The New Kid’s Story

Small Things Firsts-3732Small Things Firsts-3734Small Things Firsts-3743Small Things Firsts-3760Small Things Firsts-3763Small Things Firsts-3765Small Things Firsts-3845Small Things Firsts-3853 As Greta began showing signs of impending birth, we started sleeping with our window open so we would hear her in the night.  The barn is quite near the house, and we can hear the girls’ bells ringing when they walk around, and can also easily hear them when they are being vocal.

Saturday night (a little over a week ago) I felt certain that the birth must be close at hand and since I am not sleeping well at this point in my pregnancy anyway, I was up quite frequently.  Each time I would stand and listen at the window, but all was quiet.  I wanted to ask Jonny to go out and check on Greta, but hated to wake him, and since there was no sound of activity, figured maybe I was being silly.  Around 5 a.m. Silas started coughing and he coughed off and on for about an hour.  I woke Jonny and asked him if he might take Silas some water…and walk out to the barn to check on Greta.  I’m not sure that it was intuition, maybe just coincidence, but I knew I wasn’t going to fall back to sleep until he went out to check.

A few minutes later, Jonny came upstairs and said, “There’s a baby out there.”  He grabbed towels, and I moved faster than I thought I could to get dressed.  When I got to the barn, Jonny was holding a tiny doeling wrapped in a towel.  It was a chilly morning, in the 40s.  Greta was casually munching on some weeds.  Jonny said that he found the baby about twenty feet away from her, crying on the ground, with Greta showing no interest.  We think she had been born within ten minutes or so of him getting out there.

The next half hour or so are a bit of a blur in my mind.  We thought that it looked like Greta was giving birth to another kid, as a sack began to emerge.  But no kid appeared.  (turned out it was the placenta) In the meantime, the baby was starting to act really sleepy and Jonny and I started to worry that she was going to die because Greta wouldn’t let her nurse.  I had read that babies need colostrum within the first hour, and she hadn’t had it yet.  According to my kids (all awake at this point) I was a little hysterical.  I recall being relatively calm given that the baby goat was clearly “On the brink of death!!!!!!!”  I called two different friends with goat experience, asking them to please come, and forgive the fact that it was very early on a Sunday morning.  We attempted to get Greta to show some interest in her baby.  She wasn’t interested, but bristled up when we brought her close.  After she butted her and sent her literally flying through the air, Jonny said, “That’s it.  I’m taking my baby.”  He picked her up and wrapped her back in the towel.  With the help of my friends who arrived during all of this, we put Greta on the milking stand and tried to get the baby nursing.  None of it worked.  So finally, Greta got herself milked, and the kid got a bottle, which she took no problem.

So, here we are.  Bottle raising a little doeling named Matilda, or Tilly for short.  We weren’t planning on this, having assumed that Greta would care for her baby.  Instead, Keats is milking Greta twice a day while Jonny holds her back legs.  It’s been pretty interesting and a little stressful, but I think things are getting better on the milking front.  This morning Jonny said happily after milking time, “So let’s say Greta usually kicks 70 times while she is being milked.  I’d say that this morning she only kicked 30 times.  So that’s an improvement.”

Tilly spends some time in a wire crate in the barn each day, but she can’t be out with Greta and Agnes because she is tiny and Greta hates her.  She bites her, butts her, and is just way too violent.  I’m a little worried about the future, because ultimately, Tilly needs to live with the big girls!  For now, she is sleeping in the house on the couch (on a waterproof pad) with Keats, but I don’t think that’s going to last much longer.  I do have goats in the house limits.  Keats is getting up a full hour or two earlier than he used to so he can take care of Tilly and milk Greta.  That is certainly a silver lining.  He’s the kid that we could never get out of bed in the morning!  He’s also the kid that has already started experimenting with making goat cheese, since Greta is making more than Tilly needs.  He made queso blanco the other day, and it was a little bland, but definitely edible.  We’ve got lots of plans now for other cheeses and for soap.  I’m especially excited about making Greta Goat milk soap!

Sweet little Tilly is the most darling little animal I think I’ve ever known.  We all love her, even Jonny who typically doesn’t fuss too much over animals.  While everything hasn’t gone according to plan, we are enjoying this new adventure.

We are pretty sure at this point that Agnes won’t be having babies this year.  And I have to say, I’m okay with that.  Tilly and Greta are keeping us plenty busy!


  1. *sigh* what a sweet baby goat! I’m afraid I would be hopeless at farming as i’d have everything in doors with me, lol. There seems to be so much to learn and no two seasons are ever alike.

  2. I’m late posting having read your post immediately. I am so encouraged by the love of the Father for all his creatures. Momma goat may have been inadequate, but you have all pitched in to fill the need. Very thankful for you and your transparency. God bless you all!

  3. So good you had that intuition…and Jonny found Tilly. Sorry to hear Greta is not such a good mother. ♥ Thank God Tilly has such a loving family to help raise her. The photos are just so precious of Tilly in your son’s arms and climbing on your daughter. I’m sure it’s so much for for them. It makes me really want a goat.

  4. God bless your family!!! and animals!!! God’s creatures are wonderful! Too bad the Mama Goat does not like mothering!

    Will light a candle for you all!

  5. Congrats! I am so glad you were able to save Tilly! 🙂 I hope your goats’ milk soap turns out–I am a huge fan of goats’ milk soap!

  6. Tilly is the sweetest! What an adventure! x

  7. We had this a few times with our sheep. The first baby we bottle raised, Hope, became quite attached to us and thinks she’s human. She objects when we have her stay with the sheep (even her twin sister). She prefers us and the dogs to the sheep. The only problem with that is she’s not porch trained. The next few babies never received the mom’s first milk. We bottle feed sheep colostrum but the the babies ended up failing to thrive at one day, one week and two weeks. Heartbreaking. Life lessons and it was all worth it. We still have Hope. 🙂

  8. Ohhh, a little doeling!!!! Ginny, I needed to read this tonight…I’m so utterly exhausted I don’t think I’m typing straight! My second ewe lambed last night and she is also not proving to be the most, um, reliable mama. Sighs. Butting her twins, not letting them nurse…but yet, cooing to them. Very mixed messages! so down to the barn I go, every 2 hours, with a little syringe of colustrum to put into the lambs. I so much want these two to survive, but time will tell. If all else fails, I’ll bring them in like you. And how wonderful your big boy is helping out! It is so interesting to see how our children respond to such events…how they react, how they feel compelled to assist. So much learning of life! Happy early days to you and sweet Greta!
    xo Jules
    P.S. When our goat kids out in June, we were going to call any doelings Gretel! 🙂 xo

  9. Yay Keats! Learning to milk on a cranky first freshener is not easy. Don’t give up hope on the doe accepting her kid; I had a doe that I really had to force to do so. For 3 weeks I had to literally pin her up against the stall wall and feed her treats (apples, carrots, etc – grain was not enough of a bribe) to get her to allow the kid to nurse, 4 times a day. It wasn’t fun, but she finally made friends with him and stopped trying to bite and trample him. This definitely doesn’t mean anything is wrong with the kid, just a doe not good at mothering. And this particular doe of mine was dam raised by an excellent mother, so not something she learned by example, either! I have a really simple soap recipe that someone gave me, I can email it to you if you like. Have fun exploring the world of cheese!

  10. What a sweet, dear little goat and how clever and helpful your children are. I think you remained very calm too.
    Your husband is a total hero. <3

  11. Vicki G. says:

    What an adorable goat baby. I would try and hobble mama goat so you can milk her without the kicking.

  12. Angela says:

    We had a horse like that when I was a baby. She was terrible to her foal so my mom moved him up to the house and bottle fed him after me (I was 2 months old). He would come up to the house and make all kinds of racket when it was time for his feeding. He was the best horse, we all learned to ride on him and he lived to be almost 30. Thanks for reminding me of that Ginny!

  13. Cassidy says:

    Till is so adorable!

    I laughed heartily at you discription of milking Greta. We had a cow that detested being milked. Most of the milk wound up going to our hogs because at the very last minute she would kick unseemly things into the milk. We ended up giving up on milking her and just kept her to breed. She passed unexpectedly last summer. I still loved that cow’s spirit. She was a nut! Hopefully- someday we’ll have another milk cow. For now – I’m content with the animals we do have.

  14. It’s sad to know that Greta wants nothing to do with her baby….but I’ve hard that animals have an instinct to know when something is wrong with their offspring. I wonder if you’ve had little Matilda checked out by a vet to make sure everything is okay with her.

    Granted, some animals, like humans, may just not have the “mom” thing going. Greta may fall into this category.

    • Yes, I’ve seen that, but we had a doe that was just not maternal. She had been named “Nutmeg” by the breeder, but we called her “Nutcase.” My theory is that some goats that are bottle fed, bond too much with humans and don’t deal well with their own offspring. It’s almost like she thought she was human and when two kids dropped from her, she looked at them like “ew, goats.” She was not shy with humans – she was like a bratty kid begging for attention all the time and she was obnoxious to the other goats. We put up with her for a few years and then got rid of her.

      • Tilly is healthy, and what I am almost sure we are dealing with is exactly what you’ve spoken of, though Greta is a sweet goat, not obnoxious typically to other goats, etc. She was born on a dairy farm where babies are routinely pulled and bottle raised on pasteurized milk, etc. They are bred for production. And that is our biggest concern about having to bottle raise Tilly, hate to create a vicious cycle, but we will just have to hope for the best when Tilly’s day to become a mama comes!

        • When Tilly is a bit older, you might want to put Greta in the stanchion to hold her still while Tilly nurses. We did that with ours. It was a pain, but the mother seemed to get the idea after awhile that it was normal and the kids weren’t enemies. She was never a really great mother, but she got better. We really didn’t want to keep bottle-feeding; being an ecological breastfeeder myself, I knew it wasn’t the best things for the kid and it meant we had to stick close to the house. To break the cycle, you also should make sure that Tilly is well integrated into the herd as soon as possible. I know it’s hard not to keep babying a bottle-fed goat, but it is better if a goat is not treated as a domestic pet if your goal is providing milk for the family.

        • Yes, some goats bred for high milk production, particularly if they have not been able to raise their own kids for generations, will have no maternal instincts. A friend of mine invested in some very expensive, high-milking line goats and had to rescue the kids when they were born, as the mother was trying to trample them. How lucky you had Johnny check on her! That is a beautiful baby goat! There’s almost nothing cuter than a baby goat!

  15. Congratulations! Matilda is so cute. I ca only imagine all that is going on. It all seems so close to home having had goats as our girls grew up and now only the one 18 year old goat.
    Life adventure’s!
    Enjoy and I hope that it even’s out.

  16. Oh, how I love your goat stories! Tilly is beautiful!

  17. I’d already seen little Tilly on Instagram, but I was so glad to read her story! Aww.

    I’m sorry that Greta is so, um, “unmotherly” (let’s keep it friendly). Hopefully when Tilly gets older, she’ll be less dismissive. For now, I love that you guys are all rallying together to raise Tilly 🙂 she’s so cute! And I love seeing pictures of the kids doting on the goat :).

    Have a happy day, Ginny!

  18. Melissa N says:

    What a flurry of activity. Why do these things never go as planned? Hopefully everyone adjusts, especially Greta.

  19. jennifer bauman says:

    Tilly has such beautiful markings! I attached cup hooks to the under side of my kitchen cabinets to hang the cheese. Keats will have to try his hand at chevre with buttermilk as the starter. Its pretty forgiving and versatile. Also freezes well. We lived on that when the goats were in milk.

  20. We had a goat like that before, she wouldn’t care for her babies. We had another goat who was a wonderful mother and took care of the other babies that weren’t even her own. But every time our goats were due, we didn’t know whether they would care for them or not, we always had to wait and see. Tilly is so adorable!

  21. How fun! When I was in high school we bottle raised a Hereford calf named Charlie because his mom abandoned him. My dad use to put up hay for two little old ladies (who were in their late 80’s) who called him in a panic because “Charlie won’t nurse.” We bottle fed him for 2-3 months until Charlie got too big and then in an effort to “demand” his bottle started head butting us.

  22. Love, love , love tha photo of Tilly and Silas. Oh, my… So darling.

  23. We are finally *sigh* in the home stretch after having 5 live baby nigerian dwarf goat babies this spring. Most of it went well but we had an experience like yours. Our Bella births fine…4 at a time…and mostly needs no help but her sister Maggie had her first babes this spring. Through no fault of her own we had to bottle feed and keep her one baby girl in with us too. OH MY. It was like having a newborn babe….for 2 months my daughter and I slept on the couch with her in shifts…milking and feeding…milking and feeding. She’s wonderful now…out with the herd at 11 weeks and chewing her cud. Thankfully my house is goatless!! Good luck with your sweet baby…hang in there!

  24. This is so very wonderful! I just love your family! You are like another version of Little House on the Prairie! Your photos are precious as always.

  25. greta goat milk soap sounds like it will be great! I have no idea about farming and animals so all of this was so interesting. I feel a little bad about Tilly but I’m sure all the love you all show her make her feel loved!

  26. Krista Lambert says:

    What a sweet baby and such a good experience for the children. One of our cows did the same thing last month. We have been bottle feeding the calf for 4 and 1/2 weeks. We keep him at the barn right in front of our house. Our children have been so responsible and helpful with the calf. They are even halter training him.

  27. Nancy M says:

    Love the name Matilda or Tilly for short! Cute!! Sorry for the troubles, I guess life on a farm has so many new and interesting experiences. I’ve never been around goats so it is all interesting and new to read about. Thanks for sharing!

  28. You can add flavorings to your queso blanco to make it so delicious! That is what I do with ours. The plain is okay but the flavored is awesome. Right now because there is nothing growing in the garden I used minced garlic or dried dill/onion flakes or dried red pepper flakes to make a spicy cheese. Once the garden gets going the fresh pepper cheese is awesome, chive cheese, and fresh herbed cheeses are SO good. And I always add about 1 T salt to a batch of queso made from 1 1/2 gallons of milk. It seems like a lot since we are putting it in ourselves but we forget that cheeses have a lot of salt in them.

    Welcome to the world of cheesemaking! And happy baby kid! 😉

  29. I think I love Tilly too, what a sweetheart!

  30. Jillian J says:

    I love the name, Greta Goat Milk Soap!

    It sounds like you guys have been keeping busy! It is always sad when a mother rejects her young, but Tilly is so lucky to have so many happy helping hands to keep her warm and fed! I hope that once she is bigger her mother will at least tolerate her so they can be in the same pen!

    When life gives you goat’s milk, make goat cheese!

  31. Olivia says:

    wow. never a dull moment. i know it must be tiring but it’s also a little funny in that cosmic kind of way that the first time you have a baby goat born the mother makes YOU take care of it. as if she knows you’re so good at it already, she’ll just shove the work onto your plate. ha.

    peace be with you. -smiley face-

  32. Hi Ginny! Congrats on the new kid! I had goats that kicked horribly while on the milking stand, so I came up with a solution that worked great for me! Maybe you can adapt it to help with your kicker. I wrote a blog post about it with pictures explaining how I did it. I hope you guys figure something out soon! 🙂

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