Posts Tagged ‘kids’

Bottle babies are a pain in the behind. It takes a lot of extra time to mix the milk replacer, fill the bottles, feed the babies three or more times a day, and clean up all your bottles and nipples and and bowls afterward. A lot of dairy breeders pull the babies right at birth, as this can help prevent the spread of a disease called C A E, which shortens goats’ lifespans and reduces their milk production, often dramatically. Out of seven goat births here on our place, however, we’ve only managed to attend one.


The only bottle babies we’ve had from here were kids rejected by their moms. Between day jobs, the garden, house renos, and the human baby, it’s just not something I would willingly sign up for. Besides, all of the goats in our original herd were raised on CAE prevention, so we should be covered on the disease front.


However, in spring, 2013, we bought a few more goat kids, to broaden our genetic base a bit. We bought from a reputable breeder, one who raises her kids on CAE prevention. That’s good, because it means we won’t introduce anything to our clean herd, but it sucked, because it meant bottle babies again. Trekking to the barn four times a day in the cold and dark was no more fun in 2013 than in other years, and I have to admit, there was some grumbling on our part.


The doeling on the left is three weeks old, and the one on the right is close to three months.

The doeling on the left is three weeks old, and the one on the right is close to three months.


The 2013 bottle kids were born at the end of February and beginning of March, so they were a couple of months older than our farm kids. We really noticed a size difference – at three weeks, the dam-raised kids were as tall as the bottle babies, but much leaner and glossier. As well, they seem more energetic and curious.


Even now, almost a year later, the dam-raised goats are still somewhat bigger and sleeker; those bottle babies still haven’t caught up. Our little female bottle doeling hasn’t really put on the weight the same way our dam-raised doeling did, and seems to have entirely too many ribs, especially compared to the other yearlings, who are verging on being fat.


Almost a year later - dam raised on the left, bottle baby on the right.

Almost a year later – dam raised on the left, bottle baby on the right.


While I understand the reasoning behind CAE prevention, I do have to say I am happier with dam-raised kids overall. They seem healthier, and are considerably less work. Sure, we don’t get to milk right away, but it’s only a few weeks before you can pen the kids at night and milk in the morning. It also gives us a bit more freedom – if we can’t be here to milk, we can leave the kids with the does, and let them do our milking for us, which makes finding a farm sitter a whole lot easier. In 2012, I couldn’t milk with the birth of our baby, but we let Titan keep milking Saffron right up until the middle of September, when I felt up to taking over. It let us get a couple months’ worth of milk that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to deal with.


The one disadvantage to the dam-raised kids is how skittish and shy they end up being. We can catch and handle every goat on our farm, but the dam-raised does, in particular, only come for a bucket of grain, unlike the bottle does, who come for ear-scratches and attention. Interestingly, the dam-raised bucks seem to get fairly friendly once they are separated from their moms and put in the buck pen. It will also be interesting seeing how the yearlings and two year olds are for kidding and milking in 2015 – I expect those dam-raised does to be a challenge on the milking stand, but maybe I’ll get a pleasant surprise. On the bright side, having been raised by their moms, those skittish yearlings should (theoretically) turn out to be pretty good moms, which will save us the hassle of bottle feeding, or even coaching a nervous first-timer about how to stay still to nurse her kids.


goat lineup


We’re hoping that, with the exception of maybe (maybe!) a buckling every couple-few years, we are done with bottle babies. We did not breed any first-timers this year, as we know our springtime will be crazy-busy, but most of our yearlings were dam-raised anyhow, so they should do okay when we do breed them in 2015. I’ll be sure to provide updates!

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New Kids!

We had been hoping that everyone would have their kids before I went back to work (tomorrow), and, for once, nature co-operated.  Unfortunately, we got all singles, and more bucks than does, but my favorite doe, Saff, gave us a doeling, at least, so I am content.  Here are the gratuitous cute pictures of the bucklings (the doeling was too fresh to be outside in the wind having her picture taken…yet…):


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Well, spring is (supposedly) coming.  Despite the two-plus feet of snow still on our yard, we’re getting ready.  Getting ready for spring, getting ready to garden, getting ready for baby goats.  Getting ready for me to go back to work.


I go back to work in about ten days.  I’m actually looking forward to it – it’ll be nice to do things that stay done.  Laundry and dishes and cooking and picking up baby toys seems like a treadmill of just getting one finished, and having to start from scratch with one (or all) of the others – it never ends.  However, a report, once written, is done.  You can move on to the next task.  I can tidy my office, and expect it to stay that way.  I will miss the rather more leisurely pace of the days, and of course, I love being able to spend time with Hubby and Baby M, but there are advantages to this working business, too.


We’ve started a couple hundred plants for the garden, beginning back in February, with the artichokes, and planting more every couple-few weeks.  This year, I’ve tried to stick more closely with the stuff we know we like, and do a bit less experimenting, so at the moment, we’ve mostly got artichokes, tomatoes, and peppers.   I started a few pots of herbs, as well.  This year, I decided I wanted to plant more flowers, just because.  Because I like pretty things, because they attract hummingbirds and butterflies, because we don’t always have to be strictly practical.  I’ve got pansies, zinnias, rudbeckia, calendula, delphiniums…no real plan, but a mish-mash of things that appealed to me.  Some will go in pots by the back door, some in a dedicated flower bed, and some will undoubtedly be tucked here and there among the tomatoes that I plant along the south and east walls of the house.  I’m looking forward to the planting!  In the meantime, I still have squash, melons, and cukes to start; I’ll probably sit down and get that done this weekend, or maybe next.  I don’t want to start them too early, especially with the melt being so late.


Two of the three pregnant does are due any day now.  Saffron is about the size of a bus, but it doesn’t stop her from jumping up on the old hay bales we’ve stacked along the cold wall of the maternity stall, to stop drafts.   Skye is smaller than Saffron, but is still developing a bit of a waddle.  Missy is hardly looking pregnant compared to the other two, but she could have been bred up to a month later, so it’s not that shocking.  I think Sky was bred first, but I’d put my money on Saffron having her kid(s) first.  We’re making special trips out to the barn every couple of hours, now, just out of anticipation.  The three bottle babies that I brought back from Alberta are appreciating the extra attention, as are the cats.  We’ve located and gathered all our ‘kid contingency’ stuff – extra bottles and nipples, colostrum replacer, towels, rubber gloves, and the like.   None of our goats has had major problems kidding so far (besides their habit of dropping kids in snowbanks, which the maternity stall should solve), but it’s bound to happen sooner or later, and we’d like to be prepared.


While we’re waiting for overly-cute newborn goat pictures, here are a few of the also-very-cute Alberta bottle babies:


baby Splash



Alberta baby



baby Alyssum

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As you may recall, we had one goat, Skye, who had a really rough time birthing, and who was very swollen and somewhat ill after her kid was born. She rejected the kid, but we were really persistent about putting her on Skye, hoping that when she was feeling better, Skye would change her mind about letting the little one nurse.


It worked, eventually.  The doeling, Calypso, got supplementary bottles, but after a couple of weeks of putting her on Skye a few times a day, we actually observed her nursing unaided, with Skye tolerating it, and even pushing other goats away to let the little one eat undisturbed.  Skye’s milk production was not really up to snuff, so we continued with bottles for another week, hoping her milk would come in as she nursed regularly. Her production did seem to ramp up, and we discontinued the bottles, though we were watching little Calypso pretty closely to make sure she was gaining weight and staying healthy.  Success!  Being born a couple weeks after everyone else, Calypso seemed tiny even in comparison to the other kids, but we did not worry about it, as she did not seem to be getting pushed around, and she was growing and gaining weight.


This morning, Hubby went to let the goats out, and Calypso was missing.   He found her body under a bit of straw in the corner where the kids normally sleep.   They sleep in a sort of a dog pile, and our best guess is that she somehow got on the bottom of the pile and suffocated, being so much smaller than the other four.  Random tragedy.  We’d heard of that sort of thing happening, but we didn’t think it would occur in such a small group of goats; we’d only heard of it on big farms where there are dozens or hundreds of goats.


We’re really disappointed.  And sad.  Calypso was the cutest kid, and was our big success story, having been finally accepted by her mom.  We were planning to keep her for future breeding and milking, especially as she was as friendly as the bottle kids (having been on the bottle part-time for several weeks), but had some chance of learning good mothering and being a good mom herself, down the road.  I don’t think there’s much we could have done differently, but you always wonder…





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A Few More Photos

…Just because it was a beautiful day outside, and we had the time to spend a morning watching the new kids play:







Also, I’ve made up a facebook page for Rural Dreams.  I’ve added a few other pictures there (portraits of each of this year’s kids), and it’s a neat place to add little updates that are too short to be worth writing a blog post – come on by and check it out:  Rural Dreams facebook page

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Baby Goat Drama

Missy is a deadbeat mom.  We should have called Social Services on her as soon as she left those two poor wet kids in a snowbank, but we wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt.  We tried to teach her a better way.  Showed her how to nurse.  It looked like things were turning a corner – we saw her nursing a kid, and figured things were going to be alright.  We kept an eye on the situation, but tried not to interfere.
Then, at chores tonight, Hubby found the baby boy, laid out in an awkward position in the straw, screaming.  He was fine this morning, and nothing out of the ordinary in the afternoon, but by 7 tonight, he was very nearly dead.  Hubby brought him in, and I was sure he was a goner – he couldn’t stand or even hold his head up properly, and wouldn’t take a bottle or anything.  Best we could figure, Missy had been feeding the girl twin, but not the boy, and he collapsed from malnourishment and hypothermia.  The last time we forced Missy to feed him was last night; 24 hours is a long time for a baby to go without food when it’s -20 out…


I was certain we were going to lose him, but felt like we should at least try something.  We ran out to the barn and tried to milk Saffron, but she was dry – her teats were still wet from her own kid nursing.  Uh oh.  We got Missy up on the stand, and hubby held her while I tried to milk – she’s never been milked before, and has the teeniest teats, but we did get a couple of ounces.  Back to the house, but the boy wouldn’t suck.  He just flopped in my arms, not even struggling.


I wrapped him in a towel and tucked him under my sweater, then asked my forum friends for advice.  Warm him up and feed him, was the consensus.  So I grabbed an afghan and settled into my chair for some reading.


After half an hour, he started to shiver.


An hour after that, he began to settle down, but still wouldn’t suck.


Another hour, and I had to pinch him to see if he was breathing; I wasn’t sure if he was even alive.  He swallowed when I dribbled some milk in his mouth, but that was about it.


Then he peed all over me, and started to struggle.  I offered the bottle, and he sucked back the two ounces in about six seconds.  Five minutes after that, he was struggling so hard I had to set him on the floor, for fear of dropping him.  Miraculous.


It appears that we have our goat back, though he’ll probably have to be a bottle baby, now.


My poor lazyboy, though…

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Being the total farming newbies we are, we were not quite sure if the goats had actually gotten bred.  We know there had been some significant trying going on, but it wasn’t clear if the buck’s equipment would be in proper working order quite so early, and the goats weren’t looking all that fat.  I’ll tell you, halfway through my pregnancy, I am looking a whole lot fatter than the goats were on Friday (which would have been approaching term for them, if they’d been bred).


Well, it turns out, they were.  We were in town for a coffee with my father yesterday, and did not get home until just after dark.   We pulled the car up near the barn, so Hubby could see to do the evening chores – I’ll admit, I stayed in the car where it was warm.   Hubby was having trouble rounding everyone up, though, so I got out to help a bit.  It was about then that we realized there were extra bodies in the pen.  Very teeny bodies – two of them.  Missy and Saffron were the two that should have been bred for sure, and were also the two who would not go in; upon closer examination, it was Missy who was covered in gore, so at least we knew who the little guys belonged to.


Missy is a first-time mom, and it shows.  She had the babies in a snowbank outside, instead of on the nice clean straw in the barn, and it looks like she had them and just kind of walked away.  They were still wet when we found them, shivering in the snow, and their little ears were frozen stiff.  They did not look like they’d managed to stand yet, and they were both looking pretty weak.  We scooped them up in some towels and took them inside to warm them up and dry them off.  I put a panicked message in to a homesteading board I frequent, and got immediate advice – get those little guys warm and dry, and go out and milk some colostrum from the mom to get into them, stat.  Without it, the babies would probably die.


So, back out to the barn we went, to milk a skittish first-time mom while kneeling in the snow, pregnant and tired.  That didn’t go so well.  I checked Saffron, and discovered she is ‘bagging up’ – she’s starting to produce colostrum, too – she will probably have babies soon, herself.  Well, we took some colostrum from Saff, who stood pretty quietly and saved a great deal more frustration and swearing, and went back in to feed the babies.  That went over well, and eventually they were warmed and fed enough to put back out with their mom.  At about midnight.


This morning, we found both babies doing okay, but not as perky as I’d like, especially the girl, who seems to be the weaker of the pair.  It wasn’t clear if Missy was letting them nurse, so we tried putting them on her.  They nosed around, but ended up sucking on her elbow, or her fur – if this is how instinct operates, I have to admit, I’m not impressed.  Unfortunately, the couple of times the babies did get close, Missy walked away.   We decided to give her a couple more hours before interfering any further.  I was afraid I was going to have to try to hand milk her again, but at lunchtime, we went out, put Missy on the milking stand, and got the babies to latch on.  Missy did not look too impressed, but she stood still for it…more or less.    We’ll follow up by doing that a couple more times, but the babies are looking stronger, so they may be able to manage it on their own, now, especially if Missy has finally gotten the idea of what she’s supposed to be doing.  We’ll see, tonight.


In the meantime, some gratuitous cute kid pictures:

The doeling

The buckling

Both kids together

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