On Thursday, April 2nd, right on schedule at 150 days gestation, Cricket went into to labor. Cricket is one of our first fresheners that I have high hopes for. Her grandmother, Katy, was one of our first does. She was a good mother, good milker and all around very good doe. Cricket's mother, Ivory who we sold last fall, was also a very good doe, except for that very irritating hollering that she refused to stop doing. It's the only reason we sold her.
Our friend, Faith (pseudonym), came over to watch and participate in the birth since she plans to start her own goat herd very soon. As the kids feet presented during labor, I realized the legs were crossed. At this point I wasn't sure whether these feet belonged to different kids or the same kid. Even though I had not seen this presentation before, I didn't feel I should intervene, instead I waited to see how Cricket would proceed.
After the feet but before the head appeared, Cricket got up and laid down several times, which is normal during labor. But one time when Cricket started to lay down again, she landed on a pile of hay. She had pawed up some of the hay in her birthing pen in a nesting type of behavior, which is also normal. This is kind of hard to describe, but as she lay down, she landed on the downward slope of this pile of hay, which caused her to roll all the way over on her back, then onto the other side. I was worried what might happen to the kid's legs during this accidental roll over.
Shortly after this event, Bo was born. As his head emerged, we realized one of his legs was quite a bit ahead of it, while one of them was not. After he was born, Cricket took a few minutes to decide what this thing was she had just expelled from her body. Even though it was a cool day, we gave her a few minutes to adjust because the umbilical cord had not yet broken. I wanted her to be the one to break the cord, instead of us. I moved Bo up toward Cricket's head as far as the cord would allow, to encourage her to begin licking and cleaning him. Faith removed the mucous from his mouth, and some of the birthing material from his body. A little while later, I cleaned, dried and stimulated Bo with some towels. Then a short time later, Cricket stood up, broke the umbilical cord and began investigating her new son.
After Cricket began licking and talking to Bo, I made sure the wax plugs were removed from her teats, and helped Bo get his first meal. At this point, all appeared to be well. A few hours later, as Bo began to get up and try to walk, we noticed his front knees were not straightening out as he stood. He had an awkward look to him, but still was getting up and around and trying to nurse on his own, just like any newborn kid. I hoped his awkward knees would correct themselves over the next few days. The first things that came to mind were the way his legs were crossed and being compressed with each contraction during the birthing process. The next thing that came to mind was that while his legs were crossed and outside of Cricket's body, she rolled all the way over during labor. Now, I'm beginning to wonder about birth trauma to his legs.
Off to my goat books I went. This is the only book I have that really dealt with birth trauma, as opposed to nutritional deficiencies. I read all about nutrient and mineral deficiencies and bent leg, but none of these maladies matched up with Bo's predicament. In the book, All About Goats, on page 131 it says, "Contracted tendons, particularly of the forelimbs, are common in newborn kids resulting in an inability to straighten the leg. Mild cases with a partially bent leg will often resolve on their own as the tendons stretch with movement; more severe cases may need splinting to stretch the tendons and allow weight bearing on the foot." After finding this, I went to the internet to find out how other people have splinted baby goat's legs. There are many different ideas out there for the looking. Armed with this information, Frank and I decided to use stiff cardboard and duct tape. Here is what we did on Monday morning, when Bo was 3 1/2 days old.
|Cardboard, socks, duct tape and scissors|
|Start off with a sock for cushioning and protection for Bo's skin|
|Wrap in preformed, stiff cardboard|
|Duct tape cardboard in place, then fold the sock over both ends|
|Duct tape the sock in place over each end|
|Then do the other leg|
Bo quickly got used to using his "new legs" and began to play with the other kids much more than ever before. We planned to leave the splints in place until Friday, which would have been four days. But, Thursday evening, when I went up to milk, I found this.
Since one of Bo's splints had worked it's way below his right knee and was no longer serving any purpose, we went ahead and removed them both. The encouraging sight I saw, was that his right leg was straight and he was using it normally. Now to see how the left leg was doing.
This morning, two days after removing his splints, here is Bo. We still feel his shoulder stance is a little wider than the other kids, but he now looks and acts like a 'kid his age', so to speak.
I have to tell you, it chokes me up a little and does my heart good, to see the improvement Bo has made. Frank and I both have soft spots in our hearts for animals that struggle. Bo has given us another great learning opportunity. We had never splinted anything before, animal or human. It gave us the chance to research, brainstorm, experiment, discuss improvements and what worked, and gave us a successful finished product - straight legs. All of this will still eventually lead to food on our table. Bo is destined to become a wether, like the other young bucks, which we will raise and butcher in due time. Does this make me sad? No. We raise animals for the purpose of providing ourselves with good, wholesome food.
We were fortunate that this story had a happy ending. Not all of them do. We have had baby goats that were not able to overcome the obstacles they encountered at birth and have had to put them down. I didn't know how this story would end, that's why I have postponed telling it. But now I feel fairly certain that Bo will do fine. And as for Cricket? She has the makings of a fine milk goat. She has trained to the milk stand and milking routine well. I still have high hopes for her. And if I attend another birth where the kids legs are crossed, I will do my best to reposition them correctly in the hopes that this will not happen again. There is no guarantee that this was caused from birth trauma, but that is what my gut instinct tells me from all of my reading and research. Sometimes there is no way to know why some things happen. But this time, we were blessed with a successful solution. I am grateful.
Until next time - Fern