My life isn’t what it used to be.
I’m no longer living alone with two dogs in a rental in ‘Aina Haina, only worrying about keeping my basil plant alive.
Now, I’m married, caring for three dogs and two chickens, about to re-start my husband’s aquaponics system — blog on that coming soon — and figuring how to work from home without getting distracted by the laundry and digital cable TV.
And add to that raising a newborn goat.
Yes, I said goat.
And then it started to rain.
Now, I’m no livestock expert. But this combination — a baby goat not feeding and now getting rained on — didn’t sound good. We had to do something — and fast.
My husband sprung into action. He grabbed a towel, jumped the fence and started to dry off the newborn kid. Then I got on the phone and called our vet, then Waimanālo Feed Supply for help. Turns out, one of the workers there raises goats and was our Internet of information.
“Did the kid nurse yet?”
“No,” I said.
“Are you sure? Because if he didn’t, that’s not good. He won’t survive more than a couple of days.”
He told me baby goats need to get colostrum from their mother. Found in her milk, this contains antibodies that protect the newborn against disease. And the baby needs to get this in the first 24 hours of life.
It had already been close to that.
Luckily, the feed supply store in Waimanālo had colostrum powder that we could mix into a milk replacer formulated for goats. (It sold that, too.) And within the hour, we were handing over $50 for a bag of Land O’Lakes ProNurse, a canister of colostrum replacement, and two long nipples that could fit over a beer bottle.
The situation was somewhat dire. We weren’t sure if the newborn had taken any of his mother’s milk, and he was already starting to look weak. We dried him off as best we could, keeping him in a warm area in a warehouse, and tried to get him to drink some of the milk replacer.
And let me tell you, it wasn’t easy.
I bottle-fed my younger sister when she was a baby, no problem. I figured this would be equally as easy and simple. Just put the bottle in his mouth and make sure he doesn’t drink too much or too quickly, right?
This kid was picky. The milk had to be warm. The nipple had to be warm. And he needed a little dab of corn syrup on it to entice him to even take the bottle.
It took a few tries, but we finally found a system that worked.
I’ll be honest. Before this experience, I knew next to nothing about goats. I knew they ate everything in sight and, by a certain age, they stopped looking cute and started acting ornery. At least the ones I had been in contact with.
Turns out, though, there’s a lot to learn about these livestock animals.
For starters, goats are among the earliest animals domesticated by humans, dating back thousands of years. Neolithic farmers herded wild goats for their milk and meat, even used their poop for fuel and bones and hair for clothing and tools. Goat hide has long been used for water and wine bottle in traveling and transporting them for sale.
This guy — whom we named Snickers after my girlfriend sent me a list of names from her two sons — was a Nubian, a breed of domestic goat developed in Great Britain and bred for its milk, which has a high butterfat content. These Nubians can live in very hot climates and are distinguished by their large, pendulous ears — one of my favorite traits.
They grow to about 135 pounds for does, 175 pounds for bucks. And they live for roughly 12 to 15 years.
That is, if they make it past the first few days of life.
Snickers was so sweet. He loved when I rubbed his muzzle and scratched his lower back. He loved licking our necks and faces and sucking on our fingers. And his tail wagged. Did you know goats wag their tails? I didn’t. I was completely smitten.
But we couldn’t keep Snickers. I’m unclear about the rules of owning farm animals in residential areas — all I found was that enclosures for farm animals can’t be located within 300 feet from any property line — but we don’t have the space for a goat. We already have a packed house of animals, and there was no way, no matter how cute Snickers was, no matter that we got him to drink milk out of a bowl, we were going to keep him in the house. The dogs would’ve loved it; the humans, not so much.
As it would happen, I was walking the dogs one afternoon — after feeding Snickers and getting goat milk replacement all over my legs — and met a neighbor who has fostered goats before. She agreed — after a martini — to take Snickers, raise him, and find a good home for him. Our only requirements were the new owner didn’t 1) eat the goat or 2) change his name.
“No problem,” she said, with a smile. “And it’s a good thing my husband isn’t home.”
So after a few days of hand-raising the little guy, we packed him up and let him go. Snickers is now living in a spacious grassy area in a nicer neighborhood than ours, playing with other dogs and getting bigger every day. We have full visitation rights, the woman told us, and we will likely take her up on that offer.
I never imagined I’d get up at 4 a.m. to bottle-feed a goat — or to feed two feisty hens every morning and walk a pack of dogs twice a day. I never thought I’d climb to the roof of a house to pick ‘ulu from a flourishing tree or gaze off our deck, past a koa tree my husband planted, and watch the sunset.
I never imagined it — but man, I wouldn’t change it, either.