The Circle of Life

What a week. To be honest, it was the first time I questioned whether or not I was cut out for this farming thing. I never expected to experience such highs and lows in such a short amount of time. It started last Monday, when I went out to the goat barn to feed the girls and bring them fresh water. Hazel was very vocal, which is not like her at all. I was hopeful that this was finally her time, so I stayed with her as long as I could before I had to bring the kids to school. By the time I got back, she was pacing around the barn, laying down and standing up, doing what she could to get comfortable. Not much different from human labor, really. This went on for a few hours, until she finally laid on her side and started to push. It only took about five minutes and some encouragement on my part, before baby Graham was born. I cleared out his mouth until I heard his sweet, but fierce little cry. I put him in front of Hazel, and right away she started to clean him up, just the way YouTube said it would happen. By the time I turned around to grab a clean towel, Stella was already born, waiting her turn to be cleaned by Mama.


Short of a potty break and a granola bar, I was in that goat barn all. day. long. How can a person possibly get any work done when there are baby goats just fifty feet away?? I stayed to make sure that Hazel cared for them the way she should, that the babies were able to latch properly, and that Dolly didn't try any funny business. There may have been some snuggling going on too. My heart was full, and I was so proud of Hazel for being so attentive to her babes. The next day, I tried to resist every urge I had to go snuggle those cuties. I had been there all day the day before, for good reason. But I didn't want to cross the line where Mama would reject her kids, or that they would think I was their mom. I checked on them a handful of times, for all the same reasons I listed before. All was good in the world, and life resumed as usual.


Wednesday morning came, and it was time to feed the goats. I walked into their pen and found Stella laying lifeless in the hay. I scooped her up and immediately put her in front of Hazel, desperate that she would take care of her baby. When Hazel bucked at her in my hands, I knew she had rejected her, and I took Stella inside. My first assumption was that she wasn't getting enough food because whenever she would nurse, her brother would shove her out of the way so he could latch on. I wrapped her up in a blanket and thawed some goat milk I had in my freezer. I tried to bottle feed her, but she was so weak, she could hardly suckle at the nipple. I squeezed drops of milk into her mouth until she regained enough strength to hold up her own head. Later that day, she even stood up on her own, so I thought for sure she was on the mend.

I started to research how to get a newborn goat to bottle feed, and what I started to find instead was pretty alarming. I read about Weak Kid Syndrome, which listed a number of reasons why a newborn goat might lose all strength and appear to be dead. One of the first things I read about was hypothermia. A goat's temperature should be between 101 and 104 degrees. When their temperature drops below 100 degrees, it becomes life threatening and their body uses its energy to warm vital organs. In that case, the last thing to happen would be digestion, so it could do more harm than good to force warm milk into the baby. Right away, I took her temperature to find it just over 94 degrees. It turns out, I may have been hurting her by trying to feed her.

Even more research, and a call to the vet told me to give her a warm bath to raise her core temperature. This brought her temperature up, but still not to 100 degrees. I cranked the heat up in my bedroom and laid her on a heating pad overnight. I set an alarm to wake me every hour to restart the pad. She made it through the night, but only with a temp of 96 degrees. After dropping the kids at school, I picked up a heat lamp and kept her underneath it until her temperature finally came back to its normal range. Now I could give her some milk to get her strength back. I held her in my lap on top of the heating pad, because I was afraid she wouldn't maintain that temperature on her own. Again, I squeezed drops of milk into her mouth because she didn't have the strength to suck. After about ten minutes of this, she let out a few cries and stopped breathing.

As I cried over her, I remembered the words of the vet that told me I was doing all that I could, and not to beat myself up if she didn't make it. She was significantly smaller than her brother, and could have been suffering from something that I would never be able to help, in the end. That may be true, but it sure didn't make it any easier to have this sweet little animal pass away in my lap. We decorated a box, and buried Stella by some pine trees in the lower pasture. Death is all part of the farm life, I suppose. We just weren't prepared to experience it so soon in our journey.



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