Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Baby Watch 2013

Things I've learned, in all my massive experience in goat birthin'...
...and by "massive experience" I mean, two of my goats had a total of three babies (so far)
  • I will really, really, really want to be this awesome mid-wife, helping my mamas bring new life into the world - we'll cry together, hold each other, maybe hum kumbayah, I don't know, we'd just play it by ear.
    • In all actuality, I will miss the entire thing - I will walk to the barn and find two babies or wake the next morning and find another baby and I won't even be sure who the hell this one belongs to. 
  • I will want to photo document the entire process - both as a learning experience for myself/my family and other newbies...however, see the bullets above.
In all seriousness though - we were faced with a really tough situation with Sweet Pea. Obviously we were hoping that her and her mama, Frankie, would figure things out naturally, but we were fighting against the forces of nature too. It was extremely cold the day that she was born (of course) - she was having an extremely hard time maintaining her temperature, she just didn't understand how to nurse, Frankie was likely sore, tired and nervous about giving birth - she just couldn't understand why this crying baby kept bucking at her stomach, face, neck, legs, fiber anyplace it could get close enough to. We had to make some quick decisions, both for the short and long term (keeping the well being of the mama, baby and our family in mind).
**Note that much of what I'm going to discuss was talked about was on the last post - but I'll have more detail and more suggestions

Decision 1 - Maintaining Temperature
Since a cold baby won't focus on anything other than being cold, we had to prioritize this. Plus, with an internal body temperature of 93 degrees (more than 10 degrees below normal) - I believe we were in a critical state and needed to act quickly.
  • Leaving her outside would have given her more bonding time with her mother, but I feel in my gut that if we would have left her there, she would have died. We decided to take her in (two separate times...still trying to work with her and mama).
  • Wrapping her in a plastic bag, up to her neck (keeps her dry and able to breathe) - we used a cheese making floating thermometer to fill the sink with water that was about 105 degrees. We soaked her little body in the water (which she seemed to love). 
  • After her spa soak, we took her into the bathroom and gave her a blow dry and got her nice and toasty. 
  • Finally, Mark set up a sandwich of electric blanket/heating pad/beach towel/baby goat/beach towel/electric blanket/regular blanket to enclose that heat. 
  • There, she rested for most of the day. Except for when we were trying to get nourishment in her.
  • We successfully raised her temperature to above 100, and I was happy.
  • Not feeling secure that she was out of the woods with her temperature, we decided to keep her in the house for the night, risking Frankie refusing her in the morning - but a risk we felt was necessary. Into Blue's cage she went (I wonder how offended Blue is that we make her share her cage with weak/premature goats, baby squirrels, kittens, and lambs with bad legs). She slept through the night, kept a good temp, ate out of a baby bottle in the morning and peed in my carpet...perfect (it goes with the occasional cat/dog/lamb pee). 
  • The next question is how do we keep her temps up while she is in the barn (especially if mama was being standoffish)?
    • I rigged a heat lamp in the barn - remember, we don't have power out there yet. I ran an extension cord from the garage...through the loft and dangled over the angora pen. I used rope/twine and hay bale wraps to hang the lamp from the loft rafters and tadaaa - a sturdy, suspended heat lamp that was well above where Frankie and Itty could get caught up in it, but low enough to keep the baby warm. I added some extra hay in the corner, under the lamp and created the perfect nesting area for Sweet Pea.
Decision 2 - Feeding/Nourishment
The hope is that Frankie would just nurse her baby, as Mother Nature had built women and intended...but that just wasn't happening. We assumed that Sweet Pea hadn't eaten anything since birth - YIKES. So here is what we did...
  • We made a mixture of black coffee (5cc) and a tablespoon of Karo Syrup. In theory, this is like a jump start for the Sweet Pea - hopefully, giving her a spike of energy, especially once her temps came up, encouraging her to eat.
  • Since angoras are tough to milk (their teats are extremely small) - we decided to milk a bit from Mabel, the dairy goat - I understand that Frankie could have refused to take Sweet Pea back if she smelled another goat mama on her, but again, a chance that we were willing to take. We went to TSC (and by "we", I mean "Mark") and got the calf bottle with a smaller nipple - but she still was a little small for that - Mark went on trip #2 to get baby bottles and the heat bulb (which we'll also be able to use with our chicks coming next month). The baby bottle worked better - did I mention that she's a little dumb when it comes to nursing (it isn't just a Frankie issue). 
  • When Josh came over - he mentioned the benefits of giving her a boost of Vitamins would help her out. 
    • Vitamin E - we had soft gelcaps here at the house. He took a syringe and pierced the vitamin caps and drew the Vitamin E out of the cap. He pulled the vitamin out of approx 6 caps.
    • Vitamin B Complex - we had B complex pills. I took a spoon and crushed several pills in a bowl (note to self, buy a mortar and pestle).
    • Josh took the crushed Vitamin B (approx 2-3 tablets worth), mixed it with some of Mabel's milk and used a syringe (with the needle removed) to feed it to Sweet Pea. 
  • All of these things helped her pull through the night, but there was still the issue of long term. Did we want to have a bottle baby - not necessarily. Our lives are busy enough to not have to worry about feeding a goat every couple of hours for the next few weeks. 
    • In the morning we took her back to Frankie. I pressed Frankie against the wall and sorted through all that fiber to find her teats and got the baby to latch on...and then she dropped it...latched on again and dropped it and well...you get the point, this went on for several minutes. But she was indeed nursing. Whew. Frankie, however, still wasn't loving it - if I wasn't pressing her against the wall, she would have just scurried away from the baby. 
    • All of Frankie's fiber was confusing the baby too - so we used scissors to cut away some of her fiber. We didn't want the fiber to go to waste so we scattered in on the baby's bed, to add softness and smell like mama. 
    • By cutting away the hair around her back legs, belly, butt, teat area - Sweet Pea was able to find the teat much easier. 
    • We spent the day Monday, going out and holding Frankie while the baby would eat...and then, all of the sudden...they figure it out. We went out to assist and Sweet Pea was already nursing - Frankie was talking to her and cleaning her baby's butt while she kept butting the udder and latching on...They did it! Great job to mama and baby.
My assumptions
  • I think that Frankie's engorged udder made it difficult to latch on for the baby and painful for mama...but once we got some of the milk out, it made it easier and more comfortable for both of them. 
  • By that next morning Frankie and the baby were rested enough and regained strength to deal with the process of learning to nurse.
  • It's damn cold outside and who wouldn't want to stay under a heat lamp!? The sleeping baby didn't look so bad to snuggle up to if Frankie could share some of that warmth LOL. Maybe nursing isn't so bad after all.
I'm happy with all of the choices we made...it worked out for the best, for everyone involved. Maybe I would be second guessing everything if the outcome was different, but I feel like we did the best things we could, with the resources, experience and knowledge that we have.

**I appreciate anyone that reads this blog; however, we know that there are a million opinions about how others shoulda, coulda, woulda handled the situation - we'd love opinions and suggestions and won't tolerate criticism :-)

We just hope that someone else might learn from what we did and help save the life of their own baby goat.
Lessons learned everyone!


  1. OK you can add Livesaver to your resume now. Good Job. I was thinking as i read it that this would be a good resource for beginners like yourself because you have articulated your thoughts and how you came to your decision. Best laid plans go astray - i imagined you being on the goats birthing team, wiping brows, giving massages, playing soothing music. LOL Oh well, i am sure that you have many years ahead of you of playing midwife to your herd. More pics and video's - i love their bleats. PS. I noticed Josh is back in the house!

    1. We love Josh around here! Even the boys get all flustered when he is coming over LOL he just knows everything...I'm really happy how things turned out - definitely a learning experience. Maybe I'll still see Flora or Itty deliver...probably not though. LOL