Ash Wednesday, 2012: 5:45 pm
Often I visit Billy late on Wednesday on the way to take my daughter to her youth group meeting. This past Wednesday as I chatted with Billy inside his kitchen, my cell phone rang.
“Momma, you’ve got to come to the barn. There is a baby here without a momma.”
For those who haven’t raised baby goats, newborns nurse every few minutes and rarely leave their momma’s side, especially when there are so many other newborns around. Dashing to the barn I encountered Jamie holding a skinny black goat who was crying, “Momma! Momma!” in the frantic yelp baby kids often do.
But no Momma came. Searching the field it appeared that every female had a baby, or two. Eventually, a small goat appeared and responded to his cry.
After trying to partner the two I noticed obvious signs that the baby hadn’t nursed (Swollen udder. Still-shakey and crying newborn). I instructed my daughter to take the baby to the stall behind the barn with the hopes the mother would follow.
Unfortunately, her udders so heavy the baby couldn’t get her nipple into its mouth. The poor precious kid would toddle along behind, bleating and crying, all while my heart hurt to help. After calling Billy from the kitchen (sometimes dinner must wait), we spent the better part of a half an hour attempting to catch the momma.
In the middle of this rodeo, three guests arrived. Hopefully they will understand the situation and forgive Billy and I for not entertaining them. Night was coming fast and this matter was of the utmost importance. I quickly explained our situation and shook my head no when one of the ladies asked, “doesn’t he just feed them with a bottle?”
Feeding with a bottle is a short-term solution. The baby needed to learn to latch on, but the mother also needed to-using Billy’s words- be relieved of her milk. With the momma goat tied to the fence, Billy milked, and we tried to get the baby to latch on.
If anyone has ever heard a baby goat cry you know that the neighbors certainly thought we were offering a ritualistic sacrifice. Still, despite our attempts at reducing the nipple to a manageable size, and trying our best to help the baby, darkness fell without proof that the baby understood how to nurse.
Thursday morning 8:00 am.
I awoke with the baby goat on my heart. After driving my daughter to school I purchased a bottle for premature infants, then climbed over the fence while Billy lay slumbering in his bed.
As an aside: if you visit Billy’s early and find the lights off, please let him sleep. Between the two of us we rarely sleep through the night.
Placing the bottle in the goat’s mouth (which in itself is a challenge) I forced some water, then tried the latching on process again with very little success. The kid did appear to be noticeably more energetic with a tummy that felt fuller, and the mother didn’t have an abundance of milk in her udder. (all we need is milk fever setting in).
An hour passed while I observed. Billy joined me in the stall and we discussed the situation. I explained that I thought we should keep mom and baby separated from the more experienced goats. This was her first baby. They needed time to figure things out. Billy agreed.
Friday morning 10:00 am.
Mom and baby are still doing well. My daughter has decided to name the new goat Ashton, in honor of his birthdate on Ash Wednesday.
Read more adventures from Billy’s garden in Renea’s book : In the Garden with Billy: Lessons about Life, love & Tomatoes. Visit her at www.reneawinchester.com