Tuesday morning when I went up to milk and feed the goats, I realized that Penny's udder had really filled in the night. I had been checking to see how far her hips, or ligaments, had spread for a number of days. I told Frank the evening before that Penny really seemed to be almost wide open and I just didn't see how she was keeping those babies in there. Well, it didn't last much longer.
Tuesday was supposed to be a laid back day that allowed us to clean out the barn and get the birthing pens ready at a lolly gagger pace. Not to happen. I called Frank on the radio, remember we use them all the time. I told him that I didn't think it would be long before Penny went into labor and that we needed to get the birthing pens set up. I asked him to scramble up some quick eggs for breakfast while I milked two does. His idea was better. Milk the goats, bring the milk down and start chilling it, then we would clean the barn and set up the pens before breakfast. Thus began the mad dash to prepare. Not our preferred mod of operation. We would have much preferred the lolly gagger pace. Anyway. I quickly completed the morning chores, took the milk to the house, filtered it and set it to chill in ice water, we woofed down a few bites of cottage cheese, and away we went.
Frank fired up the tractor while I started in with the pitch fork. It was a surprisingly quick and thorough cleaning. Since Penny was not showing any signs of imminent birth, we went back to the house for a real meal and a cup of coffee. By this time we were hungry, I cooked up a big brunch of sausage and eggs hoping this would hold us for a while. We both knew this would turn out to be a long and busy day.
After we ate, I went back to check on Penny. She was out in the pasture grazing with the herd, showing no signs of labor, no discharge, nothing. She was talking a little which made me think she may be in the beginning stages, but that was all. So I left her grazing thinking this would be the last good exercise she had for a few days and that the new green growth would do her good.
We decided to go to the post office and buy gas. While we were at the gas station some folks from church called to let us know the bacon and sausage we ordered from the local ag class had come in and they were heading our way. So we waited at the little country convenience store, got our bacon and sausage, visited for a few minutes, then headed back home. The longest possible time we could have been gone was about 45 minutes, maybe an hour, but I don't think so.
As we drove in past the pasture, I could see all of the goats except Penny. Uh-oh. I still had my radio with me, so as soon as we hit the house, I hoofed it up to the barn. As I topped the little hill where the barn sits, Penny saw me from the pasture and started hollering at me. Double uh-oh! I called Frank on the radio to let him know what I was seeing as I went through the barn and into the corral on my way out to the pasture. As I got closer I called him back and said, "We have babies! I need your help!" As I got even closer, I called back again and said, "We have twins!"
Now, we have had does birth or begin birthing out in the pasture before. I usually pick up the baby or babies, hold them in front of the does nose, and she will follow them to the barn. Penny would have none of it. She paced and she hollered, and she paced and she hollered, but she was afraid of her babies and would have nothing to do with them. I know I called Frank on the radio again and reported the situation, but I have no idea what I said this time. He was busy trying to get the bacon and sausage in the freezer because he knew it would be a while before we would be back down to the house. He asked me to think of what we may need from the house for the birth. We had just about everything there except some towels, so he gathered them up and headed up to the barn.
In the meantime, I decided to take the babies to the barn, get them set up in the birthing pen, then go back for Penny. When I took the babies to the barn, the whole herd followed me there. That is, the whole herd except Penny. She stayed where she had given birth, hollering and pacing. She knew her scent and the scent of her babies was there and she wasn't going to leave it. After I went back out to the pasture, it took me a while before I could catch her. One Stripe led the herd back out and helped me catch Penny by standing between us. Penny was comfortable enough with One Stripe, our old matriarch, that I could reach across and take Penny's collar. It took some coaxing to get Penny to leave her birthing place, but when the herd came with us, she did much better.
Now I have her in the barn, in the pen with her babies. I quickly leave them alone hoping she would begin to lick and tend to them. She still frantically called and called, even though her babies were right there, she ignored them. Not a good sign. But she was quite agitated. So we put a brass double end clip on the side of the pen down low, clipped it to her collar, then placed her babies right under her nose, and left her alone. As she continued to fuss and call, her babies answered. She started to smell them, then after a few minutes started tentatively licking them. Thank you. I was relieved. After she showed serious interest in cleaning her babies, we unclipped her collar from the pen and let her finish the job. I'm sure you're not surprised that there are no pictures of any of this process.
Now the next hurdle was for the babies to nurse, and to make sure Penny would let them nurse. I left them alone for quite some time since she was tending to them and I didn't want to disturb that. Lucky for us the temperatures were right around 80* so I wasn't too concerned about the kids getting chilled. Penny wasn't real excited about letting the kids nurse, so we clipped her collar back to the side of the pen again. I put one kid under her nose, while I assisted the other one in getting that first meal. Once the first one was full, I traded them off and made sure the second one had a good meal. We also trimmed off the umbilical cords and sprayed them with 7% iodine somewhere around this time. Now, I could sit back and relax for a bit.
|Faith came to see the babies. She plans to have her own goats soon.|
Now for some reflection. What a surprise this birth was. Here is what we based our decisions on this day. Penny is a first freshener, meaning this is her first set of babies. Most, obviously not all, but most first timers take a while when they birth. Most pending births are indicated by the amniotic sack breaking and a long string of mucous type material hanging from the doe's vulva. This is fairly standard. So, when I checked on Penny in the pasture before we went to the post office and she had no discharge, I figured it would still be at least a few hours before she gave birth. Now, we haven't been able to see all of our goats birth over the years, but we have seen many. I don't remember any of them having twins from start to finish in under an hour. Penny is definitely the exception when it comes to that observation.
If I had known she would be giving birth in such a short period of time, I would have penned her up right after we finished cleaning the barn. No matter how much experience you have dealing with animals, there will always be an exception, or a difference that needs to be dealt with that you can learn from. Penny has been an interesting teacher for me this week.
After Penny calmed down and bonded with her sons, yes they were twin boys, she was very attentive, talked up a storm and just fussed over them for hours. She showed no signs of rejecting them, and they are healthy, vigorous and doing great. Since One Stripe and Copper have already provided us with boys named Breakfast and Lunch, we are calling Penny's boys Dinner and Dessert. They will be banned and become wethers when they are about two weeks old.
We let Penny and the boys out with the herd this evening. First we penned up One Stripe and Copper's babies in the baby pen for the night, so there weren't any extra babies around to cause any confusion. And little do the older kids know, but they had their last drink of milk this evening. In the morning we will move them from the baby pen to the weaning pasture. They are now eight weeks old and their moms are ready for them to be weaned. So we will have new little babies in the barn with the herd, older babies in the weaning pasture, and the buck and older wethers in their pasture. We still have wethers that need to be butchered and had plans to put one in the freezer today, but there are only so many hours in the day, and there just weren't enough of them today.
Cricket had a son yesterday, but that story will have to wait for another time. I think I learned some important lessons from her as well, and I want to share them with you. Life is an interesting journey. There are many, many lessons to be learned. Some of them are even taught by a goat.
Until next time - Fern