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.