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Welcoming Pluto Goat

January 12, 2010

July 22, 2009

Monday morning offered a wonderful surprise, though long anticipated it was. Our doe Luna, so named because she was born on a late June full moon two years ago, finally gave birth to a son, Pluto. His father is Orion and he is the grandson of Jen Holloman’s big buck Buckley and our fabulous milker Ridgeback, who passed away last June. I hope she is smiling in that great green pasture on the other side.

Like most births in the goat world, the event was unattended and without complication. Luna was observed at 7 a.m. and seemed normal, if utterly rotund. When I went to the paddock to check her at 9 a.m. she was absent, which was unusual, as she has been browsing almost around the clock for hay and all the tender grass shoots she can find for weeks. I peeked into the barn and saw her lingering there, then saw a little leg moving around on the floor. These are breathtaking moments for the keeper of goats. Without ultrasound, we rely on belly hugs to feel for movement and position, and all seemed well, but you never know.

The kid was perfect and momma was dutifully cleaning him off with her tongue and protecting him from visitors. I checked him briefly, discovered his himness and left them alone. In the past I have keenly observed the process from birth to standing to finding the teat and its powerful colostrum. It is said that a kid must get the first taste within half an hour, or an hour, depending on the source, but I’ve dealt with the trap of introducing the bottle and hoped to let nature take its course. I left the barn, after much oohing and ahhing and observing, around 11 a.m, and when I returned at 1 p.m, Pluto was on his side in the barn, with Luna hovering over him licking him fiercely and pawing at the straw near him. As my neonatal ICU nurse sister would say, he CRUMPED.

Luna went onto the milking stand without incident and happily munched some grain while I milked out several ounces of rich, thick colostrum. Into a bottle the life-giving nectar was funneled, and I gathered the limp kid up in a towel and gave him the juice. He started slow, but by the end was sucking air as the contents disappeared. I adjusted the lamp, set him down in the towel and left him to recover. When I checked back an hour or so later he was climbing on the milking stand, all goofy-eared and tottering, with fluffy fur and an appetite for more of what that bottle held. After playing and petting and more treats and water for momma, I left, only to find them sitting together on the floor like a couple of old friends an hour later.

I resisted the impulse to milk Luna out again in the evening, and left them in the kidding pen/milking stall for the night. A quick peek after sunset revealed a heartily slurping buck and a (thankfully) obliging mom. And that has been the sight around these parts for the last 24 hours. I haven’t seen much of his cute mug, as every time I visit he is buried under his momma’s udder. She is extremely docile, friendly and gentle – one of the benefits of being raised here on our land and handled daily. She used to go for walks around the property in a dog harness and comes when called, but she grew too big for the harness and now watches as the yearling bucks are paraded around the property. (Their visit to the Fourth of July parade was a hit.)

The buckling will get all of his mother’s milk until he starts to forage on his own and eat some grain, at which point I will take a single milking each day, and then increase to two. There will, with all luck, be ample milk for all the household uses and maybe some surplus for traditional chevre. Happy days on the farm!

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