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Baby Goat Report 2000

Cavorting Caprines Create Chaos

First, Trixie (full name: Belatrix) produced two, Mars and Lander. Mars is white on the front and black at the back, like Betelgeuse, his sire. Lander is black with white markings on her face. They were born early in the morning, and when I got to the barn were pretty much dried off and ready for the world. Mars was on his feet and looking for his first breakfast, Lander was still lying down and resting. Within a few hours there were both nursing and walking around, learning to be baby goats.

This was Trixie's first pregnancy. Goats usually have twins after their first pregnancy, but for the first time they tend to confine themselves to one baby. Mars and Lander were a bit small when they were born, but both were fully developed. I don't think that Trixie is producing much milk because they aren't growing fast, but they're developing well enough. If I were raising them for profit I probably wouldn't have kept Lander. I'm sure glad that I don't have to make a profit on goats.

Six days after Mars and Lander appeared in the barn Mercy gave birth to twins: Castor and Polly. Mercy tends to have big babies, and these are no exception to that tendency. Castor was born first. When I saw his front feet appear I knew that he was going to be big. His hooves were twice the size of those of most baby goats. Mercy worked for a long time, and, finally, I grasped Castor's front feet and helped Mercy with a little pull. When Castor flopped out onto the straw it was obvious why Mercy had been having trouble. He is a great big goat with a head that is large even for a baby his size.

Polly followed an hour later and she, too, needed a little tug to come into the world. She was as long-legged as her brother was, but had a much smaller head. By the time Polly hit the straw Castor was standing up and trying to walk. He had a hard time getting his long legs coordinated, but he finally started to stagger around, hunting for something to eat.

How do baby goats know how to find a teat and nurse? The seem to be born with a reflexive behavior: when the top of their head touches something, the baby goats reflexively tilt their noses up and start making suction actions. That worked fine with Trixie, who has a small udder she carries high and short teats. Mercy, on the other had, has a large udder that sags somewhat, and big, long, teats. Her tall babies were poking their noses around Mercy's belly and the end of her teats were a foot below the babies' noses.

In that situation, we have to teach to babies to nurse, which can be great fun but a little messy. Basically, I put one hand flat on the babies' head and push their head down, at the same time lifting Mercy's teat and trying to line it up with the babies' mouth. The babies generally get my fingers instead of Mercy's teat and slobber and drool all over my hand. Eventually, though, they will get the idea. Castor caught on immediately, but I had to help Polly for several days. After three or four days the babies seem to recognize teats visually and home in by sight. For the first day, though, the babies seem to just wander around, and when they wander underneath their mother and their heads bump against her belly, they tip up their noses and start sucking.

Calves are the same way, pretty much. If you place your hand flat on top of a newborn calf's head, the calf will tip up its nose, stick out it's tongue a bit, and start making sucking noises. I've never checked this out with horse foals, maybe I'll have an opportunity to do so this year.

All four baby goats are now jumping and cavorting around the barnyard. Paula built a small pile of hay for them to jump on and they have great times playing King of the Mountain on their pile of hay. They like people and will walk right up to you to check you out and to try climbing on you. To a baby goat, the world consists of places to sleep and places to climb.

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