In all the years I’ve raised goats and sheep, I’ve never had a doe or ewe that wasn’t able to deliver on its own. Given the problems I’ve had this year so far with all aspects of the farm, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that this year was the exception. The last animal due to deliver was Joey, my best milk goat. When Nutmeg finally delivered on Sunday I figured Joey wouldn’t be far behind, but it wasn’t until yesterday that she started showing signs of impending labor. Joey has always been one of those “get it done” goats – the norm is for me to check on her one hour with no signs of labor or problems and then the next check, usually an hour later, she has kids on the ground, already cleaned up and nursing. However, this year that was not the case. When I went out to do a last check just before dark on Thursday night I found Joey flat out on the ground with just the head of a kid presenting. The normal presentation for both lambs and kids is called a “divers” presentation, with two front hooves and a nose. Joey was being vocal, which is not her usual, and was obviously having problems. When I checked, I was surprised to find that the kid was cold, but still alive. Knowing I was going to have to try to shift the kid and that I probably didn’t have a lot of time, I called my sheep mentor. I had educated myself on all the ways a lamb or kid could get into difficulties back when I first started the farm, but without having (thankfully) to ever use that information, I wasn’t sure how much I would remember, or how well I remembered it. My sheep mentor, being the great guy that he is, immediately sprung into action and found his diagrams and information. The first problem was that Nigerian Dwarf goats are much smaller than my Katahdins and what might have been a fairly quick and easy fix with a larger animal turned into a lengthy and exhausting task with Joey. Although I have small hands, there was no room for my hand inside Joey. I couldn’t push the head of the kid back to make room. I finally made a pail of soapy water to help lubricate my arm and after trying to get Joey to shift over, finally managed to get my gloved hand in up to my wrist. At that point Joey was screaming as though she was being disemboweled and my hand was caught between the goat kid and her bony pelvic ring being squeezed every time she had a contraction. After what seemed like forever I finally got one front leg out. I had to get Joey to actually stand up to be able to shift over so I could try to reach the opposite front leg, and then finally both legs were out. Amazingly, as soon as the second leg was out, the kid just slid out – alive. Joey was exhausted at that point and wasn’t showing much interest in her kid, even though I laid him in front of her. Since I was sure she had at least one more kid to deliver but wasn’t sure she had the energy to do it, I ran into the house to warm up some honey and grab a towel to clean off the kid. When I got back, Joey had delivered her second kid. I did just a quick cleaning of both kids – since it was warm enough I wanted Joey to actually clean them off once she had recovered – and to check sexes. I waited until Joey was up on her feet and the kids were up before calling it a night and going in to clean up.
When I weighed kids Friday morning, the first, a buckling, was just shy of 6 lbs. Since a typical weight for a Nigerian Dwarf kid is between 2 and 4 lbs, I figure that the size of this one prevented it from shifting itself into a proper position for delivery. The second kid, a doeling, was 3.75 lbs.