Kidding Season Whines Down

By Judith

To be honest, there is a little whining that goes on during kidding season.  Amidst all the wonder and beauty of new life and bouncing kids and maternal mothers and new milk lurk a few things we whine about…just a little.

Like, getting up in the middle of the night.  OK, some nights are nice – starry, crisp, no wind, coyotes in the distance.  But lots more are just plain unpleasant, especially after crawling out of a nice, warm bed – below zero, tearing wind, driving snow.  Ah yes, early spring in Vermont.

And sometimes there’s a little whining when one of the goats decides to launch into labor at dinner time.  It’s hard enough to find time to make meals during the kidding season, but it seems just plain unfair to have to miss the few we do make.

And everyone whines just a tad when, after days on end of wall to wall birthing, taking care of little ones, trying to save weak babies, moving moms and kids in and out of pens, fatigue settles in. Chore time is much, much longer and, of course, you have to add milking twice a day on top of everything.

But that’s actually the point isn’t it?

So, as of March 13, here are the stats.  We have only 4 more does waiting to give birth, 39 have delivered, we’ve had 76 kids, 36 girls and 41  boys, we had  5  sets of triplets (yikes!).   All but 17 of the kids have found new homes.  And we are making caramel again, with cheese soon to follow.  Official end of whining.

We were blessed with an absolutely great team of interns working closely with us through the entire time. Tracy, Sophie and Katie raced up the learning curve of assisting at births and became experts at taking care of the moms and kids after the births…and washing towels.  Steve and Calley calmly handled both the easy and difficult births, learning more each time about all the nuances of presentations and timing.  And Judith provided the life saving M and M’s.  Someone needs to do the hard work.

Wow…where were we?

Having babies that’s right. So, it starts off all slow-like, they let you just ease your way into it— and then bam 10 births a day for 4 days. One of those days being the craziest snow storm. I had to walk to the farm in a foot and a half of snow. My 6 minute commute took me about 20 minutes. Luckily, the Mom that was kidding held off until I got there. There seem to be real patterns of birthing. One day we had mostly boys, another mostly girls, yesterday everything seemed to be going wrong—Moms weren’t dilating, babies were breeched and lots of pulling had to occur. Today was the first day that we’ve been able to take a deep breath. Four Moms kidded today with greatly successful births and we only have about 6 more for this week then a break and then another 6-7 later on.  So, that’s the report from Fat Toad Farm. Caramel production starts up again after a long hiatus tomorrow at 6 am sharp! See you there?

You can sleep when you’re dead

Last night I discovered that delivering 5 babies at 1 am is way more productive then being horizontal under warm blankets and dreaming the night away. And once the adrenaline kicks in who needs to sleep anyway. Last night I went over to the barn and after a very eventful day of 8 births for a total of 18 babies (that’s right 2 sets of triplets) there were two moms who had already kidded and another one, named Ash, who was working very hard on her own. The mom’s had done a great job cleaning the babies up (sadly they were all boys) but usually the babies need help figuring out how to nurse. This is either a wonderfully quick and satisfying process or incredibly torturous and long. One of the babies was not having any of it and refused to learn to nurse. The trick that eventually helped get her latched on was to rub her down vigorously with a towel for several minutes. Right away she wanted to nurse and did so successfully. They often need to be stimulated in some way to encourage them to suck. We had another set of twins this morning from our oldest does who were both healthy … as I wrote this I just got a call that it was triplets…. just when you think they are done!

Middle of the Night Kitchen Notes

Once kidding season starts, one of us is assigned to get up in the middle of the night to check on the goats.  Since we have over 30 goats due in the first two weeks of March, this makes sense.  Some are bound to be born at night.  Calley and I split the midnight watch since Steve always does the 4 a.m. shift, that being his “normal” time for rising….When I come back to the house, I leave a note in the kitchen about what I found.  Here are some samples.

“1 a.m. – all OK.  Everyone up and eating.  Take Rhoda out of the pen tomorrow a.m.?  (today) Snowing lightly.”

“2 a.m. – all OK.  Rhoda had zero food and was quite plaintive about that.  Babies look OK – not shivering.”

“1 a.m. – Vicky had 1 male and 1 female.  They look good and nursed willingly.  Several others had short strings of goop.”

Getting Ready for Kidding Season – Part One

Starting in mid-February, you can feel the sense of anticipation grow around Fat Toad Farm as we begin to prepare for kidding season.  This year, we expected our first kids to be born at the end of February.  Then, during the first week of March, 30 of our 45 does are due.  That means maybe 4 or so a day will give birth, or maybe 10 in one day and none on several other days.  Either way, it’s a lot and it means there’s a lot to do.

Therefore, we try to prepare as much as possible ahead of time.  On the top of the big freezer in the milking parlor, we have assembled all the “tools of the trade”.  These include:

1)    a large collection of older towels to help dry off the babies (especially useful if it’s cold or if the mother lacks enthusiasm),

2)    a sharp pair of scissors to cut the umbilical cord to about 2 inches (sometimes this has already naturally happened, sometimes not),

3)    a plastic vial full of iodine to dip the umbilical cord in to prevent infections,

4)    a scale to weigh the kids – this is a fun little contraption that has a sling that the kid hangs comfortably and safely.  The sling is hooked onto a hand held scale.  Kids range is weight from around 6# all the way up to 11# or 12#.  Does often have twins, so nice moderate weight kids are best so that the birthing process is easier.

5)    Black strap molasses – after the kids are cleaned up and the mom’s teats have been “cleared” (i.e. squeezed to make sure the milk will run freely), we give her a bucket of warm water with blackstrap molasses mixed.  Usually, the mom will suck it down in about 2 minutes.

See Part Two for more Preparations.