Saturday, April 12, 2014

tsuga and sambucus

Here's a very special picture I've not shared before:

Lily of the Valley and daughter Tsuga, a few seconds old.

It's been one year today since Tsuga and Sambucus were born.

A "typical" goat gestation is 150 days.
LeShodu, the matriarch, likes to be efficient: she produces her babies on Day 150. 
Thank you, LeShodu!

Her daughters, Violet and Lily of the Valley, were bred for the first time last year.
Those two kept me guessing the whole time.
Had they "settled"?
Had they not?

The nice buck who visited had been very enthusiastic
but his approach was, well, somewhat less than professional.
Directionally-challenged might describe it.


After months of watching, this is Day 150.
Do these girls look pregnant to you?

I know.
I can't tell either.

When you raise animals, it's hard not to look at things with a "sympathetic eye."

Is she looking a bit heavier than a week ago?


Well, not really. No.


"And we aren't telling!"

On Day 149 and Day 150 and Day 151 and Day 152,
I spent some time just watching Violet and Lily
for any changes in behavior.

On the right: Violet.
On the left: me, in a lawn chair.
"Say who is watching who, now?"

Violet could have done this all day.
I doubt anyone has ever won a staring contest with a goat.

On evening of Day 153, Lily seemed...slightly...hmmmm...

so, after evening chores, I kept a close eye on the goatcam. 
With cashmere goats, a "hands-off" approach is recommended,
but when it seemed Lily might be going into labor,
I went out to the barn to be quietly on hand in case help was wanted.

And as Lily was approaching the brink of giving birth,
Violet, watching from about three feet away, went into labor.

Two first-time mamas-to-be in simultaneous labor!

Good times!


Lily was that most wonderful of things:

A Natural.

She easily produced the tiny, compact, wavy-coated(!) Tsuga,
and went directly into mama-mode:
cleaning, cleaning, cleaning.
I even had a moment to snap a picture,
which I almost never do during births.
That's the picture at the top of this post.

Within an hour of Lily, Violet also produced a beautiful single girl, but so different!
A long-bodied, long-leggedy, solid black and velvet-coated Sambucus.
The two kids reminded me of an Arabian and a Thoroughbred;
both perfectly proportioned but built so differently.

Violet did not flip the Mama Now switch as instantly as Lily had.
She had just watched Lily give birth, so she was perhaps a bit boggled
about making the shift from Audience to Center Stage.
"Baby? Lily has a Baby! Baby? Baby! Wait, what?"

No photographs this time!

I directed her attention to the beautiful and squalling kid she had just produced, 
"Look, Violet! Your baby is right behind you!"
and made sure Violet was going to get involved with the initial clean-up.
It was touch and go for a minute (which felt like a year to me)
but she gradually shifted her attention to her own kid.
I started to relax.
I had time to dash into the house and fill two clean buckets
with warm water and molasses.

After each new mama had had a huge drink,
and I was certain both kids were well up, warm, and successfully getting milk,
and each mama had tucked (this is a nice way of putting it; if you saw the way goats move their newborn babies around, it would put the heart across you) her baby into a safe snuggery,
and everyone was settling down for a good nap,
I cleaned up and went back to the house.
Exhausted and relieved.

I kept a sleepy eye on the goatcam.
Not because I was worried; but because now I could enjoy the
"whew!" of a healthy kidding by two first-timers,
and peek in on the maternity ward without bothering the goats at all.

Lily was resting while Tsuga slept under her bench.
Violet was standing with her whole head under the stanchion,
where Sambucus was curled up, sleeping.
(Very attentive, Violet! I was so pleased she had caught on to the mama thing!)
Every now and then I saw Violet pawing
(again, a nice way to put it...paws are soft, goats have sharp hard hooves)
at Sambucus.
Nothing unusual there. Paying attention. Good.

At one point Violet pulled her head back and I could just see Sambucus.
And I realized I wasn't seeing any reaction from the baby - 
not a flinch, not a blink.
Of course, she was probably sleeping heavily.
Nothing unusual there. Full belly, resting up. Good.

But...I am a worrier.
So I dressed and headed back out to the barn.
I quietly said hello to everyone then reached under the stanchion
and gently put my hand on Sambucus.
I was stunned.
She was no longer warm.
She was cold.
And unresponsive.

It had been less than an hour since she was warm, active, and bright-eyed.

I lifted her out, put her inside my down coat 
(to Violet's concern)
and began massaging her gently but briskly, head to toes, all the while
telling Violet, "It's alright, she's right here, I'll give her back, she'll be fine,"
and hoping, hoping, hoping
this would be true.

Well, you know the happy ending of this story.

Happy First Birthday, Tsuga and Sambucus!

Well done, Lily and Violet.



  1. Your love for your goats (and chickens) just radiates out of your posts - it makes such lovely reading, thank you :o) xxx

    1. Thank you so much, Lucy - I'm glad you enjoy my little (or very long) tales! :)

  2. I just loved this enchanting tale of your two mamas and their babies. I wouldn't have guessed either were pregnant in the first photos. You are such a good care giver of them all too, and I'm sure they love you for it. Wonderful photos of these beauties :) Wendy x

    1. Thanks, Wendy - you just reminded me of another picture I should find and post, of a pregnant-or-not goat who even fooled the HayMan.

  3. You're an amazing narrator. Thanks so much for this account, totally riveting to this reader who has never seen anything of this kind. I'm amused at the way that little guy uses his mom as a playgym later.

    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed it, Boud - thanks! And Lily's daughter, the tiny Tsuga, was leaping onto her resting mama's back when she was only a couple of hours old! No matter how many times I see it, it is amazing to see how sproingy baby goats can be.

  4. Beautiful story, Quinn :) Animals are such a joy to observe, and they have lessons to teach us about acceptance :)

    1. Indeed - lessons about lots of things :)

  5. How lovely to read your about your goats maternity ward. Seeing any animal giving birth, then not responding in a motherly way is very distressing. It took me back a good many years to when one my Labrador bitches had her first litter, seven healthy pups, plus a week little one the mother kept pushing away, I kept tucking her back in close to feed, pulling the big greedy ones away so this poor little thing could feed and keep warm next to her Mother., she did survive and we kept her, but she was always prone to some sort of illness , sometimes natural instincts of an animal are best left to take it's course. But how wonderful for you to have saved the little goat..

    1. I know just what you's always tough to decide what to do when an animal actively rejects her offspring, and sometimes there's a reason we can't know. It's a tough lesson, though, and I'm sorry about your pup. (Though I would probably have done the same thing you did.) Fortunately in this case, Sambucus got chilled because she had fallen asleep way under the stanchion where Violet couldn't quite reach to get her out. It was a lesson to me in how fast a healthy little body can chill to a point of near-death. The experimental goatcam paid for itself that night - I have no doubt we would have lost Bui without it, and what a very sad thing that would have been.

  6. Whew!! That was quite an entry into this world. Only with your tender loving care and attention, I might add.

    Goats have a gestation of 150 days?! Alpacas are 350 days... We have a feeling we won't be having a cria next year - Miranda and Kris refuse to do their duty...

    Well done, Quinn - Sambucus looks like an absolute treat :)

    1. Wow, 350 days? That's a long time to keep you guessing, but maybe Miranda and Chris will surprise you with their clandestine shenanigans. ;)

  7. Girl, you had me absolutely on the edge of my seat and on the verge of tears! What a relief everything turned out well. Congratulations on the new additions! And I think it's good to worry just a little, just in case. It keeps us watchful.

    1. I remember it like it was yesterday, and "relief" is the word, alright!

  8. I so enjoyed reading this post!

    1. Thank you, Kath! I was just thinking of you and Roobarb. Piper found the one burdock plant where we were working yesterday, and in a split second had about 30 burrs in her coat. The only place I had trouble getting them out was near her face - the most sensitive place, sadly, but it was because she doesn't like to be combed on her head at all, so that hair is always slightly tangled. From now on, I guess I'll insist that Piper's head in included in the quick morning brushing!

  9. SO glad you're the worrier that you are, and were in the right place at the right time. XOXO

    1. Me too, Tanya! For all the times being a worrier accomplished nothing, this is one time it really paid off!

  10. You're an incredible story-teller. Hearing the story of their births was wonderful and heartwarming. What a good mama-goat you are!!!! I'm so glad you worried and went out to save that kid!

    1. Aw, thanks, KB! Much appreciated. But I don't have to tell you the value of a critter-cam! ;)

  11. You are a great story teller!
    Happy B-day kids!!!

  12. You remind me that a couple of years ago I was watching a goatcam at a farm similar to yours, right after kids were born and I couldn't believe how fast those kids were leaping up onto everything in sight! I was expecting lamb like behavior not wild leaps. I heart goats.

    1. So lambs don't do that? I didn't know! You probably just saved me from putting my foot in my mouth at a sheep farm! ;)

    2. Which, come to think of it, actually sounds pretty disgusting, doesn't it? Ha!

  13. Great story! Thank you for sharing! Aloha

  14. I was afraid there for a moment. I love the recount of their births. So exciting! Thanks for sharing! Have a wonderful week. Tammy


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