Raising Ripley


As our disastrous kidding season came to an abrupt and premature end, another battle was just beginning.

I arrived home from Melbourne five hours after Maude’s horrendous kidding. I found Matt asleep in front of the gas heater with a skinny brown doe kid beside him on a towel. She was wearing an ICU rug with a heat pad inside it. Her eyes were half closed and she was flat on her side. I thought she was dead.

She was floppy when I picked her up, but moving. I took her temperature and she was so cold that the electric thermometer couldn’t get a reading – less than 34*.

Since losing Meredith’s premature buck kid, I had learned that it can be fatal to feed a kid whose body temperature is below 37*. This bit of information, from an experienced breeder on a Facebook page, is probably the main reason why Maude’s doe kid survived her first day.

My human children rallied around to help get the kid warm. They warmed her with the hairdryer while I went outside to get the infra-red lamp and set it up over a plastic tub full of straw. Between the heat lamp and the heat pad in the rug she was warmed from all sides.

It took a few hours, but eventually she was warm enough to feed. Her mother hadn’t come into milk properly, but fortunately I had some frozen colostrum that I had put away for soapmaking. I partially defrosted this in the sink and put the rest in the fridge to melt slowly.


Being alive is hard work


The kid had no suck reflex. In another stroke of fortune, the vet had sold me a stomach tube for lambs that he had bought and never taken out of the packet. He thought I might need it more than he would, since he carries a length of tube and a supply of appropriate syringes that do the job. Over 24 hours we got 450ml of colostrum into the kid via stomach tube. The next day we switched to milk.

She took her first feed from a bottle on the Sunday night, towards the end of her second day. She was still only taking a little over 100ml at a feed, but it was progress. That weekend I spent both nights in the TV room, feeding her through the night. It was not unlike having a newborn baby, albeit with significantly less crying.

She spent her third day at work with me, under the desk in her heated coat, next to a heater, where I was able to monitor her temperature and give her frequent feeds. She was still unable to stand at this stage, so in no danger of running off. Luckily I have a pretty casual workplace! She had her photo taken dozens of times and spent most of the day snoozing. Matt had the next couple of days off so he was able to look after her. We would split the night feeds so we could at least both get half a night of uninterrupted sleep.


‘Bring Your Kid To Work Day’

After a couple of days she was able to stand. We got some non-slip bathroom mat to make it easier for her, as her feet would slide away on the carpet. As she got stronger she started to take a few steps. Her tendons were very lax to begin with, but strengthened over time.


Standing up by herself

Until this point I hadn’t really expected her to live. But when she was getting up on her own and downing a cup of milk at a time I decided it was time for her to have a name. She was named Ripley after the tenacious heroine from the Alien movies. Also known as Pickle or Miss Kiddy.

She progressed from a plastic tub to a large cage, and developed a liking for sleeping on Matt’s feet while he was at his computer. She liked to sit on the sofa bed with whoever was watching the big TV.


Crashed out in my lap in front of Prime Suspect.


Bottle and nap time…


Watching the Brownlow Medal count with Callum.

Once she looked like she had decided to stay, I kept in mind that she would eventually have to go outside and live with the other goats. I started to take her out with me whenever I went to the shed, but the other kids were so much bigger and stronger that she wasn’t able to interact with them much and she spent most of her time sleeping in a corner of the feed area.


Visiting the relatives is hard work.

Into her second week I started putting her out in a pen under the heat lamp during the day. I had not long put elastrator bands on a couple of the buck kids, and this had taken the wind out of Charlie’s sails enough that I was happy to put him in with Ripley for a couple of days. Soon they were standing side-by-side to have their bottles and the other goats started to look at Ripley like she might actually be a goat.

With the start of Daylight Saving Time I decided it was a good opportunity for Ripley to start spending nights outside. She learned how to locate her warm corner and and how to navigate her way between sleeping adult goats to get there. She had also learned that other kids were a good source of warmth.

Over the next few days Ripley had some supervised walks down the paddock with the rest of the herd. The kids started to include her in their games and she became less intimidated by them. The older goats began to tolerate her as they would any kid who wasn’t theirs.


Ripley with Cookie, who is 10 days older and the next youngest kid.

She is still on four feeds most days, but at three and a half weeks she is living outside with the mob full-time and starting to catch up to the others in size. She was finally disbudded at 24 days, the latest I have ever disbudded a kid, but her horn buds were too small before then. This is a sign that although not premature on dates, she was definitely a dysmature kid.

Normal gestation for a dairy goat is 145 – 155 days, but mine have nearly always kidded between 148 and 151 days. Ripley was born at 158 days, possibly due to some level of dysfunction in the placenta caused by whatever infective agent caused the first triplet to die and be so swollen. Ripley had almost no fur on her ears, was unable to maintain her body temperature, could not stand or suck and took an extra 1o days for her horn buds to start to grow. Classic signs of prematurity. We treated her like a premature kid recovering from a difficult birth and she responded. I have lost kids born much more ready for the outside world than she was, but this time we got lucky. I had the right combination of experience, knowledge and motivation and a kid who who was determined to soldier on and never take a backwards step.



Off down the paddock like a real goat.


Kidding Season – Part 1


You’ll have to forgive me if I make any gross spelling, grammar or editing mistakes in this post, I have not had a great deal of sleep in the last few days.

My status on Facebook sums it up as follows:

“Brief outline of my last 24hrs… up until 4am with a difficult kidding, up again at 5.30am to make sure kids had colostrum, up again at 8.30am to milk and feed everyone else. Short nap around midday before a trip to the vet with Meredith who convinced me she was dying but had miraculously recovered upon arrival at the clinic. Antibiotics dispensed and administered, home again, feed everyone, quick trip to the supermarket for Panadol and tissues (after Ambika knocked the box of tissues into a water bucket around 2.30am). I am now warm, full of ham and cheese toasties and no longer smell like a combination of molasses, milk and the inside of a goat. Hooray for kidding time.”

The first kids for the season were due last Monday, and Meredith kicked things off with a fabulous pair of twin does. This was the first time I have actually seen Meredith give birth. She has a history of quietly slipping out large doe kids without much noise or fuss. This year was no different, I saw the first kid born via the baby monitor while I was waiting for my toast to cook. I only saw the second kid being born because I was out investigating the first one.

Meredith is a big doe, and her kids have all been over 4kg at birth. She has them up and feeding in no time and is a wonderfully attentive mother.

Meredith's twins, Elaine and Maude

Meredith’s twins, Elaine and Maude

Juno was due the day after Meredith, but managed to have me checking her twice a night for the entire week. Finally, Friday night, ligaments gone and signs of labour.

Ideally, Anglo Nubian does shouldn’t kid until they are close to 24 months old. Juno was what goat breeders refer to as a ‘child bride’, a doe who finds herself in kid in her first breeding season and kids as a young goatling around her first birthday. Those who say that animals live up to their names would argue that I was asking for trouble giving a goat the same name as a movie about a pregnant teenager.

I was very keen to be on hand to supervise Juno’s kidding. My little dot had accidentally got pregnant on my watch, and I had decided to let that pregnancy continue. It was my duty, my responsibility to make sure that she gave birth as safely as possible.

A doe who labours for too long without making any progress is at risk of a ruptured uterus. Even if she gets the kid out without being injured herself, kids may not survive protracted labours. I watched Juno work very hard for about an hour before she got her kid to the point where I could see its feet when she pushed.

And that was as far as it would go. It was time to intervene. I was about to go inside to get some soap and water and scrub my hands when I was struck by inspiration. As Juno gave a particularly strong push, I was able to grab the kid by the front feet.

The next few minutes were intense. Juno shouted the house down as Matt held her front end in a bear hug and I pulled the kid’s front legs down towards the ground. For a terrifying moment there was no progress and I was afraid that we would never get that kid out, or that I would injure it if I pulled any harder. But then suddenly it yielded to my efforts and the kid slipped out onto the ground.

I left the pen to get towels from the feed room, and by the time I got back Juno was tentatively cleaning her baby. Kids are excessively gooey when they are born, but a good doe will have them clean and dry in no time. Juno did a pretty good job, and I left her to it for a little while. The kid was vigorous and talkative, both good signs. It had great broad shoulders and a clunky Nubian head, which made me think it was a little buck. Child brides are notorious for producing very nice single buck kids.

Finally I picked up the kid to put it under the heat lamp – it was all of three degrees in the barn – and I checked under the tail. A little doe! I was pleasantly surprised. Matt went inside to get a bottle and teat so that I could make sure the kid got some colostrum before we left the new mother and baby to figure out feeding.

Before he got back, Juno lay down and quickly produced another kid. She got this one out on her own, and this one was a buck. My diminutive one-year-old doe, who can’t weigh much more than 35kg herself, produced not one, but two, strong and healthy kids each weighing around 3.5kg.

Juno with her newborn twins

Juno with her newborn twins

By the time the sun had come up, little Juno had figured out how to feed her little family and the three of them were comfortably ensconced under the heat lamp.

Juno’s daughter has been named Elcarim Elizabeth. Being a double cross to my Tasmanian-bred senior buck Capricorn Cottage Tazzy, we named her after the main street of Hobart. We have one other doe who is line-bred to Tazzy, that being Elcarim Victoria, so it is fitting that these two girls are named after queens.

Elcarim Elizabeth - Lizzie for short

Elcarim Elizabeth – Lizzie for short

The little buck has been named Abel (as in Tasman), and he has a home waiting as a pet wether with another of Tazzy’s sons, Ajay, the offspring of last year’s child bride, Tylden Park Ambika. Ambika is due to kid on September 2nd this year, and she has grown into a tall and stylish young doe. And yes, she was the one who knocked the box of tissues into the water bucket, due to her complete inability to mind her own business, and my currently persistent runny nose.

Victoria is due to kid in three days, and thankfully she doesn’t look like she is ready yet. Matt has surgery scheduled for the day after tomorrow so there will be nobody home all of that day to keep an eye on her. After last year’s wacky shenanigans of Rianna kidding while I was in hospital and Sienna producing triplets the night after my pacemaker replacement I am not confident in the capacity of my does to kid at times that are convenient to their human food slaves and midwives.