Sunshine and her Babies

sunshine

A goat birth story

I wandered through the forest to check on her. It had been 5 months and a week or two since she had been introduced to the billy goat at her old home. We brought her here in July, she was from a large herd that had been raised wild in the forest. She continued her wildness here, staying close to where the other goats are and not drifting too far away. After a few days she let me approach her with food, still on guard always. Gradually she would let me pat her, or hold her by the collar as she ate her treat feed. I eventually trained her to get onto the milking stand and eat there.

For the past couple of weeks I had been observing her, trying to work out how soon she was going to give birth. She is a first time mother, and sometimes first time goat mums give birth and then don’t understand that they have to lick the baby clean and feed it, so I wanted to be there shortly after the birth to make sure it all went smoothly.

For the past few weeks she had been becoming more comfortable with me. She would hang around at the milking stand while I milked the other goats, I would give her some food of her own so that she didn’t steal anyone else’s. On this day she only hung around for one goat’s milking and then disappeared. A couple of hours later I wandered up goat trails deep into the forest, where I’d often seen her emerging from over the past week. I wandered until I could see her, staying far away and being quiet as not to disturb her. Her head was at the ground, eating or licking something.

I moved slightly closer, making my best efforts not to alarm her. A little white baby goat came into view, she was licking it clean, and looking very much like she was following her instincts and doing everything right. She continued to lick the baby until it became fluffy. The kid flopped about a bit, learning how to live with all this space around it after life in the womb, learning everything for the first time. The licking takes a long time. There is birth fluid everywhere, and this is an important bonding time between mother and baby. I like to time goat births so that they are in the warmer part of the year, in colder weather there can be some risk in leaving a wet baby goat out in the open for too long, many goat owners advise drying the kids off with towels, and sometimes it is necessary. But not today.

As she is licking the baby clean, a white shape effortlessly dives out of her and gently crashes to the ground. She turns to investigate and quickly licks the face of this second baby clean so that it can breathe. The first baby bleats every so often and she turns to lick it sometimes as well, knowing by instinct that she needs to clean this second baby, but that the first one still needs her help. She does this in such a relaxed way, she knows what she is doing.

Eventually both kids are fluffy and starting to walk around. They bleat at her, and she bleats at them in a sweet soft voice I’ve never heard from her before. They are hungry but they don’t know how to drink. They search around her belly, near her front legs, and find nothing. They get to her udder and don’t know what bit to put in their mouths before she moves and makes it more difficult for them. I approach them carefully, Sunshine doesn’t seem skittish at the moment, she needs my help.

I gently hold her still and move the first baby towards the udder and show it the teat, the baby starts drinking right away. The second baby is a bit more difficult. I squirt colostrum into her mouth while putting her on the udder to help her understand where the milk comes from, it takes a few goes, and eventually she is getting a good drink, and looks stronger and able to drink by herself now. Sunshine stands still and lets them drink. It is important for them to get colostrum in the first hour after birth, they can become too weak to drink on their own if they’re left for too long, and this is why I intervene.

I return later with lots of treat feed and water for Sunshine. The babies are both girls and are lying down together, looking contented and fluffy. Things are not always rosy on the homestead, we had some troubles last year, but we learn from our mistakes and this year we have healthy female kids.

Sunshine and her babies roam wildly around our land. In the forest she finds little nests for them to sleep, and they stay there for hours while she wanders off, browsing on wild plants, then comes to the house and quietly bleats to me that she’d like some treats, sometimes with some milk in her udder that I can harvest.

It is a joy to raise homestead animals.

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