Not The Mama, But I’m Now The Mama


goatlings on cinderblock
A rare shot of my goatlings standing still! Photo by Keba M Hitzeman

There are weeks in the early spring that can be utterly exhausting. Sometimes things go as planned, and life is very good. Life is still good when things don’t go according to plan, but I get a lot less sleep and need a lot more caffeine to keep the ball rolling. Or, in this case, keep the milk flowing.

Breeding animals can be fraught with peril. There are so many things that can go wrong, from the health of the male and female before “the deed,” to the mama’s needs during gestation to keep that baby growing, to the birthing process itself. And once the baby (or babies) is here, things can still go awry. Ideally, even a first-time mama will recognize the squalling creature behind her as her own progeny, clean it up, and help it find the milk bar. Less ideally, mama needs some persuasion to let baby nurse for the first few times, then realizes that this is how it should be. And then you have those who want nothing to do with the life they’ve just brought into the world. They may clean it, “talk” to it, and even let it snuggle up to them to sleep, but when baby heads to find milk, that’s just too much. This is when I bring out the bottles and milk replacer, and start losing sleep.

(As an aside, I’ve had this happen to experienced mamas – they will be fine for years, then one year, nope, that baby isn’t mine, and you can’t make me nurse it. I don’t know what causes this “no thank you” switch to flip, because the next year, the same animal will be the best mama ever. Any thoughts on this phenomenon?)

Photo by Unsplash/Roma Kaiuk

The first day, I tend to feed every 2-3 hours, getting colostrum into the lamb or kid. This “first milk” is so important to give the lamb antibodies and “wake up” its immune system. After 24-36 hours of multiple small feedings, I start mixing lamb milk replacer in and space the feedings to every 4 hours for a week or so. I’m keeping a close eye on how much each lamb or kid is eating to determine when I can increase the time between feedings.

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