The Road Home

The Road Home
There is no place like home.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Why Did My Baby Goats Die?

It's always difficult to figure out unexpected events, especially when they deal with living things. Since I have had time to read through my books and do some research on the internet, I only have a few theories about the death of our baby goats. Nothing conclusive or even probable emerged from my reading, just a few possibilities that we can consider and keep in mind for the future. Sometimes it is easier to handle difficult situations if there is a known 'why' to hang the reasoning on, but that 'why' is not always available. Here are the circumstances leading up to One Stripe going into labor.


She began to fill her udder and get quite a bit larger in mid November.
 
November 29, 2013

November 29, 2013
By the beginning of December she was starting to exhibit her characteristic waddle that comes along a few weeks before birth. Her udder was filling nicely and I figured she would have triplets on Sunday, December 15th. Her 150 day average gestation was calculated at Monday, December 16th. But since she has had triplets in the past at 149 days, I based my estimate on that date. She had no problem birthing, nursing and raising her last triplets to weaning age. We have our does raise their kids. We do not bottle feed. One Stripe is a very attentive, productive doe. That is one reason this was such a surprise. If I didn't know her history I would have doubts about her ability to produce and raise kids, especially triplets. But since I have had her for five years with excellent results, I know this is some type of anomaly that has an unknown cause. We did take her age into consideration. She will be six years old in May 2014. This is her fifth set of kids. But after she had her last kid in January 2013, and the rest of the kids were born in March, she was running around up and down dirt piles playing with the kids like she was a yearling. She hasn't shown any signs of slowing down because of her age.

 
Morning of December 9, 2013


On Monday evening, December 9th as we were feeding the animals, I noticed that One Stripes vulva was sharply drawn into her body instead of in it's normal position. I knew that was a sign of impending birth so we prepared her birthing pen. As we were working on it, she lay down and began having strong contractions. I knew it was early according to my calculations and just hoped I had miss counted or missed seeing a breed date back in the summer. That was not the case. Interestingly enough, shortly after we had the pen set up she got up and walked into it with little coaxing. She knows the routine and was ready to be comfortably settled into a birthing pen.
 
Morning of December 9, 2013

Soon after she entered the pen she quickly gave birth to the first kid. My first thought was that it was too small. She generally has good sized, strong healthy kids. But she quickly began to clean it and it started to fuss which was a good sign. Since we weren't expecting kids this soon, our tote with our birthing supplies was at the house. While Frank went to get the tote another kid was born. By that time the first one was laying limply and kind of panting with it's mouth open showing it was having difficulty breathing. It did not have a sucking instinct or the strength to produce one, I'm not sure which. I knew from trying to help it nurse that it was very weak and I did not expect it to live. It died about 10 minutes after birth.


When Frank returned with the tote he noticed that the second kid did not have any hair on it's ears. It was just as small and exhibited the same symptoms as the first kid and also died after about 10 minutes. It took a while longer for the third kid to be born and it was in the same condition. The only difference was it didn't have much hair on it's belly and none on it's ears. One Stripe cleaned them all and even tried to gently paw at them to get them up. She passed her after birth with no problems.


There were three differences we noticed in One Stripe leading up to this event. The first was a whitish colored discharge that was on the back of her udder, going down the middle from top to bottom a few days before she gave birth. It wasn't mucous or sticky. I noticed it, but didn't think a lot about it. She had be passing the normal bit of mucous every few days for about a week and everything seemed normal. Another difference was that she seemed a little nervous, more so than I remember in past years. I wondered if this was because after four years she turned into the lead goat of the herd. As long as we had one other doe from our original herd that came here with One Stripe, she was more than content to let the other goat be the lead doe. One Stripe had quite an adjustment period when we sold the other older does last spring. The only other thing I noticed was that she was coughing some after she ate. But that didn't concern me because she was getting so big. She had been eating slower because she just didn't have as much room and that is a normal progression for her in past pregnancies.

Pearl, our Pyrenees, as we work with One Stripe; never far from the does

Since giving birth, One Stripe has shown no ill effects to her health at all. We gave her 2cc of LA200 (Oxytetracycline) just as a precaution. Her milk is in and she is producing more everyday. I began milking her the night she gave birth and have milked her twice a day since. We saved all of that milk for the dog, cats and chickens and didn't start keeping milk for ourselves until five days after she gave birth. She is now producing a gallon a day. She is getting around fine, is alert and bright eyed. She has shown no signs of illness at all. The only real side effect she exhibited was her very sad mourning and crying for her babies for about three days. It was quite heart breaking. 

2010

We had one other doe several years ago that had to have assistance with her first kidding. She had twins, both of which were trying to be born at the same time. Once I got them sorted out they were born one right after the other. One was smaller, fully formed, but dead. The other was quite a bit larger, but totally hairless and dead. I always thought if I had pulled them sooner maybe the smaller one would have lived. I don't know why one would look normal and the other be hairless. But after this experience, I doubt the smaller one would have lived. 

2012

My reading did not give me any conclusive information that led me to believe she had any infection or contagious disease. We do have cats that spend time in the barn so I read up on toxoplasmosis, but that didn't fit. There are quite a few illnesses or diseases that can cause miscarriages in goats late in their pregnancies, but none of them fit her symptoms or lack of symptoms. 

In Storey's Guide to Raising Dairy Goats on page 125 it says, "Abortion is more common in late pregnancy. The cause can be mechanical, such as the pregnant doe being butted by another or running into an obstruction such as a manger or narrow doorway, or it can be related to moldy feeds."  

One Stripe had been a little more nervous than usual and I guess she could have run into something, but it is doubtful she was butted by one of the other three does. We haven't seen any signs of that behavior from any of our four does. But there could have been a question about the feed. Some of the last sweet feed that Frank bought was a little moldy. We figured mixed in with the corn and alfalfa it wasn't enough to affect the goats. But now we wonder if it could have been. The hay we have been using is left from last spring and is a little dusty. We started feeding some to the does when the weather started to turn bad. I wanted to make sure One Stripe had plenty of roughage and that it was something she was used to. Normally the goats graze on our standing hay in the pasture and we don't need to supplement with hay. When the icy weather came in and everything had an inch of ice followed by an inch of sleet followed by several inches of snow, I don't think the does did much grazing. We made sure they had plenty of hay. I don't know if this change in roughage made any difference in her pregnancy or not. It's just another possible variable among many.


Here is a list of the website pages I read. They all seemed to agree with my books and I didn't find any additional information that seemed to point to a conclusive answer. But they are good resources, so I wanted to share them.

 Goat Wisdom 

Alabama Cooperative Extension System 

Abortions and causes of death in newborn sheep and goats by Debrah Mohale

Onion Creek Ranch

JustAnswer.com Large Animal Veterinary

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Raising animals is definitely an adventure in learning, caring and lots of hard work. Sometimes it is very rewarding and sometimes it is heart breaking. Either way, it is an undertaking well worth the effort involved. It builds character and instills a deep abiding appreciation for what the Lord has put here for our sustenance and enjoyment. There are always things that happen that cannot be explained or understood. It is part of the mysteries of life, many of which fill us with awe and wonder. May it ever be so.


Until next time - Fern


9 comments:

  1. Loss of a newborn for unidentifiable reasons is frustrating. I had some experience with mould in feed when I had cattle. I can be deadly and hard to diagnose. I had hoped for your mental well being that you would find a clear and concise reason for the loss. Then its so much easier to handle..you know you can fix it.

    Thank you for all the information and explanation.

    God Bless you and your farm

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  2. Thank you for sharing all this information, I'm sure it was hard to write. Sometimes we just don't know why. I agree that a mourning doe can be absolutely heartbreaking. I've seen that several times too. I'm glad One Stripe seems to be ok and is producing milk well.
    ~ Kathi

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    1. I waited a week to write it and by then it was okay. Since I had been posting about the babies coming, it seemed only natural that I would share what I could about losing them. I hope it will help someone else along the way.

      Thanks for the thoughts, Kathi.

      Fern

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  3. This is a very generous post. To write about this in such detail after what you were able to find out following such a terrible disappointment is a kind and giving gesture. I'm sure it will help a lot of people.

    I knew goats had a risk for late miscarriages. I've never experienced it first hand, though, like you have here. They seem so hardy in every other way. Give One Stripe a huggy snuggle from me. Take care.

    Just Me

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    1. Thank you. I do hope it is of use to others. I know I really enjoy reading things from other folks that apply to what we do. Learning is so important.

      Thank you for the comment. I really appreciate it.

      Fern

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  4. Fern thanks for writing your experience. I am in the same state as i am mourning the death of 2 kids from different does. After giving me pleasure for one one week they passed on 4 days after each other. One was week from day one and i did not expect it to live besides the mother seems like she did not want to keep her but the other was strong and happy but just one evening last night it just was too week.I have been feeding grain but a few weeks before i threw out some fingerlings that were moldy into the feeding trough and the goats ate..Could it be the reason.I am in mourning

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    1. I'm sorry you lost your baby goats, it's always a tough situation. We haven't had any problems with goats and moldy feed, but I've heard of others that have. I don't know the symptoms it causes either. After I lost these babies, I read everything I could find in my goat books, on the internet and discussed it with our vet. There was still no definitive answer, just theories or probabilities. Take care and hang in there. You'll have more babies, and more to learn. We learn something new all the time from our goats.

      Fern

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  5. We had the same thing happen with our senior doe today! She was extremely nervous, She had a strange white discharge hours before birth, and the first twin is extremely small and holds his mouth open. He also has a week suck.
    We had never even considered mold... Very good article!

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  6. I'm not an expert but from what I've read your kids were born prematurely, according to your description of missing hair and being born early. Their lungs aren't fully developed yet if born early.

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