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Need Goat Info for my Novel

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Need Goat Info for my Novel

Post Number:#1  Unread postby MaggieJ » Tue Jul 18, 2017 1:19 pm


Hi folks! I'm looking for information about birth complications in goats for my historical novel.

This is the scenario as I see it at the moment:
- The year is 1894 and the setting is a remote rural homestead in Ontario.
- Sarah's doe has gone into labour (second pregnancy) and it is not going well. Sarah manages (using carbolic soap to disinfect her hands and olive oil for a lubricant) to re-position and deliver one kid - DOA - and then the second, a live birth.
- The doe hemorrhages badly after the placenta is delivered. Sarah has some herbal knowledge but not enough to be confident. She tries shepherd's purse, red raspberry leaf, nettle, yellow dock. It is hard to get the doe to take anything. She tries the old midwife's trick of using a piece of the placenta in the mouth of the doe. What else should she do that a young farm wife would know to try?
The doe is still bleeding and growing steadily weaker. Eventually she dies. Sarah is stunned, but when she sees the eyes glazing over, she realizes there is nothing more she can do for the doe.
- Sarah turns her attention to the kid. Can the kid suckle a newly dead doe (or perhaps this should be before the doe actually dies) in order to get the colostrum that is so necessary? Could Sarah milk it out?
- Sarah has a second doe that gave birth about three months earlier and is giving a good quantity of milk. The kids are not with her. Would this doe likely let the kid suckle or would it refuse it? Would Sarah have to bottle feed the kid? And if so how could she improvise if she does not have a feeding bottle or nipple?

I've done quite a bit of research on the Internet, including watching several videos of goats giving birth. Still, I'm sure I've missed some things or made "armchair newbie" mistakes which I am hoping you folks can spot and help me troubleshoot. Please remember that Sarah is 21 and still fairly inexperienced; it is not necessary or likely that she would know everything that would be considered "best practices" today. She is simply doing the best she can with what she has available. Any help you can give me will be very much appreciated.

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Re: Need Goat Info for my Novel

Post Number:#2  Unread postby Nymphadora » Tue Jul 18, 2017 2:19 pm


MaggieJ wrote:Please remember that Sarah is 21 and still fairly inexperienced; it is not necessary or likely that she would know everything that would be considered "best practices" today. She is simply doing the best she can with what she has available. Any help you can give me will be very much appreciated.


*Disclaimer: I have no useful knowledge whatsoever about the goats.

However, what I am curious about (and possibly it's already mentioned in the story) is why Sarah, at 21 years old in 1894 would be inexperienced on a homestead? From what I remember about my history classes in regards to that time period, A) children were generally relied upon to help run the farms and homes, so they would have that experience when B) they married very young and would have to be able to support their partners with running a homestead. If Sarah is originally from a more populated town or her family was in a trade that did not require her to work with livestock, I can imagine this scenario more fully, but with the information given it seems that Sarah should be at least fairly confident, as she would have seen similar situations growing up.

Sorry for the tangent, Maggie, I really like historical novels and the background and details makes things so much more real to me. I hope you get the answers you need, and I think this is a fantastic scene to add into a story!
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Re: Need Goat Info for my Novel

Post Number:#3  Unread postby MaggieJ » Tue Jul 18, 2017 3:02 pm


Good points all, Nymphadora! :)

Sarah was a "home child", one of about 80,00 orphans or homeless children shipped out from Britain to Canada between 1869 and 1930. She was orphaned at four and raised in a London rescue home until twelve, then she was sent to Canada as a kind of servant. She had one year on a farm, but after a severe beating, she left and was taken in by the town doctor to whom she appealed to patch up her injuries. She lived in town until she married Ned just after her 18th birthday.

Ned does not farm. He is a hand at the lumber mill ($1/day) and Sarah starts homesteading in a small way so they can live better. A garden first, then chickens, then the goats, then a couple of weaner pigs. They have two children, two and one. They are always under some financial pressure and losing one of their two milk goats is a serious matter.

Hope this makes sense and answers your very relevant questions!

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Re: Need Goat Info for my Novel

Post Number:#4  Unread postby TeaTimeBunnies » Tue Jul 18, 2017 6:47 pm


It's been a couple years since I've delt with goats so I don't remember terms, but I can describe some problems:

Two kids at once instead of one at a time

One or both legs folded under (not pointed straight in front of the head)

Kid head in wrong position (head curled to it's side instead of facing forward)

Kid turned around (butt first)

Kid upside down

Over large kid getting stuck and/or causing prolapse

Prolapsing

I hope this helps. Maybe someone will come along with the actual terms and more issues for you
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Re: Need Goat Info for my Novel

Post Number:#5  Unread postby MaggieJ » Tue Jul 18, 2017 7:03 pm


Thanks, TeaTimeBunnies, for the suggestions. I can see where any of those could cause problems.

I'm sure I'll be able to work the description through -- might take a few drafts -- but I want to avoid saying anything really stupid. We never quite got to the stage where we could get goats -- and then my arthritis got too bad to take on new critter projects.

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Re: Need Goat Info for my Novel

Post Number:#6  Unread postby SixGun » Wed Jul 19, 2017 10:54 am


My experience is much more with sheep, than goats, but for the most part knowledge crosses species in this case.

The doe should have milk, some does have some present a day or so before, so the kid should be able to suckle and Sarah should be able to milk out as much colostrum as possible.
The other doe would likely not let the kid nurse, unless she was restrained. And since it is likely a milking goat (as she still has milk but no kids I assume Sarah is milking her), putting her in the stanchion and letting the kid nurse would be possible.
If the kid had to be bottle fed... 1890s you would have leather gloves that you could cut the tip of a finger out of, messy but mostly effective.

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Re: Need Goat Info for my Novel

Post Number:#7  Unread postby MaggieJ » Wed Jul 19, 2017 11:22 am


Bless you, SixGun, this is exactly the kind of information I need! :D

I thought it should be possible to get colostrum from the deceased doe (sounds grim, but Sarah would do a lot to save the kid) but I wasn't sure. I'll mention the doe "bagging up" a day or two before the birth.

And the glove - perfect! I thought of that this morning (it's the kind of thing Sarah would try) but wasn't too sure if it would work. Messy is okay -- a novel needs sensory details to bring it alive.

Thanks to all of you who replied. I was sure I could count on my RTers for help. :love:

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Re: Need Goat Info for my Novel

Post Number:#8  Unread postby LittleFluffyBunnies » Thu Jul 20, 2017 4:21 am


I have no goat input, but I just wanted to say I am impressed with the detail going into this!!! Sounds like it will make a very realistic, gripping story that transports the reader to the world inside. Is this novel eventually going to be published? It sounds like my mom and her mom would really enjoy it, they love historical books.
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Re: Need Goat Info for my Novel

Post Number:#9  Unread postby MaggieJ » Thu Jul 20, 2017 7:44 am


LFB, thanks for your kind words. I certainly hope this novel will be published. I've been writing on and off since I was younger than you, but it is only now that I have retired that I've managed to devote regular time to it. (Don't make that mistake if you are serious about your writing.) The earlier efforts weren't wasted, however -- I had fun, and I learned a lot both about life and about writing along the way. If this novel gets published, you can be sure I'll post about it here on RT.

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Re: Need Goat Info for my Novel

Post Number:#10  Unread postby SixGun » Thu Jul 20, 2017 1:50 pm


I for one would love to read it. I love historical fiction, and what you've teased with so far is absolutely enticing.

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Re: Need Goat Info for my Novel

Post Number:#11  Unread postby MaggieJ » Thu Jul 20, 2017 2:29 pm


Oooh! Enticing is good! 8-)

Let's just hope the publishers see it that way too. ;)

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