Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Cold Weather Kidding and Freeze/Thaw Season

After reading about the birth of Harry in warm weather on The Maaaaa of Pricilla, it made me think that we should figure out a way to have our kidding season in warmer weather....

March 6, 2009

Yup. As usual, the -20 F weather did its job. Patches, our dairy goat, dropped two wet, slimy baby kids on the eve of one mighty cold night. When I went out to do evening chores, there they were, wobbling around in the stall with Patches kind of staring off into space as if asking herself, "Why me? Why now?"

By the time we found them, the hair on their little tails was frozen, so Deb had me run in and throw some towels into the dryer to warm. Then it was out to the barn to thaw out and dry off the little slimy ones.

Patches did not like that process at all. I sat on a bale of hay doing my farmerly duty. This bale-sitting position perfectly and strategically placed my kidneys precisely at Patches' head-butting level.

Bam! Bam! Bam! (Now I know why kidney punches are outlawed in professional boxing.)

Well, the babies made it through that frigid night with mom under a heat lamp just fine, and Patches is now not so worried about us playing pass-the-babies. Now they are up and bouncing off the walls. They also do a lot of their own head butting right into Patches' fully distended bag to stimulate milk flow. That'll teach her.

Shortly after every birth, there are a couple of other vital little tasks that need performing. One is to check to make certain that the placenta(s) pass in their entirety. A retained placenta is not a good thing. A cow will eat hers if given the opportunity. Patches has more sense than that, so we were able to determine that everything was OK on that score.

Another thing is to watch and make certain that the babies' first poop (the meconium) comes out after a few good feeds. Unlike later feces, meconium is composed of materials ingested during the time in utero: intestinal epithelial cells, mucus, amniotic fluid, bile, water and lanugo. Lanugo is a fine downy hair that grows on fetuses as a normal part of gestation, but is usually shed and replaced by vellus hair toward the end of gestation. As the lanugo is shed from the skin, it's normal for the developing fetus to consume the hair as it drinks from the amniotic fluid and urinates it back into its environment. The lanugo contributes to the newborn baby's meconium. Meconium is almost sterile, unlike later feces, is viscous and sticky like tar, and has no odor. It should be completely passed by the end of the first few days of postpartum life, with the stools progressing toward yellow (digested milk). (Are we learning a little bit more than we really have to yet? Just wait. There's more.)

One of the babies is a nanny, and the other a buck. I have yet to detect whether the nanny has pooped yet or not. She may be far too discrete for my random observations. The little buck, however, developed a walloping case of Shitzu-butt. Shitzsu dogs have a tendency to cake up their behinds so badly that nothing can get out. The offending obstruction must be physically removed. (Just ask Bob Barker, our Schitzu/Miniature Dachshund mix. He got the wrong end of the Shitzu genes.) Well, the little buck had the same thing, but with yellow tarry meconium that barely came unglued, let alone dissolved in hot water. I had to actually abrade the tar that glued itself to the tub after the procedure.

When we had him in the house, in the tub, woefully succumbing to what was debilitating humiliation (to me, if not the goat), Louise's hospice nurse, Sue, showed up.

"Oh, isn't he just the cutest thing! Let me dry him off."


That was a mistake. I'm not going to tell you how hard it was to pry the baby loose, but it is a well-known fact that most primate mothers, especially chimpanzees and gorillas, jealously hold on to their infants for the first six months or more of life.

It took some convincing, but strictures and covenants (implied, if not specifically written) against baby goats in hospice corporate cars and private apartments won the day.

That's the thing about baby goats. They are born knowing how to work a crowd. The hummingbird-rapid tail wag, the head toss, and four feet in the air standing bounce are enough to turn even the hard-nosed cynic soft-in-the-head and weak-in-the-knee.

So without further ado, I would like to introduce: She-Nanny-kins (pronounced shenanegans), our baby girl

And Buck-aroo, our baby boy.


A few days later, the weather turned warm finally. I hate that. This place turns into an icy mess with thawing in the daytime and refreezing at night. With the ground still frozen, there is no place fcor the meltwater to go except into pools and puddles both in and out of the barn. That's the worst of it, if we are lucky or smart enough to forgo the other problem.

Did we drain the barn plumbing? Did we keep the loft heated enough to avoid freezing? Did we keep the faucets dripping to keep them flowing?

This year we bought a fancy, schmantzy, new high tech, nationally advertised, electric heater for the loft apartment/office/dog house that was supposed to save on heating bills and be guaranteed not to burn the barn down. It didn't burn down the barn, but it sure burned through our electricity budget. To keep the barn loft minimally heated (barely above freezing) we were paying more than $400 a month in electric bills. And as the winter wore on, we kept trying different techniques to lessen the energy required, like just heating the loft bathroom instead of heating the whole loft. Then we tried turning off the dripping faucets in case the drain happened to freeze.

Yesterday, I walked out into the barn to find that the loft pipes had thawed and ruptured and there was four to five inches of water in all of the stalls on one side of the barn. Patches and her babies had to be rescued from a high spot just like those Katrina victims on the rooftops, only without all of the "resources" made available through FEMA. I finally got the water turned off, and the water heater and plumbing drained, and most of the insulation downstairs tacked back up, and fans blowing to dry out the feed room, and maybe someday I might let Deb back into the barn to see what happened.

Einstein was right again. He said, "There are only two truly infinite things, the universe and stupidity. And I'm unsure about the universe."

Oh well. We'll try again next year. As Red Green says in his Man Prayer:

I'm a MAN...
But I can change...
If I have to...
I guess...


  1. This is such a clear description of the event and the chores involved. I'm glas I don't have to do any work, just enjoy the results.

  2. OK---I always thought goats were in my future....and now they have to be! Sooooo cute I can't stand it!

  3. Now Harry came in the warm weather but Kevin is two months old so what does that tell you? He was under a heat lamp in the barn for his first month.

    Harry was supposed to be born last month but his nanny had some trouble conceiving.

    Goats are erm, challenging at best.

  4. I think I have to print your last few lines for my husband. And he thinks he wants a few goats too.

  5. I've heard several people say those "pennies a day" heaters add up to big bills. Sorry to hear about the burst pipes. Yikes....

  6. Congrats on the two very adorable baby goats. I prefer the goats kid in warm weather but that is not always possible. This year for example, none of them were due until the middle of April and I thought for sure the weather would not be very cold but we did have some unusual cold weather while the does were kidding.

  7. What a wonderful story. I can just picture all that happening. I am looking forward to getting some goats in a few years when hubby retires. We will have to worry about keeping them cool!

  8. This is such a clear description of the event and the chores involved.
    Getting a Payday advance is just a few steps away