Skip to content

Farmette1769's Blog

by Monica Melograna-Ward

It started out like a normal day. The previous day, we attended a wedding and reception. It was so nice to have a break for some fun. I had decided to continue the break by sleeping in until 9am the next day.

Sunday morning, April 29, 2012, at about 10am – late to be getting out to feed the goats.

As I looked across the fenced yard, I noticed something on the ground. It occurred to me that it appeared to be a goat. Somehow that little goat did not seem familiar. I did my count, adjusting for the change in our small herd that happened the day before (Saturday morning, one of our pygmy goat kids left for her new home).

The wheels were turning slowly in my brain as I was still reveling in the uninterrupted and solid night of sleep. Something was not right in the world. Finally it registered that our Nubian dairy goat, Beatrice aka BB, had given birth.

I ran across the yard. As I am not as young and able as I once was, running is not currently my strong point. I fell on the cement walk, scraping my knee and bruising my elbow. Managing to get back up quickly, I clamored the rest of the way to the lifeless body that lay
on the ground.

Picking up the lanky little kid goat, I received another shock. It let out a screechy ma sound. Alive! My heart, that had already moved far up in my chest, jumped into my mouth. Turning to the right, I saw another small lifeless body.

There was a little clear goo (some afterbirth membrane) on its head with crumpled dry leaves stuck to it. Convinced that this one was truly dead, I mournfully picked it up. It was cold and limp. Breathing!

The race for warmth began. My kids (the human ones) welcomed a hysterical Mom into the house and began to help. Towels, laundry basket, heating pad, milk replacement recipe, etc.

Beatrice wanted nothing to do with her two little girl kids. I was not expecting to bottle feed and certainly not this soon. These were pre-term kids. From that point on, it was a “make it up as you go along” process.

Here is their first pic. They are so tuckered out.

It has been such a rush that I did not weigh them. I think they were under 2 pounds (which would be fine if they were pygmy goat kids).

This is a short video clip of bottle feeding on their first day.

Bottle-feeding one of two Nubian doe kids

I have helpers for their care. Our 23 year old daughter Eko,

9 year old son Dorian,

and 7 year old Golden Retriever.

Twin #2 aka Sally (R) standing well with Penny (L). This pic was taken Wednesday, May 2, 2012.

My husband is sure to join in on his days off (the girls arrived Sunday, which is currently his first day of the work week).

Monday, April 30, 2012 was a blur. I was running on very little sleep.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012, I was able to take a quick short video of the Nubian kid girls waking up after they slept ALL night. The room is dark, so the audio is actually the best part of this clip. You can hear their little baby cries. They sound a lot like human babies and the fact that say mama is just irresistible. I cannot help but take care of them. The feeling is reminiscent of caring for my daughter and son when they were infants.

Waking Up

Despite her very large size, Beatrice has been picked on by our herd of pygmy goats beginning with her arrival here. She is hornless and the little goats all have theirs, so they win. This may have contributed to the early kids.

BB was acting weird Friday evening, April 27, 2012. I checked her – no swollen milk bag (utter) and no signs of change on her “who-ha”.

During the day on Saturday Beatrice was acting normal until she got tangled in the electric fence. I was outside and rushed to get her out. BB untangled herself in less than 30 seconds, before I made it through the gate. But, that was quite a jolt for any animal, no less a pregnant nanny goat.

Maybe this brought on the premature labor. It can be difficult to determine the cause when it happens. There are many possibilities.

I would have locked her in the well shed for the birth and also for after care (24-36 hours) if there had been any signs of labor. It has half doors and therefore plenty of ventilation. It would have been nice to have the little does born on dry straw rather than randomly in the dirt.

It is not her fault at all, but I am frustrated with BB’s abandonment of her kids. The feeling is just in me, no matter how much I try to step out of the situation to look at it rationally.

Beatrice did what nature intended. The survival of her kids was unlikely and she left them. They would have been taken back into the energy of the world so that BB could focus on her own survival.

Nanny goats often wander away from the herd for kidding, even if it is out into the rain or snow. My mistake was not separating Beatrice earlier. In retrospect, she needed to be in a non-electric pen by herself. Since goats are herd animals and do not like to be alone (at all), this is not the best option, but the necessary choice in this case.

Looking back on all this requires that we create some separation pens with their own shelters. Caring for and bottle feeding twins will certainly serve as a reminder to get this done ASAP.

The ins and outs of keeping up a hobby farm are limitless. You try things. You get better at making it all work. Then a coyote will sneak in and steal a duck. A big storm will arrive at that same time that life has you focused on some other important thing. Work (paid employment/freelance gigs) is keeping you very busy. You fail. You mope. You think about shutting the whole thing down. You get back up and brush yourself off. You really love this lifestyle.

Beatrice identifies her own kids as non-goat-friendly-food items and quickly moves on to look elsewhere for the snacks she was expecting from me. What was I thinking, trying to hand her two, furry, squeaky things?

I imagined her new kid(s) keeping her company, but BB does not want to make friends with them. She is also now picking on our pygmy doe kid (who she TOWERS over). I thought that our hermaphrodite goat, Luna, would hang out with her more since she doesn’t have a close buddy, but neither her nor BB seems interested.

BB is such a sweet, people-friendly goat. She loves getting pet and will follow you around the yard – leaning into you. She may have been bottle fed, since I have heard that they identify themselves as humans and wish to hang out with them instead of their herd mates. My strange feeling of frustration with her is going away. I do love BB quite a lot.

Beatrice passed on her beauty to her kids. They will likely also follow in her footsteps as far as temperament is concerned.

We initially named BB’s kids doe #1 and doe #2. The one with the lower initial body temperature is referred to as doe #1. She picks up energy and then fades and picks up energy and so on. On Tuesday evening, she gulped down a considerable amount of homemade milk replacement – more than her stronger sibling. This behavior was encouraging.

The next morning, Wednesday, May 2, 2012, doe #1 managed to stay on her feet for a few minutes.

Her left eye was cloudy compared to the right, but she was eating and her plumbing was working. I was not worried when I took this pic. She had survived the first 72 hours.

My husband, Jamie, named doe #1 after a Levon Helm song called “Anna Lee”. Both of the girls are slight, but in this pic you can see just how scrawny Anna Lee is.

In the evening on Wednesday, things were not going well with this tiny doe. She wanted to be held more than she wanted to drink her bottle. She sounded congested. Her energy began tapering off at a fast rate.

Jamie stayed up as long as he could to help. He kept her warm on his chest and talked to her. I stayed up with her until she was gone, shortly after midnight.

Our daughter is at a friend’s and our son is at school. At this moment, they do not know that she died.

I thought that I was done crying, but it started up again as I write. It is so wonderful to have Spring babies on the farm. It is so incredibly difficult when you lose one. There is no escaping this.

Death is part of life. My husband and I are big fans of the show “Six Feet Under”. In one scene, speaking of her beloved aunt, a character asks “Why do people have to die?”. The answer given was “Maybe it is to make life more important.”.

What would life be like if you knew you would live forever? Would it be as rich? What would we have to compare things to? I could continue with this line of thinking, but it is best to move on now.

Thursday morning, May 3, 2012. Sally (doe #2) was sprawled out in the laundry basket. It almost made me laugh. Without her sister there, she had made herself more comfortable. Sally ate heartily from the bottle of farmette formula this morning. Along with the milk, evaporated milk, and buttermilk, I added some plain Greek yogurt. It is not part of the milk replacement recipe, but a little may help give her immune system a boost.

The last pic of the day is Sally in her warming blanket made from a long t-shirt sleeve. She is putting on weight, but until she is hopping around like kid goats do, we’ll need to keep her close-by. I hope I don’t pester her too much by checking in on her so often.

In the evening, my husband Jamie took this video of Sally bottle feeding while standing. It is important that she get mobile as much as her strength allows and eating is a good motivator to get her up on her feet.

Sally the Goat

It is now early on Friday morning, May 4, 2012. Sally just had her breakfast. She seemed a bit constipated, so I added 1/2 of a very small egg yolk to a 9 oz. bottle of our version of goat milk replacer. That bottle should be enough nutrition for most of the day.

Egg yolk is an optional ingredient for fresh goat formula, but can sometimes give a goat diarrhea, so I thought a tiny bit might help loosen up her stools. At the least it would add some protein to her diet.

I had found a trick that uses a warm wet cloth to replace the mother goat licking her baby’s bottom. This stimulates their bowels. It is dangerous if they don’t keep things moving out as more food comes in.

The trick worked well when I noticed Sally straining on Thursday evening. It did not work this morning. If the warm cloth does not work, you can give them small enemas of warm, soapy water. If the soapy water does not work, you can try olive oil.

10:15 am

I am on the all the goat web sites right now, awaiting a call from a livestock veterinarian. Having found a good site for emergency supplies, I rummaged through the cabinets for some and looked through my own current bin (my bag of animal care tricks). I chose a few things, one of which was vitamin B complex. Another was a syringe with a needle.

Sally had already been offered a bottle of electrolyte solution made of water, corn syrup and a pinch of salt. This and the vitamin B mix can help them get through a rough day.

She was whining with every breathe and periodically tightening her abdomen. Our little doe may be very constipated. She strains but only wets. I thought she was uncomfortable from pressure in her digestive system.

Her temperature was 102.4 (normal) when I checked it mid-day. She was able to lay with her feet tucked under and head upright – not on her side. I thought she might be getting ahead of whatever was wrong with her.

Sally perked up a bit on the long ride over, but was very hot with fever when I arrived at the vet appointment. It was now 5:15 pm. Her respiration was labored and she could not hold her head up. She was fading fast.

The vet said that her chances were slim. It was likely that pneumonia had set in. I accepted the help of antibiotic injections. On the way home, Sally’s eyes were shaking strangely (neurological?) and she cried like she was hungry.

She had a big seizure minutes after I arrived home with her. She had a few. I could not believe she was still alive after that.

Sally kept trying to stay with us, just like Anna Lee, but she passed away within 1/2 hour. I then wished that I had never gone to the vet and had let her go more gently by staying at home.

My feelings are that I wish that I had found the twin kid goats sooner, before they ever got cold outside. I wished that I had found them gone already. I wished that I had never gotten any goats. I wished that I did not have any pets. I wished that I had never gotten attached to any pet and, for that matter, any person.

I remembered what I wrote earlier, the quote that I had actually agreed with “Death makes life more important”. Thinking of that again sparked an older memory.

I moved to the city (Atlanta, GA) at 18 years old, after having grown up in the blue collar suburbs of Burlington County, NJ. It occurred to me, when I had lived there a while, that there was a poignant difference between urban living and where I had spent my childhood. There was so much more life happening. It was faster and there was more of it, all at once.

Now I am 48 years old. And we have a farmette. It actually reminds me of the city. In an average household, there is more focus on individual pets, since the number of them is lower. Our pets are also livestock, which are used as sources of food (eggs and milk), sales (chicks and an occasional goat kid) and labor (watch dogs, cart pony, brush clearing by goat power, etc.). On a farm, the population of animals and related activities is greater. The pace of life here is sometimes fast. Plants and farm animals and wildlife are all around us growing, and helping us to grow.

I enjoy this life – overall, but it can be so extreme. It is such a thrill to watch an egg hatch or to experience the birth of a kid goat. It is heart-wrenching watching a young animal die. You learn a lot from it – quite a lot.

Again, I cry. But, I am glad to have known the little goat kids. I hope that they felt loved and taken care of. I hope that my decisions did not cause too much suffering.

Today is Saturday, May 5, 2012 – Cinco de Mayo

Click the following link for good advise on the care of newborn goats.

Today is Sunday, May 6, 2012

Lastly, there are two things that I would add to preemie goat care. The next time we have goat kids, I will steal a bit of colostrum from the mother right after they are born and freeze it for future use. This is produced the first few days by the nanny goat (and other mammals) providing immunity to diseases/infections. Secondly, I will use inject-able antibiotic (available at most farm supply stores) at the first signs of stress in a newborn kid. It certainly would not hurt as a short-term treatment, even if infection is not the issue.

Anna Lee and Sally were beloved babies. I truly hope that there is a heaven, even though my beliefs don’t really work that way. And, maybe, I will see them there – that is if I am worthy and, if I am lucky.

Posted on May 7, 2012

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

%d bloggers like this: