I've known that I wanted to raise dairy goats ever since I read (twice, back-to-back) The Year of the Goat. However, raising dairy goats requires breeding (since no mammal will lactate without first giving birth) , and that was intimidating to me. Not just the logistics -- arranging the "stud" visit, learning about kidding, purchasing the supplies -- but also the more philosophical considerations. I would be conspiring to knock up an animal and produce new life in order to get milk. It felt like a big responsibility.
But, I forged ahead, because without milk production the goats are just basically adorable (resource-consuming) pets. We bred Dasha, our older goat, in early October. I diligently recorded the date on my calendar and counted ahead to her due date -- April 8th. About a week ago I went to a rural animal supply store to purchase all of the items my vet recommended. I've studied birth pictures and read books, and repeatedly told myself I would stay calm (i.e. not panic and get really anxious) during the birth.
Last night Brian and I went to a neighborhood restaurant for our weekly date. We were gone for about an hour and a half. During dinner I told Brian, "You know, as Dasha's due date gets closer, we're going to need to arrange things so that one of us is always home. We're not going to be able to leave like this." He agreed, and we also made plans to pack a "kidding bag," so that I could easily grab the supplies I'd need at a moment's notice.
When we pulled into our driveway after dinner, our next-door-neighbors (literally) bounded out the door, waiving their arms at us. "Your goat is in labor! Your goat is in labor!" Apparently it wasn't terribly loud, but it was loud enough for them to come over and investigate with a flashlight, discovering a newborn baby goat. They ran over to our other neighbor's house to see if she had our phone number (she didn't -- I know, we're bad neighbors). That second neighbor called a friend of hers who grew up on a farm delivering horses. The friend said that since the mama goat was licking the baby (and there was plenty of hay and water in the barnyard) that everything was ok and they should all leave the goats alone.
By the time we got to the barnyard the delivery was over, and there were two beautiful baby doelings (girls) being attended to by their mom.
She delivered them -- perfectly -- all by herself. Funny how that works, huh? I did help towel them off (and Dasha licked them) until they were perfectly clean and dry. I cut their umbilical cords and disinfected their little stumps, and gave the babies an oral vitamin booster. The babies were trying to nurse on everything (including Dasha's fur and the straw bale), so I helped them located and latch on to her teat. Brian and I stayed outside with the new goat family until late in the night -- it was just so fascinating to watch these little girls learn to walk and start moving around.
Today the baby goats started exploring the barnyard beyond their shed. Their mom still generally stays no more than 2 steps away from them. They continue to nurse like champs. The babies will stay with us until they're 8 weeks old and weaned, and then they'll go to a new home. We haven't officially put the babies up for sale yet, but we're looking forward to meeting the people who will end up raising them. We hope these little girls bring them as much happiness as we've received from Dasha and Peaberry!