I found it before I went to bed. Covered in blood and mucus, rasping breaths coming from a hungry mouth; it looked as though Death was visiting that night.
Luckily, my youngest daughter was with me. Fluffy, the new mother, had twins in the two hours since our last visit. The first baby was doing fine, and Fluffy still licked and grunted at him. His sister, the first female Pygora goat we had this year, wasn't doing as well. Mom didn't clean her, and she was shivering and yelling in her loudest little infant voice.
"Oh, great, Pickle," I told my daughter. "Looks like we have another bottle-baby this year."
Pickle started shouting instructions, repeating the things my wife told her. The first thing we had to do, in my opinion, involved moving Fluffy and her kids to a smaller birthing pen with cleaner straw. Pickle carried the baby boy over to the pen, and it immediately began to call for his mother with a beeping noise – they didn't know how to fully 'bah' yet. Fluffy heard her son and tried to find him by running around the pen in circles.
I picked up the little fuzzy girl, and cleaned off huge sheets of afterbirth, mucus and blood. She could barely stand on her own, and I began to suspect she was abandoned. Fluffy had a single birth last year, and I think she was confused when another baby popped out of her. I held its rear end up to Fluffy's nose, and she sniffed it and began to call to the baby in little grunts. The little girl beeped back in response, which was a good sign. I handed the baby to Pickle, who placed the girl with her brother in the clean pen.
I snagged Fluffy's collar and began to pull her over to her kids. She fought with me, since she thought the kids were hiding in the old pen. Most of our Pygoras are trained to walk with a lead, but Fluffy never learned. Goats can make mules look like reasonable creatures at times.
When I finally stuffed Fluffy in the pen, she ran over to the little boy. He had no problem standing and walking around, albeit a bit wobbly when his mother was licking his head. His sister didn't stand up, and appeared weak. Pickle grew concerned, and I decided to intervene.
I picked up the little buckling, and he beeped frantically for a few minutes. When he discovered I wasn't there to eat him whole, he decided I was rather warm and cozy, so he settled into my arms. Fluffy looked around for a bit, then decided to pay attention to the only kid she could see, and began to lick off the rest of the birthing slime. The little doe managed to stand up a few times, but fell over when buffeted by her mother's strong tongue.
We decided it was dinner time when Fluffy was done. When the buckling came over, his mother ignored his sister completely. She pushed him towards her udders, and with a bit of proper placement by Pickle, he nursed for a while, absorbing the vital initial colostrum from his mother's milk.
When he was full, it was his sister's turn. Fluffy sniffed her butt, and pushed the little doe away. My wife arrived with my son from his Boy Scouts meeting, and took command of the situation. I held Fluffy's head while my wife, with Pickle's help, pushed the doe up to the nipple. Unfortunately, the doe was too weak and didn't suck on the teat. We tried for a few minutes, and then decided to feed her with a syringe. My wife and Pickle squeezed out a tiny bit of milk into a little Dixie cup, then sucked up the milk with the syringe and fed the baby doe. She didn't understand why people were pushing things into her mouth, especially after just going through that entire childbirth trauma, but when the first bits of milk hit her tongue, she decided it was a tasty drink and began to suck.
When she had a few ounces in her tummy, we decided to give her some extra time with her brother and mother. We left them alone, and Fluffy grunted at both of her kid's beeps, which was a good sign.
Later that evening, we checked on their progress. Fluffy doted on her son, but was mean to her daughter. She bit the doe's tail and ears, which only confused the poor baby. She still couldn't stand for long, and my wife noted the doe might not survive the night. Pickle began to cry, probably because she had bonded with the little doe while she held it in her arms. My wife decided she would sleep in the barn that night to watch over the baby.
Early the next morning, I checked up on them. Pickle was in the barn, trying to help with getting more milk out of Fluffy, who had her head in a milking stand to keep her still.
Now, I'm a computer geek from Brooklyn, but nobody can squeeze milk out of a boob better than I can. They spent ten minutes extracting a few cubuc centimeters; I filled three-quarters of a Dixie cup in ninety seconds. My wife held the doe, still alive and warm thanks to her new human Grandma, and fed her with the syringe. The doe gobbled up all the milk we presented to her hungry snout. She seemed stronger, but her mother was still mean, and bullied her around when we weren't there to intervene.
This had happened before to some of our other goats, so we kept an eye on them, and pulled the buckling out for a bit so Fluffy would pay more attention to the doe. It worked before, and luckily for us, it worked again.
The little doe, Xena, still takes some abuse when her brother is around, but she takes it in stride. She is nursing normally, and her brother adores her. They curl up together when it's nap-time, and he hops and jumps around her when they play. She isn't as strong yet, and still wobbles around, but it looks like she'll make it.
Thank goodness she won't be a bottle-baby. That would take three months of feedings every four hours, around the clock.