A Goat, Chicken, Dog Story
One man. An aging, incontinent dog. A pregnant goat. Six rowdy chicks. All traveling together for 15 hours across America’s heartland from North Carolina to Michigan.
It was a mission for a family beginning a new sustainable farm, but before it was complete there was a lot of hand-wringing.
Kent City, Mich., is a stone’s throw north of Grand Rapids, the cultural, medical and business epicenter of Western Michigan. Its rich farmland produces a variety of crops along the area’s well-named Fruit Ridge, where fruit, mainly apples, flourish. Dairy cattle are plentiful, too, and far outnumber dairy goats, but the milk goat population is increasing. There were 11,800 dairy goats in Michigan when this year began, an increase of 500.
Now there is one more, Hardscrabble Loretta. A Nubian dairy goat, she is scheduled to give birth in a few weeks to multiple kids. Loretta was accompanied on the 800-mile journey by Lorilei, a doeling born on our farm eight months ago. Goats are herd animals, so they do not do well alone.
Although, on this trip, Loretta was hardly alone.
We left before the sun came up, pulling a horse trailer with our pickup. Wired like Elwood Blues of The Blues Brothers, we were thinking, “It’s 800 miles to Kent City, we’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of Honeycombs, it’s dark and we’re wearing sunglasses. Hit it!”
In case you haven’t heard, America’s highways are a disaster zone. Potholes the size of a goat are as common as mile markers. So stopping regularly to check the animal circus on wheels was not only a relief to them, but the driver.
Although the incontinent dog seemed genuinely embarrassed to have her diaper changed at a Love’s Truck Plaza, she peed with abandon in the grassy area. The highway jostling didn’t seem at the time to have upset the goats, and the six heritage breed laying hens brooded on our farm had laid two eggs in their straw-filled crate next to the goats.
They were scratching and clucking as though it was just another day on the job.
We stopped every two hours to check on everyone, especially the pregnant goat. She seemed fine, and we were humming “Don’t worry ’bout a thing, ‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right.”
Little did we know that shortly after we arrived at Frontage Road Farm in Kent City, Loretta would begin showing signs that it was time to give birth–pawing the ground, making her bed, arching her back, to name a few. How could this be? We thought she was due at the end of April, not the end of March. How could we have so badly miscalculated?
A kidding stall had not yet been prepared, so one was hastily set up in their barn. Meanwhile, Lorretta now appeared to be having contractions, and she would not lie down. We took her temperature, which was normal.
So we slept in the barn, first one night and then a second, with a skinny little black cat named Rosebud purring in our ear.
After being on her feet and without sleep for more than 24 hours and enduring contractions, Loretta was exhausted. When we put our arms under her chest and abdomen and lifted to give her some relief, she sank into them. We eased her down to the straw bedding on the stall floor, and within minutes she was asleep next to us, snoring like a chainsaw.
Two days and two visits by the veterinarian later, she was returning to normal. The contractions were gone, she was walking, lying down and chewing her cud, and a least one kid could be felt in her swollen belly.
Hopefully, she’s back on track for a late April kidding.
Meanwhile, the rowdy chicks settled into their new yard and coop hardly missing a beat, which was a surprise because it only takes a little trauma to lock them up tight for weeks.
Loretta is in warm and loving hands now, dodging snowflakes and working her way toward what we hope will be an easy and successful kidding in a few weeks.