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).
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!