Gigi - life and death on the farm

Friday evening was full of joy for Gretchen and me. All day we kept watch on the first goat to kid this season at our farm. Gigi was on deck - doing everything you'd expect in watching a very pregnant mama goat get ready to deliver her babies.

She'd walk around from spot to spot - doing a bit of digging and nesting. Then she'd get up and find another spot. Early evening she'd finally settled in the place we call the Goat Garden. Garden bench, hay feeder, shade with a mesquite tree. She picked the perfect corner to begin the work of labor.

Periodically, she'd kneel on the front legs positioning her babies - helping them line up. The presentation any goat owner is hoping for is that beautiful toes/nose position. It's normal and natural and easy on the mother.

When Gretchen did a tiny two finger check to see the progression - big smiles - she felt toes and nose and a baby bubble and then soon there after- Gigi began to push and out came Buckling #1. A beautiful boy - rock star in color.  A few minutes later - Buckling #2 followed with out too much trouble. His presentation was head - one leg forward and the other bent backward.

Like we always do - we clean out the noses and mouths as quickly as we can and place those babies right in front of the mother. We want her to - see, clean, lick, love on those babies. Gigi did such a good job.

After about 20 minutes, Gigi began to push/strain/push and push and I immediately noticed - as the bubble appeared - that there were NO nose and NO toes.  This is always a cause for alarm.  This kid was totally butt first presentation. As any mother knows, delivering a baby butt first isn't always so easy.  Gigi did do it. Poor girl. In hindsight, I believe it's one of the reasons why she kept kneeling up and down and up and down - because there were blocks presenting deliveries.

We cleaned off Buckling #3 and presented him to his mother. 

In about 10 minutes the bonus baby appeared. You should have seen Gretchen and me - we were quick to check the underside of these babies - always hoping for a girl. Buckling #4 is born and he's beautiful.

The night was uneventful - at least for me - I slept somewhat - but Gretchen - spent most of the night feeding, cleaning, caring for Gigi, cleaning bottles (why we bottle feed is another post) and then doing it all over again in a few hours. It's important to make sure each kid gets the right amount of colostrum from his mother in a 12 hour period. I think Gretchen slept maybe 3 hours in a 36 hour period.

Anyway, Saturday came and went and we watched Gigi - and just felt she was 'off' - but delivering 4 kids - and one breach - maybe just a little weary. When a goat appears off - that means they are off.

Gigi's "off-ness" progressed and action was taken - according to general protocol.  Sunday, we worked hard to provide a balance in Gigi's rumen with MFO drench, molasses water, fresh greens, more MFO and Gretchen and Jay partnered up to experience their first delightful cud transfer.  Cud transfer is when you take the chewed up stuff - that has been regurgitated (goats have 4 stomachs) and is being chewed again. You watch a healthy goat - look for that "ball" in the mouth. Quickly approach the goat, one person holds the goat while the other person squirts water in the mouth - keeping a bowl under the mouth - so all this most putrid smelling green cud drips into the bowl. THEN - you head on over the sick goat - again, hold her and squirt this putrid green slimy stuff into the mouth of the unsuspecting sick goat. 

On cud transfer: this stuff is miracle stuff. I've seen it work quickly on one doe of mine who was very sick and within hours she turned corners night and day. Thanks to Rhonda Crow on teaching me all about cud transfers.

By the afternoon, Gretchen contacted our vet, Dr. Neil Holmes and after communicating what we were seeing, he went with a decision to treat her as if there was a partial retained placenta/uterine infection. We did EVERYTHING possible at that time. 

I do believe that a retained placenta is what happened. 4 buck kids - 4 placentas - that don't always look like a placenta. . . and it ALL must come out within 12 hours. We believe that all the placenta didn't expel. And it has to contract out on it's own. You NEVER pull anything coming out of a goat that just delivered.

If you know anything about goats - treatment and treatment fast is critical. When their rumen (gut) begins to shut down - everything goes fast.  If you own a dairy goat - you must be proactive - you must observe everything about that goat. 

It was about 9:15, Sunday evening and Michael and I were heading to bed and then I remembered we needed to move the babies to the 'night time' pen - which is were Gigi was resting. Michael scooped up the little boys - and Gigi watched. It was almost as if when she saw her little ones - one last time - after that last "look" she began to let go.

It stinks watching a loved animal die. It really stinks. There's so much attached to this whole thing. Part of what's attached is NOT knowing totally for sure WHAT happened. And, to be honest, this sort of thing happens more than you think. It happens to every goat owner at one time or another.

Death sucks.

Goats are fragile. Nubian dairy goats are extra fragile.

Gigi was a special girl.

To me.

To Gretchen.

Gigi's mother, Ahni, was my first born girl at our farm. We gave that beautiful girl - who Gigi looks like - a special place on the label of our sea salt caramels.

Two years ago, Gigi was born at another goat farm and I knew I wanted Ahni's daughter at our farm.

I had to have her.  She had to be mine for the purpose of gifting my friend Gretchen - who - back in the day - had a few goats growing up - and always longed to re-enter the world of goats. See, once they get in your heart - they never leave. Ever.

I remember when Bev, called to let me know Ahni delivered triplets and the last one was a girl. I begged her for her and she sold her to me for a song.  Michael and I went and picked her up immediately. 

Baby Raquel had been born the day before and she needed a pen mate and I knew this new baby would be named after my friend - Gigi for Gretchen Goldstein and eventually become her girl. She did.

Gigi knew Gretchen. They bonded - immediately. I still remember when Gigi would stand at the gate waiting for Gretchen to come and milk her in the morning. She knew her car. She knew her voice.

Sunday night, when I heard sweet Gigi moaning - I knew it was over. I called Gretchen, who came immediately, but by the time, she arrived,  Gigi passed. We stood quietly looking at her sweet body with tears.

Sweet Gigi - RIP. 

This is the reality of farm life. Joy and sorrow. Life and death.

image by Gretchen Goldstein