We All Survived
Magnolia came to our little farm in the middle of December, already bred as per my request. She had suffered a broken leg earlier in the year which had fully healed. Because she had spent those few months of recovery in a small pen with little to no exercise, she grew fatter and fatter. Another notch against her is that she is three years old, and this is her first freshening. The older a goat is without kidding, the more likely there could be an issue. Throw the obesity into the mix and it is a recipe for potential disaster. Here is how it went down:
March 18th started out like any other day. I went out to feed all the critters bright and early, checking the pregnant girls´ ligaments who were due to kid soon. Magnolia was the wild card. She had been in with the buck for an extended time making her due date window quite large. We were already a week and a half past the first possible due date so I knew it was coming up quickly. Sure enough, that morning, her ligaments were mush. I quickly cleaned out the kidding barn, bedded it with fresh shavings and straw, and moved her in for the long haul.
With every kidding, I spend at least an hour or two just watching the doe in the morning to see how close they seem. She did not seem like it would happen before the afternoon so I got her settled in and went about my day-to-day chores, checking in on her every hour or so.
Around noon, I noticed some teeth grinding. Not necessarily the worst sign but not a great one. Most does without any trouble make it through the entire process without grinding their teeth, a sign that something could be wrong. I stayed with her, growing more and more anxious that something was not quite right. This particular day was not a good day for a troubled kidding. Scott was at the farmers´ market and our first baby goats & yoga class began at 4. This meant that I would be on my own until the yoga attendees had left. Around 2pm, I did a quick check for dilation. It was approximately 2 fingers. Very odd. I assumed that she would be closer by this point. I knew something was wrong and that I would have to intervene for the best chance at saving the kids. I told myself that I would wait until Scott returned and then try to get the kids out before the yoga class.
As per usual, things did not go according to plan and the clock was ticking away faster than usual. At 4pm, when the class began, I wished Scott good luck running the class and went to start working on Magnolia the best I could alone. This time, when I reached in, I could not find her cervix. It had disappeared. I had seen this before. Twice. Uterine torsion was the presumed diagnosis but we did not know that until after the fact in those cases. Both of those does had perished. With the first, we were able to pull a dead kid after hours of manual dilation and one very small live doeling too. 24 hours after the ordeal, the mother perished. With the second, the farm decided calling a vet was not worth the value of the doe and left her to sort it out. That doe died along with all of her kids still inside her a few days later. In both of those cases, we did not recognize the symptoms as uterine torsion, a condition where the uterus twists up to 360 degrees, usually towards the end of the first stage of labor, or early in the second stage. This explains why she had been partially dilated before. Once discovering that it had been a likely diagnosis of those other goats, we researched how to go about solving the problem. We came across Shaffer´s method which has been used extensively with cows, buffalo, and other large hooved animals. Once you have figured out which way the twist is, you lay the animal on her side, hold a board firmly against her while rotating her 180 degrees to her other side. With enough pressure, you can encourage the uterus to twist back the correct way. Depending on the degree of torsion, you may have to repeat this process more than once.
¨Yikes!¨, I thought. ¨This is not good.¨ I began to shake and called a dear friend who dropped what she was doing to come help, though she did not know what that would entail. After about 20 minutes of trying to find the cervix, it had to be somewhere, I finally was able to palpate it off to the right. Now that I knew where the cervix was, I knew we needed to rotate her clockwise with the board on her. By this point, the yoga was finished and I had the help of two people. While I held the board as firmly as I could, Scott and Amy took her front and back legs and turned her slowly. Magnolia did not like this but it was to help her! We had to. I still feel guilty for putting her through so much.
With one half turn completed, I checked again for the cervix. Progress! I could slip one finger straight through! And even better news, I felt a hoof on the other side and it had twitched indicating that the kid was still alive! Unsure whether or not the cervix should be completely dilated with a straightened out uterus, I gently massaged her cervix to see if it just needed encouragement to dilate. It was very slow progress so I opted to try Shaffer´s method once again. We did and things were the same. We tried twice more with the same result. A quick call to my mentor yielded the second assumed diagnosis which was ring womb. A condition where for some reason (usually mal-presentation of the kid), the cervix does not dilate. Not a death sentence, it just means that it has to be manually done with gentle massage in the cervix.
By this point, it was around 5pm and the sun was setting quickly. Scott ran in the house to grab a light and a bottle of whiskey (for my nerves, not Magnolia's). Slow and steady was the preferred method so as to not do any damage. I spent 5 minutes in, and 1 minute out, repeating the process for the next 2 and a half hours until I was finally able to fit my entire fist through the cervix into the uterus. I felt around for which parts were coming first and maneuvered the kid into proper position.
Magnolia had been through nearly 4 hours of very difficult and painful labor by now and was losing steam. Her pushing grew weaker so I helped her get the first kid out, alive! A buckling. Perfect in every way with blue eyes like his mamma! Magnolia was thrilled and eagerly began to lick her very first baby clean. I deemed it necessary to get the second kid out very quickly as there was likely some trauma in the whole ordeal. After one minute with her baby, I reached back in to position the next kid and get it out, hopefully alive. He was! A second perfect little boy, smaller, with brown eyes. Palpating the area just in front of her udder, I could tell that the two kids were it for her.
Phew! We did it! There was cheering, and words of encouragement towards Magnolia. She had made it through with two healthy kids.
We gave Magnolia the works from an injection of pain medication, B-vitamin shot, goat drench, tons of love, and some fresh tasty leaves. I checked on her a few times that night, knowing that she would be exhausted. I needed to make sure she was doing well under the circumstances. Chewing cud, eating and staying hydrated, caring for her babies. She is amazing. She took great care of those babies the first few days and made a very quick recovery.
This had been the most difficult birth I had ever been responsible for, and everyone survived. I felt like an absolute rockstar. It is my full belief that in most of these cases involving goats, the go-to procedure is to haul the goat to the vet for a c-section. I absolutely did not want to do that. Slow and steady did win the race on that day in March. No antibiotics were given, no surgical wounds were stitched up. We had three healthy goats and we were so happy.
It should be mentioned that I never could have done this without the encouragement from my best friend and partner in life, Scott, as well as my friends who came to help a friend in need. I am so grateful to have so much support in the times when we need it most. Thank you to all!