Rural veterinary practice
Overlaying of piglets
Delivery of a goat
Foot and Mouth Disease
Bovine Virus Diarrhoea
9. Delivery of a goat
Even after you retire, you still sometimes have feelings of guilt. I do at any rate. And it might even be a small thing. Because how important is a goat? Still …
Den Dungen is a village on the south end of the waterway Zuid-Willemsvaart. It has retained much of its village character and it still has a small-scale mixed farm or two.
It is a regular day in the week. My pager sounds: the delivery of a goat in the outskirts of Den Dungen. The owner has already given it his best but there is little progress. Not surprisingly, I soon find out: the goat stands just above his knee and the man’s hands are like coal-shovels, perfectly in harmony with his feet, which are stuck in size 15 ½ boots. A lambs leg is sticking out of the birth canal. I insert a finger into the vagina and feel the neck of the lamb that is bent back. A further examination is not possible, the birth canal is much too narrow. “This is not going to work, Grad, she needs a Caesarean”. He asks how much that costs. “A hundred and twenty guilders? For a goat? I can buy a new one for twenty, no, less than that even!” But that is really the minimum price for an emergency visit and the surgical procedure itself. “The alternative is a lethal injection, but that leaves you with nothing: no lamb and no goat.” He wants to know how much the injection costs. It too is too expensive in his opinion: “Well then I will just wait and see what happens.” Meanwhile, the goat is bleating deafeningly with each contraction. It is unbelievable that such volume can be generated from the throat of such a small animal. It can be heard a mile away and the piercing sound makes your eardrums hurt.
I have two problems here: a birth that cannot take place naturally and a farmer who does not want to pay the costs involved in the necessary Caesarean. Should I give in to the pressure and work for nothing or do I let the animal and the unborn young slowly die? A decision must be made straight away.
“A pail of water and a towel”. I have a brush and disinfecting soap in my bag. “And hold that goat.” Huge hands wrap themselves around the screaming animal. Boron ointment is the best lubricant in marginal situations of this kind. I spread a thick layer on my hand and start to stretch out the birth canal. It looks hopeless: my five fingers combined are at least six times thicker than the small vaginal opening. True, the elasticity of the birth canal during a delivery is enormous. I have seen that often enough during my work, at times to my huge relief. And goats stand supreme in that respect. But everything has its limit, even the birth canal of a goat. “Hold on, Grad!” He bends over a bit more and braces himself. The piercing sound of the goat has probably reached the other side of the canal by now. And sure enough, after much pushing and wringing, we witness a miracle: my hand slips into the uterus. Repositioning the lamb is not a problem and the delivery then progresses without a hitch: not surprising with so much room in the stretched birth canal. And the lamb is alive! The goat has stopped bleating. The silence is unreal. The owner too is silent: this was a bit too much of a good/cheap thing. The goat is given an afterbirth pill, an injection to prevent infection, a painkiller and an injection with oxytocin so that the uterus will retract to its normal size.
The next day I just ‘happen’ to be in the neighbourhood. The afterbirth may have remained behind, a peritonitis is possible and a swollen birth canal inevitable. But: “No, everything is fine, or I would have called you this morning.” I seriously doubt that last part and so I don’t respond. But a lively lamb and a curious goat peer at me from the barn: What is the veterinary surgeon doing here?
Years later, I have two horses of my own and a number of Drenthe heath sheep. For fun and for a bit of livelihood around the house. But no goats; not even for free.
© Leo Rogier Verberne