Birthing filled with angst, joy 

Published 10:08 pm Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Larry McDermott – Life on the Farm 


Even the most experienced farmer gets a little anxious when it’s time for a mare to foal, a cow to calve, a sow to farrow or a doe to kid. There is an air of excitement and worry. 

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But things can go wrong. Goat kids are supposed to be born in a position similar to a person diving into a swimming pool. Presenting first are the front feet which are together with the nose tucked between them, followed by the rest of the body encased in a fluid-filled sack. When that doesn’t happen, you have to assist. 


A few days ago Lucille was showing all the signs that she was ready to go. Her udder was bulging, the right side of her belly was large enough to tip a ship, her normally slumping rump was horizontal and there was a mucus discharge. 


Some does kid while standing, others while lying on their side. A horse will occasionally foal while standing, in which case it helps if a human can catch the critter before it hits the ground, possibly causing injury and breaking the umbilical cord. A goat is short enough that if it drops a kid while standing, it doesn’t have far to fall and plenty of straw provides a cushion. 


Lucille delivers while lying down. While we had our “kidding kit” stocked and ready to go in case of emergency, Lucille had an air of calmness and control, a sort of “I got this” look on her face. 


And when the hard labor began, we expected her to take her sweet time, since her last kidding of triplets took about three hours. Not so this time. The time between the first kid and the last was seven minutes. That’s right. Seven minutes. She was shooting those babies out like a Remington 870 pump-action shotgun. 


Wham. Bam. Thank you ma’am. 


As soon as they began arriving, she began cleaning them from head to toe, and in no time she was letting them nurse. 


All of that would seem a normal, natural process were it not for our memory of her first kidding. Instead of an “I got this” look on her face, it was a “I didn’t ask for this and I don’t want to be here” look. She refused to let her kids nurse, and we eventually had to put her up on the milk stand and hobble her back legs before placing the kids on her teats. She finally came around, but her transition into motherhood was a rocky road. 


One of the final acts for the doe who has kidded is to pass her placenta, which she eats because it’s nourishment for her and she instinctively removes anything that might attract a predator. 


We knew the mother would die if the placenta wasn’t passed, so we waited for that to happen. And waited. One hour is not unusual, but by two hours we were fretting. 


At the four-hour mark and with our vet’s blessing, we snagged some oxytocin from our generous neighbors at Past Ur Time Farm. Oxytocin is the hormone that, among other things, induces contractions and would help expel the placenta. At the moment I opened her stall door with the needle in hand, she dropped the placenta. 


The look on her face? “Don’t come near me with that!” 


Larry McDermott, a retired journalist, owns a 40-acre organic farm in Rutherfordton, where he grows blueberries, keeps bees and raises horses, dairy goats, chickens and turkeys. Email: or see farm happenings