An Unexpected Surprise
Our daily routine is typically the same…bring the animals out to the field in the morning…bring the animals back to the barn a night. Weekdays Dennis manages the morning routine and the evenings are generally done by whoever is not making dinner. Weekends it is sort of a shared chore.
The one thing we enjoy doing is taking the “girls” out for a stroll through the open field. The moveable fencing we have gives them plenty of room to stretch their legs, but being in the open field without fencing allows them to really run and play. For our part, enjoyment comes from watching them frolic and we get a chance to get out and stretch our legs, too.
It was on one of these sunny afternoons when I gathered the does and started off for the field that we noticed. Each goat has her own personality. Ruby and Aiko like to be near us while Cassidy and Maggie prefer to test their independence. Stella and Pearl are usually somewhere in between.
Maggie is our newest Nigerian we purchased on Valentine’s Day with the expectation that we would breed her to Quinn this fall. But on this bright day I noticed that Maggie was wobbling a bit. At first I chalked it up to all the fresh green grass they’d been eating, but then she turned her back to me and lifted her leg to give her ear a good itch.
And that’s when I noticed.
When Dennis arrived home and met me in the field I had to ask, “Does Maggie look like her udder is bigger?”
“She’s just a full-figured girl.” He joked.
That night in her stall I corralled Maggie and, apologizing to her for being a bit rude, stuck my hand under her udder. It sure felt “squishy” to me.
Stella, the only doe we “knew” was pregnant, hadn’t started to develop an udder and we had bred her at the beginning of February. If Maggie was getting an udder now, that meant she was already pregnant when we had bought her. If our memory served, the only buck her previous owner had was a Toggenburg.
For those of you who may not have a lot of experience with goats, Nigerians are the second to smallest breed followed only by pygmies. Toggenburgs are one of the biggest goat breeds right up there with Nubians.
Needless to say I was a bit concerned.
Dennis was in denial.
I watched carefully for two weeks and sure enough her udder continued to grow and her “behind” began to swell.
Like humans, no two goat pregnancies are the same. Still, when comparing Stella to Maggie it’s hard to get a sense of ‘when’ Maggie might be due. Stella was definitely wider that Maggie, but that could be because Stella is carrying multiples and Maggie might only have one. (Remember the story of Alice and Minnie!) Maggie’s udder is much bigger than Stella’s, but Stella is younger than Maggie…if that has any bearing, I’m not sure.
Wanting a second opinion we invited a friend over who also raises Nigerians. She gently rubbed her hands over Maggie’s belly and stopped just near her udder on the right side.
“Feel that?” She placed my hand where hers had been. Sure enough…thump, thump, thump. Someone was definitely kicking around in there.
A week later, as we stood vigilant over Maggie (who now had our undivided attention) we saw “it.” It looked like the Alien from the movie…a large bump poking out the side then moving front to back.
To Maggie’s credit she just stared up at our horror stricken faces like “What? Do I have spinach in my teeth?”
A call to the vet didn’t really alleviate our concerns other than to keep them on speed dial and if she appeared to be having problems give them a call right away.
One way to tell if a goat is about to go into labor is to check their tail ligaments. These are two pencil thin ligaments that stretch down from their hip bones to their tail bone. As she gets close to delivery those ligaments should get squishy and eventually disappear altogether. Once that happens she should be in labor in less than 24 hours.
We continually monitored Maggie trying to “guestimate” when she might be due. Without knowing when the “act” happened, it’s really hard to tell.
To be on the safe side, we brought down the milking stand, but come one Saturday morning we noticed the tendons were gone! It was time.
Now, I know we are a bit “country” and this WAS our first goat baby, but we were very nervous parents. Maggie stayed in the kidding stall all day as we worked in and out of the barn doing our daily chores. My daughter came over to have dinner with us and by evening we were hunkered down in the barn.
Shortly after 8pm things began to happen rapidly…Maggie’s “water broke” as it were…and she began to scream…
Needless to say, I felt her pain. After all, I’d been there…albeit many, many years ago. Still, labor pain is not something you forget…(no matter what your mother tells you.)
Luckily, Maggie didn’t have any difficulties and other than having to break the sack and clear the babies nose and mouth we had little to do in the event.
She gave birth to one big healthy boy. He looks like a Nigerian, though he is bigger than a pure Nigerian would be at birth. He also has blue eyes.
Dennis named him Charlie (I wanted Cosmo). We are still arguing over what will happen to him. I want to keep him as a wether. Dennis wants to sell him. I think we all know who will win this one.
As for Maggie? She is an amazing mother. That little fellow was licked clean and then some in ten minutes flat. And she hasn’t left his side since. We’ve started her on the milk stand, too. I figure with only one baby to feed, she could spare a little milk for us. After all, we might as well get something for this little surprise.