Oh what a night

Only minutes old, Shiraz begins to clean her kids.

Only minutes old, Shiraz begins to clean her kids.

Shiraz woke me up last night at 1:30 am screaming bloody murder. Nothing like a goat in distress to get your heart pumping in the wee hours of the morning. I ran out to the barn to see what was the matter only to see her laying in the hay, eyes ablaze, and a baby goat head sticking out of her back end. When I opened the door to let myself in, Shiraz bellowed once more: “Give me some drugs!” It was a la Shirley Maclaine in Terms of Endearment; she was clearly unimpressed with the–so called–miracle of birth.

Before I could run back to the house and get some towels, she popped the first kid out, left it laying in the hay and moved to the other side of the room, leaving the little one to quietly suffocate. I immediately cleared it’s nostrils and mouth while she revisited her Shirley Maclaine impersonation. After number one was breathing but before number two was out, I ran to the house and bellowed to my husband, “Shiraz is in labour and screaming her head off, bring towels. QUICKLY!” and tore back to the barn just in time to catch number two. Again, Shiraz ignored the wet little ‘bundle of joy’ and crossed again to another corner of the room. “Good lord, she’s got three kids too!”

While she worked on producing kid number three, I worked on getting number two breathing. My husband arrived on the scene just in time to witness number three being born and Shiraz immediately turning around to head butt it several times. We got it away from her and got its face and airways cleaned up and then gave it back to her to finish the job herself. I now realize that Fatty-fat probably produced three live kids but didn’t have the support staff that Shiraz did in order to deal with all three of them at once. After witnessing Shiraz head butt kid number three as soon as it hit the ground, I was concerned that she do the  majority of the cleaning work herself hoping it would help with the mother-kid bonding.

It was soon apparent that Shiraz was exhibiting classic ‘borderline personality’ behaviour–the ‘I hate you, don’t leave me’ repertoire. She would butt them away if they tried to nurse, and then grunt softly and lick them for a few seconds as if to apologize. I was hoping that this was just her wanting to ‘get the business of birth’ over with before bonding with the kids, but it was not to be. After expelling and eating her placenta, every time one of her kids tried to nurse, she head butted them out of the way. A couple of times the kids were actually lifted up by her horns and catapulted across the room she was so adamant about keeping them away.

“Honey, I think we have a problem.” We got the others out of the room. Fatty-fat and co, along with Sundown were all sharing the room in the barn. I don’t have the capacity to give everyone their own birthing space and I can now see that you need it. As it happens, Fatty-fat’s crew were very happy to move into one of the little houses in the paddock and Sundown just manages to stay out of the way. Once they were gone, I tried intervening but she would have nothing to do with them beyond cleaning.

So, I spent the day making frantic comments on Little Ffarm Dairy’s blog–thank you Jo!–and wrestling with Shiraz trying to force her to accept her babies. There was a few moments when I considered ‘mothering her on’ to Fatty-fat, but quickly discarded the idea. I knew it would be better for everyone if I could just get Shiraz to accept her kids. It took some time and there were words exchanged (on both sides).

Having horns on my goats does have some advantages--I have an easy way of controlling her head.

Having horns on my goats does have some advantages--I have a nice sturdy handle with which to control her head.

Here I'm helping the kid find the nipple while controlling Shiraz's head.

Here I'm helping the kid find the nipple while controlling Shiraz's head.

I have been at it since 2:30 am but have just witnessed her let them suckle all on her own accord. It has taken a lot of time and patience–not to mention a few bribes: molasses tea, fresh comfrey leaves, a bowl of sweetfeed, and her favourite, salmonberry bushes hand cut from the forest–but it was worth it. I have just witnessed her let her kids feed on her own accord for the first time today!

Nothing wrong with this little fella's lungs!

Nothing wrong with this little fella's lungs!

The wail that came from this little tike cracked me right up and let me know he's good and healthy!

The wail that came from this little tike cracked me right up and let me know he's good and healthy!


Filed under Animal issues, Educational, Goats, How to...

12 responses to “Oh what a night

  1. GP

    Congratulations to all! What an amazing wrestling/birth story!

  2. Mitch

    Well done

    Looks like you will have your hands full for the next few months
    Is there any more goats to give birth?


    • Thanks Mitch,

      Nope, we’re done for this year, thankfully! Although the whole experience was kind of scary at times, I’m quite inspired by the whole thing. I’m thinking more seriously about getting ‘real’ goats and developing a little dairy. (Oh, did I say that out loud?).

      How goes it down under?

      PS. Do you recall who it was that you met from Bella Coola? Small world eh!



  3. Robin

    Good job! They kids are adorable.

  4. EJ

    Great story and photos. Do goats often have triplets?

    Could you build temporary jugs to give each family their own space?

    A dairy! You are a braver woman than I am. With all the regs re milk sales, equipment and water quality it seems like a giant project. Certainly worthwhile but probably painful.

  5. My Name Is Shirley Temple!

    Say, That One Should Be Singing Lungs! Or Sung Lungs! Or Something Like That.

  6. Now THAT is a terrific birth story. I’m going to be looking forward to my first births … with fear! LOL We’re visiting the livestock portion of the county fair next month so I can meet some local breeders. BTW – Those photos are wonderful!

    • Oh, I wish I could go with you to the livestock fair! Living so remotely, one just never gets to partake in those sorts of things. I used to love going to the Waikato Field Days in New Zealand. Good luck at the ‘just looking/doing research’ part of the day!!



  7. Well done to all of you. You had me panting in the wings


  8. Doris

    Shiraz did good screaming and waking you up, and so did you helping her figure out that nursing the ‘ittle ones is OK. =) Love that last pic and he is a doll baby!! I want . . ., lol.

    The very best advice I recieved as a new goat owner, was to buy Pat Coleby’s Natural Goat Care book, available at AcresUSA.com. I make the mineral lick she recommends with results of seriously reducing my vet bills and birthing problems. I wouldn’t do a dairy without having that book on hand for a reference.

    In fact when my 15 yo came up pregnant, and then told me her older sister told her to do unassisted childbirth, I was able to whole-heartedly support her as a result of the experiences we’ve had with the goats and the great results we’ve had with the improvement in nutrition. I told her cal/mag, kelp, cod liver oil and flax seed oil, along with raw apple cider vinegar. It was the most amazing birth experience and everything turned out perfectly, the best part was she was in total control through the whole event. The other best part is she has no tolerance for pain. So, yes it was amazing.

    I do have to agree with you about Fatty-fat not having the support staff necessary to handle three kids. Which reminds me one very experienced goat lady I know recommends only leaving two kids on each doe as one will inevitably get shortchanged in the milk department. Well you have to decide, but keep an eye out for such.

    Anyways congratulations to you!! Good job!!

    • howlingduckranch

      Thanks Doris about the tip on the book. I will definitely look into that. In the meantime, would you care to share the mineral lick recipe? I’m sure there are others who would be interested in reading about that from you.

      Incidentally, the triplets seem to be doing fine! They are all feeding well and I’m intervening every now and then to make sure both teats get equal treatment. Welcome advice from the Little Ffarm Dairy crew.



  9. Pingback: Motherhood-it’s not for everyone « Howling Duck Ranch

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.