The thing about time is that it marches on.
It seems like years since the day we put 17 goats in the ground, but it has only been 16 months. And it looks like it may have been worth all the heartache.
All the goats from the infected group are now gone. From the two young does I kept, we got one kid, a sweet little mottled doe who we called Lucy. The other doe, a quad herself from a long line of big families, did not get in kid despite running with the buck for four months.
We submitted a milk sample from Lucy’s mother for testing, but came up with nothing. I attempted to make a cheese from her milk, but the curd did not set up properly, the same problem I had been having with the sick goats before. With the milk problems and fertility problems I had to assume that those last two does were infected, even though they had no coughing or lameness. So they were the last two to be buried. With them gone it is likely we will never know what the cause of the illness was.
After losing one of my young bucks to an injury, I was anxious to get some does in kid to the other buck, Angus, and decided he could run with two of my young does for three weeks only. Both does got in kid straight away, and a couple of months later, despite my attempts to keep them separate, he bred my third doe, Merida, who is his half sister by the same buck. After that there was nothing to do but wait.
On October 24th Georgia gave birth to triplet does at 145 days gestation. The first one was tiny, delivered into my hands under a tree in the paddock, with her head bent back and entirely dead. I dragged the poor doe into the shed and helped deliver the next two kids, who were well on the way and only needed a little bit of guidance. Georgia was an amazing mother from the beginning, and the bigger kid Daphne was quite precocious, but little Lily needed a few days of help to get up and feed before she could fend for herself.
Being small and a bit early, Georgia’s girls stayed in the shed for over a week and didn’t move out into the paddock until they were nearly two weeks old. I had just enough time to clean out the pen and prepare it for Peanut’s impending kidding. Things were very different this time around, with Peanut labouring all night before I helped her deliver an enormous single buck kid. Little Wally Walnut took a little while to get the hang of his great long legs, but he was out in the paddock hooning around on day 3, already bigger than Georgia’s girls despite being a fortnight younger.
The group settled into a routine, with Merida and the two wethers keeping to themselves while the does with kids dealt with their rowdy children. Lucy and her adopted brother Eric, a snatched kid from the nearby commercial dairy, spent fine days out with the others, retreating to their private pen at night since the big goats wouldn’t let them sleep in their house.
Merida kidded on December 14th, and my apprehension at the possible ramifications of her offspring’s limited pedigree proved unfounded. Her two doe kids tried to come out at the same time, one head first with a front leg back, the other backwards. There’s always a moment when you encounter three feet in the birth canal where none of the previously invented swear words quite seem appropriate, so you come up with some new ones. I decided there was room to get the first kid out without bringing the second leg forward, and I was right. After that both kids were out so quick I didn’t even have time to unfold the towels.
Merida wasn’t quite sure what to do with her kids, and had quite a ticklish udder. It was day 5 before she finally decided to let them feed, which meant five days of three-hourly visits from me to help the kids feed. The smaller kid, Marigold, was a bit slow for a day or two, but soon figured out that me turning up meant mum would be held still and she would get a chance to feed. Long-legged Magnolia, with black face and ears and lots of spots over her body, was a bit more steady on her feet and able to chase the doe around.
It seems kind of fitting that now I am no longer showing, I have does with the best udders I have ever owned. All perfectly even, well attached, and with decent volume for such young does. Merida has the greatest capacity, easily feeding her two doe kids and still sometimes needs a milk out in the morning in cooler weather. Georgia’s teats and fore attachment are even better than Merida’s, and while it looks like her volume is not as great, she is feeding two doe kids who are doing very well. Although I do suspect that Lily sneaks a feed from Peanut when she gets a chance. If the size of Peanut’s kid is anything to go by, she is also making plenty of milk. She has high, wide attachment and soft texture like her grandmother Rianna, and teats the perfect size for hand milking.
Angus the buck and the three big wethers have been moved into the old buck paddock, where they have plenty to eat and live a quiet existence. The three milkers and seven kids reside with Boo the Maremma in the big paddock. Everyone is healthy. I have made a few successful batches of yogurt from the early milk, although I haven’t been able to put aside enough to try a cheese yet.
Seeing my little herd, happy and healthy, kids with their mothers, is really a sight for sore eyes. This is what all the sacrifice was for. The war appears to have been won. Once these dam-raised kids start to pass 12 weeks of age with no symptoms of illness I will consider the whole process a success. Then once they are old enough to wean I can commence daily milking, get back into cheesemaking, and do what I set out to do – breed Anglo Nubians who milk, and make food for my family.