Sunday, February 25, 2007

Awful Beautiful Life

There is a problem with the new goat momma.

The first day, Friday, I observed that the kid was only nursing from one side. But I didn't watch all day long, and the other side didn't seem distended, she didn't seem sick, the nipple wasn't swollen, no other signs of anything wrong.

Saturday I had errands in the morning but when I checked again in the late afternoon, still, he was only nursing on one side. Trying to encourage him (euphemism for interfere like heck) to nurse her off side didn't yield anything but resistance from both of them. She still looked fine with no discharge, very healthy looking vulva, regular poops, bright eyes -- and so did the kid -- big and healthy and strong -- but the two nipples were not in the same position relative to the udder anymore. I retrieved husband because she would not let me examine her by myself.

The udder was hard as a rock. But not hot. The nipple was flacid. Those are clues. No signs of infection. Repeated and persistent attempts at milking her yielded no milk, or anything else. This too is a clue, although at the time I didn't know what it meant. It was certainly not something I'd seen before. Being practiced at worst case scenario foresight, I could imagine all sorts of terrible things, like having to bottle raise the baby (and having to buy the appropriate milk replacer) and shoot the momma before she died some horrid death.

I reluctantly called my vet friend. I've known him for more than five years and I think I've called him all of twice -- not because I don't have more questions than that but because I hate to bother him and figure enough other people bother him enough already. And because most of the time delay will resolve any situation, one way or the other. Animals are incredible healers if they are supported and given time. People would be too if they didn't get in their own way.

Bless his heart. I love large animal vets. Haven't known that many but those I have known have always been so willing to teach, to share knowledge, to let me doctor all I want while they handle things for people who do not want to doctor their own. So he listened to my description and said, "Yep, there's this thing that happens with dairy cattle and I assume it can happen to goats too." See, goats and cows are the only animals who develop mammaries with only one duct out. If you're a mother, you know humans can squirt in many directions at once. Well, so can all animals except goats and cows, who have only one hole per teat. I figure that has something to do with why they are also the most common milk animals. Anyway, there is a sphincter between the udder and teat and something happens sometimes to some of them that blocks this. In theory it is an injury, likely caused by being sucked on, that happens around puberty and causes scar tissue that completely blocks the duct. Nothing in, nothing out.

His prognosis: that she'd do ok. I hadn't really thought of it this way, but he said if you can't get anything out of the teat, she can't have mastitis. That gland should just collapse and never be functional. Since she has only the one baby, he'll be fine. Milk responds to supply and demand and that teat will just produce more.

What it means is that she'll never be a milk goat because she won't be able to produce that much more. And that we'll probably eat her so that she can never be bred again. Most goats have one kid their first kidding, and twins thereafter. One teat could not support twins without supplementation. But it also means nothing is congenitally wrong and our plan to leave the kid intact doesn't need to change.

Make no mistake, there is no milk without meat.


Caroline said...

Very interesting! I'm always glad to learn more about goats, in the hopes of staving off a possible problem with my two girls. Thanks for taking the time to write this out. And your blue-eyed boy is adorable!

Dramaw said...

What does "leaving the kid intact" mean? Pretty little white you name them?

the Contrary Goddess said...

not castrating him

Karen said...

Thank you real down to earth stuff I'm off to read some more of your posts

Joe Tornatore said...

what an education this blog is.

the Contrary Goddess said...

wait. one is coming about salting the pig!

dragonfly183 said...

Well good I am glad she wasn't sick with something.