Many people express surprise that in spite of the fact that we have so many goats here, the majority of which are British Toggenburgs and are similar in appearance - being chocolate-coloured with white points – that we know each and every one, by name. This is a simple consequence of working closely with them every day; to us they are not ‘farm animals’ but are much more our friends; all individuals with (generally speaking) a good sense of humour & their own quirky nature.
Take bearded lady Vine, who adores cuddles and would do anything for a ginger nut (including attempting to retrieve one from down Tony’s throat once – but that’s another story!); Ninny, who lovingly entwines herself around your legs like a giant cat, almost knocking you over every time you enter her pen; Morganna, who has the most disapproving, pinch-faced Matron expression if you dare to be even so much as a few minutes’ late with her breakfast lucerne; Blodwen, mad as a box of frogs but inherently trusting in her child-like way; & Wolfie, the Herd Matriarch who loves to have her photo taken & insists on being in every on-farm publicity shoot.
But there are some who weave their way into your life in such a manner, that they will always have an extra-special place in your heart; no matter what.
And this year, it was Dyddanwy.
Whilst we are currently rearing four kids in the house as they are still too small to live full-time in the Kids’ Playpen, one of them in particular has her own special story. I’d been working at Food Centre Wales one day when I hurried home to find that Buddug (pronounced Bythie) had given birth, prematurely in my absence; & her single, tiny, female kid was lying wet & shivering at her feet. Being a first-time Mum she’d at least attempted to lick the kid clean; however the temptations of the hayrack evidently got the better of the errant young mother & she’d wandered off for a snack, quickly forgetting all about her baby and the fact that she’d just given birth. When I found the poor little mite, I really did not expect her to survive; especially as her legs appeared to be so thin, so stick-like, they could not possibly take her weight. I picked up the cold, quiet little body. She was so small that she fitted into the palm of my hand. Thankfully her eyes were at least open; but she was clearly very weak indeed.
Gently gathering her up in my fleece I hastened into the house, where my first priority was to get her warm & dry as quickly as possible. The next thing was to return to Mum Bythie & take some life-giving colostrum from her, in the hope that the little one could manage food; if not it would be a stomach tube – not the easiest procedure, I reminded myself grimly.
I supported the tiny kid’s head, & gently inserted the rubber teat into her mouth. Remarkably, on feeling the teat between her lips & the drops of warm, welcome milk, her instinct was to suck – although she could only take a few small sips. An all-night vigil began, watching at her bedside & carefully monitoring her progress, administering thimble-sized mouthfuls of milk as & when she stirred, if she appeared hungry. Apart from a thin, tiny bleat when I’d first entered the pen, she had not made a single sound.
I must have dozed off at some point; because I woke at dawn to hear a thrashing beside me – my worst nightmare; was she dying…?
But no; she was in fact, attempting to stand up – & by the end of the morning, this determined little character had managed to do so – all on her own in spite of those twig-thin legs. For the next couple of weeks she travelled everywhere with me; as being so tiny she needed a feed every hour or so, her little tum being too miniscule to manage much sustenance. And as she grew stronger she grew in confidence, too; acting as an impromptu ambassador for Lovespoon, adored by all who met her & clearly enjoying the fuss and attention.
Unfortunately her little life was not without problems; as she was born with front legs “over at the knee”; in other words, they had a prominent bend which made walking more of a challenge. Would she ever make a milking goat; would she even survive…?
Last week I had to take her to the vet – the second time she’d been seen. Helen looked at her carefully. A syringe was prepared; the needle slipped beneath the skin….& that lovely little goat was gently put to sleep.
Temporarily though, I am delighted to say! She was booked in for disbudding because her little horns – along with the rest of her – were rocketing up at the speed of the farm’s fresh green grass which will soon, hopefully, be a fine crop of hay. The vet was amazed at her impressive progress & by how much she’d grown in only a couple of weeks.
The feisty little caprine came round from the anaesthetic spluttering indignantly, smearing my face with azure-coloured antiseptic spray as I cradled her - the first time I’ve been literally blue in the face! And within minutes she was causing all sorts of trouble as she kept trying to escape whilst her siblings’ horns were being treated; with resultant mayhem in the operating theatre. We ended up having to confine her in a giant cardboard box at which she spluttered and fizzed indignantly (& my goodness, she is certainly more than making up for her initial silence now, as she really can make one helluva racket!).
So now Dyddanwy (or Diddie, for short; because frankly, she IS short) is sharing the pen in the living room with three other erstwhile little chums: enjoying sunny afternoons playing on the farmyard whilst good old feline Uncle Mozzer watches over his charges in return for a bowl of his favourite, creamy goats’ milk; & still cosying up on the sofa for a bedtime story with her warm feeding bottle. A courageous little character, she never ceases to amaze me & grows bigger & stronger in body & in personality, with every passing day.
One of life’s little miracles.