Sunday, June 19, 2011

Early Delivery

Two years ago our first kids were born on the farm, Snickers and Milky Way.  Their dam is a Nubian and their sire a Nigerian Dwarf, making them Mini Nubians, a relatively new and experimental dairy goat breed.  The goal of the Mini Nubian breed is to end up with the classic long ears and Roman nose of the Nubian in a smaller, compact size – easier for kids to handle and well, just cuter!  This year we bred Milky Way to a 4th generation Mini Nubian buck in hopes of making good progress toward the ideal breed characteristics.  The timing of this breeding was tricky because we had a family vacation planned for the first week of June, and then summer camps starting June 13th, so we were trying to have kids born somewhere after the vacation but before the camps started.   Goats go into heat about every three weeks and their gestation time is 5 months, so last fall we charted Milky’s cycles carefully and when she went into heat mid-January, we rushed her out to the breeder who is about an hour from our farm. 

Now to add further complexity to the situation, the breeder was getting ready to go out of town and gave us a 45 minute window of opportunity to get the job done before he had to leave.  Between the cold temps, the rush to get the deed taken care of, and the fact that this was Milky’s first experience with the breeding “facts of life”, I figured the odds of her conceiving were pretty low.  But what the heck, might as well try.  So, imagine my surprise when we had her ultrasounded two months later and learned she was indeed pregnant with a due date of June 13th – the first day of camp!

As winter turned to spring, Milky’s belly got bigger and rounder and she began to develop an udder.  She’s always been a chubby little goat, but by the end of May she was a wide as she was tall.  She looked and acted great, with a healthy appetite and plenty of energy.  Pregnancy seemed to agree with her.  While we were on vacation in early June, the pet sitters who were milking our other doe, Skittles, each evening felt sure they would show up to milk and find babies in the stall, even though they weren’t due for another week and a half. Luckily, she didn’t have them while we were away.  I just hoped they’d come a day or two early as the idea of running camp while babies were being born felt a bit overwhelming.  Plus my brother and his family were visiting from Cincinnati and I hoped they’d get to meet the new kids before my brother and nephew had to head home on the 14th

On June 9th, four days before the official due date, I turned Milky out to pasture in the afternoon and she happily trotted out there and munched away on the grass as usual.  At 5:00, I brought her in for the evening and fed her some hay.  This is normally Megan’s job, but she was at an amusement park with some friends so I filled in for her.  Milky ate the hay with gusto and acted and looked as normal as could be.  I had to go to a 4-H meeting at 6:30, so Brian was in charge of milking and bottle feeding the other baby that evening, with some help from Molly.  He went out to do that around 8:00, looking in on Milky Way before he commenced to milking and all looked fine.  But a few minutes later he heard a loud, alarming bleat coming from Milky’s stall.  He ran to check on her only to find a tiny little kid on the ground!  In a panic, he yelled for Molly to grab some towels and frantically dialed my cell phone number.  It rang alright, but no one answered as it was sitting on my desk recharging instead of being with me at the meeting.  They were on their own!   Molly quickly got the towels and rushed to the stall in time to help catch and dry off a second kid while Brian again dialed my number and then called my mom.

By the time I got home at 9:00, I noticed the light on in the barn and found no one inside the house, so I moseyed down to the barn.  Imagine my surprise when I found Brian and Molly along with my mom, brother, sister-in-law, niece and nephew, and Megan and her friends (just back from the amusement park) all standing around the stall, with two kids on the ground and Milky still pawing the ground and looking uncomfortable.  Within a few minutes of my arrival, she pushed out a third kid and I quickly jumped in a started helping Molly dry him and the others off. 

When all was said and done, we had two new bucklings (Mikey and Charlie) and a doeling (Galaxy), a tired and bewildered but attentive new mom (Milky Way), and a reluctant but relieved first-time midwife (Brian!).  And Molly did such a great job in the midst of all the excitement that I feel certain she is ready to have her own doe bred next year and take care of her first kids.  As for me, although I missed seeing the first two kids born, it was great to know that everyone else could pitch in and take care of things so well without me.  And I got a kick out of listening to Brian’s frantic messages on my cell phone the next day.

Life Lesson:  You can only plan so much!

No comments: