Monday, 17 September 2012

If only I knew what Ewe knew

Here at the increasingly rurally oriented goat haven at Mole Creek Heights we are on a steep and painful learning curve as we wrestle with the realities of animal husbandry. With the arrival of Spring and the presence of frolicking lambs in the paddocks of the neighbourhood we eagerly awaited our first born.

New born Lambs
Mum shows udder contempt

It was expected that the sheep would be the first to drop with the goat girls up to a month later. The probable dates were dutifully marked in the calendar and assessments made as to the relative rotundity and udder expansion of each animal. Because the sheep came to us ready reared so to speak, they have never had the charm or character of the goat girls and though they have names it is impossible to tell them apart. So lets call them ewe 1 and ewe 2 (where have I heard that name before?). Spring arrived and so did our first lambs. Lyn discovered the birth one morning on paddock patrol and promptly had to rescue one of the babies from the water trough. This should have been an indication of things to come as we watched the mother disdain her offspring, walking away whenever they sought sustenance and even knocking them aside whenever they became too insistent. This was obviously a game of 'survive if you can'. One lamb rose to the occasion while the other fell to the wayside.

We watched all this but were powerless to intervene. At this stage we had nothing better to offer and so felt that intervention would possibly be fruitless. As a result of our unpreparedness, natural selection took its course with the little runt finally giving up the fight. The winner, now the sole claim on mother's attentions, managed to invoke her maternalism and is now thriving. Score 1 out of 2.

The goat girls weren't expected to do their baby bit for a few weeks so it was worrying when Polly looked like she was succumbing to pregnancy toxemia. She ticked quite a few of the boxes for this condition being a first time mother, the bottom of the herd pecking order and carrying twins. The first sign of problems was when we found her lying on her side and unable to get up. Rolling her over so her legs were down hill fixed that problem but she was obviously feeling sorry for herself and continued to look unhappy, lagging behind the others rather than being at the lead as she usually was wont to be. We discovered that her predilection for falling over wasn't so much a weakness on her behalf as the pushiness of her herd mates who took advantage of her infirmity to give her a well paced nudge now and then.

Having not yet learnt our lessons about expectant mothers and trusting in the natural instinct of childbirth, we were again unprepared when Polly decided to be the first of the goat girls to drop her kids. We weren't the only ones unprepared. I don't think Polly knew what had happened to her. Survival rather than nurturing was probably her first priority as she took stock of her bodily responses and did her best to cope while the demands of two helpless kids didn't even register on her radar. One kid had been left in the middle of the paddock and the other, a helpless bundle at its mother's feet, was, to Polly, merely a curiosity.

What are these things?

Polly being non plussed about motherhood

A hopeful maternal moment

There's no mother like a real mother. Embracing this philosophy we attempted to bond mother and kids, rubbing their noses at mum's teats and taking encouragement in the merest sign that Polly was interested in her babies. Of course, we were super excited, taking photos and admiring these little replicas of their mum. Lyn went so far as to announce their arrival on Facebook prompting our vegetarian daughter to be to immediately seek adoption orders.

Sadly, left to the inadequate care of their mother who was obviously having her own difficulties reconciling what had happened to her body with the demands of these little bleaters struggling to find their own role in this new world, the two kids, our first born goats and the hope of our new ruralism, died during the night. A more positive note however, was that Polly was OK. She seemed little concerned, (or was she relieved?), that the two demanding voices were now still, allowing her to retake her place with the other girls who, still awaiting their turn at birthing, were independent of responsibility and demand other than for and from themselves. 
Score 1 out of 4

1 comment:

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