We were a day off. Instead of kidding during the middle of the sleet, Louisianna kidded the next night when the temperature dropped below freezing, but not so low as to freeze all the miserably cold standing water on the ground. Chuck had planned to run up and check on her anyway, and when he got there and found her wandering around, obviously having kidded, he feared the worst for her kids. Not only is Louisinanna a first time mother, she was also a bottle baby (a quad) herself. She has a bond with humans, and we wondered how much this would affect her mothering skills (she is a heavy doe with a lot of capacity and very meaty, but isn't one of the brightest lamps on the post). Chuck found afterbirth in one of the sheds, but could not immediately find the kids. He found one poor soul frozen in water behind the shed (not sure how he got there) and then what he thought was a piece of black roofing paper turned out to be her second kid, also a buck, and smaller than the first, in front of the shed. Chuck picked him up, thinking he, too, was lost, and nearly fainted when the small, cold, sodden package let out a faint bleat.
I was home asleep through all this with our human kids (I am six months pregnant now, and I give out pretty easily) but a phone call woke me up. As Chuck relayed all the details, I couldn't offer much but to get him warm and get colostrum in him if he could. Chuck had put the little buck on the dashboard and was using the defroster to blow warm air over him like a blow dryer. I can't tell you how nice it will be when we finally get power to the farm. He milked some colostrum out of an exhausted Louisianna, and was not sure she was going to be okay herself. After reading so many studies about how premature humans develop faster when they get skin to skin contact, or "kangaroo care" as they call it, I suggested Chuck put the little buck against his stomach so he could be against warm skin and hear a heartbeat like he must have been hearing before birth. We spoke on and off during the night, and when the time came he had to come home so I could get ready and make it to work, we opted to bring the kid home because the wet cold weather was still so beastly. Chuck had managed to get a little bit of colostrum in him, and we always keep a can of condensed goat milk in the pantry although we rarely need it.
The little buck was tiny. The one who died was the larger of the two, but it was obvious from the beginning that this guy wanted to live. Chuck made him a warm bottle and he actually was able to drink a little, and was perking up, but was still totally unable to stand. We'll never know what all happened as she was kidding, and whether he could not stand to nurse ever or whether the ordeal of the night had just left him too weak to stand. Annalee came in to see him, and we explained that this little guy was in very bad shape and might not make it. She looked him over and exclaimed, "look! I can see his stem" as his umbilical cord was still long and was trailed out beside him across the bottom of this cardboard box. Chip met him later, and since Annalee was on spring break, she went with Daddy to take "baby Longstem," as she began to call him, back to the farm to see if Lousianna could nurse him.
When they arrived at the farm, Louisianna was still wandering the field, acting like she was looking for the kids. Chuck brought her out of the field so she wouldn't have so much help from the mob of other does and older kids looking for handouts. He held the buck up so he could try to nurse. I can't recall if he could at this point, when held, or if Chuck had to milk her again, but she turned to the kid and began to do all the things a doe should do with a newborn. She licked him all over as if he wasn't already dry, and talked to him. Chuck made a small pen around one shed and put the kid in there with her to see if the two of them could work things out. At some point later in the day, he found that the little buck had managed to stand, and was working his way back to her udder and making shaky little jabs at it. He managed to nurse a bit on his own.
We could have chosen to bottle raise this kid, but not only do we have pretty much no extra time at our house with human kids' needs, but we figured the best chance both of them had to become "normal goats" was to try to make it on their own. Louisianna is still trying to figure it how to be a decent mother (she wants to nuzzle the kid whenever he nurses, which, while a nice thought, effectively swings her butt, and hence udder, away from him because she is long and he is tiny - the look of exasperation on his face when she does this is the stuff of cartoons). Baby Longstem still has a long way to go, and he is dealing with the effects of his inauspicious birth, but he still wants very much to live. The cold wet weather has finally given us a brief reprieve. I hope the warm sun will be healing and supportive to them, and that he got enough colostrum in him to give him what he needs to make it the first few months of his life. Only time will tell. I hate the other larger buck didn't make it, but Baby Longstem has so much to overcome having all his mother's milk may be what he needs to play catch up. Luckily we have another doe who should kid out soon, and she is a seasoned mother, so hopefully this kid will have some others his age to grow up with. And hopefully next year Louisianna will be better prepared for kidding. She seemed to have quite a bit of pain that first night, but has shown no signs of infection, thank goodness. Just another reminder that Kikos, while tough, are still living creatures. Our does spoil us, really. They have their kids, clean them, and get them up feeding as if birth itself wasn't a miracle and the most dangerous time of their lives. We tend to take that for granted.
I would be surprised if Baby Longstem is the buck he could have been, at least not for a very long time. He has the genetic potential to be a very nice buck, but who knows if he can overcome this rough start. At this point he is the apple of Annalee's eye as tiny as he is. She knows he still has a long row to hoe, but she is smitten. We're just taking this as another opportunity to learn and do it better next time, and also as a reminder of just how strong the absolute will to live can be.