A guest post from our workcamper, Jo!
Call me crazy but there is nothing cuter than a little baby goat. To me they smell like fresh air, sunshine and all that is right in this world. That said, kidding season is not for the faint of heart. It is physically and emotionally exhausting.As their shepherd, you see them several times a day and sort of walk through their pregnancy with them. As the pregnancy moves along you start to pay closer attention to their weight and symptoms of potential complications. They are not so different from humans in that they experience hormonal stresses and behavioral changes. The normal gestation period for goats is 150 days.
As the due date approaches the kidding pens are cleaned and made ready for the new babies. Then the waiting begins. This might be easier if we were more exact when exposing does to bucks. There are farmers who schedule breedings and, as a result, have exact due dates. That isn’t the case at Goathouse Farm. We have an approximate idea, based on doe heat cycles but beyond that we prefer to let nature take its course.And so, we wait. As the due date gets close, we begin to increase the number of goat checks throughout the night. We watch the does too, for telltale signs like changes in behavior, increased udder size and a loosening of ligaments around the tail. Often the doe will separate herself from the herd when she goes into early labor and may paw the ground or become vocal, talking to the babies in her belly.
Of course the world doesn’t stop spinning as we go into kidding season. We still have to report to work as scheduled, perhaps a bit bleary eyed from lack of sleep. The regular farm chores still need to be completed, even though we’ve been up half the night. Honestly, even the goats are tired of us wandering out to the barn every hour or so.
And then comes that fateful morning when one of us is staggering out to the barn for the umpteenth time, half asleep, wondering why we do this. Suddenly there is a new sound, a tiny little baby goat noise. Or perhaps we see babies first. Regardless, the tiredness is forgotten and the trudging steps become a run. Its Christmas morning every single time. One or multiples? Boy or girl? And so on. Exhausting? Absolutely. However its worth all the worry and the long nights when you see those tiny little faces and watch them transition from tiny wavering steps to bounding about like they are on springs.
Goat babies are magic, but consider yourself warned that they are also addictive. In just a short time you won’t be able to imagine yourself without them.