Oh Spring, Where Art Thou?
I heard the other day that this last February was the 7th coldest February on record for our area. I can well believe it. While cold and snow are an inconvenience anywhere, on a farm they can spell disaster if one is not prepared. Usually the weather here where we live is pretty temperate over all. Sometimes by early March we already have trees budding out and flowering. I think by the end of last February my evergreen clematis and the quince in all the yards were already blooming, and my gardenia was not far behind.
This year, for the most part, the tree buds are still tightly furled and the daffodils are late in showing their faces. I don’t mind waiting on the flowers, as much as I look forward to them every year, but I am becoming worried for my goat babies that are due in a few weeks. Believe it or not, goat babies usually do just fine in the cold weather after the first few days. I don’t know why it is, but I have heard over and over on different goat forums I am a part of, that the babies born in the cold end up the hardiest and grow the best long term. The caveat is “long term”. For the first few hours to few days after birth, they are susceptible to getting hypothermia, and if not caught early enough, they can get sick or die.
An experienced doe will clean her babies and dry them thoroughly. She will also make sure they eat within the first hour after birth (obviously, as best as she can). Last year Petunia, our first freshener doe, did a good job licking her babies, but mostly just on the tops of their backs and their butts. She did not clean off their heads, ears, legs or bellies, though, and even though it was only 40 degrees in the barn I noticed after about a half an hour that her babies were laying or standing hunched and not as spunky. I felt inside their mouths and their mouths were cold. A goat baby’s temperature needs to be a minimum of 100 degrees in order for them to eat. If they are colder it is they don’t eat within an hour blood glucose can get low and this is very dangerous. So I took them and rubbed a little Karo syrup on their gums (you never want to feed them if their temp is lower than 100, but that is a quick way to boost their blood sugar), and I got towels and the blow dryer and blow dried them the rest of the way dry. Once they were dry and warmed up they were able to nurse.
Then, at 2 am Josh and I were out in the barn trying to fashion some type of shelter for them to be able to retain some warmth. We propped up a board against a wall, making a “Teepee” with the two boards, and a third board raised up off the ground enough for them to crawl under. It was up against the wire side of the pen. As scared as I am of barn fires, I refused to use a heat lamp and we got an oil radiant heater instead that we parked just on the outside side of their shelter on concrete to radiate warmth and warm it a little bit. They slept in there for the first few months, even though I turned off the heater after a few weeks. Petunia would stick her head in to cuddle them when they were sleeping in there.
This year, I have 3 first freshening does, 2 of which are young mamas. Young mamas sometimes have less instinctual knowledge of what to do to take care of their babies. I want to make some warming shelters to have available to put in with the babies as our weather is not showing any signs of improvement. Not that our boards were a total flop, but I am going to make a warming barrel for our babies this week. I will show you all the finished product once I am done with it!
I also bought some baby goat sweaters…BABY GOAT SWEATERS, GUYS!!!!! I have heard that sweaters can make the mom reject her babies if they smell weird, but we are at least going to get some pictures with them. Stay tuned for cuteness!!!
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