On the Farm . . . what's happening this week - 1/21/16.
The cold temperatures of January have found us. Life on the farm is about keeping water pipes in the barn from freezing and protecting the livestock from the biting winds. A few of the older chickens have succumbed, but that is both natural and expected for this time of the year. I take comfort in knowing they enjoyed a free-range existence, contentedly scratching the dirt and grasses for insects and worms, as a chicken should.
This week saw the birth of the first baby goat of 2016. Rosa birthed her first, a billy or boy. We are having disagreements on his name. Some possibilities include: Rory, Rocky, Rufus, or Rosco. I’m really pushing for a name starting with the letter “R.” It helps me remember who’s baby he is, but Aidan and Marlee don’t like any of my ideas. They haven’t come up with any alternatives, so I may soon start calling him one of my choices. After spending months agonizing over my children’s names (Bill wasn’t nearly as concerned as I was) and years of naming goat kids, dogs, kittens and even chickens, I count naming an animal quickly and efficiently as part of my skill set. But it isn't up to just me anymore.
The un-named billy is tiny and adorable. However, his mother seems confused. She birthed him on her own under the cover of night and licked him clean. She calls to him often, seeming to be concerned for his whereabouts, but she is totally adverse to suckling him. He gets close to her swollen udder, and her back legs go up in the air as she jumps away. Sometimes she even turns her head to butt him away, offended by the very idea of nursing. He’s not giving up easily though. His tactic of wearing her down can be an effective strategy for a youngster, as any parent in the checkout lane of a grocery store will tell you.
Bill constructed a small pen for them. It is attached to the main one, and Rosa can see and smell her herd mates while being in close contact with her baby – promoting bonding. We are helping out these first days to make sure the baby stays strong and gets all the benefits of the first milk or colostrum. We give Rosa molasses-sweetened feed while Bill holds her still, and I help the kid find the nipple. So far, Rosa isn’t sold on the idea. She tries to wriggle free or even lies down restricting access.
I can relate to her reluctance. When Liam, my first, was born a few weeks early, eager to nurse but not latching onto my breast, I underwent a seemingly non-stop campaign of nursing and pumping to provide him with nourishment. It actually only lasted a week as he matured quickly and started sucking. A week seems like a miniscule amount of time now, but then, it was never-ending. My body was tired from the physical and emotional strains of birth. And then, with barely more than a few moments to catch my breath and bask in the joy of the healthy baby, I faced the challenges of breastfeeding. We were both newbies and had a lot to learn. I can still feel the sting of sore nipples, and the anguish I felt worrying over whether or not I could feed him. Would I let this little guy down? Would Bill be disappointed in my mothering abilities? I cried a lot. It was definitely hard but, in hind site, worth every minute. It made me passionate in my devotion to my children and grateful to be a woman. How else would I have known the great satisfaction and partnership I felt when we did figure it out? I was high on the oxytocin my body produced. I was in love. I felt sorry for my husband as he could only experience the ecstasy of motherhood through me. I was the luckiest person in the world!
I doubt Rosa will have all these feelings, but I know she and her baby will figure out their nursing relationship, too. And it will be one of negotiation, as any relationship is, growing (in all senses of the word!) and satisfaction. Lucky them!