we begin checking on the does every couple hours. 

Empty soft drink bottles refilled
with hot water make great insulators,
along with hay.
Iscah, in typical goat code form, hid all signs of her immediate delivery so she could surprise us with a single doeling between noon and 2 pm check in. Sean went out for what he thought would be a quick perusal of the barn for any does in labor only to find a very loud, half cleaned goat kid all alone. Because the temperature was 10* that day, he scooped her up and brought her inside for me to help warm and clean her up a little more. The internal temperature of goats runs much warmer than humans and to go from a wet, balmy 101-103* to an amniotic fluid covered kid, born in 10* can be shocking. Most of our experienced Mother goats make quick work of cleaning up their offspring. Iscah is still new to the game. She clearly made an attempt before deciding that hay and water beckoned, but didn't finish the job nearly well enough to be entirely useful.

When it is necessary to intervene, we normally employ a gallon zip lock bag to encase the kid, then carefully submerge the bag in a sink of warm water. This is a very efficient way to warm kids quickly. This singleton would not fit into the bag. And, since Iscah chose a dirty corner of the barn to give birth and not a nice clean stall, the kid was covered in frozen bits of stickiness and bacterial laden grime. We used a wet cloth to wash her body well from shoulders to hips and down legs. We left the head and tail messy. It is important to leave Momma's scent on the kid, especially since we don't want bottle babies if it can be helped. While I was cleaning the kid up, Sean went searching for the missing Momma. It is very easy to see who had recently given birth. 

Hay nest for added warmth.
Iscah and Ja'el were reunited in a clean, private kidding stall. Iscah has only had one other kid, born 2 years ago. She was vocal and attentive to her kid, but disinclined to let Ja'el nurse. Sean patiently held Iscah's leg to prevent her from kicking her young. It is necessary for kids to get colostrum within 18 hours of being born- the sooner the better. This gives them some protective antibodies that help the kid to thrive. Ja'el was very weak. She had a suck reflex, but the combination of uncoordinated legs and unwilling Momma made it quite a task. We tried for about an hour before Ja'el was too tired to continue and settled into a hay nest to sleep. Being born is hard work! We left the new family to bond and checked on them regularly, encouraging nursing each time. 

Bottles were quickly accepted.

By evening, it was clear that Ja'el needed some additional help. Sean milked one side of Iscah's udder and I attempted to bottle feed 3 oz of colostrum. Ja'el took to the bottle without any trouble. Satisfied that she had a full belly, we returned her to her mom. Three hours later, we offered a 2nd bottle when we were still unable to get her to latch on well- even with guidance. We set our alarm to checked the family through the night, ready to bottle feed if necessary, but weighing that need against the real risk of nipple confusion and potentially working against our end goal of Iscah caring for her own kid. Sean got Ja'el to drink several times through the night and things were looking up at the 5 am check in. 

At 8 am, Ja'el took a turn for the worst, again. Ja'el was curled up next to the hay manger, cold and slow to respond, away from Mom. We brought her inside to warm her once more. A healthy kid can usually maintain their temperature- even in the cold. But, we believe the extra stress of not being cleaned and dried quickly, maybe set her back and made her susceptible to the cold. Once she was warmed, I attempted another bottle. Ja'el refused it for the first time. Not a good sign. We repeatedly tried to get her to nurse from her mom to very little progress.

Sweater time!

Faced with the challenges of a kid who couldn't maintain her temperature nor yet master her legs and a Momma who was reluctant to nurse, paired with incoming snow and more cold weather, we decided to bring both goats into the laundry room for the night. The tiled floor is easy to clean and the room hosts nothing of danger to harm them. Through all of this, I messaged images and video to my local goat people group. Even when you are sure you are doing the right things, another perspective- other suggestions are useful. Ja'el absolutely refused to take a bottle from me. She would nurse for a minute before plopping down to sleep under her mother. We set the alarm and checked the pair through a second night. Finally at 8 am, Sean witnessed Ja'el nursing normally without assistance. Relief! 

Finally sorted and doing well.

We kept the pair inside until the evening. Iscah finally seemed to fully accept her daughter so we took the chance of putting a goat sweater on Ja'el to help keep her warm in the barn. We watched the pair through the night, but no more assistance was needed on our part. And, with a bit of drama, 2021's kidding season has begun. I am thankful that it turned out well. I really needed to begin this season with some happiness. Ja'el's welcome cetainly fits that bill nicely. 

Thanks for joining us, Friends. We are very happy you are here. 
Sean & Sonja 

That face! Ja'el looks like her Momma.
We think she'll be naturally polled, too.