December kiddings always seem like such a good idea in mid July when the breedings occur. I love winter babies, they grow well, the does have plenty of browse available up to the very last month of their gestation, milk is highly sought after during winter months when most folks dry up their does .... so many reasons for early winter babies. The downside is, of course, the cold.
We got extremely blessed with Biscuit due on a spring like day with 70 degree temperatures. My next cluster of does were Zia, Rea and Pink Tulip, pretty much in that order. Well, their due dates happened to span right through our cold snap with sub freezing temperatures at night.
Zia was due on Dec 9. That was the day of our boys' piano recital and while I was hoping she would go on her due date, I was also hoping this would not interfere with the time frame of the recital. Sunday has come and gone and still no babies, we enjoyed recital and seeing our friends and a nice evening at home ... the quiet before the storm so to speak.
Zia had been uddered up for days. I took this snap shot on Sunday, yet towards the night and the following morning the udder has doubled and ligaments were loose, signalling that labor was impending. There were contractions just still fairly sporadic as the day turned into night and the temps started dropping into the 20's with wind chill of 7 the weatherman said. Ouch !
An older doe with several kiddings under her belt can go into a fast progressing labor and night time can be dangerous for that reason if I left her unattended. We do our best to assist does in labor though most of them are able to deliver with no assistance at all, but in such low temperatures, it is the life of the kids that we fear for ... mainly hypothermia. Normal body temperature of a goat is approx. 102.5 so going from such warm conditions en utero into 20 degrees outside is pretty traumatic and without a way to provide warmth the babies would not survive.
I stay up all night with a doe that is already in early stages of labor. With Zia and her signs being pretty much the same for the past two days I opted for 1 hour checks during the night trying to get some sleep in between. The winds were pretty fierce during the first half the night, she was restless and moving around, then past midnite decided to lie down and sleep. Made it safely through the night but the labor progressed some with the plug passing. I felt pretty confident we would be in business by morning, hoping my friend was correct encouraging me that babies will come after my morning coffee.
I was pretty tired after the night shift and my sweet children decided to take over, milking, doing chores, treating me to coffee and wonderful breakfast of bacon, eggs and biscuits - energy that would come very useful soon enough.
I did another check in the barn and noticed Pink Tulip (due date on Wednesday so still 3 days away) passed her plug as well and her ligaments were gone. I pulled her into the birthing stall with Zia excited that we may get two does through labor in day time with sun out and avoid another sleepless night.
So many times part of me questions my visual analysis blaming my "wishful thinking" for seeing things that are not there. I often wonder if I imagine the ligaments looser than they are or udder bigger than the previous day simply trying to wish the babies into coming and soothe my impatience. Then again, I prove myself wrong every time in those doubts. Quick shot of CMPK for both Zia and Pinky - Pinky pretty much by default, Zia because I was questioning such slow onset of her contractions, wanting to provide her with some readily available calcium in case that was the problem.
I wanted to mentioned that by kidding stall I don't mean an area completely separate from the rest of the herd. Our barn is basically split into two areas, the larger one is the main common area for all does in milk and some senior yearlings bred to kid, the smaller area has access from outside and small gate to link to the main barn, separated only by cattle panels and top bar. I believe in changing the does surroundings and routine to the minimum when in labor and this has worked quite well for us. While separated from the rest, they still have a visual of their herd mates and not away from their familiar space, sounds and smells. The separation is mainly for our benefit - my does are extremely friendly and I would be getting my face sniffed, neck licked, hair rearranged if they were with me while I try to help with delivery :) So to be able to focus I prefer to just be in the front stall with my expecting mothers. This also makes night checks easier, a quick peek over the front door into the stall instead of sorting through everybody trying to find the doe I need to check on as they all come and push to get to me :) Third reason that makes this arrangement quite convenient is unexpected births. I can't imagine scouting the entire barn and adjoining pen for a doe that went into labor unexpected or way early, while in the stall I can locate kids, placentas, evidence of birth, etc. easily.
Back to our kidding story - around 10am it became very obvious that Pinky was going before Zia, nice and strong contractions, I did a quick pelvic check just to see how much time I have to go inside and whoa, there was a mouth right there at the exit. Mouth with a head attached to it but no feet. No time to go back inside, rearranged the position with leg forward and soon we had a big buckling, letting the doe push at her comfort zone. This was the first time I managed to rearrange a baby while still in the sack, usually I need to break a sack or work with one already broken to move body parts but this was all done with the sack still intact, a first for me :) Second baby was in correct position and came smoothly. Third was a breech with rear legs folded under and again, I was able to bring both rear legs forward from underneath baby to be delivered backwards while still in the sack. We were thrilled with two doelings - did I mention they were both silver roan ? Buckling is a beauty, already has a deposit and will make someone very happy.
Here is the gang all dried up and ready to take on the world :)