Breeding, Farm life, goats, Kidding, Nigerian Dwarf Goats

There is magic in my world (birth story)

So, on Tuesday, I was home alone and as the sun was setting, the goats were all hanging out with me in the yard.



Athena checking out chicks last spring

was expected to kid first.


Keep in mind that Nigerians off go 143(ish) days. That’s even a bit faster than pygmies (who tend to 145 days). Knowing this, her earliest expected date was May 13. Well, because she is likely the world’s mot perfect goat (sorry to my other goats but really, she is), I started keeping a closer eye on her over the weekend. Why, if the 13th was her EDD? Well, I have had the privilege of being at many human births and we know that the E in EDD is the most important word to be mindful of. It means estimated or expected. Humans go early and rather than take a chance, I thought to keep a weather, but not interfering eye out.


Sure enough, by Monday she was getting more affectionate, even for her. First timers often do get more affectionate and want whomever they trust to support them.


So, while my goats come when I call, Athena was seeking me out, leaning against me, and generally acting like a puppy. In my experience, that’s more than a sign of just being in late pregnancy but, her back end didn’t look like much was going on so, I knew babies would still be a while. If she wasn’t with me, she was off on her own, staring. This can also be a sign that babies aren’t far away, however, in my experience, closer to term it’s also accompanied by quiet talking to the babies and that was something I hadn’t yet seen.


On Tues, as we sat outside watching the full moon rise, I noticed a bit of mucous on her pooch. While that is often a sign labour is around the corner, it can occur up to weeks before so again, something that tells me to keep an eye out for changes but no guarantee.


Just the same, because I’m that way, I sent the boys off to their own run (hence, Goats of Sorrow) and I set an alarm to go and check on her at 3 am.


Well, at three am she was a bit unsettled but more than happily eating when treats were offered but had more mucous with a bit of arching. Not so much that it was an obvious contraction but definitely something was going on. Curiouser, and curiouser.


Morning came and I checked on her again. I don’t (yet) have birthing stalls. My experience with Icelandics was that they did best pasture lambing and for some reason, in my brain that extrapolated to mean the goats would too. I do know these goats come from pasture lambing so… while it’s not the worst decision, it’s not one I would repeat.


Anyway, I put down fresh straw in all of the places she’d been reclining wanting to (hopefully) ensure she had a secure and tidy bed beneath her and, not seeing anymore real progress, headed off to work.


Of course I’m a worrier so I whipped home at lunch. Her water had broken and while she wasn’t super laboury, she was definitely in active labour. Honestly, I would have said early active labour because she didn’t seem to be working that hard.


I ran inside to make lunch to take back to work when I heard a serious goats scream. Now our house is crazy sound proof. When my mother in law slipped on the ice and broke her arm, none of us heard her even though she was about 10 feet away. I’m not sure how we did that but most of the time it’s a good thing. And clearly, that was a primal scream that came from Athena for me to hear it clearly inside the house.


So, I ran outside and there she was, walking around. Well, that didn’t add up at all. It sounded like a delivery sound but here she was, still massively tummied, no more discharge than before, and nibbling at hay alternately with pacing. Strange. Although I thought to go back in, I paused and decided to have a little look around.


Sure enough, nestled into a little bowl created by a stump, and next to the water bucket I had thankfully picked up and put on an overturned tub, was a teeny (and I do mean teeny) beautiful baby.

Baby girl


And yes, I was feeling really relieved that I remembered to put the water bucket it up the night before. Phew!


So, expecting a single (Athena is a first freshener), I was a little surprised to see Athena not interested in the baby. I cleaned off the nose and mouth and grabbed an old wool sweater to rub her off a bit. Now, a little bit of rubbing off is ok but I left goop on key places (like the top of her head and her bum/rump). And I didn’t touch her with my hands anywhere except when it was too fiddly to liberate her mouth using the wool sweater. I didn’t want to take a chance of mum thinking she smelled too much of me to be her baby. With a first freshener who has no track record, I am super fussy about it.


While I was watching, Athena finally started pawing. I brought straw to her and she settled back in. After pushing for a while (ten minutes? I don’t know, I was watching her and videoing), I saw a black nose and one hoof. Great, one hoof. I didn’t dive right in (and neither should you – we intervene far too often in birth in general) but repositioned myself to closely watch the delivery. Now I started timing. Another few pushes brought no more of the baby which was starting to concern me. I felt along the outside (if she was a human, it would have been her perineum I was feeling) to get a sense of how big baby’s head was. I could really feel her straining but not a lot of baby progress. I took my finger and ran it along the side with the hoof showing applying a fair amount of pressure.Still no progress. I took my right hand and using the backwards L made by my forefinger and thumb, I applied pressure to that side. That pressure can give her something to push against without risking her health.


One more push and out came a massive boy, along with a healthy squirt of birth products. One more contraction (which I thought would be the placenta) and a white boy came three quarters of the way out. She was exhausted so I did help gently manoeuvre the rest of him out, mindful not to put any pressure on the placenta or her. Another buckling. All three were adorable, completely different looking, and healthy. Yay! Not so yay for my work clothes (because I didn’t get changed before hurrying out to her) but whatever, they’re washable.

All three babies - goopy!



That’s the birth story. Stay tuned to read about their first 24 hours.


All three of them in the afternoon after a busy day of getting born.





Farm life, goats, Nigerian Dwarf Goats, Philosophy

On goats and grain

So, I have been doing a lot of reading about grain. A lot. Tonnes. Literally. What I have learned is that um… there’s a lot of information out there and most of it’s contradictory.

Tell me you don’t love this picture. It’s from
by way of google. You should go and see the rest of their cute pics.

The first thing I’m realizing is that grain isn’t really needed if you have good forage; some would even say for late pregnancy and babies. Some would say that it’s always needed. Some would say that it’s needed as an economic balm against (for?) the rising cost of hay. Some would say you must mix your own grain, others would say the average goatherd is too much of a novice to know what their goats need and must rely on premixed. Some would still say they don’t need grain.

So, here’s what I think. First of all, I’m a grain feedeer. Not all year ’round but I have been feeding in winter and I will when the girls are in milk and babies are wee. So, you know you’re getting a “pro-grain” position here. At least I’m pro-grain for my animals, your mileage may vary.

First of all, I’m consistent on feeding grain three times per day (yep, three). Once in the morning, once in the early evening (the goats have tea time as well), and once right before bed. I figure that if the grain stokes the fire of the rumen, better to stoke it thrice on cold days. And because you don’t want to be feeding sometimes and not others (it’s hard on the goat’s tummy), I would rather have the hassle of giving little bits, three times per day. I adjust the amount I give per feeding based on the weather; the amount varying with the temperature. We have dramatic temperature shifts here all winter. The worst is when it’s warm and sunny – or cold and sunny but not windy and then it warms way up above freezing with a torrential rain and then, a few hours later, plummets a zillion degrees to coat the world in ice.

Second of all, I do work with a local grain farmer to make my own mix. Maybe I don’t know as much as my grain guy but one of the arguments against mixing your own is that you don’t know what’s needed for your area. Um… so I don’t but Purinea does? Seems unlikely.

So, I guess where I stand (given that I need to get supper made and this post is already a week late) is simply -do what you think is best. I can’t imagine that a huge company, not based in my area, knows what my goats need. But, if you aren’t lucky enough to be in an area with mine and have other goatherds and a grain guy to consult with, you might want to buy a commercial mix. As always, give it some thought and make the call.

Yes please. I will have grain but I won't stay still for the picture.
Yes please. I will have grain but I won’t stay still for the picture.