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Oreo’s Little Cookies and Feeling Farmery

April 3, 2013

Shortly after we bought our chickens, we were baptized into “real” livestock by a small herd of dairy goats. We drove to Virginia in October to fetch our first goats. It took nearly six hours. Luckily, we were buying minis (Mini-Nubians specifically, a Nubian/Nigerian cross), and just loaded them all in the back of a pickup truck with a topper. We went to the first farm early in the morning and picked up two does. When we got out at the second farm, a powerful odor stung our noses. Once you’ve smelled goat buck, you never forget it. Likewise, it is impossible to describe. It’s pungent, a bit like feet and Fritos to the 1,000th power.

4 goats

The second farmer informed me that one of the two does we were getting from her, named Oreo, “might” be bred. It’s always a question with goats, especially when randy bucks escape the fence. I didn’t know at the time how to check goat udders. I didn’t know about drawing blood and sending it away for results. As the days got shorter and the water began to freeze in the drinking trough, Oreo got more and more round. Unbelievably round. But still, we were unsure, until I was standing beside her one day at the hay feeder and felt a movement in her side that reminded me a lot of when my babies kicked in utero. So, then we knew she would kid. But we didn’t know when.

Oreo

I started reading everything I could about goat kidding. We bought all the supplies. We built a nice kidding pen and bought heat lamps. Because of the timing, I knew the kids would come very early in the year, likely January. She began showing signs…pawing at the ground, pitiful bleating, staring off to some faraway place. I put her in the kidding pen. I was afraid for her, so I stayed with her throughout the night. She snuggled with me (yes, they do that), staying close to keep me warm. She continued to paw at her bedding and bleat until nearly 5 a.m. Just as the sun rose, she turned into old Oreo. Miraculous! Ha! I was exhausted and frustrated at having waited so long for no reason. I let her back in the pen to feed with the others and went to bed.

I’d gone running errands after a nap. When I pulled in the driveway, I noticed a commotion near the goat barn. Not even taking time to shut the car door, I ran to the pen. Betty, Wilma, and Sophia were scurrying about like ants at a picnic. Oreo was leaning against the barn, her entire back end moist and red. OH NO! I ran into the pen and grabbed her by the collar. Needless to say, she didn’t want to go, but I was afraid to leave her in with the others. I pulled, she pulled back. I pulled on her collar more, she sat down. Finally, my husband came and helped me get her to the kidding pen. Once there, I was able to pull up her tail, expecting to see a bubble. No bubble…just a tiny little black tail. OH NO! We had a breech kid whose amniotic sack had ruptured, and I had no idea how long this had been going on.

For her part, Oreo didn’t seem too distressed at first, but I knew she’d not be able to kid without hurting herself. I stayed with her, scratching her chin and rubbing her sides for another 15 minutes. Her contractions became more and more intense and her breathing became labored. I knew something had to be done. According to the books, I should have worn gloves, but I didn’t. There was no time to think of that. After her next contraction ended, I reached in with my first two fingers, and pushed the kid’s rump back in with my thumbs. I was then able to hook the tiny back legs with my fingers, push them up and out the back. At this point, Oreo pushed again. Thankfully, this time the tiny kid slipped out and landed on the straw bedding.

Black and white. A girl. Lifeless. I put her in front of Oreo. She and I began to clean the kid. I rubbed her with a towel, cleaned her mouth and nose, held her upside down. Nothing was working. Then Oreo pushed again.

This time, I could see the bubble, and inside, two hooves and a face (tiny pink tongue sticking out). TWINS! Oreo had the second one just fine, although the black and white buckling was nearly twice the size as his lifeless sister. I laid him in front of Oreo, beside his twin, and continued wiping both of them with a towel.

scrambler

I fought back tears. The little doeling was so beautiful. She was nearly all black with pretty white ears. If she didn’t make it, it would be my fault for not being diligent enough.

The buckling coughed. Then he cried the smallest little goat cry. I barely heard it, but the funny thing was the in the moment just after he cried, the doeling sneezed and began to breathe. Hallelujah! Moments later, a third kid was born, another doeling, this one black with white spots. All three were healthy and happy in a way that only baby goats can be.

dottie and wags

This is the first moment when I actually felt like a farmer. As farmers, we constantly suffer the greatest of joys and the greatest of pains. But from this, we grow and learn.

Hollie Craddock is a single mom, a linguist, a potter and a farmless farmer in Appalachia. You can contact Hollie via her Facebook page, Farmless Farmer, or  via her blog at  Farmless Farmer.

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