Today Mother Nature really dealt us some ups & downs.
Firstly, I was amazed & delighted when I opened the duck house door to add their daily dose of fresh bedding this morning, to find the girls’ very first egg: a perfect, big, pearlescent moon riding on its’ golden cloud of straw as the ducks pattered their busy way outside, quacking loudly in their excitement at breakfast being served.
We originally purchased our frustratingly timid trio of little Indian Runners as chicks from the Builth Wells Smallholder Show last year; however to date they’d not laid so much as a single egg. I was beginning to see their future more on a plate with an unctuous orange & molasses sauce with some fresh veg, than as the egg-laying prospects for which we’d purchased them (duck eggs are superior ingredients in cakes & classic crème anglaise/yellow base ice cream). But now the boy & two girls have been given a reprieve; although it looks as if I’ll have to put the eggs in an incubator, if we decide to add to the flock.
Then came the bad news. When I left for my Welsh lesson the weather had been overcast but dry; so I let the Milkforce out into the field behind the house for a few hours to stretch their legs. After a productive lesson I hastened back to the Ffarm as the weather was closing in rapidly – from the top of the driveway I saw to my dismay that the mountains were obscured by cinereal curtains of driving rain; whilst the wind had picked up & was blustering coldly across the hills, making the twisted branches of the beech tree rattle as if quaking with cold at the icy blasts.
I hurried down to the Ffarm to fill the hayracks & replenish the bedding in the Milkforce’s pen, so they’d have a literally warm welcome before the rains came. Whilst liberally scattering the straw I noticed something odd, tucked in the most secluded corner of the pen. What appeared to be a livid red rubber chicken had apparently been tossed there.
Cursing quietly as I wondered what antics the goats had been up to this time, I approached the offending object….& then shock & dismay gripped me as the truth dawned – it was the corpse of a tiny goat foetus, splayed out naked on the straw. As whichever goat had aborted it wasn’t due to kid for a couple of months, the pathetic little body had not developed very far; but enough to tell it appeared to be in perfect health, & was a male.
I immediately donned surgical gloves & removed the dead foetus, along with any bloodied bedding I could find. As it was by now too late to take it for post mortem I put it in an old feed sack before hurrying the girls indoors, assuming I already had a fair idea of which goat had aborted – Woodie, I thought, who’d produced a mummified kid last year & had suffered ongoing uterine infections on & off, ever since.
So I was even more dismayed to discover that it was Zuschneria who’d aborted, this time; as the previous year she’d produced us two wonderful, robustly healthy female kids; Arwenna & Aderyn (the latter who went on to break her leg – but that’s another story….which I’ve recounted in the current April edition of ‘Smallholder’ magazine, if you’re interested).
At least ‘Zuskie’ seemed none the worse for her experience; was unconcernedly munching hay & appeared bright-eyed; although I was concerned that I’d found no sign of any afterbirth near the foetus although she could have consumed it as she’d apparently licked the poor little chap clean.
I took advice from our goat mentor who said not to move her away from her chums just yet as it would only be more stressful for her; & abortion ‘storms’ are rare these days. Essentially she should be treated as a normal goatling & if all was well put her back with Merson, our stud male, in a week or so to see if she could possibly still be mated; in the meantime, a watchful eye would be required.
Alas, there was nothing else to do than puzzle over why & how on earth such an unexpected tragedy could have happened; with another sleepless night ahead……poor Zuskie.