Birth and Death


February brought new babies to our goat herd. (See Goat genetics) We started with the birth of Brownie (girl, little ears, campanitas (bells)), to Shortie. The next day Moya gave birth to Peanut Butter (boy, pinto, no campanitas, little ears.) Then Caramela gave birth to Pumpkin( boy, little ears, no campanitas.) The fourth day had Vaca producing twin girls (little ears, campanitas, and pintas.) We haven’t come up with proper names for them yet, we’ve been toying with Cookie and Galleta, or maybe Bessie and Bertha, but it remains to be seen. Then the fifth day, Short Ears, our oldest goat at 4 years, also presented us with twins, a boy, and a girl, (little ears, all-white, the girl has campanitas, the boy doesn’t.) We’ve named them Sugar and Salt. Queenie also presented us with early morning twin boys (short ears, campanitas) tentatively named Chocolate and Vanilla.  That leaves Venada waited nearly a week before delivering twin boys.  I guess she wanted them to make an entrance.  One is brown, the other white, both with little ears and campanitas.  And much to our astonishment, Princess is also pregnant, although less than a year old.  We aren’t expecting her to deliver for a few more weeks though.


Short Ears has never had any sort of problem giving birth up until now. She varies the number of babies she has. The last birth gave us Princess, (pinta, short ears, campanitas.) The time before, she gave us twins, Duke and Duchess (white, no campanitas). This time, at first, she seemed to be just fine. We arrived home right after her second baby had been born. She had already expelled the tripa, (placenta) from the first baby and was in the process of cleaning baby 2. As she had a boy/girl set, there were 2 placentas, unlike Vaca, whose girls arrived in the same bag. This second afterbirth took its sweet time in detaching. The next morning, there was still a sizable section attached. So, my husband, had me consult the “book.” Otherwise known as Keeping Livestock Healthy: A Comprehensive Veterinary Guide to Preventing and Identifying Disease in Horses, Cattle, Swine, Goats & Sheep, 4th Edition

goat kid

What I found in my research was that she had a retained placenta. Typically the placenta is expelled 30 minutes to 12 hours after the birth, but, that if it hasn’t, you should by no means pull at it as that might cause internal bleeding and death. Okie, Dokie. So we decided to wait it out. As long as there was no infection, there should be no problem. We separated Short ears and babies from the other new mamas and mamas-to-be so that she could rest and eat at her leisure. She seemed listless and tired, which again was not normal for her. Additionally, her stomach remained inchada (swollen), and we wondered if perhaps there was a third baby as yet unborn. My husband treated her to a corn handful, which she ate up with gusto, and some plants that he remembered might help in expelling the afterbirth. (Emergency Procedures First Aid and Nursing Care for Goats)

Much to our horror, although Short Ears had successfully expelled the second placenta, the next morning found us with a dead sheep. I haven’t mentioned the The Roof that Almost Wasn’t). Flaca la borrega (Skinny) had just given birth to Jack when they arrived. She was so weak that she couldn’t stand to eat. We were concerned that she might not recover. However, it wasn’t Flaca that had died, but Panzas (big belly).


The second female and heavily pregnant sheep we named Panzas because of her girth. Since the moment we got her, she was a bleater. She bleated when we arrived, she bleated when we left, she bleated when she caught sight of us in the window, she bleated when she didn’t. We often remarked that we wished we understood sheep because she was obviously trying to tell us something. We hadn’t noticed much of a difference the day before, what with our focus being on Short Ears. However, in the afternoon, my son and I had remarked that she was breathing like she’d been running. The week prior, due to births and imminent births, we hadn’t taken the goats or sheep out of the pens but kept them in feed. In the morning, we had brought back a special treat, a bag of orange rinds from a juice vendor, and distributed it among the ladies. We were completely clueless as to what might have caused her sudden death.

My husband had me consult the book again, but I didn’t have enough information to determine the cause of death. Our concern was that it might be something contagious and we would loose our precious newborns. We estimated she had died in the very early morning. My husband found her around 5 am. We decided that just maybe we could save the baby. I convinced my husband to take the body out of the pen before he cut it open just in case there was something contagious involved. So he hauled her bloated corpse out and cut her open. The baby had already died. Since she was already opened, he performed an autopsy. In her stomach, he found a 6-inch long rope, the kind that is often used to tie up pacas (hay bales). So with this, we think the cause of death was bloat.

I believe that the previous owner knew that she had eaten the rope and did not tell us. My husband thinks everyone is his friend and that “he wouldn’t do that.” We know she did not ingest the rope while she was in our care. The alfalfa bales that we buy are bound in wire. Furthermore, my husband is meticulous in checking the food for bits of debris. When he dumped the orange pieces into the trough that morning, he removed every little bit of plastic and paper napkin.

Panzas’ progressing pregnancy also masked a swollen stomach symptom and put more pressure on the stomach, which is probably what she had been trying to say with all her bleating. The hard breathing was also a symptom of the impending death that we overlooked as it could have also been pregnancy induced. (Bloat in sheep and goats: Causes, prevention and treatment)

As we didn’t know she had eaten a foreign substance, we didn’t even know what to look for or where to look for it. We feel sad that she died under our care, but I personally feel angry about the previous owner’s negligence. We knew that he did not care for his animals with the same compassion that we do, which is why Flaca arrived in such a state. And now he is the new owner of Beauty, whose condition has deteriorated to such a state that she is unrecognizable. We have some vague thoughts of buying her back. My husband’s done that before, sold her and bought her back. I guess we shall see what happens.

But then, Flaca died the following afternoon. She had a rectal prolapse like what took place when we had the piggies staying with us who ate chicken intestines. (See Miss Piggy didn’t bring home the bacon). My husband tried various things when she noticed she wasn’t up and ‘attem, even went to the vet to see if there was something more to be done. The vet said that the oranges were what did it. However, we asked around to other borrega (sheep) owners, and they said no. We have given oranges to them before with no ill effects. I checked the books, there wasn’t anything listed about oranges. I went to the internet and found that no, oranges were ok for sheep. ( Effects of feeding ensiled sliced oranges to lactating dairy sheep Australian oranges being fed to the sheep Citrus pulp, fresh Citrus Pulp in Formulated Diet)

So then we thought maybe the oranges we got were bad, but no, none of the goats got sick, besides Short Ears who was already sick prior to the orange snack. And we had fed them oranges before, ruling out bloat caused by sudden change in diet. ( Rectal Prolapse in Sheep Rectal prolapse)

We continued our collection of information in the days following the sudden deaths.  My father-in-law told us that a sheep can be “deflated” in the event of bloat with a knife hole in the back stomach, right at the hipbone juncture.  He’s convinced the oranges were too warm and caused the bloat.  Another borrega owner told us that giving the sheep beer will force it to burp and take care of the problem.  So armed with new knowledge, we blunder on.  We knew that sheep were more troublesome to care for from previous experience (See Separating the sheep and the goats), but we’ve never had any livestock die on us, except of course the rabbits, duck, and chickens that were killed by various dogs (See 101 Perritos)

So this has left poor Jack an orphan. We hope that he’ll find a buddy in the myriad of new kids on the block, but so far he bleats for his mommy, and we are helpless to comfort him.

bringing in the sheep

Jack, Flaca and Panzas

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Filed under Animal Husbandry, Homesteading

3 responses to “Birth and Death

  1. Pingback: Old MacDonald’s Farm | Surviving Mexico

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