Everyone who knows me knows what my favorite time of year is – kidding season! There’s a lot to love about it – newborn goats, happy loving mothers, the excitement of seeing what years of work has produced. However, for all the good bits, kidding season is absolutely the most difficult time of year.
It’s exhausting – you work all hours, every single day. It’s draining – you’re continuously dirty and on your feet. And it’s heartbreaking – the act of labor and birth is dangerous and it doesn’t always go the way you’d want it too.
I’ve told some kidding stories before, for example Bumble’s birth, which was difficult and frightening, though it had a happy ending. Just recently I shared a fun story about bringing a doe inside to kid. Some ways back, there is a story of delivering my first set of quints during my first season on the dairy. Through the years, I’ve experienced so many kiddings that I’ve gained quite a few interesting little tales, so I thought I would share some of the difficult kiddings with you.
A very early kidding that sticks out in my mind is my first giant single buckling that needed to really be pulled. The doe was an undersized Nubian, and she just couldn’t push that boy out. Thankfully she got him through her hips, so he could come out, but she needed help to get him all the way. It was the first time I’d had to pull so hard on a kid, and I was terrified I would rip out his legs or rip the doe in half. Thankfully, all ended very well and once he was out, he jumped to his feet and begged to nurse.
Compared to the Nigerian Dwarf, the La Mancha have far fewer issues during kidding, but they are definitely not immune to dystocia. When the late Nissa was ready to give birth, I watched her get up and down several times, push, then she seemed to rethink the whole process and actually went to sleep. Concerned, I decided to do an internal check – I have come to know now that a doe that gets up and down over and over often has a kid badly positioned. Sure enough the only thing I could find was a big blockage. Exploring a little further, I realized what I had – a kid sideways, blocking the canal (it was the rib cage I could feel across the opening to the canal), with another kid t-boning her headfirst, preventing the breech kid from shifting. It took some wrangling to get them straightened out – I had to push the second kid back before slowly shifting the first kid sideways until I had to hind legs. Taking hold of those, she slid right out easily, and the second followed up impatiently. They were fine once they were out, and we dubbed them Traffic Jam and Citation.
A similar instance happened with one of my favorite does, Stormy. She delivered three kids without much issue, but when I palpated her stomach after those three, there was clearly another kid – a large one. An internal check found the same problem – an immense wall of flesh with seemingly no end. This one was very stressful – the kid was so huge I was worried the entire time I was slowly shifting him around, and I eased him very carefully out of the canal once I’d straightened him out. Alas, the kid was dead by the time I succeeded. He was twice the size of his three siblings, a real titan of a buckling.
Only once in my career (knock on wood) have I been unable to get a kid out. The doe was a very dainty yearling, bred too early. She had a single buck, and though she forced his massive forelegs out, when I felt inside, I could tell this was an incredibly large kid. I got his nose lined up properly and gave it a try, but it was quickly apparent he was not going to fit through her hips. He was still alive, so I sent her to the vet’s, where they performed a cesarean section on her. Both survived the surgery, and the buckling, though a little swollen from being squeezed in utero so hard, recovered fully. Sadly the doe, despite being bright and alert after surgery, passed away the next morning.
Sometimes an older doe who looks great during breeding season can just not keep up with the demands of kids in her aging body and when the time comes to labor, they struggle to find the energy and run a higher risk of ketosis and other metabolic issues. One sweet old lady named Jojo was obviously ready to kid, but labor just would not start. With a little medicinal encouragement, we slowly got the process started, but Jojo just would not push. She laid there, oblivious to the fact that her cervix was open and she needed to get her kids out. In the end, I went in and slowly extracted each kid myself. Not once did the doe push, and her muscle tone was slack and loose the entire time. I succeeded in producing three live squeaky kids, and Jojo’s lightbulb finally turned on. She passed the placenta with no issue, and adopted and raised another kid and lived several more years before her natural end – and even secretly kidded twins years into retirement, the naughty girl.
Though this year isn’t over just yet, there haven’t been too many exciting stories from it – birthings have gone smoothly and easily, with very little need for interference. There were a couple of kids with their heads turned back, which are always a pain to straighten out. Mandarin, a hefty Mini Mancha, attempted to deliver two kids at once, presenting with hind feet. I gently traced along the legs until I sorted out which went to which, and pushed the bigger kid back a little. The smaller kid shot out immediately, and two siblings followed. Almost too easy!
The most exciting – and terrifying – delivery of the year was not even a doe from our farm. I have made many goat friends in the area, and sometimes they turn to me for help when they need it. When I received a message about a doe in stalled labor that needed help at 9:30 one night, I didn’t hesitate – I told them to load her up and bring her over. I turned on the dairy parlor lights and put on a heater (it was cold!) and got my supplies ready. The doe arrived and we brought her in. Her little canal was so tiny that I wasn’t even sure I could get into her. I could feel the hard point of a kid – a hock I soon discovered. Once I’d eased my way in, I was able to hook a finger around the joint and gently slide the leg into the canal. With a little tug, a tiny underdeveloped buckling came out. He took a couple gasping breaths, but despite our best efforts, he died quickly.
I could clearly palpate another kid in the doe, but when I swept the uterus, all I could feel was a massive placenta. A goat has two “horns” to her uterus – two pockets, so to speak. Kids can be in either horn, and there are often kids in both. But I could not find the entrance to the second horn. I was getting nervous as this point, the doe was standing quietly, moaning and shivering, and her owner held her gently as I worked. Finally, underneath the placenta, I found the second horn, and there was definitely a kid within. Something was absolutely wrong with this kid, I could tell from the moment my fingers touched it. It took several minutes of positioning and tugging at it to even get it to the entrance. It was so bloated and decayed that the skin pulled free from the flesh as I maneuvered it through the canal.
When the dead kid’s cord broke while still inside, the doe gushed blood all over the floor. I was horrified, certain her uterus had torn – a certain death sentence, but I knew too that it was possibly from the kid itself, or its umbilical cord to the placenta, which can bleed heavily when severed. I finally pulled free the dead kid – its head was deformed and it had obviously died some days ago and began to decompose. It’s quite probably that this kid had caused the doe to go into labor before she was ready. I quickly wrapped it up in towels and treated the doe with everything I could think of to keep her strong and pull her through such a difficult firth birthing. I’m pleased to say that she recovered and seems to be no worse for the wear now, a month or so later.
Kidding, especially in the numbers we do, is exhausting. It’s both physically and mentally draining. We do not take any days off, and are often up late at night to help one doe and early the next morning to help another. Kids need to be cared for, fed, disbudded, vaccinated. Moms need their own medicines and hoof trimmings, and we also begin to train the first timers to be milked. Of course, regular chores don’t stop just because we’re busy with kidding! There is still hay to be unloaded, feeders to be filled, buckets to be scrubbed – the list is endless. When you’re exhausted and a highly anticipated set of kids arrives stillborn or you lose a doe, it can push you to the edge of goat keeping.
The rewards are what keep you playing the great goat game. For any bad that happens, there are beautiful newborn kids that thrive and bounce across the barn to lighten your heart. These new little lives were created by you, and for me especially, represent years of planning and thought. They are my new little friends, and their futures are bright with possibility.