Kidding is all finished and it’s always a relief when the babies are on the ground. Now we get to worry about all the other things that can crop up!
One of the things we are always watching for regarding the moms is something we call “milk fever,” but it’s not a fever, and it has to do with milk only in that the does need a lot of calcium to keep up the milk production. The birth process takes all the extra calcium stores in their bodies and when they start nursing their babies, the need for more sometimes exceeds what they can produce. Humans have bred domestic goats to be such heavy milkers that this is something we always need to be aware of (and I presume that this is a danger for milking cows as well, I know it is for sheep). So yesterday when I got home from the vet and went out to return disbudded babies to Pippi and SnowPea, I found that Pippi had not eaten much of her hay. I took her temperature and gave her a little molasses water and she seemed to perk up, but awhile later she did not appear to be any better, or any more inclined to eat. No temperature or other symptoms, so I began to treat her for hypocalcaemia, or milk fever, before things got any worse. This is not an easy treatment as it involves multiple injections of calcium gluconate, multiple times a day. I also have a calcium drench, but I have not been very successful with that in the past (it must be the foulest tasting stuff under the sun, they all shoot it out their noses and mouths and act like I have just given them poison. I got some into her, but not as much as I wanted).
And so Pippi remains in her pen with her two gorgeous babies, and we have turned her into a giant pin cushion. Better than the alternative, and she is responding to the treatment, but not as quickly as we (of course) would like to see. She ate a little more last night and today, but we are not going to let her out into the general population until she is eating well. Her milk is still coming in and her buck and doe are doing very well, always have full bellies. I really don’t want two bottle babies!
There frequently is a Wrinkle in the Force, especially with farm animals. And since today is May 4th and Star Wars Day, I can only say: May the Fourth Be With You! And hope that it is with Pippi as well.
It certainly has been a challenging week. I have not had a minute to update the last few days. The jugs continue to be full of spunky new babies. Yesterday morning Shlomit, our second first time mom, had a single ram lamb (11.5 lbs) and then just walked away from him. I didn’t see it happen, but I think that Persimmon interfered because she was standing over him when I got in there. We penned the new mother with her not-so-little guy and proceeded to torture her by holding her head and making her let the lamb on for a meal. I don’t think that she has changed her mind about him yet, so he gets his meals when she is up and busy with food. I guess I am going to have to watch him closely to see if he gets enough milk. She has a nice udder, so technically he should grow like hot cakes!
Then of course our old girl, Mae, is not in such great shape. She just had to go and give us triplets. We are treating her for milk fever and supplementing her smallest ram lamb with a bottle, but I don’t know how she will progress. Day 2 of the treatment with calcium gluconate and propylene glycol (to give her energy, appetite, and also to replace some of the calcium that she lost making those triplets and the milk for them). Along with vitamins I am hoping she can do enough healing to get through. Poor girl. She has been one of the most difficult ewes to handle through the years (she is big and strong and has taken more than one of us on a ride) but also one of the most self-reliant and hardy, and she has made us a lot of beautiful lambs.
This morning when I went out to feed the multitude I saw that Fuzzy Lumpkin had totally dropped and her backside was looking very droopy and pink. As I was finishing up with feeding all the moms in the pens, giving everyone water, admiring the playful lambs and goat kids, she walked away from the feeder and lay down in the greenhouse. So I made her get up and I penned her. She didn’t have a waterbag out, nor did she appear to be in true labor, so I came back to the house to get things ready and get warm. That was 9:30… and at 10:40 I went out to check on her and she had had both her lambs! The white ewe (14 lbs) was all cleaned off and she was working on the black ewe. They are beauties! No problem getting them to nurse and the black ewe had a lovely nice poop to prove that all systems were working a little while later.
It’s nice and sunny today, so hunkering down in the greenhouse is a pretty nice place to be. If the wind would die down it would be almost warm.
I like seeing Fuzzy and Lupine together in their jugs, side by side. They have been best buddies since they were born and they are still two of the best mothers we have. As for the rest of the crew, we have HoneyBea and Kate for the still expectant ewes and Rhubarb and SnowPea for the does. I think Rhubarb and the two ewes will birth their bunch over the weekend. Not sure about SnowPea. She got re-bred a few times, but her belly is sure looking big enough! If she waits a little bit it would definitely be better for our overcrowded greenhouse :*)
Wednesday night we spent the evening in the greenhouse with Norma. She is one of our older ewes, and even though she usually lambs with the greatest of ease, I was concerned because she was having contractions and pushing without evidence of a water bag being out. She really struggled. We knew she was probably having a big lamb, and we were right. Her first ewe was 14 pounds! Number 2 ewe shot out without her even giving it any notice, with a more normal sized ewe at 9 lbs. Both blue with teardrops. Norma and the girls were doing fine when we got to bed around midnight.
The next morning I could barely move (we are all getting colds again!) and when I checked on the new babies I was a little concerned. Their temperatures were not up to the usual 102.2, and the smaller of the two had a temp of only 100.8 (I checked because she was standing hunched over in the jug and putting my finger in her mouth she didn’t feel warm enough). Added to that, Norma didn’t seem to have a lot of milk. So we are treating her for a little bit of milk fever, and we did offer the lambs some milk replacer, but their temperatures are up to normal now and they are refusing the bottles. The bigger of the two has gained a pound and the smaller girl must have lost weight and regained. This morning she was exactly 9 pounds, her birthweight, and this evening she is 9 lbs. 6 oz. I am holding onto that thought! Norma is mothering them well, so I think it will be alright.
We will keep weighing the lambs to make sure they are making gains. Most of our lambs gain 1/2 lb or more a day (usually more). This had been planned as Norma’s last year with us. And she gave us two gorgeous ewes! Way to go, Norma :*)
I have a particularly sentimental feeling toward her. She is one of the first 3 lambs that we bought when we began our farm here in Maine. She has produced twins every year and only needed help lambing once. Never had a problem with anything else, just ate, produced beautiful fleeces, and made lambs. What a great ewe!
Coopworth Fiber, LaMancha Dairy Goats and Cheese on the Coast of Maine!