In the wee hours of the morning on February 12th, Brownie (Lazy Q Bodacious Chocolate Brownie) gave birth to triplet bucks on the eve of her own 10th birthday. I guess she wanted to start off our kidding season — and her retirement — with a bang!
First, let me tell you a little bit about Brownie aka Brown Cow aka Brownie Cow. She is a goat of many names and many stories.
Brownie and her daughter Sandy were my very first dairy goats. I purchased them in 2008 when I had little to no clue what I was doing, but also doing a ton of research to get off on the right foot. Some things just can’t be learned by research, but have to be taught to us by experience. Brownie taught me many of my first lessons about goats:
- She taught me how to train a wild, adamantly-against-being-milked doe into a fairly calm and mostly well behaved milk goat. Not the first time we tried, though. After a rodeo and some injuries (to the humans, not the goat — goat hooves are sharp!)) I gave up on the first go around. But while Brownie may be stubborn, I can out stubborn anybody when I want to. I tried again and finally succeeded — with a lot of patience and persistence.
- She taught me about birth and learning how to recognize the signs of kidding. She snuck in her first two litter on me unannounced, but by her third I’d finally learned to pick up on the signs…mostly, at least. The second time she kidded I actually checked, decided she wasn’t in labor, and then went to eat lunch at Taco Bell with my dad. Guess what she had waiting for me when I got back? Twins!
- She taught me how to milk a goat. Brownie is not the first goat I milked (successfully), but she really taught me the most about milking. Perhaps it’s because she’s not very cooperative, but in the end I learned a lot about milking and built a lot of hand strength for the task.
- She also taught me a lot about buying goats — not because she was a bad goat to buy, but because there were many things I would have done differently if I had known then what I know now. Which, I’ll be honest…I’m glad I didn’t, because I love Brownie and her ornery self, and her daughter Sandy is the easiest doe to milk in my herd right now. I would have missed out on so much if I had walked away from them!
I often call her Brown Cow in part because she is fat, fat, fat and in part because her personality is such that a single name does not suffice. I also sometimes call her Brownie cow, and sometimes I call her not-so-nice but nonetheless apt names like “hateful little old lady” and “ornery old goat.” Brownie really is a special goat, and owning her has been a unique experience to say the least! I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
And would you believe that in the entire time I’ve owned her — and even in her litters before — Brownie has only ever had twins and singles? In her lifetime Brownie has kidded six times and had eight bucks and three does for a total of 11 kids. Her kidding history is as follows: twins, single, twins, twins, single, triplets. Although she was certainly big enough, I never would have thought she would decide to have triplets a day before her tenth birthday. I didn’t think that, genetically, she had it in her! Usually her kids are pretty large, so I figured she was just having a couple of good sized kids. It just goes to show that they can always surprise us.
For what it’s worth, my nutrition and mineral supplementation has been almost the same for the majority of the time I’ve owned Brownie. I learned about copper and selenium in the first year I owned her. The only changes have been to switch to copper bolusing every 4 months instead of every 6 — which I changed over a couple of years ago — and then last year I stopped supplementing selenium with gel and switched to free-choice selenium/vit e powder. Was it selenium? Was she just holding out on me all these years? I have no clue.
But I do know that Brownie is an excellent mother and always has been. Her kids are always robust and grow quickly, she’s never had any trouble kidding, and she takes care of them from the start. She is my most trusted mama goat.
The Birth Story
Brownie started showing the early signs of labor around 7:30 pm on the 11th, though she had seemed uncomfortable for the past 48 hours or so and her ligaments were almost completely gone the night before — I could just barely feel them if I really tried. I checked on her every two hours that night, then kept her up on the barn cam almost constantly all day the 11th. By 7:30 pm I knew it was just about go time, so I moved her into the kidding pen. I really wanted to keep the kidding stall unoccupied and clean as possible until the very last minute.
Brownie continued to be up and down, restless, and stretching a lot. She started mild contractions that were several minutes apart and not resulting in pushing. I kept a close eye on her as she progressed through labor. Finally, sometime around 11:30 pm (the hours all start to blur together) she started getting serious about pushing, and it was not long after midnight when the first kid, the light buckskin, was born.
The second to be born was the little black buck, who came out yelling! He is the runt of the litter but also has the most spunk. I’m hoping that will allow him to fend off his big brothers so we don’t end up with a bottle baby, but we shall see. So far so good.
Third came the dark buckskin with random white, surprisingly the largest of the group. In my experience the largest has usually come first, but leave it to Brownie to do things backwards! Speaking of backwards, this baby came out breech with his back feet first. Slid right on out.
Thankfully it wasn’t too terribly cold, and all the kids were up and nursing on their own not too long after birth. All three had a good suck reflex and a strong instinct to find that milk. Brownie got an extra helping of red raspberry leaf and some molasses water, and everyone is doing great. Not a bad start to kidding season!
The End of an Era
Brownie turns 10 this year on February 13th, 2016. This means that this is her very last litter and she will be entering into retirement to live out her remaining years — of which I hope there are many! — as a fat little pasture ornament, herd queen, and consultant to the other does. Goats can live into their teens, so I’m hoping we’ll have several more years of her presence in the herd.
It’s such a bittersweet moment, knowing that these will be her last kids. It almost makes me a little teary eyed if I think about it too hard. In some ways, this is like the end of an era.
But Brownie’s presence will live on in the herd as long as I own goats. I have Sandy and will hopefully be retaining a doeling out of her as well — and if Sandy only has bucks, well, I guess we’ll retain a buckling instead, at least long enough to get another doeling! Brownie improved on herself so much in Sandy’s udder, which is by far my favorite to milk, so I’m hoping that trend will continue!
Here’s to you, Brownie! I hope you enjoy your retirement. And please see to it that Sandy has doelings. Work your goaty magic.
I love that ornery old goat.