Monday, 25 March 2013

Raising Kids is not for the Fainthearted

Having suffered the trials and tribulations of infant mortality and spending worrisome hours trying to teach a group of new mothers some maternal skills, we have 4 surviving kids out of a possible 7. Not a score to be proud of and the report card would definitely say, 'can do better' but all now seems to be running smoothly.

Chocolate and Orio snuggle up to Mum Molly
Molly, the last to drop her kids, conveniently gave notice and we were able to get her penned and Lyn actually watched the births while I listened to the commentary over the phone. Thus Orio (after the biscuit) and Chocolate joined Rodney (the first survivor) and Cocoa. Two boys and two girls represent the sum total of our goat increase. There are also 3 lambs in the paddock but sheep just don't have the charm that goats do and so they are largely getting on with their lives and learning to be sheepish about approaches from human kind.

Having learnt from Polly's experience that life in the big paddock can be harsh, we again had this lesson presented to us with the birth of Sugar's kids. Like many animals, she chose the worst of days to drop vulnerable babies into the world and like Polly didn't really seem to have a clue. One kid was gone to meet her siblings in the goat heaven for kids with no life experience but the other was struggling valiantly to hang in there to see whether the world was all that it was cracked up to be. I tried everything to bond mother and child but in the general bustle of goat society, one little kid wasn't getting a look in. Determined to be a better foster carer than the last time I decided to intervene, taking the now shivering kid indoors to dry and warm on the heated kitchen floor.

Now, when you've taken some one in, got them dry and warmed them up and introduced them to the concept of cuddles, you can hardly toss them out again into the sleet and cold to a mother who is in denial. It seemed that the best solution would be to bring mother and kid together in a dry place where there would be no distraction and the two could get to know one another. An impromptu corral of gates and the back of the trailer, a scattering of straw, a few treats and a bowl of water and all was ready. By this time the girls had gone to bed and it felt a bit cruel to call them up to the gate but a few treats and they were happy. A quick grab had Sugar by the horn and out the gate where she was lured across the yard by the rattle of the pellet jar.

Once Sugar was installed in the pen I brought her kid to join her. He was now warm and dry and ready to be introduced to the delights of suckling. Nature was left to take its course. This confinement (isn't that what the Victorians called the birthing experience?) did the trick and by morning Sugar and Rodney (for that was now his name) had become a team. Subsequent births went much more smoothly and before too long our little flock was complete with 4 bleating kids and 3 udderly mystified mothers.
Toffee welcomes Cocoa and proves the perfect parent

All the kids come out to play
Being new to the whole 'life on the farm' scenario we have watched with interest, awe, delight and consternation the familial relations or our little flock. Whilst the sheep are conscientious about keeping their lambs in sight and can be heard giving guttural calls to wayward young, the goats are quite content to leave their kids for hours at a time. This gave us great concern at first as we would scour the paddocks looking for 'lost' kids, finding them happily curled up together and oblivious to the fact that they were the victims of parental neglect. When Rodney was the only child, to find him abandoned at the opposite end of the paddock while his mother carried on as though she were still an independent woman, was a cause of some concern. We picked up Rodney and carried him to mum only to have her turn around and frolic off with the others. We did in fact have to intervene again with an effort to bond these two after Rodney got wet and cold and was showing genuine signs of neglect.
Rodney meets his new sibling

A new friendship
Rodney heads to his new home

Finally, the sun started to shine, the grass to grow and the goat girls seem to get a grasp on what was going on. We were farming!!!

Just like having real kids, goatses and sheepses come with responsibilities and liabilities. Worming, docking, castrating and feeding need to be carried out in due time and season. With extra appetites and mouths to feed we found that our paddocks that the season before had been over grown, were starting to look a bit spartan and so the plans began to fence off new areas and divide paddocks, rotating stock in an effort to please the needs and tastes of all and maintain some pasture for the coming winter.

Orio gets out to explore
Before Christmas, we fare-welled our wethers and have been enjoying their transformation into chops and curry while watching the new lambs rapidly increase in size. The sheep however are of little interest to visitors with their anti social tendency to run away at the sight of humans but the goats have endeared themselves to many visitors to the cottage. The curiosity and natural affection of the kids has charmed ourselves and visitors to the extent that we are relieved that each kid has found a foster home to go to and this year's goat increase will escape the fate of the freezer.