A few weeks ago, my Dad mentioned something exciting to me. Dad is the one who milks most of the time. While he was at the milking stand, he noticed that the does are now at the point where their babies are moving and kicking. He was having fun teasing the little ones in utero.
We always look forward to the birth of the babies. They are so cute and so sweet! Plus our does go back into full milk production once they’ve had their kids, which in goats is called kidding. It can be frustrating waiting for the babies to make their appearance though, because kidding, as in teasing, gets it’s name, I’m sure, through the kidding actions that goats go through when they are positioning their babies. I’ve had many nights that we were sitting up with a goat until 3 in the morning because she acted like she was about to have her babies. It really did look like the real thing! Then, at 3, she yawns, looks like she’s saying “Nice of you all to come keep me company for the evening, but I think I’m ready for bed now.” And off she dozes and usually starts snoring.
The way that you know when a doe is getting close to kidding, is by feeling near her tail and watching her vulva. She will have the area around her tail get very soft to the point that you can gently grip her tailbone through her rump. An hour or half hour before the babies are born, ours also lose the mucus plug and you’ll see a stream of something hanging from their rears. At that point, watch them closely, the birth is near.
Kidding and lambing is one of those times on the farm that can be wonderful and difficult at the same time. I mentioned lambing too because we used to have Shetland sheep. I remember one of the sweetest and most difficult lambing I ever had to deal with.
My mother thought she heard and ewe in distress over our monitor to the barn. She went out to check and when she came back, both the ewe and my Mom were in distress! It was a bad situation. The ewe like I mentioned, was a small Shetland ewe, who had been bred to a significantly larger breed of sheep. All of our Shetland ewes had. So far, every lamb born that year had to be pulled because they were all too large. This girl had the worst situation of any of the girls that year.
When I felt for the baby, I found a extra large lamb, and a twisted uterus. There was no way this ewe was lambing without lots of help. I kept hold of the baby as best I could and asked my family to flip the ewe, but to stop the second I told them to. The first direction we tried, I could feel things tightening on me. They stopped, and we rolled her the other way. Sweet release! I could feel her opening up and the baby slid to me. Unfortunately, that baby wasn’t breathing. I tried swinging it in the air to clear lungs and maybe stimulate it to breath. No luck! I have never done CPR on any animal before and I thought the idea was pretty disgusting .
However, Mom was starting to cry and I couldn’t stand that. CPR it was. In just a matter of minutes, that lamb took a breath. The little ewe lamb was off and going to live. I never expected to get attached to a sheep, but Lucky as we named her, took me as her human. I think she almost liked me as well as her own mother. Later on, she became leader of the flock, and the skittishness that Shetlands usually have, disappeared. With Lucky leading, the flock calmed down significantly. The sheep are gone now, because we didn’t have enough time on our hands to completely process wool and were literally wool gathering, but Lucky will always remain a fond memory.
This year, we have a doe that I am really looking forward to seeing kid out and milking her. We have one who bagged up without ever having been bred, and she gave a cup of milk a day from 3 months old on. I think she is going to be amazing and I look forward to seeing those babies as well.