My long time readers and followers of our social media will be familiar with Lucky, our little bottle baby goat kid from this spring. Lucky and I definitely share a special bond, our relationship is one of those unique and special things you don't always consider when you think about farming.
I've known many baby animals, and even a few baby humans, in my life. I'm pretty familiar with raising livestock and imprinting with goslings who then follow me around like their mama goose. But when Lucky was born, it was a whole new experience.
He was completely helpless when he was born. At just under a pound, Lucky was one of a set of triplets and his mother focused all her attention on his two big sisters, abandoning him. We weren't really prepared for this at the time. It was our first time kidding goats, and I had spent all winter freaking out and researching everything that could possibly go wrong for our pregnant mamas during gestation and delivery. I had barely looked at the possibility of a mom rejecting her kid once it was born.
So, we ran out and got baby bottles from the local grocery store (yes, human baby bottles) and goat milk formula from our nearest farm store. After a little bit of research we found that Lucky would need to eat every few hours for his first week or two of life. Just like a human baby, he'd wake up and cry for a meal during the night. He had to go to work with me because he needed to be fed so frequently. He would spend a few minutes after eating exploring on wobbly legs, and then he'd go back into the laundry basket we'd set up for him and nap.
As a "homesteader" or farmer, caring for the weak babies isn't a common way to spend your time. If you are raising goats for financial gain, it isn't always worth it to invest the time in saving a weak kid. Lucky is also a male, and since he is related to all of the girls on our farm there was no chance we'd use him for a buck. Some farms will straight up cull even healthy male goat babies.
But that just was not an option for us. An animal depending on us for life, crying out for our attention when he needed something and running (weakly) across a room to us was just not something we could abandon. So Lucky became our baby for a few weeks, and I've never been more happy with a decision in my life.
Thankfully, the period of time that a goat kid needs to be nursed through the night is only a week or two, and by eight weeks Lucky was able to be weaned and spend his time with the other goats. But he's still our little bay.
I did not know when we were raising Lucky that he'd remember the weeks spent in a basket next to our bed, or even if my relationship with him would be any different than the other goats (who, it must be said, we're very fond of and close with). But Lucky definitely remembers.
Lucky will still run across a pasture to see me, and when all the other goats get distracted after they find I don't have treats, Lucky will stick around just to hang out. When running with the herd, he'll stop every few paces and look back at me walking behind. He's recently learned a new trick where he will hop on my shoulder when I kneel down to get on his level, and then remain standing on my shoulder as I get up and walk around. He has breakfast every morning in the kitchen, nibbling on goat snacks while I enjoy my coffee.
The bond shared with a creature you've raised is truly unique. We didn't plan for anything like Lucky when we were breeding our goats over a year ago, but he was the best thing that happened all summer. While it's true, he'll never serve a real "purpose" on the farm, he does bring me a smile every day and for me that is justification enough for every moment spent nurturing him.
I don't think that we realize when we start farming the relationship that we'll create, or how some animals can change our lives. It's something often unconsidered as we delve into the world of livestock, and yet it can be the greatest outcome.
Linked to the Homestead Blog Hop and Dishing It & Digging It Blog Hop.