Tuesday night we were out late, and came home to do chores in the dark. We’ve been waiting for the does to start kidding, and we noticed right away that one of the yearlings, Violet, looked like she was no longer pregnant… but we didn’t see any kids!
Right away we started to worry that as an inexperienced mother, she may have had them in the pasture and then left them there when the rest of the herd headed in for the night. We got headlamps and flashlights and took a walk, but the back pasture is almost 15 acres of thick forest, and although we had an inkling of where they’ve been hanging out the most, we really had no idea where to look for two tiny cat-sized goat kids in the freezing dark. After 30 minutes or so we realized the futility of the effort and reluctantly gave them up for dead, not knowing how long they’d already been left exposed and unfed.
Wednesday morning the sun came up on a frosty morning, and I decided to take another walk in the daylight, to see if I could at least recover the bodies. Better than leaving them for predators to discover; the last thing we want to do is encourage our local predators to think of the goats as potential meals on legs. I took the mother with me on a lead, since she was still wailing, thinking maybe she’d remember where she left them.
Violet was pretty useless as a guide; she would dash off into the blackberries and then… eat some leaves calmly. Then she’d start crying again and run off, only to… stop for a snack. But just when I was about to give up and go in to change for work, I heard an unusual cry. At first I dismissed it because it seemed way too strong to even possibly be from a day old baby goat who’d been left outside all night, but when I heard it again, I hauled Violet from her latest pile of blackberries and took her toward the sound.
As we neared the general area, Violet took off running, and calling. And then she… ran right back to the herd and went back to eating blackberries. Sigh. I went along the path she’d taken anyway, and as I went past yet another pile of blackberries I heard the cry again, looked to my right, and oh my lord, up on a tiny ledge on the hill above me was a little baby goat.
As I crawled up the hill to rescue the doeling, who actually looked fantastic considering she’d spent all night shivering in the woods, my eye happened to catch a bit of white 5 feet below, under a thicket. Another kid?? It was dirty and crumpled up, and I worried I was going to find it dead, or worse, partially eaten. With the doeling in my jacket to warm her up, it took me several minutes to figure out how to get into the thicket to reach the other kid. Once I grabbed it, I could tell it was freezing cold, but, still breathing. Into the coat it went, too.
With two trembling goat kids in my jacket, I hiked back to where Violet was calmly eating with the herd, and hauled her out of a blackberry bush down to some flat ground. I put the stronger doeling up to her teats and she started to suckle right away – the little buckling was not strong enough to stand on his own, so he stayed warm in my jacket while I let his sister get some colostrum. And then we took the long hike up to the barn again, dragging the reluctant teenage mother along behind me.
Little buckling came into the house with me to warm up: he got warm milk, a hot pad, a warm bath, and repeat until the inside of his mouth was no longer an ice cube. After a few hours he could sort of stand on his own, and I brought him back to the barn for some socializing with his mom and sister.
He spent the first night in the house with us, to make sure he stayed warm enough and fed, but when he woke us up the next morning crying for milk, we decided he was strong enough to be back on his own!
Not quite how we pictured our first kidding on the farm, but we’re so relieved it was successful, even though it appears we now have another bottle baby to feed for the next month.
Our adorable little runt baby, in Talina’s arms, meeting Pippin for the first time — Pippins head is as big as the buckling!