At the end of Kidding Season – Part 1, we were three days out from Victoria’s due date and had two sets of twins on the ground. I was sleep-deprived after Juno’s difficult kidding, but not willing to take my eyes of my precious Victoria.
Victoria kidded three days after Juno, and kept me up literally all night. She was clearly in labour from about 5pm and just refused to push. And it was freezing that night, getting down well below zero. After watching her until about 2am I decided to go inside to warm up, as I was genuinely afraid that if I fell asleep in the barn I would freeze to death. At 4.30am I decided that if the kids weren’t well on their way I was going in after them. I tied Victoria to the wall, scrubbed my hand, and went fishing for kids.
The first one was not far away, and I managed to get hold of his legs and point his head in the right direction. Now, Victoria is a big girl, but I had a terrifying moment when I thought that kid was just not coming out. Finally he came unstuck and there he was, heavy-boned and meconium stained, but squeaking feebly, and steaming in his puddle of goo.
But the doe clearly was not empty, and I had to go fishing for the second kid. He was right down the bottom, it was like reaching into a gooey backpack trying to find your keys. I found a pair of legs and started to pull him out. Even with the path well-greased he took some pulling. On getting him out on the ground I realised why – he was enormous. By this stage the light was not any help in figuring out what colour the kids were, and both were stained with green meconium from their arduous night of labour. Both kids were bucks, as you probably figured from my use of the pronoun ‘he’ to describe them both. I was not surprised. If your best doe is going to keep you up on a freezing night with a difficult and scary kidding, of course she is going to give you twin bucks. And then refuse to feed them.
Poor Victoria was quite shell-shocked, and being a first kidder I decided she could raise one kid and I would buddy the other up with Juno’s buck and find them a home together. The pair of them have gone to live with our wonderful house-sitter Mel and her menagerie of chooks, Greyhounds and alpaca.
After a couple of weeks and much wrestling, grunting and general angst, Victoria got the hang of feeding her huge, spotty buck kid from both teats, and he soon outgrew the doe kids born in the days before him. The last thing I needed was another buck, and I was determined to wether him and just hope to get a sister next time around.
But then his father, my dear sooky buck Jazzy Jupiter, died. Jupi left four lovely daughters and one big, beautiful son from my best doe. Victoria’s buck kid finally got a name, and Vulcan will get to replace Jupi in the buck paddock.
After a couple of months respite, in amongst the stress of having my house for sale, Ambika kidded on a weekday afternoon with little fuss and no assistance. She cleaned up her twin bucks, fed them well, and she will raise them to the age of three months at which stage they will be weaned and go together to their new home. Ravi and Sachin are the first kids by Elcarim Zeus, and they were the quickest, most forward kids I have ever bred. Ravi was up and feeding before Ambi even got around to lying down to give birth to the second kid. They were following mum down the paddock before they were 48 hours old. This did lead to Ambi losing one or both of them a couple of times, but they turned up again after a bit of a search.
This only left Rianna still to kid.
Rianna was meant to be retiring. As of last year she had produced ten kids, including two does and a buck who I have kept. With the birth of Juno’s kids in July this year, Rianna became a great grandmother. She was diagnosed with staph in her udder last year, so it just seemed easiest to retire her from active duty and let her live out her days as herd boss and farmyard velociraptor.
But Rianna had other ideas. When buck kid Toggalong FitzWilliam arrived from Townsville I had him with Thumper in the electrified quarantine yard. And on the fourth day I came home to find Rianna, very in season, had decided to join Fitz in quarantine.
Of course she didn’t come back in season after that, and after many very convincing false alarms she also kidded on a weekday afternoon. Last Tuesday, actually.
She asked to be put in the kidding pen when I got home from work. She didn’t look terribly threatening, so I went and spent about 45 minutes on the ride-on mower. When I went to check her again she maahed reproachfully at me and turned around to reveal the head of a very bewildered-looking kid.
I flipped the offending leg forward and helped the kid the rest of the way out. Rianna expertly began to clean her up (a doe, thank you!), and then pushed out two more kids in quick succession.
There is something to be said for an experienced doe with good mothering instincts. Rianna had those three kids clean and dry very quickly. It was a warm afternoon, so the heat lamp was not required. Being triplets, they were a little slower than some of the other kids had been after birth, but they all had a feed within a couple of hours and were up and about on their feet by morning. Rianna even seemed quite happy to feed all three of them, unlike previous sets of triplets where she has only wanted two and rejected the third kid.
Rianna is not a big doe, and her production is compromised by her infected udder. She can raise two no worries, but not three. I wanted to take both buck kids and bottle raise them together, but Tybalt, the bigger of the two, flatly refused to take milk from anything other than his mother. Little Puck, the smallest kid of the season born at just over 2kg, was quite happy to take a bottle. So he got a small area to himself next door to his siblings, three bottles a day and the adoration of our entire family.
Rianna is being treated for the infection in her udder, and hopefully will be able to go to some shows this year. At 6yo she is eligible for Veteran classes at most shows, and even on her fifth lactation, having raised eight kids and now raising two more, she has impressive udder attachment and texture.
So that is my kidding season over. Eleven kids from five does and by four different bucks, for four doe kids and seven buck kids. There were some scary times, and a few rounds of antibiotics, but so far everyone has survived and is doing well. I would have to call that a successful kidding season.