We are having to deal with around 43 wide loads at the moment. By wide loads, I mean pregnant does. And, when I say around that many is that I saw these girls get bred in their individual fields with their particular field buck and Iím pretty sure they are bred, but surprises happen.
I guess we are rather old fashion with our breeding program. We use live bucks and live does, put them together, and what happens is what happens. We donít have the benefit of all those techno gadgets like vets, ultrasound, and such. The bucks and does are kept together for certain periods of time so the kids will be born around such and such a time for the best market prices. This time itís for 4-H projects.
Usually if a doe comes back in heat, we know sheís not bred. But sometimes you can miss that time when the doe comes back in heat and itís not until the following month that you see her heat cycle. We have pens with bucks in them that the girls can come in from the pasture and sashay by, so we get a fairly accurate picture of who is bred and who didnít take.
And, sometimes you get that modest little doe whoís whole idea of being in heat is to quietly walk up to the buck pen and sniff the air, stand a second or two and go on out to the pasture. Later you find out she is not bred because she doesnít become a wide load.
Sometimes a doe will carry for a month or so and quietly abort. Maybe you see a little bit of blood under her tail to know she has done this, sometimes not. Youíve just overlooked it, busy doing something else.
Then you get those does who get absolutely huge, you think you are coming down to the finish line with her, kids in the next month for sure, and you find her standing by the buck pen, violently flagging her tail, telling the whole world she is in heat. And, why the wide load on this doe? Well, if you are like us, you keep round bales out for the goats and they can eat all they want. She just has partaken a bit more than the rest.
Sure, when she came up to her due date and had no milk, Iíd start to get suspicious, but even then odd things happen with these pregnant girls. I had one faithful girl that had kids every year for me, and one year she didnít look bred, she didnít have milk, but I hadnít caught her back in heat, and just out of habit, put her in her kidding stall close to her due time. I couldnít believe this doe hadnít taken, yet evidence looked like she hadnít this year.
After a day or two, feeling silly for putting her in a kidding stall, I went to the barn to turn her out, opened the stall, door and there she was kidding! She had one beautiful girl and still had no milk. I bottle fed that kid, kept her with her mom, and by the end of two weeks the momís milk came in and the girl easily slid over to start nursing on her mom. Now, that was odd and the next year the doe picked up her usual style of getting pregnant, becoming a wide load, producing plenty of milk a head of time. Donít ask me what happened. All I can say is be ready for the unexpected with goats. Or, at least donít be surprised. But, be prepared, always be prepared. Have that colostrum on hand and your milk replacer or whole milk for kidding time.
This year we have all the pregnant girls together. I have a feed area fenced off with a five foot gate to open to let them in to get their grain of the morning. Usually we have a regular size gate for everything, but there wasnít room for that here. Now, when I open the gate of the morning for the wide loads to come in, they have learned to judge their width in comparison to the gateís opening and the other wide loads trying to go through at the same time as them. Every now and then you get the opening plugged by too many wide loads trying to come through at the same time and you groan and wince watching them trying to squeeze on through to get to the grain first. But, most of them stand back and judge when is the best time to run through with the extra girth they are now carrying.
Now Lee has brought in an old electric pole and laid it near their run-in shed to set up when the ground thaws a little. We like security lights all over the place because of the coyote problems. Our big livestock guard dogs keep the coyotes back, but we like to look out at night and see what is happening. Well, Lee has one end of that pole up on a block so all of it is not entirely lying on the ground.
One of our wide loads, feeling energetic one day, jumped her front end over the pole and found that her big belly would not follow. There she was stuck on the raise part of that pole, front legs on one side of the pole, back legs on the other side. I hurried down the hill to the pasture, wondering how I was going to lift that end up over the pole and get her off it.
Fortunately, she was a smart old wide load. By the time I got there, I saw her sidling down the pole to the end that was lying on the ground and was much lower, then she just hopped that cumbersome end over the pole. To horse people, she was doing a very good side pass down that pole.
I have another wide load that has found the poleís end up off the ground very useful. She gets her front end across on purpose and then stands there letting the pole support her very large belly. Iíve seen her stand there very contentedly for a long time, chewing her cud, and literally taking a load off.
In a month or so kidding will start happening and wide loads and goat caretakers will both be wondering if things will move ďnormallyĒ along, or go down a side road into strangeness of this never happening before. Whatever happens, blessed be the sweet wide loads and all goat farmers who care for their herds. Have a Merry Christmas.