Goat Kidding, Part 2
I was hoping to describe in great detail the birthing with our second and final doe, Elsie. When Emma kidded we were there and performed all the tasks that responsible goat owners would normally carry out. It went along pretty much as we’d expected, no surprises, no problems, nothing out of the ordinary. We came away from the experience feeling pretty good, and looked forward to the next birthing. We had the due date marked on the calendar, and waited. We busied ourselves with learning how to milk a goat with Emma acting as the somewhat willing guinea pig.
With two days to go before Elsie’s due date I was building a much needed third stall to house the goat kids to enable us to move the little things out of the kitchen. Word of advice to prospective goat owners: Don’t bring the newborn kids into the house. Yeah right! You’d think we’d follow our own advice. We took the kids away at birth because we have ‘dairy’ goats and wanted the milk. I hate to sound heartless about this, but if we did not want or use the milk, we would not have gotten goats to begin with. Sure, they make for great pets, and we have a lot of fun with them and they are very sociable. But they are a tremendous amount of work, once in milk, and then become time consuming. Danielle makes goat milk butter and several cheeses, which are important parts of our diet. The intention of having this become a part of our homesteading prompted her to join the Maine Cheese Guild two years ago. Now, cheese making is a fascinating area of study and time is budgeted for each week’s project. Happily, using your milk can be as simple or as involved as you wish. We have no plans to sell any milk or any value added products. No attempt will be made to make money from any of this.
I finished making the stall at about three o’clock Friday afternoon, and went to the kitchen to have a late lunch. At six-thirty I went to the barn to begin chores, which includes milking Emma. She was standing in the doorway talking to me in the same manner that Elsie had four weeks ago, just minutes before Emma gave birth. I tell you, I checked Elsie for signs earlier in the day, since she’d been lying down quite a bit. Nesting, if you will. There wasn’t any vaginal discharge, I could still feel her tail bone tendons, and she did not seem to be in labor. But Emma told me what’d happened as soon as I got to the gate. I walked into the barn, and there were two baby goat kids already cleaned off. They were a little moist, and they were shivering. I ran to the house, again, to inform Danielle, then ran back to the barn and plugged in the heat lamp. I positioned a stool near the lamp so Danielle could sit, and we both began toweling off the kids and getting them warmed up.
At this point I’d like to just mention that there are several ‘hot topics’ surrounding goat management. Do you leave the horns on, or remove? We prefer our goats to have their horns intact. Some people are dead set against taking the kids from their dam but we feel that they grow up being more sociable if we become the dam. They still receive their mother’s colostrum and milk. We feel this was the best decision for our setup. I know that there are a lot of goat owners out there who do it differently. Which is fine.
So, now the barn chores include milking two goats. This is something quite interesting for someone who has not milked a goat before. I must say that in the five weeks since Emma gave birth, I have gotten somewhat faster, and better, at milking. At first it was painfully slow. I’ve been able to speed things up and anticipate that it will get faster yet. We have friends who say they milk their seven goats in forty-five minutes. I find this to be quite astounding. I know a couple of areas in which I can improve, so it will get better. I enjoy being in the barn milking very much. Serenity is hard come by in this world at the moment, and this quite fills the bill. It is good quality time spent with the individual animals. I love milking them by hand, with my head leaning against their warm bodies, listening to them eat their grain; listening to the workings of their rumen. I can get lost in deep thought during these times. Now Danielle is learning how to milk. This is a great chore that we can share. I am the primary herds person and milker, since she is the cheese and butter maker. But it is special when she comes down and participates.
In a future post, I will expand on goat ownership, some of my thoughts and additional things to consider. I will also share some tidbits that we pretty much had to teach ourselves because our five goat handbooks skipped past what first timers like us would never have learned without the experience. Stay tuned…
Please join us next week as we talk about removing trees for more sun and light to benefit the garden.