Kids For Days…

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After last year’s cascade of disasters, I was pretty apprehensive about this year’s kidding season. But it seems that this year the wheel of fortune has swung back in our favour.

I intended to kid eight does this year, and bred the first couple before Australia Day. I was all set up to hand-raise kids from my quarantine does, expecting around half a dozen kids from that group. Sienna kidded first, big twin bucks by Toggalong FitzWilliam, and I waited and waited for the other two to kid… but they did not. Meredith had come into season repeatedly and at irregular intervals, but despite being bred about five times, including the time the buck broke the gate open and spent the night with her, she did not get in kid. Maia did not cycle at all, and I suspected that she had been bred when the buck got out, but no such luck. My first round of kidding netted me two buck kids, and a long wait before the next ones were due.

So I was left with five does to kid, three first kidders and two second kidders. Everyone in the main group cycled late this year, and a couple had to be re-bred after missing on the first cycle. Juliet was huge from about halfway through her pregnancy, and we speculated that she might give us our first set of quads, a prospect that was as exciting as it was daunting. Rosanna and Elaine were bred to Buddy, the buck whose kids all died last year. Katie was bred to Tazzy, whose fertility could reasonably be suspected to be waning now that he is eight years old. It took three cycles to get her in kid, on the last cycle she was bred four times over two days, but it worked.

I am very lucky to have a flexible and understanding workplace, as most of those five does kidded at times when I should have been at work. I went out on a Tuesday morning the day before Juliet was due to kid and found her in labour. She looked like she had been at it for a little while, so I kept a close eye on her and set a time limit for her to start birthing kids before I went in to investigate. That time came and went, with Juliet sat on the floor looking quite worn-out, so I soaped up and put my hand in to investigate.

There was a kid clearly quite close to being born, but I couldn’t feel any feet. I thought I had a face but it didn’t feel right, and there was a weird floppy thing coming out first. After a few moments I realised that what I was feeling was a tail, and the kid was trying to come out literally bum first. I had to push it back in to find the hind legs and pull it out. Juliet was still lying down, which helped, and there was plenty of space to manipulate the kid. I went in again, found another pair of legs and pulled out another kid, placing it next to the first on the straw. These were not especially small kids. I reached in again and pulled out another, hoping to have the all the kids out before the first ones started making too much noise and prompted the doe to get up to investigate. Juliet lay there patiently while I reached in again and found a fourth kid. Two legs in my hand and out she came, a bit smaller than the others but otherwise fine. I felt around for any more just in case, but four was it. I got up and stood out of the way while Juliet hoisted her significantly-reduced self up out of the straw and set to work cleaning her four absolutely perfect kids.

I managed to get them all to have a feed before I headed into work for the afternoon. I weighed them first and they ranged from 2.8kg to 3.5kg, adding up to over 12kg of kids between them and beating Sienna’s record of 10.5kg of kids (triplets) in a single kidding. Juliet’s kids are now a month old, and while my plan was to remove the two buck kids and let her raise the does, she insisted on feeding all four and refuses to let her milk down for either myself of the machine. I offer her kids a bottle twice a day, and Juliet was tested last week and found to be producing around 5lt of milk per day.

Rosanna kidded the next night, and since I was concerned that she might have deformed kids I waited until she was ready and then went in after the kids. I found a huge pair of front hooves, and it seemed impossible that the kid attached to them could possibly come out of that little two-year-old doe. It took an awful lot of pulling to get that kid out and I was surprised and very relieved to find a great, strong, and otherwise perfectly normal buck kid. A doe kid followed and I was elated. A pair of perfect healthy kids by my lovely young buck Anara Eclipse. They were up and feeding from their cheerful little first time mother without help by morning and have gone from strength to strength.

Ten days later it was Elaine’s turn. After kidding as a goatling and then having a year off, she had got way too fat and had suffered from laminitis earlier in her pregnancy. I had to keep her penned with only hay for several weeks while I worked on her feet which had started to get deformed. She didn’t develop an udder until the day before she kidded, and I was not certain that she was in kid at all until the last couple of days. She had a nice, medium-sized single doe kid, meaning that all three of Buddy’s kids this year are normal and healthy.

After a couple of weeks it was Delilah’s turn. Being school holidays I left the rest of the family to keep an eye on her and went to work. Around 1pm I was summoned home as the first kid was presenting with only one foot forward and Matt’s hands were too big to be able to offer much assistance. I drove home envisaging a bad malpresentation with a small doe, reminiscent of Elise’s vet-assisted arrival last year, but found a fairly easy fix with the second foot tucked under the kid’s chin. It was a big kid though, and she was meconium-stained and more than ready to come out. Another fairly big kid followed, and when I checked for any more all I could feel was a handful of placentas. The kids were a good size and Delilah looked sufficiently deflated, so I helped the kids get a feed and stood by as the doe lay down presumably to pass the afterbirth.

And out came another kid. Smaller, and looking like she’d been dragged from a stagnant swamp. She was floppy and I had to give her a bit of a rev-up to get her breathing reliably. I parked her in front of the doe, who was happy enough to clean her up while the other two kids lurched around the pen trying to find their feet. The third little doe had no suck reflex and could not stand, so once I was sure she was warm enough I stomach tubed her with some colostrum and left her under the heat lamp.

I tube fed the little doe again before I went to bed, and checked her at 3am after the Barncam revealed that she had wriggled out from under the heat lamp. I expected to find her dead in the morning, but she was able to stand with help and I got her to feed straight from the doe. She gained her strength that day, but did not take up feeding on her own and cuddling up with her mother like the other two kids did. The next morning it was evident that her mother did not want to raise her, and since two kids are plenty for a maiden doe, I took the tiny kid and moved her to a neighbouring pen to hand raise. She has made plenty of progress in the last few days, and is feeding well from a bottle and bopping about like a normal kid.

That left Katie, who was showing signs of kidding on Friday morning. I opted to work from home rather than risk having to make a mad dash from the office later in the day, so predictably she waited all day and kidded at around 5pm when I would have already got home from the office had I gone in. She had a nice pair of twins without any assistance, and apart from needing a bit of coaching to feed them she is doing very well with them.

So at this stage we have fourteen healthy kids – seven does and seven bucks – from six healthy does. And we have plenty of milk for everyone.

So to sum up, we have six kids by Tazzy, my supposedly sub-fertile buck they are:

Chris, Alf, Sophia and Odessa, from Elcarim Juliet, and

Trinity and Neo, from Elcarim Gloria (aka Katie).

By Toggalong FitzWilliam we have five kids:

Romulus and Remus, from Elcarim Sienna, and

Florence, Mac and Devika from Elcarim Delilah.

And finally, by Anara Eclipse we have:

Luna and Cosmo, from Elcarim Rosanna, and

Celeste, from Elcarim Elaine.

We’ll register seven doe kids, including Florence who has already been sold and will go to her new home when she is weaned. Cosmo was sold as a buck, but when we discovered that he has a hernia I wethered him, and he will stay on as a pet. The other six buck kids either have been or will be wethered and also have homes to go to.

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Staring Down the Barrel

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3 does

Sienna, Maia and Meredith, expanding rapidly.

Three weeks until the first does are due to kid.

I haven’t had does due this early before. It feels like it is still Autumn, with a whole winter to get through before Spring returns. Spring didn’t really start until November last year, when the rain finally stopped after a miserable two and a half months, so based on that, we have a long, cold, wet half a year ahead of us.

And kids due in three weeks. The first to kid will be the older does in the quarantine paddock. Sienna was bred on consecutive days before Australia day and didn’t come back into season. Meredith seemed to miss on the first cycle and was bred three weeks later, but she showed heat on and off for a couple of months so could be due any time. She is the size of a house, though, so no doubt about her.

Maia seemed to be doing nothing for a very long time, but recently it became apparent that she is already in kid. The only time this could have happened would have been when the bucks first came in rut and Fitz broke the gate latch and got in with the does. Making Maia due a day or two after Sienna.

Sienna and Meredith will both be 7yo this year, and it is my intention that this be their last lactation. They are both residents of the quarantine paddock, so their kids will be hand raised as a biosecurity measure to give them the best chance of not contracting cheesy gland. The plan is to milk them both for a full 365 days and get the highest herd recording result possible for them, as well as a Q* 24 hour production award for Sienna, who has proved her ability to get the butterfat and volume required during previous lactations. Maia is only a fairly young doe, who lacks the production capacity of the other two but has a really nice udder. She had really lovely twins last year, but the doe was lost to joint ill, so another daughter from her would be wonderful.

There are still a few things to do before kidding. The gutters have been installed on the shed, which should solve the problem of water running off the roof and coming in under the back wall during wet weather. The feed area has been cleared out and will be used for raising kids. I’ll need to get a lamb bar or similar for feeding multiple kids.

I’m in the process of acquiring a milking machine. With two high-volume does to milk, and a history of carpal tunnel issues, I’ve had to admit that hand milking more than one or two does is more than I can cope with. I’ve found the make and model I want, now it’s just a matter of having it delivered and figuring out how to work it.

After last year, I am pretty apprehensive about facing another kidding season. After the three older girls kid I’ll get a bit of a break before the other five younger does are due, spread over September and October. Hand raising kids is a lot of work, and very time consuming, even when everything goes well.

For me kidding season is about late nights and early mornings. It’s about the moment when you realise that even if the doe kids right now and with no problems you are still going to be up most of the night. It is huddling under the heat lamp, staring at a glassy-eyed goat who could give birth at literally any moment yet manages to hang on for hours. It is the accumulation of straw on the carpet due to all the washing that has to be dried in front of the fire, and all the straw your clothes pick up from the pens while you are on your knees trying to get frustrating newborns to feed. It is dry, cracked hands, the smell of amniotic fluid and colostrum on the cuffs of your coat, and endless trips back and forth to the shed in the dark.

It’s the feeling of relief when all the kids are out, even if they haven’t all made it. It’s the difficult decision of when to wait and watch and when to help a doe to deliver.

I don’t know how many kids we will get this season. Between none and 24 is the reality of it. Somewhere around 16 is likely if things go well. Inevitably we will lose some, but all I can do is hope that the 50% losses we experienced last year were a one-off.

For now I will enjoy the good nights of sleep and the relatively quick morning and evening routines milking just one doe. The calm before the storm. But before long I’ll be under pressure to get up at 6am, fit in feeding kids three times a day and go to bed early. I’ll be working out how to fit in evening milking with footy training. Checking the online camera every hour when there are does in the kidding pen.

There is no going back now. This will happen, soon.

Epic Kidding Weekend – A Debrief

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Those who follow me on Instagram and Facebook will have a disjointed idea of what happened when four of my does kidded in one weekend.

I know many people will kid more does on a more intensive timetable, but I’ve never had more than two due at once before. I was very glad that they waited until the weekend and I didn’t have to mix all-nighters with work days. I also managed to avoid any freezing nights, with the overnight lows hovering around fridge temperature rather than freezer temperature.

All four does were bred to Toggalong FitzWilliam over the one weekend and did not come back in season. I also bred Maia to Zeus that weekend, but she missed and was bred to Tazzy three weeks later. Probably just as well.

Sienna had been the size of a house for weeks, and I expected her to kid first. Her udder got bigger… and bigger… and then, on Friday night, Victoria started showing signs of labour.

I watched from the house on the kidding camera, which sends video to an app on my phone. At 10pm I went out to keep a closer eye on proceedings. Much like last year, Victoria didn’t push. I watched and waited some more. Then Sienna showed us all how it is done, producing big, strong triplets without any assistance.

After helping Sienna clean and sort her tribe, I decided that it was time for Victoria to come up with the goods. I put her in the head bail, scrubbed up and went in. Her kid was just about out, presented correctly, and stuck fast. After much pulling and howling (the doe, not me), I got him out. I fished around expecting another kid, but found nothing. One big buck kid. By now it was 4am, so I left both does with their new kids and went to get a couple of hours sleep.

I came out early the next morning to find all four kids up and about, two of Sienna’s feeding themselves, and something grey and weird poking out of Victoria. I pulled it out and looked at it for a couple of moments before dropping it in shock. It was a half-formed mummified kid. Ew! That explained why there was only one to deliver. Both does cleaned up without any trouble.

Victoria’s buck kid was a bit slow and floppy, and had a lot of trouble figuring out what the teat was for. He took nearly a week to be able to feed on his own, and a good few days before he could feed without being held up.

I had decided to name this year’s kids after songs, and I had a list of names for doe kids but hadn’t thought about names for buck kids. Victoria’s kid has been named Greg (ie, The Stop Sign), but I got into the habit of calling him Buckethead due to his slow and dopey personality. So now everyone else calls him Greg and I call him Buckethead.

Greg (aka Buckethead) with his mum Vicky keeping a close watch.

Greg (aka Buckethead) with his mum Vicky keeping a close watch.

Sienna’s triplets are a buck and two does. The does are neat little bookends, red with white ears, and bits of white detail on their heads and feet. The buck is black and tan and very stylish. The does have been named Rosanna and Ruby, the buck is Jimmy Recard.

Rosanna and Ruby

Rosanna and Ruby

Saturday night it was first-timer Hera’s turn. And, like Victoria, she made a lot of noise for not much result. I pulled one kid out, a tiny doe, and hoped the others would follow. After an hour I went back in and pulled out the second kid, another tiny doe. I was concerned at this stage, because at that size there could have been several more kids. But on further inspection, I found the cause of all the trouble – a huge kid with its head folded right back. I did everything I could, with poor Hera howling, tied to the gate, but I could not rearrange that kid.

At 11.45pm I called my vet, Jim Hancock. Jim had been out twice in the previous couple of months to put down a buck and wether with urinary calculi, and after his second visit he said ‘hopefully next time I come here I can save one for you’. Well, he got Hera’s third kid rearranged and out without having to resort to drastic measures. The kid, a very big buck, was not born alive, but my poor little doe was no more than tired and a bit sore. Her doe kids, Cecilia and Layla, weighed in at 1800g and 2200g, and I knew that being born alive did not mean that they were out of the woods. At that size they would need not just extra care, but a strong will to live.

This gives an idea of how tiny Cecilia is.

This gives an idea of how tiny Cecilia is.

Tiny Cecilia never took a backwards step. Within a few hours she was up, feeding herself, escaping from the pen and getting in everyone’s way. Layla was not so intrepid. She refused to feed, and on a Sunday without anywhere open to buy a feeding tube, there was nothing I could do. She died that night.

With the pens all full, Meredith kindly kidded under a tree in the farmyard. In her usual fashion, she did so without warning and I missed the entire thing. I found her Sunday afternoon having cleaned up her first kid and in the process of cleaning up her second. Two big mottled kids, a buck and a doe, just what I was hoping for.

Her doe kid was lively, loud and hungry. The buck got gradually slower and slower and eventually gave up altogether. I don’t know why. Possibly he came out backwards and got a big dose of amniotic fluid on the way out. Perhaps there was something not right with his insides. Either way, it was a shame to lose him.

In her previous three kiddings, Meredith has had her kids up and feeding very quickly and generally been an exemplary mother. This time she was distracted and disinterested. She did not want to feed her surviving kid at all. I took the spotted doe, named Gloria, and put her in a small enclosure with Sienna’s Jimmy. The two are being bottle raised together, since two kids will be plenty for Sienna to deal with.

Jimmy and Gloria

Jimmy and Gloria

Meredith also turned out to have a nasty case of mastitis, which I am now treating with a range of good drugs.

So at the end of the weekend I have four doe kids and two bucks from two sets of triplets, one set of twins and a single kid. Losing three kids was tough, but we have had some good years lately with minimal losses, and it is always swings and roundabouts with goats. I have been fortunate not to lose any does so far, and kidding time is always a learning experience. Knowing when to go in assist and when to wait is always tricky, but I think I will be more inclined from now on to go in and check that everyone is pointed in the right direction than to wait for too long.

The does have recovered incredibly well this year, despite some rough births. They haven’t gone off their feed or had trouble with acidosis like in previous years. Sienna in particular is eating like a racehorse and looks great. She is producing loads of milk and maintaining her condition well. Her kids weighed a total of over 10kg and there is not a runt amongst them. Her year off seems to have done her wonders.

Sienna with Rosanna

Sienna with Rosanna

A week down the track, and the kids are adjusting to life out in the farmyard with their mothers. They are finding safe spots to sleep and dancing with the chickens. Hera has come in with a fantastic udder, and her surviving kid Cecilia is just like the other kids, albeit half their size. I have almost developed a routine that gets me to work on time. The toughest part is over.

Hera's udder

Hera’s udder

Maia is due to kid in two weeks, then Elaine in October and possibly Ambika in December.