Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Our First Goat

Sally and all five kids

Our very first goat was named Sadie.  We didn't have her for very long, though.  Our first experience was pretty traumatic.  I had decided, by the spring of our first year, that I needed more to occupy me, and that I'd like a milk goat.  Although I'd done lots of reading, I'd never had livestock; and we really weren't ready for it.  We had no barn and no fencing.  Really, no-one should have sold us a milk goat then.  However, we put up a small goat shelter and found a fellow just a few miles away who had a goat for sale.

Sadie was a Saanen in an advanced state of pregnancy.  We knew that it wasn't the best idea to move a goat to a new home at that point, but we had some doubts about the care she was getting where she was, and thought we could care for her better.  We brought her home.  We had good feed for her and she was a lovely, quiet goat who settled in easily.  All seemed well.

Two weeks later, on a dark and stormy night, Sadie gave birth to triplets.  She didn't have any trouble, the kids were strong; we went to bed happy.  When we went out in the morning, though, she wouldn't get up and the kids were obviously hungry.  We spent the day phoning people for advice and trying to coax her with treats.  We learned how to milk a goat that's lying down and borrowed lamb's nipples from one of our neighbours to bottle feed.  By evening, we'd decided that she needed the vet and we bundled her into the truck and headed for town.

The vet diagnosed milk fever, which is a calcium-deficiency problem that can result in death.  It was caused by severe malnutrition.  We'd been right about the care she'd been getting.  What a way to find out!  She got a calcium injection and perked right up, but the vet wasn't optimistic about her long-term prospects.  We went away with supplements and hope.

The next couple of days were a roller coaster of emotions as she improved, relapsed, improved again.  We nursed her constantly, between bottle-feeding the kids with milk from a neighbour.  On the second day, Sadie died, leaving us with three orphans to care for.

The fellow that sold us Sadie was distressed to learn what had happened.  After a discussion with him, we figured out that he had three does together in one pen.  He fed them adequately, but put all the feed in one spot.  Poor Sadie was the lowest goat on the totem pole; she must have got very little of the food.  This guy had only been keeping goats for a few months longer than we had and didn't know any better.  He was already discouraged and was only too happy to get rid of another goat by replacing Sadie for us. 

We came home with Sally, the dominant goat in his herd, with her two kids.  Suddenly, we had six goats: Sally and five kids.  I'd never be bored again.


  1. Thank you for sharing your story. Even though a tragedy wasn't averted mainly because of ignorance (not trying to sound mean), we can learn from mistakes. We've all had our share of them & it's good to not only admit them, but share with others so they don't have to go through the same thing.

    Good luck with your new herd! This year it's six goats.....just wait until NEXT year! Can you say "Dozen"!

  2. Actually, that story is from 1992, when we were just starting out. You were absolutely right, though, it wasn't long before we were up to a dozen. We're back down to four now. Thanks for your comment.