We have kept Nigerian Dwarf Goats for the past five years. I bought them because of their high butterfat content, because I didn’t desire a large quantity of milk, because they are cute. We have milked them, eaten them, enjoyed them. I have learned a lot about animal husbandry from them. How to give injections, trim hooves, use a drench. When to intervene and when not to. When it’s time to be cruel to be kind.
A while ago, when we thought we may move from our farm, I sold off my does. I kept back Alva, my favourite goat. She is small for her breed. She’s roughly the size of an overfed cockerspaniel, likes a hearty chest rub and has beautiful blue eyes. She is, as far as the farm is concerned, useless. But what she lacks in productivity she makes up for with hilarity. I couldn’t part with her.
When it became clear we were not moving, at least for the time being, it only made sense to enrich our lives with more hilarious, tiny goats. And so we brought home a beautiful buckling, with sweeping blonde bangs and big balls. We named him Rod Stewart.
When Rod Steward arrived, I put him in his own fenced pasture. Fence is at nearing 5′ tall, nice sturdy woven wire fencing. It took Rod all of 8 minutes to find a way around that fence and in with Alva. Another thing I know to be true:
IF A FENCE WON’T HOLD WATER, IT WON’T HOLD A GOAT.
I marked down the first possible day of breeding, counted out 145 days and marked it on my calendar. Earliest possible due date. I assembled my birth kit a month in advance. I got excited. Alva got wider and wider. Her width went from being impressive and awe inspiring to nearly grotesque. Her due date came and went. I watched her exhibit signs of early labour for two weeks, each day CERTAIN that she would give birth. I got restless. Surely, surely she can’t possibly be pregnant another day. She was pawing, bleating, stretching, nesting, puffy and dripping. And still no babies.
(Fat Alva, two months away from giving birth in this photo).
It dawned on me. Alva may live here, but unlike the rest of us who are breeding age, she did not put out on the first date.
I canceled outings, I stayed close to home, in anticipation of her maiden delivery. The one afternoon I had to go out of town for court, which ran late of course, I came home in the dark, raced out to do chores and arrived just in time to watch the second kid slide right out of her.
I had been keeping towels tied up to the ceiling in the goat shed, and my preparedness paid off. It was well below freezing and the little babies were sopping wet. I toweled them dry quickly, and jogged back to the house to get the birth kit. Told my 4 & 6 year old kids to make themselves dinner, get ready for bed, and tuck themselves in. Which they did, without incident.
My husband was in town working, and had the extension cords. What I did next is something that I truly treasure about living in the country. I called a neighbour. I didn’t find out until later that he had only just found out that his business had been burglarized. But I called in need of help, and so help came.
All was well. Alva took to mothering, took to her babies. Licked them from one end to the other a hundred times over. I dipped their cords in iodine, gave them E-Sel injections as our area is deficient, hooked up a heat lamp. They were so tiny, just 2lbs a piece. Had to give them a little help getting those first sips of essential colostrum, but haven’t had to intervene since.
Alva produced two little sisters, which is just a gift. Two doelings means I will keep them both. The males we eat, since we do enjoy a good goat curry or Moroccan tangine. But these two little ladies will get to stay here as long as we are here.
I actively update my Instagram account and you can follow it online without having to sign up. There are lots and lots of pictures of cute critters on there. I also uploaded a video to my YouTube channel.
We spend a LOT of time out with the girls. Bob would tell you “my favourite TV is Goat TV, followed by Lamb TV, followed by Chicken TV. Then I like BusyTown Mysteries.” There are certainly no mysteries in our house about reproduction. All realms have been thoroughly covered… sights, smells and sounds.
I have been trying to explain to my husband that the social benefits of washing my coveralls do not outweigh the benefits of NOT washing my coveralls. I smell…. like goats and sheep. They think I am one of them, snuzzle me and jump all over me. I am pretty confident the mere presence of baby goats could replace anti-depressants for at least 75% of the population who need it.
Joy on hooves.