Scrapple was wrapping up the typical chores on Tuesday night. Just finished moving the cows to a new paddock. Brought water out to everyone. Gave the pigs some whey that was left over from the day’s cheesemaking. Just as he was stepping into the truck to head back for dinner, the phone started buzzing. It was our neighbor and it was almost 8pm, kind of strange. When he picked up the phone all he could hear was goat baaa’ing in the background. “uh oh”,he thought, “wonder what’s going on over there”?
Turns out he had a doe (or ‘nanny’ as everyone but us calls them) that had a buckling and a doeling on Sunday but didn’t seem to be letting the little doeling nurse anymore. He found her curled up in the field, no longer following along with momma, as it had been in the days prior. Since he raises meat goats (not dairy) and he has a very hands-off approach we get the sense that he didn’t have many options for raising this little girl. But since we have dairy goats and a plentiful supply of milk he called us. We decided to give her a shot.
About 10 minutes after getting off the phone we had a new baby goat. A three day old baby goat. A three day old baby goat that was clinging to life, couldn't stand up, and had an eye infection.
We’re not far enough along in the recovery process to know if what we’re doing will save her or not, but here’s what we did. We immediately put her in a blanket and started warming up the evening’s milk to 103 degrees (goat’s body temp). Since we didn’t have a bottle to feed her with we cleaned out a plastic syringe and filled it with the warm milk. Sweetbreads held the baby and fed her milk through the syringe. She was so weak and at first she wouldn’t take it. Milk went all over the goat and Sweetbreads, but some got in the goat’s mouth and eventually she licked her lips and swallowed and realized that she wanted more of it. The next attempt she stuck her tongue out a bit and swallowed a few gulps. Every 30 min or so we would give her another 10-12cc of warm milk until she’d had her fill. We worried that the little she would take wouldn't be enough and we didn't have any way to intubate her safely. We crossed our fingers and put her in an open box, padded with hay and a blanket, next to the bed for the night.
During the night Sweetbreads woke up every few hours to feed her a little more milk and make sure she was doing ok. She noticed some gunk and swelling in the baby’s left eye and treated it with some Neosporin and a hot wet compress to clean it out. By morning she could lift her head up and she was regularly baaa’ing (sounds kind of like a cat, actually). She still couldn’t stand on her own though.
We gave her some baby vitamins we had, thinking that maybe she had a selenium or other vitamin deficiency. It could be that she didn’t get the colostrum and is just weak, we don’t know. After dose of the vitamins she drank a little more milk and then we had to do morning chores.
Amidst the chores Sweetbreads got the idea to attempt nursing the goat kid on Bridget when Bridget was on the milking stand. Bridget is very calm and doesn’t get feisty on the stand. When goats (and other animals) nurse they have to kneel down and tilt their head up at an awkward angle to reach the udder. From a human perspective it looks very uncomfortable. From a goat’s perspective, however, the angle at which the neck is bent is critical. It is at that angle that allows the milk to pass directly into the abomasum, bypassing the rumen which isn't functioning yet. About halfway through milking, Sweetbreads snuck the baby doeling in and she happily nursed away. It was adorable. Afterward, she was ready for a nap. And then more milk (from a bottle). And then a nap. And then a big poop. And then more milk... You get the picture. During the day we went and picked up a bottle and some more specific vitamins (Selenium, Vitamin E and Vitamin D) to administer.
24 hours later, her eye is clearing up and she's perking up. Drinking from the bottle has greatly increased her intake and we're about half way to the 40oz she should be guzzling each day. This evening we set her on the grass for a bit and she joyfully nibbled on some fresh grass, never actually ingesting them, but practicing... She's also trying to stand, although her little legs aren't quite sturdy enough. Hopefully soon.
We have our fingers crossed for this little one! She's very sweet and quite the fighter. Any suggestions for a name (other than "Survival Goat", as she's now being referred)?