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Getting Goats to Adopt – How It’s Done

We are flying. We are elated. We feel like a million bucks – a million tiny, adorable, floppy-eared bucks. It’s not often I get to write a post about a farming victory.  Most of my stories are about lessons learned, questions we have, or funny screw ups.  Actually this story starts out as a not-so-funny screw up.  Thursday morning I sent Chet and Dawson, who rides to school with us on Thursdays, out to check on the animals and let the goats and chickens out of the barn as usual.  They came back distraught.  Our sweet goat, Miss Jill, had had her baby and it was dead.

Miss Jill and Charming Chet last fall
Miss Jill and Charming Chet last fall

We aren’t sure what happened.  We weren’t expecting her to kid for two more weeks, so we didn’t have her stalled, and we didn’t have heat lamps on.  Maybe the poor thing froze to death.  Miss Jill was in our barn, out of the wind. The goats’ water hadn’t frozen, but it was in the teens outside.  Who know?  Maybe it was just too early.  The truth is, I didn’t investigate.  We were running late – very late, and I would not have known what to look for anyway.   The boys wrapped the baby in a towel, Charming Hal disposed of it, and we rushed off to school – disappointed and sad.

I only teach half a day, so when I came home I headed out to the barn, half hoping to find that Miss Jill had had another baby while we were gone.  No such luck.  In fact, what I did find worried me a bit.  Her udder was full, as expected, but her belly was huge too and she was still passing after-birth.  I called my friend Ashley from Goldilocks Farm, and she suggested I check Miss Jill to be sure there wasn’t another baby in there.  Huh? I do NOT know how to do that.

Fortunately for me, my very good friend and blogging partner, Miss Jill the Person, does.  I have a lot of good friends, friends who would watch my kids, give me a ride to the airport, help me redecorate my house, but I don’t know many people who I could call and say, “Hey, I’m not going to be home, but could you stop by later and stick your hand up my goat’s hoo hah to see if there is a baby in there?”  Her response:  “Sure.  I just need to go home after work and change clothes first.”  Charming Readers, THAT is a good person and a good friend.

After Miss Jill the Person completed her thorough exam of Miss Jill the Goat, we felt confident that there was not going to be another baby. We were sad, but Miss Jill the Goat seemed sadder.  She just kept wandering around, presumably looking for her baby, and bawling.  That’s when I had an idea.  Several of my Charming Farming friends have had successful kidding seasons thus far, many with twins or triplets, a lot of them little bucks. And as every goat breeder knows, when it comes to increasing your herd or making money, an abundance of bucks is not good.  Often breeders are eager to pass the bucks- so to speak.

I did a quick Google search and found that while getting a Nanny to take a foster baby can be a win/win for both the mamma and the baby, it is tricky and often unsuccessful.  Still, I wanted to try.  Not only was Miss Jill sad, but she didn’t seem to be bouncing back from the birth. Even Ashely was at a bit of a loss because often when a mamma goat loses a baby, she still has its twin to care for.  And while I don’t know a lot about goat birth, I do have some experience with people birth, and it is my experience that nursing a baby causes contractions that help speed the post-partum recovery process.

So, even though the odds of getting Miss Jill to accept another baby were slim, I decided to try.  On Friday afternoon while the children were in school, I went to Goldilocks Farm to get a little buck for Miss Jill to adopt.  I didn’t know what I was doing, but I was determined and hopeful it would work.

Charming Friends, it is a cold and snowy Sunday afternoon, and I am thrilled to report that Miss Jill the Goat and Dawson the Baby Goat, her newly adopted son, are happily snuggled up in the barn.  It was by no means love at first sight, but she sure does love him now.  I’m not sure what other goat people have done in this situation, but here’s what we did to ensure bonding:

I wrapped him up in a Miss Jill scented towel.  Before heading over to Ashely’s I rubbed Miss Jill the Goat down with an old beach towel.  I wanted to get her scent on him right away.

We fought the urge to make him our own.  It wasn’t easy.  Dawson the Baby Goat is adorable but after wrapping him in the Miss Jill scented towel, I put him in a plastic tub, picked up the kids at school, refused their pleas to hold him, and brought him straight to the barn to his new mother.

Dawson waiting for the kids to get out of school
Dawson waiting for the kids to get out of school

We forced Miss Jill to nurse him.  That’s not as bad as it sounds.  We put Dawson and Miss Jill in a stall together, and he immediately went for the udder.  Miss Jill, on the other hand, was not so eager. She butted.  She kicked.  She ignored.  To help the process, I straddled Miss Jill while Charming Chet held her back legs.  She squirmed a bit, but she tolerated him.  Before long, I we didn’t have to hold on so tight.  We just had to be at the ready for when she decide to butt or kick.

We scented him up.  Not only did I wrap Dawson in a Miss Jill scented towel, we actually rubbed him all over Miss Jill – picked him up and literally rubbed him up and down her body repeatedly.  She was a good sport.  We also squirted him down with his new mother’s milk.  Within an hour of us bringing him home, he smelled like he was born here.  Of course, I’m assuming.  I don’t really know how he smelled to Miss Jill.

We were patient.  That was probably the toughest part of all.  Little Dawson is so cute and helpless.  It was horrible to watch  him crouch in the corner of the stall, shivering in the cold and rejected by his new mother.  It was even harder to watch when she butted him away.  But we did watch.  And watched.  And watched.  And watched.  We spent hours in the barn making sure she didn’t hurt him and that he didn’t get too cold.  That night we returned to the barn repeatedly just to be sure he was okay.  Finally, around 1:00 a.m. we found them snuggled up together snoozing away.   By morning, he was nursing at will.  And the rest, Charming Friends, is goat farming history…

Little Dawson Nursing
Little Dawson Nursing
Cuddle Time
Cuddle Time
Mother and Son
Mother and Son

Okay.  Okay.  Maybe that’s not the whole story.  Not quite.  Getting Dawson the Baby Goat went so well we thought he needed a brother.  Meet Butterball.

How cute is he?
How cute is he?

We got him from our friends at Got 2B Kidding Goat Farm.  He was a failure to thrive twin – his sister taking most of their mother’s attention and milk.


And yes.  That’s a bottle.

Well, one for one ain’t bad.  And in the meantime, The Littles are delighted to get to cuddle this little guy.


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4 thoughts on “Getting Goats to Adopt – How It’s Done

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