After travelling 200 miles to the lovely countryside of Pembrokeshire, I soon felt at home surrounded by 200 Boer goats. Posie, Mimi, Bluebell, Dandellion, Curley, Rosie, Ian, Oak, Bruce… I was already looking forward to name the new arrivals during my stay.
2 crazy dogs, Gyppy (who soon became my number 1 fan) and Mossy greeted me with wagging tails as I took my suitcase into my new bedroom and got ready to have a tour of the goat farm. Unsurprisingly, I fell in love with the place on day 1 as Meg, Damo, and Jude warmly invited me into the moat goat family. I wished my mum farewell and warned her that the likelihood of never wanting to travel back to Lancashire was high. The village of New Moat was my home for now!
Meg and I travelled to purchase hay racks, with a busy 2 weeks of kidding on the horizon we needed to set up individual pens for the does due to give birth in the upcoming days. Fortunately, the due dates were more than often spot on, so the goats had the comfort of their own space on their kid(s) arrival.
Betys and Jolly Roger were born to a doeling in the early hours before I arrived. Baby monitors hooked the house up to the noises of the second stage of labour- groaning does and screeching new born kids. (I definitely jinxed myself by thinking that assisting the delivery of kids at 1am and 3am on placement sounded exciting).
I topped up the kids with day 0 defrosted colostrum to ensure that they had a sufficient volume of colostrum to recieve passive immunity vital for the first 3 weeks of their life as they will have a high immunoglobulin concentration. I learned that leaving the bottle to thaw in a bowl of warm water is the best way to prevent the antibodies from denaturing. (A-level biology comes in handy to understand the concept of disruption of hydrogen bonds by increased kinetic energy and vibrations, which alters the tertiary structure of the protein).
Tickling the goat’s bum could make the most defiant kid suck from the bottle, mimicking the doe licking stimulates a suck reflex… Magic.
After 3.30pm, the other goats were ready for their evening feed, so it was time to learn the ropes. A diet of haylage, with cake for the meat boys and pregnant does. Hosepipes and automatic drinkers made topping up the waters lighter work, but the weaned kids jumping in the wheelbarrow didn’t.
Before finishing for the evening, I took Mimi the dog-goat on a walk. Waving her collar and lead at the gate, she knew that she was in for a treat. I wish I could casually walk a pet goat around my neighbourhood without funny looks.
2 hours of sleep before an urgent assisted kidding. One day old Betys was going to be wet mothered on to a more experienced mother who was in labour with a single (red spray spot). At midnight, I had a taste of the farm vet lifestyle of emergency out-of-hours calls, having to stumble into my wellies and waterproofs.
This was a prime opportunity to adopt a kid on with relatively high chances of success due to the time scale and prepration. Torches at the ready, Meg and I ventured into the barn with salt water and buckets. I climbed into the pen in order to collect the chorion membranes, as this may have been traumatic for the doe, I carefully inserted my hand into her vagina to gently pull the legs and head out into the bucket and the ruptured amnion membrane. Later named Chestnut, the newborn female was dunked in salt water with Betys before both were covered in birthing fluid and membranes. Instantaneously, the mother licked both kids clean and after leaving them to bond for 30 minutes, they latched on to suck. So I sprayed the umbilical cord with iodine and topped up their colostrum with a bottle.
We believe that the night-time kidding was a result of moving the pregnant does into pens at night, they may have felt relieved or been disrupted.
At 3am, another set of twins had been born.