Mon 1 Feb 2010
Alderspring Ranch has been home to goats for quite while, ever since Dad decided that goat milk would be a good thing to add to our diet. We went to look at two black Nubian goats and after we were hauling them back in the trailer, my sister and I began to negotiate with Dad about buying them so they could be ours. We both had a little money from a previous calf that we raised. After some going back and forth, we bought our first goats. I think we must have been about eight and nine.
Our herd has grown and then dwindled over the years. Now all of the goats that we had left a few days ago was my old black goat, Venice, the one I bought to start with, a billy goat, and a younger brown doe who I raised from a baby.
My sisters kept talking about shipping the few that we had left, but I didn’t want to part with my old nanny goat. She always has been my favorite, since she is fairly tame. I wouldn’t call her sweet, but she’ll come up to you and let you pet her.
Well, it was pretty late one night, and dark. Since we are in the middle of winter right now, it has been cold too. I was doing something in the house, though I can’t remember what, when my younger sister’s voice over my shoulder made me turn around. “Dad has goat milk,” she said.
I guess that I looked at her kind of strangely, because she motioned and said, “Come and see.” She led me to the porch, and there, lying in a box with the heater running on high nearby, was a tiny little baby with a star on its head.
“Whose?” I asked.
“Venice had it.”
“Are there any more?” Usually our goats had twins, but Venice only had one baby in all of the years that I owned her, so I didn’t think she could have a baby, let alone two. But my sister surprised me by nodding her head.
“Yeah, Dad left the other one out there. He wanted her to lick off one of them. This was the weakest of the two.” I looked again where the little goat lay. It sure was weak. It couldn’t even raise its head.
“We should go out and take care of the other one.” I yelled for my other sister, and we grabbed a few used towels. Rushing outside, the cold air hit us and millions of tiny stars glimmered in the sky. It was a beautiful night, but the clear nights, with the sky all alit, are the coldest, and the worst time for babies.
The goat pen was covered in snow, but in one corner was a pile of hay and on that lay another tiny black shape. This one was stronger; he let us know with a lusty wail. My sister knelt down and began to rub the little goat with the towel. After rubbing him for a few minutes and still not seeing a lot of improvement, she turned to me.
“I think we should bring him inside.”
We carried the little critter in where he could warm up in spite of his mother’s wails. Both of the little goats lay in bony heaps on a towel, with the heater blowing warm air all over their tiny, cold bodies.
We didn’t think they would make it, but they proved us wrong. In twenty minutes, the larger of the two was standing. In another ten, both stood on shaking legs.
After a baby animal stands up, the next step is eating. Well, both of those little critters were just too weak to drink that night, so Dad improvised a tube and we fed them that way.
The next day, after a fitful night of sleep because of their bleats coming from the porch, we got up early to leave for a day of skiing at our local ski area. I wasn’t sure what the prognosis would be when we returned.
Venice, mom to these two new babies.
After skiing, they were a lot hungrier. Mom told us that she tried to get them to suck off their mom, but to no avail. We figured another shot couldn’t hurt, however, so my sister and I took them out to the pen where we were keeping their mother.
It didn’t take long.
I guess those little animals got hungry enough, because after about three minutes of teaching them to suckle, they got right to it, with a little help from their mom. We were both amazed and pretty happy. We let the little goats suckle for a while, and then gathered them up, in spite of their protesting mother, and brought them inside for the night so they would stay warm.
It may take a little while, but, as the weather permits, those babies are going to be spending more and more time with their mom and less and less time in the house. Just as with all of those newborns that get into some trouble and have a hard time, taking them in the house for some TLC seems to really pay off. Mom just isn’t sure if she likes goats in the house yet.
What are goats good for anyway?