January has been an exciting month on the homestead: we had our first kidding, a 7 1/2 lb sweet little goat whom we named Gideon, due to his strong but gentle nature.
The weeks leading up to his birth, Mama Homesteader had been pouring over books and Youtube videos, as well as talking to the few goat owners we know, trying to figure out how to get ready for the big event. Living offsite for the winter raised additional concerns, especially since we were in the middle of the coldest winter on record for Michigan in 41 years. We prayed that the Lord would give us a clear signal when Sassafras was about to birth so that the kid would not freeze to death. Each day, we felt her tail, hoping we would be able to feel when she “dropped”, which signals that she will kid in the next 12-24 hours.
The evening of Saturday, January 6, Mama Homesteader felt a distinct difference in Mama goat’s tail, and felt relatively certain the big event was close at hand. The temperatures were in the single digits, with the wind chill below zero, so we went out every 2-3 hours throughout the night to check to see if we noticed any changes. At 5:30am, it seemed like Sassafras might be contracting, so Mama Homesteader pulled up a 5 gallon bucket to sit on and settled into the pen to watch her for awhile. Apparently, this was what Sassafras was waiting for, as within 10 minutes her water broke and she began obviously pushing. Being rather nervous about doing my first kidding alone, I called Papa Homesteader and kept him on speaker phone (he was at home with the little guys, who were snug in their beds sleeping); I was so thankful for his support and encouragement. At 6:30 am the kid emerged, wet, slippery and still in the sack. With a little suctioning, he let out a hearty cry and Mama started cleaning him off. I quickly lit the propane heater and dried him with a towel to try to minimize heat loss. While he seemed healthy and alert, I was concerned because he could not seem to stand on his own to nurse. I held him to his Mama’s teats in hopes that he would get some of the colostrum and perk up. But, alas, 6 hours later, he was still not standing well on his own and he was not sucking well. I realized something was amiss and gave a call to the vet, who was very helpful and told me that it was most likely hypothermia due to the intense cold. Even though baby goat felt warm to my touch, I learned that his temp should actually be around 102 degrees–and it was only 96.5! Having no power on the homestead meant a heat lamp was not an option, but I wrapped baby kid up in a towel and took him to the van with the heater on high. Meanwhile, I milked Mama goat and the heat perked baby up enough to drink almost 2 ounces from a bottle. I then made up a hot water bottle and put baby kid on it, while stoking up both the propane heater and a kerosene heater in the barn. Having the heaters meant that I could not safely leave, so I ended up being on the barn over 12 hours before baby’s temperature finally came up and stabilized at 102.
I had the additonal problem, however, of Mama goat trying to kick her kid whenever he tried to nurse! I was puzzled, as Sassafras had twin kids just 7 months ago, and she was such a good Mama. Praying for wisdom and insight, I finally figured out that the little dog sweater I was using on the kid smelled slightly of our dog, and this was making her nervous. So I took the sweater off, rubbed it all over Mama goat, and then put it back on baby. To my great relief, this seemed to fix the problem, and Mama finally let her baby nurse without me having to restrain her from kicking. Covered with goat muck and mud, I headed home to shower and wearily but thankfully dropped into bed around midnight, baby Gideon now standing on his own, snuggling with his Mama for warmth and nursing successfully.
We are so thankful for how God answered so many of our prayers throughout the whole ordeal. God had shown us clearly when Sassafras was getting ready to birth, had let me be there when the kid was born, had let the kid deliver successfully, and then had helped us figure out how to work through the after-birth difficulties–miraculously without loss of life to Gideon, even though his temperatures had dropped so low. Additionally, although the day he was born was so cold, the three days after his birth there was a break in the cold snap, with the temperatures in the 40’s! It was an awesome and amazing thing to watch his birth, and I feel like I learned so much through the process.
“Do you know the time when the wild mountain goats bear young? … Or do you know the time when they bear young? They bow down, they bring forth their young, they deliver their offspring. Their young ones are healthy, they grow strong…” (Job 39:1-4).