One of my fondest childhood memories is going down to chores on Christmas morning to find a little goat with a ribbon and gift tag around its neck. Her name was “Merry” as in Merry Christmas, and she was from Santa. That moment was so magical!
My fascination with little goats continues today. Now that Goat Yoga has become “a thing,” I told my parents I was interested in getting a few more dwarf goats. This December they happened to be at the sale barn when some Nigerian Dwarf / Fainter crosses came into the ring. I get a text from my mom. “The cutest little goat is in the ring. Can we buy it as a Christmas present for Elle?”
Grandma Santa delivered the little goat to Enchanted Acres, and I tried to keep Elle from going into the little goat barn for a few weeks. My mom had wrapped an adorable collar and leash for my daughter to unwrap on Christmas Eve. Elle was thrilled to learn she got a little goat of her own, and she named her goat Muffin.
Muffin has been making her home in the same shed as our other two Nigerian Dwarf goats, Domino and Diesel. Those two little guys are friendly and playful. Muffin tends to try and hide in the corner when I do chores, and I’ve talked with my family about how we’re going to have to spend time taming her once the weather gets warmer.
I thought we had a plan, but you know what they say about the best laid plans! “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. No matter how carefully a project is planned, something may still go wrong with it.”
Our plans went awry during evening chores on Thursday, February 28. Muffin didn’t run to the corner as she usually does. Instead, I could see she was in labor. Labor! I thought she was a “baby” herself. When I “did the math,” I realized Muffin is older than one year but less than two years old. Here’s why:
Goats reach sexual maturity around 5 months of age.
The gestation for a goat is 150 days, or about 5 months.
Muffin has two big front teeth. A goat loses its two middle front teeth when it is around 12 months old. Those “baby teeth” are replaced by two larger, permanent teeth. The teeth next to the middle two are replaced by permanent teeth when the goat is about two years old. (Muffin only has two permanent teeth now.)
After 30 minutes, Muffin’s labor wasn’t progressing as it should have. My parents happened to be at Enchanted Acres, so I asked my dad to come take a look. He could feel that the kid was in its correct position, head first with its front hooves outstretched. We wondered if Muffin had been bred to a large buck, meaning there wasn’t enough room for the baby’s two legs and head to fit during the delivery process. So… I decided to make an after-hours call to the vet. That was the best call I’ve made!
Our local veterinarian was quick to arrive at our little farm. He assessed the situation and decided that a caesarian section was in order. We loaded Muffin into my Traverse and headed for town. It didn’t take long for the vet to prep for surgery. He began by weighing Muffin. Her weight, carrying two babies, was 65 pounds.
He delivered two live babies, but they were both so lethargic. My mom took the first kid that was delivered and began toweling it off to warm it up and stimulate it. A few minutes later I was doing the same. Meanwhile, my dad assisted the vet. Once Muffin was stitched back together, we loaded took her home and put her in a heated building to recuperate.
It’s critical that kids get sufficient colostrum within two hours or so after birth to get their digestive and immune systems working. A kid's chance of survival is almost zero if it doesn't receive colostrum in adequate amounts and during the required time-frame. Since Muffin wasn't in any condition to nurse her baby, that meant we needed to use powered colostrum. I didn’t have any on hand, but fortunately my parents did. We made the 30-minute drive to my parents’ place. Unfortunately, one of the twins passed away during the transport.
SIDE BAR: Death stings. We work so hard to save lives and give our animals the best care possible because we value life. I’ve cried more tears over cats, sheep and goats than anyone will ever know. Sometimes you must work through the pain. We had work to do! My mom mixed up the “baby formula,” and I tried my hardest to get colostrum into his tummy.
Little Peanut, as I affectionately call our baby goat, had a rough first night. We put him inside our dog’s kennel with a heat lamp overhead. Newborns don’t know how to suckle, so it takes a lot of time and patience. I could get Peanut to drink about an ounce at a time. He would cry (loudly) every 90 minutes or so, and I’d feed him again.
The good news is that feedings stretched to about every 4 hours on Saturday and Sunday. He also learned how to take the bottle, so each feeding only lasts a few minutes. He also was drinking about two ounces per feeding.
Our weekend was tiring, but it also was filled was so many sweet moments. Our Black Lab, Bailey, loves to mother the little goat. He has taken a liking to her, too, and follows her around the house. When I saw the two of them nose-to-nose, it reminded me of a children’s book that I used to read. “A Mother for Choco” is about a little bird who wishes for a mother, so he sets off to find one. He asks a series of other animals if they could be his mother. He doesn’t think to ask Mrs. Bear if she’s his mother, but then she took him home. He met her other children: a piglet, a hippo and an alligator. She started doing things a mommy might do like feed and care for him. Soon he learns that families can come in all shapes and sizes. All they need is love.
Family is about love.
Tending to Creature Comforts during Winter Weather