We had been watching Francesca get bigger in the belly and the bag for the last few weeks. On Valentine's day, Big Onion and I decided to get away from the farm for a bit to see a romantic movie so we made plans to see a Sunday matinee of Deadpool. That morning we'd noticed a bit of discharge on Francesca's vulva, but the girl was acting normal and went out to graze with the rest of the herd so we felt confident that we could safely leave her for a few hours.
We had a great time at the movie and when we got home Big Onion decided to go out and make a quick check on Franny. Moments later I got a text saying, "Frannie babies!" I grabbed an armful of towels and rushed out to find Big Onion squatting in a dusty corner behind the four wheeler. Francesca was standing and licking away at a little white and tan buckling who was already struggling to his feet. Meanwhile, Big Onion was trying to clean off an obviously freshly born little black and white pile of goo and fur. It was the tiniest thing, and as I handed him a towel I realized that it was a little doeling. A little while later when we weighed her, she was only 2.3lbs. Very tiny for a baby goat. Since they were born on Valentine's day, we chose to name the little boy Cupid and the girl Val.
We decided to move mother and the babies to a cleaner, safer place, so we bundled little Val in a towel, tucked Cupid into our arms, and dragged Francesca around the bike, through the gate, and into the cozy, well bedded goat room. Once there, we watched as Cupid got to his feet and started nursing very quickly. Meanwhile there was something obviously wrong with Val. She was so tiny and seemed to have no drive at all to get up or try to nurse. We got her clean and dry, but every time we would stop stimulating her, she would just lay her head down and seem to give up. Eventually we tried propping her on her feet, but she would just slump back down into the hay. We even tried holding her semi-limp form to her mother's teat to try and encourage her to nurse with no luck. It seemed the little one just wasn't interested in living.
Sitting there in the hay, we started to think that this little one just wasn't going to make it. Then I remembered reading an article recently about newborn horses with a similar problem. They were born seemingly without the will or drive to live. They would often act nonresponsive and would not nurse. The theory talked about in the article was that these "dummy foals" were born very quickly or by c-section and did not spend enough time in the birth canal. Apparently the act of being squeezed through the birth canal is what signals their newborn brains to switch from the sort of sleep mode of the womb to waking and struggling to rise and nurse. In foals, they take a rope and tie it tightly around the chest to simulate the squeezing of the birth canal, and the babies act as if a switch has been thrown and start acting like normal foals.
Looking at little Val laying there in the hay, it was obvious she'd been born second, after her brother who was 3 times her size. One could imagine that after his entrance the little girl virtually shot out of her mother. Perhaps she was having that same problem as the dummy foals. I figured it was worth a shot, so I gathered the tiny thing in my arms and held her very tightly to my chest for several seconds, then I let her go and drop to the soft hay about a foot below thinking that maybe the gentle impact might also help her get going.
Don't you know, that little girl started to struggle to her feet almost immediately. It took her a while, and we had to help her balance a bit, but eventually she was taking her first wobbly steps toward her mother and with a little help, she was able to latch on and nurse her first sips of that all important colostrum!
Our next problem was that during all this time, Francesca had been cleaning and talking to and bonding with little Cupid. She really hadn't interacted with the little girl much at all so while Big Onion left to put the birds away, I started trying to convince the first time mother that she had two kids to care for, not just the one.
We had run into this same problem with Elanore and her twins so I had some experience with this issue. I actually grabbed Cupid and hid him behind my back so that Francesca who was in full blown new mother must lick everything in sight mode could redirect her attentions to the littler of her brood. She kept trying to lick me...probably the only time in her salty little life that that goat has ever shown me any real affection, but I kept redirection her attention to little Val. I even rubbed the two babies together so that they would share the same scent and further convince Franny that the tiny black doeling was hers.
My strategy worked and after a while Francesca started talking to the little girl, and she calling back. It was then I knew everyone was going to be ok. I left mother with her new babies to bond and rest.
We checked on tiny little Val very frequently over the next few days checking her weight twice a day to make sure she was gaining. She started off slow, but very quickly developed the spunk that her family is so well known for here on the farm. Her tiny little legs had a heck of a time keeping up with her mother and brother, but Cupid bonded very closely with his little sister and would come running any time she called. Now the two are inseparable and much more bonded to each other than even to their crazy mother who took quite a while to realize that she couldn't just run off and leave her kids behind any time she felt like going somewhere.
Now I'm happy to report that Val (who changed her name to Lilly) is doing great! She keeps with with mother and brother and even tries to stand up to the much bigger kids on occasion. Since she's so tiny, she gets lots of attention and seems to enjoy or at least tolerate our cuddles and kisses with good spirits. Hopefully when she gets old enough, we can find just the right home for what I'm sure will turn out to be a very sweet and adorable little doe.