Life and Death

December 1st started as a busy day on the farm.  I had three doelings being delivered for breeding with Henry, my buck.  I was scheduled to deliver a rooster to a neighbor in exchange for some of his pullets.  I needed to winterize the barn because the weather was turning colder.  My son, Daniel, noticied something was wrong with one of my does, Elizabeth.  He said she was in labor.   I brushed it off because it was too early.  No one was due for several weeks.  I kept about my business for a few hours.  Midmorning I checked on Elizabeth and found she had separated herself from the rest of the herd and was shivering in the corner of the shed.  I watched her for a few minutes and when she got up to pee, a huge stream of amniotic fluid poured out of her.  Daniel was right!

I moved her into the barn into one of the pens and we began watching her.  I figured Henry must have bred her earlier without me noticing.  We were all excited about the pending birth and baby goats, especially Daniel.  I called my friend Karen who asked to watch a birth.

Here is a picture I took of Elizabeth at the beginning of labor:

We watched her and watched her for hours.  She seemed to progress, regular contractions, the usual gobs of amniotic mucus coming out of her.  Karen came and sat with me in the frigid barn.  We watched into the evening and then Karen and her sons went home.  I got up through the night and checked her every two hours.  At 4:30 am, there was the telltale bubble of amniotic sac filled with fluid and she was pushing.  I woke up Daniel and called Karen.

This went on for two hours.  Elizabeth pushed and pushed but no hooves appeared.  I got out my goat medical books and goat handbooks.  I scrubbed my hands and gently probed for feet.  What I found was a rear hock!  I pushed it in and brought out one rear hoof and then another.  The baby was breach!  I had easily delivered a breach baby goat last year so I wasn’t worried.  I grasped both rear hooves and gentle pulled with contractions.  I got to the point of the hips and the baby wouldn’t come out any farther.  Karen, a labor and delivery nurse for humans, took over while I held Elizabeth and tried to help.  The baby’s belly was hugely swollen, something seemed to be wrong with it.  Karen rocked the baby side to side and pulled with all her might. 

The little doeling was born alive.  She fluttered its eyes and Karen and I quickly wiped its mouth.  She was clearly premature.  As we rubbed her, we saw that the umbilical cord had ruptured and her insides were coming out.  She wasn’t going to make it.  Daniel was beside himself.  Karen scooped up the baby, wrapped it tightly in the towel and gave her to Daniel to cuddle while she died.  She explained this was the best thing he could do for her.

I explained to Daniel that this was life on a farm, animals were born and animals died.  It didn’t make it any easier.  This was the first baby goat we have lost in the birthing process.  I am sure we will lose more in the years to come.  I was lucky to have Karen there to help me. 

We talked for hours in the days to come to sort out what we did right and what we did wrong.  We each consulted our experts…she talked to doctors at work, I talked to my more experienced goat farmer friends.  Our conclusion was that Elizabeth had a late abortion (in the goat world, it is not called premature labor) because there was something wrong with the baby goat (swollen belly, amniotic sac full of thick dark red blood).  Because the labor went on too long, caused by the wrong presentation of the baby goat (rear hocks, breach), Elizabeth’s cervix began to close up. Ruptured umbical cords are a risk of breach births and next time I will pay more attention to that area while delivering the baby.  We were lucky we did not also lose Elizabeth.


Elizabeth is recovering and milking a quart in the morning and night.  She cries for her baby constantly which is a heart breaking sound.  Everyday she cries less.


One Response to “Life and Death”

  1. Amity, etc » Blog Archive » finally Says:

    […] yes! She started her own blog! Start with this amazing post. Be warned–it’s got a graphic picture of a new-born kid who died on her farm, but the […]

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