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Another Heartbreak

We've been anxiously awaiting the arrival of our newest addition -- a little goat baby by our Nigerian Dwarf Hazel.  She had given birth last year, unfortunately to a stillborn buckling.  It was a heartbreaking end to our first kidding experience.

But, the breeder we purchased Hazel from 3 years ago assured us this goat had birthed healthy singleton babies before.  We were convinced the last kidding was a fluke thing, something that nature throws at you every now and again.  So, we bred her again early this year for a summer baby.

I was optimistic that we'd end up with a nice, healthy kid.  I even planned on keeping this baby, provided it was a doe.

And when Hazel went into labor, I was excited.  Kaylin and I sat up all night with her, keeping an eye on her, discussing whether it would be a girl or boy and wondering what color it would be.  There was no way I was missing this birth!

Hazel enjoys a snack of corn husk during early labor.

Hazel's labor seemed to be going smoothly.  She seemed a bit uncomfortable, as expected, but not in pain.  She walked around, ate, drank, slept a great deal.

But after a full day, there was no progress.  She was still contracting, but not pushing.

By that night, things had stopped altogether.

At this point, everything was still progressing normally.

The next morning, I knew something needed to be done.  So, I took a deep breath, gloved up, and went inside.  You'd think that it would be fairly easy to discern what you're feeling -- it's not.  You mind plays tricks on you.  It took three attempts before I figured I was feeling two hooves.  I couldn't feel a head.  But I was light-years away from being sure.  

I loaded her into the truck and drove her out to the vet.  The baby was malpositioned, feet forward but head bent back.  No one in the veterinary office could get the baby correctly positioned.

Hazel went in for an emergency C-section.  The baby, at this point, was already dead.

Devastation, guilt, anger, sadness, extreme frustration... I've been vacillating between all of these feelings since.

But mostly, I feel like a failure.

I know other goat owners.  Their goats deliver healthy kids out in the middle of the fields, without so much as a glance from their keepers.  Yet I can't even get one goat to have one healthy kid. 

I'm trying to focus on the positive.  As of right now, Hazel seems to be doing well.  And, if anything, I've learned what abnormal goat births look like.

And this experience has been a profound education, on what I am able to do and what I'm not able to do.  I learned I can trust my instincts.  And that I can stick my hand into a goat's nether-regions and keep my wits about me even when she's screaming her bloody head off. 

I've also learned that, no matter how hard I try to be a "valid" livestock farmer, I never will be.  Legitimate livestock farmers know that Hazel, who is obviously not meant for breeding, should be culled.  Instead, I pay an insane (insane!) amount of money for a C-section for a goat who will never be bred again.

After the vet bills we paid for Lilly's udder problem (another ridiculous amount of money) my husband and I discussed how we would handle other problems that might arise in our goat herd.  They're livestock, after all, and if they aren't earning their keep here then they've turned into expensive pets.  I was very pragmatic when I decided, should a similar situation arise in the future, the animal would be put down.

It all seemed so reasonable then.  I was so sure that this was the logical decision, and I was so sure that I would follow through.  But, when push came to shove, when I was standing there and that animal had her eyes trained on mine, I couldn't do it.  That isn't me, it never will be.

I can live with giant vet bill.  I couldn't live with myself if I had given up on her that easily.  Instead, I turned Hazel into an expensive pet.  

We've created a make-shift pen inside the goat house, so that she can still be in her home but protected from a much more rambunctious Lilly.  We've been doting on her, scouring the yard for bits of delectable treats (apricot branches, fresh grass, roses).  We've put a shade structure up over the pen, to protect newly shaved post-op skin from sunburn.  We're spending time scratching on her and feeling glad that for now, at least, she's OK.

Hazel, 3 days post-surgery, resting in her new recovery pen.

I'm not sure where this leaves me with our goat raising.  We now have two does that I won't breed.  If they can't be bred, they can't produce milk.  If we're not breeding does, we don't need to keep a buck.

I still want goat milk.  But I'm gun-shy.  Do we buy another doe?  If we want a milker, this is the only option.  Do we risk another kidding disaster?  Do we give up on raising dairy goats altogether?

I think hubby is over my "goat experiment."  I don't think he'll be keen on getting another doe.  I'm not sure I want to continue either, considering the experience we've had so far.

But, I'll save that decision for later.  Right now, I'm just thankful that Hazel is here, and we had the means to keep her with us.  

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