House Goats

Our new year’s day began normally.  An arctic cold front had pushed down over the entire Northeast of the country coming so far as to encompass us here in Atlanta, which is highly unusual.  We got up, had some coffee, breakfast & went out to the barn a little later than usual to take care of the goats. We were not exactly in a hurry to get outside into the cold weather. While we were inside letting out goats & checking hay supplies I heard an unusual cry out from one of the new kids born Dec 28th.  I looked in the stall to see her with her foot seemingly stuck between a small gap where the bottom trim board meets the outside siding.  It was barely large enough to think it was an issue, except that is was exactly large enough for her to have stepped in between and have her hoof get pinched and she was unable to extract herself.  I had to push on the siding boards to release her foot & then because she had been away from the heat lamp for an unknown amount of time, I quickly shoved her inside my down jacket next to my body.  She was calm inside my coat but as I stood there waiting for Mike to get back inside the barn I began to realize that this little kid was in much bigger trouble than I originally thought.  I told Mike we needed to bring her inside the house, but not wanting to separate her from her mama & kid brother we made the decision that all 3 needed to come inside.  This is where putting ceramic tile in the laundry room has become a very good idea because if you know anything about goats, they poop & pee continuously.

As I assessed what was happening to this baby she was cold, very very cold.  Her lips were like ice.  She was in deep deep crisis.  I heated up the heating pad in the microwave, I wrapped her into it, but soon decided this wasn’t enough, so heated up the other two that I had to totally encompass her body as much as I could.  While I was waiting for the third heating pad to be heated she became very still, her head lolled to one side & I could see her eyes glaze over.  I truly thought that she had died in my arms and my heart sunk.  I said to my daughter “Oh my God! I think she just died”.  I studied her little face, was she breathing? was there any sign of life?  Yes, there was!  I could barely see her breathing, it was very shallow, but she was still alive. I wrapped the third heating pad over the top of her body & even over her head just leaving her nose out so she could breathe. It took about an hour for her to begin holding her head up by herself, and then several more hours for her to warm up enough that she opened her eyes.  We kept her wrapped in my down coat & the heating pads for about 4-5 hours before I felt comfortable taking away the heating pads & then leaving her just wrapped in a down blanket for many more hours.  I’m sort of mad at myself that I didn’t act quicker when I found her trapped in the barn, but I guess even though I was a little slow on the uptake, at least at some point I realized that this wasn’t a case of being just a little cold.  I’m also sort of amazed that she had enough energy & cognizance to call out to me when she was obviously so close to hypothermic death. Smart girl!

As we had mama & little twin brother in the laundry room we began to notice one other odd fact.  Mama was not letting the brother nurse.  She kept kicking him away even though he clearly was hungry and wanted to nurse.  We tried holding her still & letting him nurse.  She fought us mightly.  It took two of us to hold her still.  This obviously was not a solution.  I called Ann Wood whom we purchased the herd from to get some advice.  She counseled that maybe the kids teeth were sharp, check them and take an emory board to file off any sharp edges.  Maybe mama had a sore on her teat, check them & use udder balm if so.  One of the criteria that Ann had always culled for was that they must be good mothers, so this is unusual since this doe is about 6 years old and had numerous previous pregnancies.  Not feeding your kids is not a good mother and Ann Wood would not have kept her if she was historically not feeding her kids.

We decided that we were going to have to supplement the kids.  We put mama back out in the barn for a while to give her a break from the kids.  We had sagely frozen milk from several lactating does last spring so we began supplementing both kids.  We’ve read that if the kids are given milk from other does their mothers can reject them because they do not smell quite right, so later in the day, after about 6 hours later we brought mama back inside & thankfully this time she let them nurse.

Since the arctic cold front stuck around for a week, we felt it wouldn’t be smart after the close call with the doeling to put all 3 back out in the barn with below freezing temperature. Plus we wanted to supplement these two babies for a few days to help them put on a little bit more weight.  So we had house goats inside for a week.  Welcome to farming with animals….you never know what type of house guests you’ll have.