Well, I had one DOOZY of a weekend.  So, we decided two weeks ago that we were now prepared to be adoptive goat parents.  We traveled to Guttenberg, Iowa Saturday morning to meet Jan and Paul from Rainbow Gate.  They were about the nicest folks one could hope to meet and their daughter was absolutely fantastic, just the kind of kid that’s out-going, friendly, and sweet.  I could have quite happily taken her home and added her to our bunch.  Such a great girl.   But, I’m getting sidetracked.  They were kind enough to mark a few of their calmest Saanen does for us so that we could pick a nice, laid back milker for our first experience. 

Cinderella

Cinderella

 See her lovely purple collar?  Mark picked it out for her!  Well, after having milked Cinderella three times now, I can honestly say, “ALWAYS let the owner/breeder choose your goat.”  Jan and Paul must have just given us their best goat.  She really is a princess.  She is the calmest goat I’ve ever seen, not that I’ve seen a lot of goats! 😛  She has been incredibly patient with me while I’ve wiggled, twisted, tugged, and attempted to milk her.  Blessedly for BOTH of us, I think I’ve got this milking thing down.  This morning I was incredibly efficient (for me) and she was kind enough to give us 92 ounces yesterday.  The babies greatly appreciate Cinderella’s milk instead of that nasty kid formula.  After picking out Cinderella, we moved to where they keep the kids.  It was the sweetest sight ever… They are breeding to Saanen bucks this year, so their babies are snowy white and just adorable.  We were able to pick out four little girls, including one they had picked for themselves that we fell in love with.  Her name is now Latte because she has a creamy light coffee color to her.  Christian’s little doeling is a Nubian/Saanen mix and she is incredibly precocious- the kind word for obnoxious.  True to her Nubian blood, she is by far the most mischeivious, demanding, and the loudest.  But we love her for it!  She’s been dubbed Lilac.  My favorite baby is a little LaMancha mix.  Her real name is  Lullaby, but we’re calling her Lola.  Lola wants to be loved and cuddled at all times.  The final little doeling is a Saanen and her name is Heidi to commemorate her Swiss heritage.

Shortly after we brought the babies home and fed them for the first time (Cinderella’s milk) we knew we were in trouble.  Kid formula is NOT the greatest choice for them and it became abundantly obvious that feeding them partial formula was going to cost us a small fortune.  It only took us one feeding to decide it was time to “invest” in another goat.  We called up a local couple, John & Barbara Puff of New Foundation (story here) to see if he’d sell us another goat.  He was able to help us that night, inspite of needing to get to his grandson’s wrestling meet.  (Hope he did well John!)  We had gotten to meet John and Barbara a couple of weeks previous when we visited their beautiful operation.  We’d planned to get a bred doe from him in late Spring, but it only seemed prudent to move up the date.   We decided to get a bred doe rather than one already in milk, with the hopes of the children being able to be present at the birth.  We let John pick out the doe which ended up being a VERY good move.  John never let us down.  (And also sent Tim home with a cute little buckling that will soon be a whether.  His name is Captain Blackjack.)  He picked out a beautiful doe that I’m pretty sure is an Alpine/Oberhalsi mix.  She is incredibly beautiful and sweet and has since been named Gypsy.  We wanted one that was fairly close to delivering, but I’m not entirely sure we signed up for what was about to come.  Keep in mind that this was SATURDAY NIGHT!  Sunday was a beautiful day for us.  We were kept busy with babies and mamas and milking.  The children love their goats more than I’ve ever seen any children love any animal ever.  Elizabeth spent over nine hours with the goats yesterday.  Can an animal die from being petted and held too much?  I sure hope not!

Ana with Lilac & Liz with Heidi

Ana with Lilac & Liz with Heidi

Even Abigail learned very quickly to take care of the goats.  By the midday feeding she told me, “I feed the baby goat my own self.”  And so she did!  The whole bottle to Lola. 

Abigail & Lola

Abigail & Lola

Things were going so well.  In the early afternoon, my beautiful little sister (also expecting) came over to visit and see our new family members.  She was completely convinced that our new doe was in labor.  She sure seemed to be to me as well as I thought we sat there and watched her strain through two contractions.  She seemed to be murmuring to herself as well.  But what did I know??  I had owned goats for ALMOST 24 hours at this point… Talk about clueless.  There were no signs of impending labor other than instinct at this point.  I knew her ligaments by her tailbone were very loose, but keep in mind I had no idea what they looked like before yesterday.  Thinking that labor might be coming on, we checked on her periodically.  By 4:50 there was no doubt.  The tell tale “amber goo” was hanging down and by the Fiasco site, labor should progress within the next sixty minutes.  I have to tell you, that hour passed fairly quickly, and all of us were pretty restless, but alas, no babies.  Having grown up on a farm, I understood that these things can take time, but I’ll tell you after having spent some significant time on that site, and knowing they KNEW what they were talking about I was getting worried.  I let my folks talk me into waiting long.  After an hour and a half I was getting really concerned.  She was straining hard and we hadn’t seen any little hooves yet.  Coming up on two hours, I finally called John.  He told me we might just have a little feel and a look around.   And when I did I just thought, “Oh dear.”  There was a tangle of little legs and a spine.  I was having a hard time distinguishing front legs from back legs and didn’t know which legs belonged to which baby.  And I remembered those very calming words on the site, “Just close your eyes and visualize.”  After several prayers because I think God cares about every bit of our lives, we were able to sort out one baby but because of so many little ones crammed into this mama, I couldn’t get a head and foreleg presentation.  I took what I could get and we delivered that first baby breech.  I’ll tell you I was pretty sure that this one would be dead.  It just took me so long to get her turned around.  It was a very hard thing to do this first time, this sorting out of body parts! 

Goat Midwifery

Goat Midwifery

Sorry, it’s  bit visual.  I didn’t even know Mark took pictures until AFTER the delivery.  I was pretty intent on what Gypsy and I were working on.  Blessedly, that first baby was completely alive!  And again, thanks to the Fiasco site, we went to work on her and got her nose clear and under the mama to clean up.  We went back in to see what else we’d find.  It was far easier to turn the next baby and bring her out feet and head first.  Another doeling!  One more time in and we could tell this little kid was bigger than her siblings.  But she was turned correctly so with a tiny bit of guidance, a beautiful little black doeling was delivered with no assistance at all.  Mama was hard at work cleaning up her little ones.  We ended up with three healthy, beautiful little girls. 

Gypsy and the triplets

Gypsy and the triplets

Now, if you don’t know much about goats, let me tell you.  Three healthy little doelings in one birth is kind of like hitting the Goat Lottery Jackpot.  I was thrilled and they have been appropriately named Glory, Praise and Halle for Hallelujah.  One is reddish brown, one blonde, and one black and all have little tiny LaMancha ears from their daddy.  Mama is doing well this morning and we’ve gotten the little ones to nurse several times.  She is an outstanding mother.  Now, we know that the standard thing is to rip mama from her babies and bottlefeed the babies so we can have the milk.  I’m not doing it.  Whoever thought goats were careless mothers have never seen Gypsy.  I just will NOT do it.  Careless my tailfeathers!  I’ve seen a lot of mama animals and I’ve never seen one so loving as Gypsy. 

Got goatmilk?

Got goatmilk?

When the babies are 1-2 weeks old we’ll start putting them with the other kids at night and we’ll milk her in the morning and then leave the babies with her the rest of the day.  But Gypsy is going to get to raise her babies.  It’s just utterly odd and unnatural for a family milker (vs. operational dairy) to take away babies.  Thank you again to the Fiasco Goat Farm for encouraging us to raise our goats in a natural state and not feel pressured to separate them as has been the recently expected norm.  

And so this was one very long weekend and the tale of how we went from no goats to ten goats in two days.  What a serious learning curve!  But, I can honestly say I now understand how people fall in love with goats.  They are as sweet and friendly as puppies!  I had no idea.  I can tell you we are going to thoroughly enjoy all of our girls… And Blackjack!

 

Jack

Jack

 

 

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