Trial By Fire

Nigerian Dwarf buckling
Nigerian Dwarf buckling

They are here….they, being the baby goats!  I wrote about our pregnant does in previous posts, and Umbra, who was super huge, finally delivered.  Ahhh, I had read about how 95% of deliveries are uneventful.  Of course, this being my first goats, and first large animal delivery, I was excited and hopeful that we would have smooth sailing.  Apparently, we are part of the 5%!

Everything started okay.  I got up yesterday morning and checked under Umbra’s hood.  Her udder was huge, and she had some discharge, so I figured she’d go into labor very soon…maybe a day or two.  By the afternoon, she had some leaking fluids.  At least, I thought it was a little leak, until I saw coming out from under her pen a river of fluids.  She was in labor!

Nigerian Dwarf goat newborn kids
Nigerian Dwarf kids

I quickly went in to find her pressing her hind end against the fence.  “Umbra,” I said, “They can’t come out against a fence!”  I scooted her hind end more into the room, and noticed how she was pushing against her hay manger.  I knelt down with her, to comfort her and coax her through her contractions (I know they don’t have to have a labor coach, but she seemed to appreciate the support and rubs on her neck and belly.)

As her labor progressed, I watched, excited as the “bubble” started to appear, and then a tiny hoof!  And that’s were we sat.  For an hour.  Pushing, Umbra grunting and crying out.  A tiny bit more hoof.  And she was getting tired, and the baby wasn’t coming out.  I had read how after an hour a goat needs assistance.  This being my first time, I wasn’t sure when “the clock” officially started, so I gave her a little more time.  Finally, that was it.  I had to go in.

Nigerian Dwarf doeling
Newborn Nigerian Dwarf Doeling

Gloves on, lube on, time to see what was happening.  I went past the first hoof, and found a second.  Good, good.  Seemed to be a frontal presentation.  Then I found a third hoof, then a fourth.  Uh oh.  I thought I got gummed by a little mouth in there, but mostly there were just legs.  What seemed to be thousands of legs.  I tried to follow the legs to find out who was who, as I had read.  Just legs, and Umbra pushing, yelling groaning….and time was ticking, and I couldn’t find any way to get it sorted out.  I went further in, knowing I was hurting her, and knowing that she and the babies would die if I could not help her.

I tried to get into her uterus (yikes).  Tried to see if I could figure out how to get one baby pushed back up so the other could come out.  No dice.  I pushed upwards, and Umbra pushed harder back.  Finally, it was a dash for the phone book.  I had not gotten established with a farm-vet yet, and I was afraid they would not see me, as the small animal vets around her will not do emergency calls, let alone if you are not a client.

Nigerian Dwarf kids
Umbra, Phoebe, & Phoibos

Fortunately they took pity on us and told us to….bring her in.  I grew up reading James Harriott books:  The All Creatures Great and Small series.  He was a country vet in England who went to farms to perform all sorts of veterinary magic.  Bring her in!  She had baby hooves sticking out her hind end!  So, we stuffed the poor girl into a large dog crate and through the cold, the dark, and the mud, lunged her up the hill and into the front of the old Dodge Dakota (very old Dodge Dakota).  She fired up, and we were off on the thousand mile trek to the vet (took about 25 minutes, seemed like two hours.)

I was so afraid they’d all die on the way there.  I started singing “A Little Help From My Friends” to them, I am not sure why.  Umbra thrashed and groaned, then grew quiet, and I just knew I’d get there to find her dead.

The pick-up needs a little work.  The brights don’t work, and they lights are, well, a little dim.  So, I picked my way along the winding country road, hoping not to miss the sign for the vet.  Finally, we made it.

Nigerian Dwarf Twins
Newborn Nigerian Dwarf kids

I saw Umbra was still alive, and ran to the door and was met by the vet.  He helped me lug the crate inside, pulled her out, and I held her head while he went in.  Ohhhh, how she screamed.  I held and supported her front end, rocked her head over my shoulder and tried to comfort her while he pushed both babies back up and in.  He was able to put the first kid’s legs behind her and pull her out head first.  Then, out came the little buckling.  The doeling was gasping, and he revived her.  Once Umbra saw her babies, she rallied and lit up like a doll.  She called to them, and they answered, and she started licking and stimulating them.

I tried to sit back and take it all in, enjoying the best part.  After some antibiotics, some colostrum, and much rubbing, the little ones were trying to get to their feet.  The little doeling’s head was swollen, and she was weaker then the buckling, who I was able to get to Umbra’s utter to suckle.  The little female was going to have to be fed by syringe every two hours until she got a little stronger, as she wasn’t able to get enough of a grasp to nurse, though she was stronger then the vet thought she would be rather rapidly.

Once the little one’s were dry and fed, we headed back for home.  By now it was about 1:00AM.  Exhausted, we finally got Umbra and her kids settled into the Tarp Barn for the night.  Fortunately, Umbra (after an Oxytocin injection) passed her afterbirth.  I milked out some colostrum and fed the doeling, then headed in for some dinner and a seat.  Did I mention I was exhausted?

Later, about 6:00 AM, when I headed out to check on the little babes and feed the doeling another syringe, I noticed how she was still having a lot of fluid in her upper respiratory tract, and how milk was dribbling out her nose when she tried to eat.  I got a sinking feeling.  My daughter had a cleft palate when she was born, and this was just like what she had gone through when trying to nurse.  I opened the doelings mouth, and my heart sank.  Her palate has a trench all the way from front to back.  Her brother, a perfect palate.

Fortunately the buckling is strapping and strong.  I figured I’d have to euthanize the little doeling in the morning.  When I went to check them after sunrise, she had a milky mouth and seemed to have a full stomach.  In fact she was less sunken then her brother.  So, I am waiting and watching to see if she can adapt and eat.  I don’t have a lot of hope.  From what I have read, she is a candidate for pneumonia and all sorts of infection and problems.  But, Nature will decide, and I will go along with what it will be.  I figure there is a 95% chance I’ll have to euthanize her, but who knows.  She started out as the 5%.  Maybe she can go all the way.  I’ll keep you posted.

Meanwhile, say hello to little Phoebe and her brother Phoibos.  Two beautiful little Nigerian Dwarf twins!

Nigerian Dwarf kids
Newborn Nigerian Dwarf Twin Kids


  1. Hi, I have just found your web, and your blog about your cleft palate baby. I have a youngster who wa born with a cleft palate 1 year and a half later she is fine and coping with her disabilities I thought I would make contact and perhaps compare. Best wishes Diane

    • Hi Diane,

      Thank you for coming by and for your comment! That is do fantastic to hear about your success with your cleft palate yearling! Unfortunately my little girl became ill a couple of weeks after she was born. She started to get infections, so I went ahead and euthanized her. It was hard to do, but from what I had read that seemed to be the most common prognosis for a goat with a cleft. I am really happy to hear that yours is doing so well, and if it happens again I may try to hang on a bit longer. Do you have any pictures of your little one?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s