As we head into another breeding season, it feels like kidding season only just ended. Although, to be fair, with Ambika kidding in December it pretty much did. Yet here we are again, planning matings, thinking about which resulting kids will be the best to keep, which does will be aimed at milk awards and deciding what each first-time milker will have to achieve in order to cement a place on the team.
One of my favourite aspects of kidding season is making new friends. You never know which kids will worm their way into your heart and become special members of the herd. But every now and then one comes along whose story just about writes itself.
Last kidding season saw me call the vet to assist with a kidding for the first time. Luckily I have a vet who I can call at 11.45 on a Saturday night and who will be there in 15 minutes. I had managed to fairly easily extract two tiny doe kids from my first-timer Hera, but the third kid was a lot bigger and very very stuck. No amount of manipulation on my part could get that third kid’s head around and he was too big to come out otherwise.
I was doing that mental calculation of whether the doe was potentially valuable enough to justify the cost of a cesarean when my wonderful vet managed to rearrange the third kid and get him out in one piece, although very much dead. I had two doe kids, an uninjured doe and we’d avoided surgery, so I was pretty pleased with the outcome. But those two doe kids were tiny, and I knew that being born alive was just the beginning of the battle for them.
Layla and Cecilia weighed in at 2200g and 1800g respectively. The smallest kid I had bred previously that had lived was Puck, also a triplet, who was a little over 2kg at birth. Hera’s kids were so little that they could simply walk through the bars of the gate and leave the pen, which they did regularly and much to Hera’s distress.
Layla died on her second night after refusing to feed from either a bottle or her mother. Cecilia, however, soon learned to feed herself, standing on tiptoe to reach Hera’s teat and feasting on the ample milk supply. She gained weight so quickly that her skin started to feel tight and her little body felt like an overstuffed sausage. Hence I started calling her ‘my little sausage’ and Sausage became her nickname.
Sausage was one of six kids born that weekend who lived, all by my sturdy young buck Toggalong FitzWilliam. The others kids were tall and flash, at least twice the size of Cecilia, but she never once backed down to any of them. This was sometimes to her detriment. When she was two weeks old I noticed a lump on her spine and she was walking oddly, dragging a hind leg. She was not her normal cheerful self, and would cry out if you grabbed her. All signs pointed to a back injury. She was a bit slower for a while, but I massaged the swelling either side of her spine twice a day, which she seemed to enjoy, and she spent a couple of nights locked away from the bigger kids. After a while she recovered and now the lump on her back is barely noticeable.
When she was nine weeks old her mother suffered an injury to her teat, and would not allow Cecilia to feed. While the injury was immediately obvious, it took me a few days to realise that Hera was not letting her kid feed off either side. It took a very hungry Sausage a very short time to learn how to feed from the bottle. After a good few weeks of hand milking Hera from her injured teat, which included lots of stomping from her and swearing from me, the injury healed and Cecilia once again took up feeding from her mother.
Later on poor Cecilia was one of a few goats to be infected after one of the show team came home with a respiratory infection. She lost a lot of weight and would stand around panting. She was diagnosed with pneumonia, the vet stating that she was probably down to 25% lung capacity. Bigger, stronger goats have died from pneumonia, but Sausage battled on, recovering over a few weeks after a round of antibiotics and getting back to her rowdy self. I kept her on a bottle during this time to help her gain weight, and after a couple of months she has started to catch up to her bigger peers.
Even now, at over six months of age, my little Sausage is about 2/3 the size of other kids the same age. She will most likely never be shown and may never get to the size she should have been, but she is an exquisite little doe with lovely type and the pedigree to be a handy milker. She uses her size to her advantage, and never lets it disadvantage her. She is boisterous and healthy, and loves attention.
After so many setbacks, my tiny kid has never lost her sense of humour or her zest for life. She will have every chance to be a useful dairy goat, and be managed sympathetically to reach her potential.