Thursday, March 11, 2010
Les Petits Cabris Naissent!
A bit later than many others, the baby goats in Aurelie's herd are plopping into this world. Jonas and I were there on the second day of birthing. And a dramatic moment it was.
On the spur of the moment this morning, Jonas decided to stay with me rather than go to class. After the exertions of Tuesday, I was fine with one more quiet day before he returns to the hustle and bustle of friends and school. But, today wasn't a day for hanging in the house and watching films (yesterday he saw the Karate Kid). I let him know that our day was to be spent at the goat cheese farm, lunching and visiting with Isabelle and Paul Pierre whom I've seen but once since Christmas. Thus he needed to be calm, well-behaved and patient. I'd care for him, but he needed to be a good kid, easy to have along in a grown-up setting.
He was quite okay with the arrangements, so with fresh bread from the oven, a bottle of JP's organic rosé Domaine Cabanis, animal cards and crayons for Jonas and some rice milk for his tender stomach, we were off.
Forty-five minutes later we were there. And lo and behold, we had arrived at a most special moment.
Aurelie was in the barn with her new stagiaire calmly and competently busy. I saw that there were some babies, but it took me a second to realize that they were in the midst of accompanying a mother goat push out her baby. Just as we entered the stalls out slipped a new kid.
Is there anything more symbolic? Spring is here! The world is being born again. La vie renait.
Jonas watched in awe and then, as we awaited a second birth (the mother was to have triplets), we went into the far pen where the kids born the night and day before were gently nudging about alongside their protective mothers.
There was but one kid per mother. And I learned later from Paul Pierre and Isabelle that there had been a few accidents the day before.
Aurelie doesn't live at the farm with her goats (as yet) and has two small daughters to care for. She wasn't able to return to the farm the evening before till 9pm to attend the late night births. Unfortunately, there'd been a few before her arrival, and in one case a mother sat upon her new kid, in another it was long in coming, and in another... I didn't get the whole story, but a few kids were lost. However each mother was left with one. And in the end, the herd is there to produce milk, not goat kids. As long as the mothers have one beneath them to release the colustrom and get the system rolling, all will be (relatively) well. It is sad to have any new life depart too quickly, but in fact, Aurelie's herd is already quite a good number (45). Multiple births are typical in this herd. Singles are the exception. And one must always remember that as a general rule, all the baby males will be heading to the abatoir within a couple of weeks... Thus, it is all relative you might say.
As we watched (and documented), the mother goat pushed out the birthing pouch, then Aurelie slid her hand around the little feet that were poking out and assisted the head that followed. Goopy, bloody and oh so fragile, another life arrived upon the hay.
Then Aurelie felt the mother's belly and sensed more small feet. A third kid had yet to arrive. But the mother had stopped pushing. She was caring for her first two, licking them clean, gently manouevring about them. Aurelie was a bit worried and slathered her hand with some oil and slipped it into the mother up to her elbow. She felt the last kid and helped it out. He was limp in her hands, soft, as if his bones hadn't firmed up. He was dead. Malformed apparently, but nearly full size. She quickly whisked him away -- the mother barely realized that she'd lost one of her mini-brood.
It was then time to snip the bits of umbilical cord dangling on the bellies of the new kid, and and help them nurse for the first time. Once that is handled, the goat farmer can sit back a moment and take a breather. Till the next mother starts dropping her kid (which happened a mere 30 minutes' later.)
Nine down, thirty-six to go...