Here it is, not even spring yet, and our first goats are ready to kid. I know, you’d think we smarter than to let animals breed so they have babies when it’s still in the dead of winter.
Well, actually, we are smarter than that. Unfortunately we have a delinquent doe who’s worse than a teenager with raging hormones. Last fall, she got tired of living in her pen with the buck that she grew up with. They had never bred in the previous two years, so we figured she was useless. In fact we were about to send her to the auction.
She and the buck had a terrible argument in the middle of August, and she literally kicked and chewed her way out of her house, squeezed through a tiny fence hole, and took up residence in the Pygmy goat pen. To make a long story short, after a few weeks, her hormones went fully out of control. She jumped the pallet fence at the Pygmy pen and bee-lined it for the buck pen. A swoosh of her butt at the buck’s pen, and he was out of his mind and out of his pen… on September 15. That means first kids on February 11, and we’re still having winter weather. It’s snow one day, thaw the next, dive to below zero for a couple days, etc. Oh, let’s not even talk about the w-i-n-d.
So, this next week, in goes a fresh bed of straw. That’s right after we board up the pictures window she’s built. This isn’t even her pen. How rude!
What’s in your lamb and kid box?
Here’s what we keep in ours.
We use a large plastic bin w/lid to store all our stuff.
We have alcohol, peroxide, iodine, syringes, needles, floss, nutri-drench, lantern, sterile gauze, clean rags and towels (actually more than fit into the box), gloves, a lamb pulling cord, a tube setup, small plastic bottles w/nipples, and assorted clean surgical tools, like lances, tweezers, scissors, and hemostats.
Out here, we’re pretty much on our own. If we need help, we call more experienced neighbors. A vet call is out of the question as it takes over an hour to come from Cedar City, and the cost is prohibitive for sheep and goats. Our vet, who does large animals, won’t come out for less than $150.
Last year, our goats went into labor in the evening and took all night. Cindy and I literally stayed in the shelter with them all night long. Since this is Zena’s first kidding, we’ll be with her the whole time.
What do we take with us when we have to spend the night?
Last year we simply dress fairly warmly, grabbed the box, an extra lantern and flashlight, the Kindle, and insulated cups of coffee.
This year, because it’s much earlier, we’ll have our bibs on, as well as really warm jackets, hats and gloves (mittens during the long wait). I’m sure we’ll have a couple of lights of some type and a thermos of coffee. I’m lobbying for an old sleeping blanket to throw over us as well as to warm any babies that need extra help.
I also plan to use feed sacks that we’ve cut open to catch as much of the birth fluids as possible, trying to keep the straw as clean as possible.
Beginning Feb 6 we go on 2- 4 hour watches, keeping a close eye on Zena and Annie (who was bred within days after Zena). For you non-farmers, that’s EVERY 2-4 HOURS AROUND THE CLOCK. In the dead of winter, it isn’t as simple as throwing on your jeans, sweatshirt, boots, coat and hat. You have to get completely dressed. Sometimes that means layers, from long underwear to bibs. After all, it’s most likely to be somewhere near zero degrees in the coldest hours. What’s your choice, sleep fully clothed, or get up earlier and back to bed later?
Looking back at our calendar, we go from the first two goats, to the pygmy goats, back to the Nubians (at least we can stand up in their shelter), and then to the sheep.
With the sheep, most lambing is done during the day, as we feed later in the AM and earlier in the PM. Full stomachs tend to bring on labor. That doesn’t mean we escape the 2 – 4 hour watches, it just means we don’t generally have to spend all night with them. If we do, it’s easy to park the truck so that the headlights illuminate the sheep pen. At lteast we stay warmer, slightly more comfortable, and entertained.
I was sound asleep when sometime around O’dark thirty, Cindy got me up. This isn’t my idea of a good time… but you shoulda’ seen what we saw. Four precious little kids born to Suzy. She was bred to Apollo, our Nubian/Boer buck.
So we go traipsing out to Suzy’s pen (actually the pig pen… but not yet used). Cindy goes up and over the pallets in her Dr. Denton’s (no boots this time), and crawls into the little shed. We’re snapping pictures like crazy.
I took a minute to check the sheep, and lo and behold, we have a new set of twins. It’s rare for our ewes to have their babies at night. Thankfully these little tikes are in good shape. We’ll wait until daylight to determine the sexes.
Everyone else is calm, cool and collected… well, quite sleepy too, wondering how come their humans are out in the dark, shining lights and taking pictures. As for me, I can’t wait to crawl back into my nice warm bed. After another med change, and an RF ablation on my back, I’m totally enjoying laying in bed, and turning over without the aches and pains.
Ah, daylight now and when we go out, the little kids are already exploring their new world. Mom has gone out with us, and it absolutely amazed at them. As we can, we get one for her to hold and cuddle. We have 3 boys and a girl. Looks like we’ll be keeping the little girl. We may also have to supplement the milk, depending upon how they’re doing in the next day or so.
After a very mild winter, it’s now raining and snowing, with more in the forecast, just in time for lambing and kidding… wouldn’t ya’ know it!
This year, we have 4 pregnant does (goats), and at least 12 maybe 13 pregnant sheep. The ram and buck went to breed on October 14 and 16, 2011. That means that somewhere between 145 and 155 days later, we should be very busy with the newborns.
The past weeks have been dominated by getting things ready, inventorying what we have, and purchasing what we need. We’re upgrading our supplies and have also been retrofitting the horse barn to prepare for the larger flock of sheep. Who knows, maybe the goats will take over the sheep pan. If they do, we’ll have to rearrange the milking stand, as it’s a long walk from the sheep to the goat pens.
We’re busily preparing for the inevitable bottle babies. We really prefer to have the mama’s take care of their own, but we’re also seasoned enough to know we’ll have a few bottle babies, both sheep and goats. We’re building a “teat bucket”, which is a big bucket with nipples around the bottom. You pour the lamb or goat formula in, and then the lambs and kids suckle as if the big plastic bucket is their mother.
We’ve also got heat shelters, lambing jugs, heat lamps and fresh straw ready. This week I ordered the branding irons (we use a special marking fluid like paint), polar fleece lamb coats, and ear tags. We’ll make a last minute trip to the co-op for lamb and goat milk, the marking fluid, a couple of “thermocubes” to control the lamps, and the ever necessary “nutri drench”. That last stuff really helps little ones when you have to help them along.
This year’s plan is to foster as many babies as we can, keeping them drinking the natural milk, as they seem to grow much faster without putting on so much fat. Using the teat bucket as necessary will mimic the drinking schedule much better than putting the orphan lambs or goats on a “convenience schedule”.
This is our first year with the goats. We’ve helped a neighbor with their goats, but have not gone through the whole process. We’re getting educated and are discovering many differences. The sheep have their babies standing up in most cases, while the goats lay down, and scream a lot.
What we don’t know is whether the goats will be like the sheep and have most of their kids during the day. Our feeding schedule encourages going into labor mid day, rather than during the night. Over the years, we’ve only had one ewe present us lambs over night.
As soon as the lambs and kids are all here, it will be time to plant seeds in the greenhouse preparing for our organic gardening season, and the Cedar City Farmers’ Market.
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