Our goats are 8 weeks overdue.
Ok, that's silly obviously. Most likely not overdue at all. But might as well be.
Here's the short of it: The does we were milking last year dried up (stopped producing milk) gradually, after we bred them this fall. We were hoping to milk them through January, but it was not to be. And a little break from milking was nice and needed anyway. However, the demand for our goat's milk products (and lotion especially) continued. And since I will only use fresh, raw milk in my lotions I was out of luck. Since a goat's gestation is 5 months, our goats weren't due until March. That's a long time to keep faithful lotion customers waiting. So I decided to purchase a couple more does in early January. These does had been running with a buck since August, so we figured -great- babies (and milk) in January, or at the very latest, February.
And here we are on the eve of March 2. No babies. Now, I know and trust the farmer we purchased them from, and I do know for a fact that they're bred- I can feel the babies kicking on their right side (the left side is rumen activity which can be mistaken for babies kicking). So what we have here is not an abnormally long gestation or even a case of a sterile buck. Perhaps just a buck that wasn't persistent enough. Lol.
Because we don't know the date, we've been doing barn checks every two hours since early January. Yes, every. two. hours. since. early. January. -because sometimes babies can come quickly and with little warning. I must admit though, that I don't do middle of the night checks. I mean I have, but I stopped. I have a baby that nurses much of the night. So between him, and barn checks, Mama wasn't gettin' any sleep. However if I saw imminent signs (like those discussed below), obviously I'd do what I had to do. But really, I'm hoping and praying for daytime babies. They're just so much more convenient.
It's funny, just like I was in my ninth month pregnant with all my babies, I'm starting to think the day will N E V E R C O M E .
But that's silly too. It always does.
So what signs of labor are we checking for? (And this is the part where I may lose some of you. I understand. It's not everybody's thing.)
Here is what we check for at Dandelion's Acre Farm:
1. A filling udder. This usually means labor is now-36 hours away. Although some udders don't fill until after birth.
2. Loose ligaments (when their tail-head becomes so soft that you can touch fingers when you grasp around it.
3. This book: http://www.amazon.com/Goat-Husbandry-David-MacKenzie/dp/0571165958
(which I really enjoy and recommend, by the way) explains that an old way to tell if labor is coming is to feel the right side of the goat (like I explained earlier) and if you feel no babies squirming or kicking then that means that they've moved up into the birth canal and birth should be 8-12 hours away. I'm not so sure about this one, but I'm trying it out to see anyway.
4. White discharge which could mean labor is just beginning or will begin in the next 12-24 hrs, or a string of mucous which means that you better holler for someone to bring the boiling water, 'cause it be soon.
Just kidding. No boiling water needed. Holler for molasses water instead. Mama goats like their molasses water. :)
5. Quirky behavior -when in labor, pawing, pacing, circling, or simply standing pitifully and staring morosely into your eyes as if pleading, "please do something, man, this is no fun", are all examples of the behavior of a goat in labor. Seriously though, goats are quirky creatures anyway, so who knows.
All these signs may vary from goat to goat, so really there is no foolproof way to tell (other than that lovely mucous string I mentioned previously).
I'm also convinced that a true knowing that "this is the day!" comes with time and experience. And even then, experienced farmers have sometimes been duped, which is why most goat owners watch the heat cycles of their does so they know when a buck is needed and can witness the breeding. That way they can pin an actual due date on their doe.
So we wait. And continue barn checks. And in the meantime, the ladies I bred in the fall will start kidding this month as well. It will be a busy one. And the temperature is said to get above freezing this week, so hooray for that, at least.
And I'm just salivating thinking of all that fresh milk.