Light Thru A Bubble

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

Written By: Gwenn Dexter

This year’s kidding season was like no other. Not sure where it went off the rails, or why, but I sure know when. So read my story with me and let me know what you think?

I like to breed the does in small batches, grouping them together, having them kidding close together if possible, and then procedures like vaccines, dehorning and coccidia prevention can be done all at the same time. We don’t have room in the barn for all of them to kid and raise their kids at the same time, so batches work well for us.

Added to this, we culled HARD in 2022, removing the last of the 50% Boer does and any doelings that didn’t make the ‘80 lbs in 8 months’ benchmark. This left me with only 3 mature does and the rest of the herd was 20 first timers. It was the lowest number of does we’ve had to breed in quite a few years.

There was also an attempt to get the does bred earlier in the fall, as the earliest I’ve managed without hormone intervention in the past was October, so we tried ‘pasture breeding’, hoping constant exposure to the buck would kick things up a notch. Feed was increased in mid-August, for ‘flushing’, in hopes of increased litter sizes. The mature does and any doelings big enough for breeding were left out on pasture, with 2nd cut hay in the evenings, as we turned out our buck “High Voltage’. The group was 12 does, about half of what the entire herd was, and a manageable number for kidding in the barn in the depths of winter. But despite all of Voltage’s amorous attention to those does, there was not a single tail twitch until late September. I made a point of taking time every day, morning, and evening chores, to see who was getting the buck’s attention and recording the day in my essential day planner. When we thought Voltage had enough time to have gotten them all bred, he was offered for sale and sold. Putting 2 bucks through the winter was going to be plenty, 3 would be over the top.

We waited 6 weeks before turning the rest of the does out with the other buck, “Sun Raider”. In that time, I was able to ultrasound the does supposedly bred by Voltage and found that only 7 had conceived. And it was another 2 weeks, near the end of November, before we saw any signs of does coming into heat. So, the second group was to be all first timers (FF), 16 of them. Just thinking about it gives me a headache. We have been so blessed with mostly good mothers, but first timers are just a bit more hands-on. Mother Nature is amazing at what the pregnancy and birthing hormones turn on, but sometimes new moms aren’t so sure, should I clean it?, let it touch my udder??? I just feel that I should be there for them.

The actual kidding out of the first batch was uneventful, even if slightly disappointing. The 7 does produced 10 kids, with only 4 of those being doelings. All the FF produced singles but one, and one of the mature does produced a single for the second year in a row (whisper ‘CULL’ in her ear!!), for an average of 1.4 kids per doe. Not our most productive batch. So maybe there is something to consider as far as breeding too early in the season.

FFs are easy to tell if they’re pregnant or not as they almost always start prepping an udder 8 to 6 weeks before their due date. It became apparent that only 14 of the 16 had conceived using this method. I double checked with ultrasound, but indeed, two were still open. Down to 14 expecting.

During evening chores one night in late March, came into the pen to find Fire, one of my most promising young does from the 2022 line-up, had a bloody backside and some nasty matter hanging from her vulva. It was obvious that she was in the process of aborting. She was still lining up for her supper, and eating hay, so she wasn’t ill, so maybe simply something wrong with the fetus, and it had to go. It was bound to happen sooner or later with this many goats, and I’d rather it abort than cause the doe problems trying to deliver a mal-formed kid. I tied a knot in the matter, so it wasn’t dragging on the floor and monitored her health. Down to 13.

A couple weeks later, came out for the evening chores to find Dancer limping on a back leg. Examined the leg, couldn’t find any damage, she was still using it some and looking for her supper. But in the morning, she wasn’t using that leg at all. She was separated into her own pen and continued to go downhill, to the point that she went down and wouldn’t get up unless helped. Never lost her appetite, still pooping & peeing. But 8 days after being down, she went into premature labor and pushed out twin bucklings that were non-viable. After two weeks of being down and showing no improvement, we euthanized her. Down to 12.

Now only weeks from bringing this batch into the inner barn, I come out to find Shine has a water bubble on her backside, a sure sign that whatever is in there is coming out. I didn’t have a due date for her, she was pretty coy about it, but I felt that this was another abortion, a third, which to me, was too many. I go into full on panic mode, sure I am dealing with chlamydia or some such horrific disease. In the morning Shine is trying to push her kids out and having problems. I want the fetuses for testing in Truro, so I try to help, fully gloved, of course. Not easy, the first one is dead, and next one is coming along as well. Had to push the 2nd one back, to get the first to come out in one piece..gross, to say the least. I won’t explain how I knew it was dead right away, we’ll leave that to my dear reader’s imagination, sorry. Collect up everything I can, take it all into the Vets for testing. Sadly, these were both doelings. Shine gets a 3-day set of antibiotics, poor girl. Down to 11.

The original plan was to move the inside batch to the exterior pens and this batch due to kid inside, but now, not knowing what we’re dealing with as far as disease, we spend the weekend emptying out round rolls of hay from one section of the barn and making a pen for the older kids and moms over there. At least until we get a chance to clean out the deep litter from winter in that other section, and/or get the test results back.

The first two kiddings are uneventful. Does have their kids up and mothering them unattended. But that third. Cinnamon was labouring for far too long for too little progress. We’ve easily seen around 100 kiddings on the farm by now, so you know when you have an issue. I lube up and go in to check. And I’m not sure what the heck I’m feeling. Close my eyes to help visualize, I’ve got too many legs, but no head. Try to find a matched set of legs and follow it back, still no head. Apply some pressure and follow those legs back, and encounter the cervix, closed around the legs. There is no room for a head to come out with the legs in there. I know what it’s called, ringwomb, but never seen/felt it before. I try giving the doe some calcium supplements that I have, as a quick google search suggested that might help and certainly wouldn’t hurt, while I call a Vet. I need professional help, or smaller hands. Luckily, they sent a Vet with both. We spend over two hours working with this doe, finally delivering a fair-sized live buckling and a deceased doeling with crushed ribs. And further investigation reveals that Cinnamon has a severe uterine tear. We milk out colostrum, pain meds for Cinnamon, get the buckling nursing some. The Vet felt she wouldn’t have long to live and to keep her comfortable, getting the valuable liquid gold (colostrum) into the buckling for as long as we could. At 10 o’clock that night, I helped Cinnamon stand, as she was understandably sore as heck, but she seemed perkier. She nursed her kid and had a big drink of water. I thought things were going to be OK, but in the morning, she had passed, and I had a bottle baby to feed.

Two days later, one of the more valuable does has a string of egg-white like mucus that means kidding is soon. She is 6 days early, too early for the kids to be viable in my opinion, and not doing much. I feel in there, feels like placenta first. I panic, can’t lose this one, too much riding on her kids, so call the Vet again. Apparently, she’s fine, just making goo. Never saw one do that before. I guess better to panic during working hours than to need a Vet after hours.

Meanwhile, one pen down, RagDoll delivers twins unassisted and has them up and nursing.

May 1st, same doe, the one who could have 10 kids and I’d have homes for all of them, goes into labour for real. Slow going, so I check. Kid has it’s head tucked into and under it’s armpit, I swear. I called for the Vet, Dr. Tiny Hands. She has this mess untangled and delivers two live kids in under 10 minutes. A sigh of relief! Buckling 9.4lbs and a doeling, 9 lbs even.

May 3rd, two does go into labour at the same time. Rose delivers her twin bucklings with just a small, assisted pull from me, 10.9lbs and 8.9lbs. Eileen is struggling, head is not lined up and my hands are just too big for in there. Call my now favorite Vet.

Even she struggled with this one and at one point said, “I don’t think this one is coming out alive.”. But it did, and the 2nd one after it as well. Eileen decided to mother the one that caused her all the problems, at 10.2lbs, and reject the 7.3lber, instead of the other way round. I have them penned together and forcing her to stand and feed them both several times a day, while supplementing the ostracized one with a bottle a couple times a day, but I think I must soon admit defeat and consider this one another bottle baby.

The last doe kidded while I was napping, bless her heart.

Final count on this batch was: 11 does kidded, 18 live kids, 9 doelings, 4 Vet calls, 3 abortions, 2 dead does, 1 DOA doeling and one bottle baby. Average of 1.6, that’s more like it!

Why still only one bottle baby?? Because Dot, from the first group, who was always very casual about who nursed from her while she was eating, made a deal with the devil (that would be me) in exchange for food. All the other weaned does got cut off from feed to help them dry up their udders. Dot got moved to a small pen with the first bottle baby, and after being held for nursings several times a day, decided within 48 hours that this was her new baby and adopted him. Some things just go right. And every time I watch her nursing him, I laugh.

These things are amazing!!

Oh, and the Lab test results are back. We got nothing, no chlamydia, nothing. Those fetuses drowned in fluid on the way out. So just some bad luck. I’ve never been so happy to have had ‘just’ bad luck.

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