This morning, my neighbor Kayla and I rounded up 3 buck kids born in December and took them to – the “processor,” we are encouraged to say to customers –  but Folks, hey, it’s a slaughterhouse.
This is easier with succeeding years, but when you have worked in freezing weather to help bring animals into their life, when you have had their birth fluids soak your jeans to the knees, and helped them to stand and nurse, and then put your life into caring for them for months, … no, it’ll never be easy, nor do I think it should be.
Years ago in Hospital work, I heard an ethicist ask whether people would be “comfortable” with some life-and-death decision. I wondered then, when and how “comfort” had become an ethical standard. It seems to me, in health care or in animal husbandry, our job is to provide comfort, not be looking for it ourselves.

A priceless, quiet moment when the flock settles to enjoy their cud in the sun

A friend texts to remind me those kids were “raised lovingly and cared for tenderly.”  That was one consolation, and another came yesterday as I was hoeing garlic.

Few satisfactions as deep as sinking a hoe into well-tilled ground between thriving plants - here, Chrysalis Purple Garlic

A neighbor, Gary, picked up some goats from a dispersal sale this winter to get a flock started and some brushy land cleared. I went over to help his daughter Sadie trim their feet, which the seller left in rather a neglected state. She’s worked on horses, so she picked up the knack of trimming goats’ hooves readily. (I was self taught… as with a few other things.) And we chatted about goat breeding for a pleasant while.
Yesterday she called to say one doe had gone into labor but the kid presented just a head, with its legs back. We discussed the options, and I said to let me know what happened. When she called again, twins, buck and doe, were on the ground, nursing and trying to stand and walk. The second kid was a footling (hind-leg) breech, but she got both out alive. We talked over retained placenta, which is common in complicated labor. Later, she sent me picture messages of the newborns, which was pretty thoughtful!!
This young lady had done very well, in a difficult situation that was completely new to her. I made sure she knew I thought so, too.

A little over three years ago, I was frantically calling Larry and Genia for advice about caring for a newborn kid and its dam. It is humbling, more than a little scary, but also a comfort, that a goatherd less experienced even than myself would look to me for help or encouragement.

Knowledge builds, and we keep giving back. Ten days ago Trillium, recent mother of triplets, started showing reluctant to nurse. Since she lost last season’s kids, her first, her mothering instincts were still developing: for example, she kept coming to the stall door at evening expecting to be milked! Now her udder was tight, the teats raw and sensitive, and she was standing even late at night.

Trillium with distended udder and 3 hungry kids

The solution was to place her on the familiar milking stand, with her milking treat of carrots and oatmeal, milk her out gently to soften the udder, then place each of the kids in turn to nurse. The chapped teats were treated with washing, then Bag Balm, and in just two days they were healed over, with their usual leathery softness. All three, even the diminutive Tulip, are nursing, and lively.

Three does were a little depressed, this AM, but took to their usual amusement, finding a new way out along the North fence line, having a good browse in the woods, and trotting back up the driveway to the barn. Now I just have to get used to counting to 19 instead of 22, at least till June.

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