Cookie’s Litter, From the Archives

D. E. Larsen, DVM

“Dr. Larsen, This is Maude, from Brownsville,” Maude said into the phone. “Cookie, my best milk goat, is about ready to deliver. She is so large that she has been down for two days. Can I bring her up to your place so you can look at her?”

“That’s fine, Maude, you just need to know that we are not in the clinic yet,” I said. “We are still practicing out of our house on Ames Creek.”

“I think I can find it,” Maude said. “It doesn’t bother me, and Cookie is used to an old barn, so a garage won’t be a problem for her.”

When Maude arrived, and we got Cookie unloaded, her appearance was amazing. She had been down for two days because her abdomen was so massive, she could not support it standing. I was worried that she might even have a Hydrops Allantois, but I could easily palpate a couple of very active kids in the uterus. 

The only time I had seen Hydrops was while I was in school at Colorado State University, in a cow bred to a Bison bull. In that cow, you could not palpate any fetus. And on C-Section, the calf was dead. Hydrops is common in cows bred to Bison bulls. The Beefalo’s calves come from Bison cows bred to a Bovine bull. 

“We have some decisions to make, Maude,” I said. “If we wait for her to deliver, there is a good possibility that she will suffer significant musculoskeletal injury from being down for such a long time. If we do a C-section, we take a chance on the kids being early. That will mean that all of them may not survive.”

“You say, all of them,” Maude said. “How many do you think are in there?”

“I think a bunch,” I said. “I have seen 4 lambs in a ewe, and she was almost this big. There is about a 1 in 10,000 chance, and it might even be higher in the goat. There are at least 3 kids in there, I think there may be 4.”

“I think I am more worried about Cookie than I am about the kids,” Maude said. “It would be nice to get a bunch of kids out of her, but I want you to know that Cookie is the priority in this event.”

“So, I hear you say that you want to do a C-Section,” I said.

“Yes, that is what I want to do,” Maude said. “When can you do it?”

“Maude, I am just getting started here,” I said. “My days are not full, I can do it right now.”

“Good, can I stay and watch?” Maude asked.

“You are more than welcome to watch,” I said. “In fact, you might be put to work if we have 4 kids in there. I see you have a couple of bales of straw in the back of your pickup. Is there a chance we could use one of those to bed her down. She would be more comfortable than on the bare concrete.”

“That is what I brought them for,” Maude said. “Let me pull them out of the truck.”

We used one of the straw bales to bed Cookie down in the back of the garage while we set up for surgery. Sandy sets some chairs out for Maude and her driver.

“Once we get set up, things will go pretty fast,” I explained to Maude. “I will roll her up on her back, and we will clip and prep an area in front of her udder. I will make an incision, then we will start pulling kids out as fast as I can. If there are 4 of them, everybody will have a kid to take care as I close up things for Cookie.”

“I have never seen anything like this before,” Maude said. “I guess I will be okay. At least if there are kids to care for, I will have something to do.”

Paula had everything ready, so we rolled Cooked up on her back. Again, I was amazed at the size of her belly. It spread out in both directions. 

“I don’t think she could roll off her back if she tried,” I said to Paula. “You better tell Sandy to get every spare towel she can find. We are going to spell all sorts of fluid out of this uterus.”

With the abdomen clipped and prepped, I made the incision on the ventral midline in front of the udder. My kids watched from the kitchen doorway, and Maude sort of stretched her neck to see better.

“I thought there would be more blood,” Maude said.

“As long as I can avoid these large milk veins coming from the udder, there should be very little blood,” I said.

I extended the incision through the linea alba, pulled the omentum forward, so it was out of the way. Then I reached in to grab the head of the first kid I encountered. I drew this head through the abdomen incision and incised the uterus carefully. 

The kid’s head popped out of the incision and shook. I think she was ready to be out of there. Grabbing her neck, I pulled her the rest of the way through the incision. There was a rush of fluid that came with her. I handed her back to Maude. Maude was waiting with a towel.

“This kid is the same size as a single,” Maude said.

“No wonder she is as big as a house,” I said as I reached in and grabbed the second kid by the head also.

This kid came out fighting also. And like her sister, she was the size of a single.

“Two girls so far,” I said. “In a couple of years, you’re going to have so much milk you won’t know what to do with it.”

I reached in and grabbed a couple of hind legs in the far uterine horn. I tugged, and they did not move a lot. I felt close, I had one leg from two different kids. Correcting my error, I pulled the third girl out by her hind legs.

“Maude, there is another one in there,” I said. “And this one is another girl.”

Sandy stepped up, with the help of our girls, to take this kid. Maude had the first kid standing already. Everybody was busy now, and there were smiles all around. Nothing like baby goats to make people happy.

I reached in and pulled out the last kid, another girl. 

“This probably sets some sort of a record. Quadruplets, and all females,” I said as I handed the last kid to Paula.

I started pulling as much of the fetal membranes out through the incision as I could. There is no way to take them all out with damaging the uterus. But I would pull out a bunch and cut them off with scissors. We had all the towels and straw soaked with uterine fluids. 

“This is probably going to take as long to clean up this mess as it took for the surgery,” I said, more to myself than to anybody else.

I closed the single incision in the uterus. It was about a six-inch incision, sort of amazing that you could drag 4 kids through that incision. After returning the uterus to a normal position, I closed the Linea Alba with a sliding mattress suture using #2 Dexon. The external incision was closed in a conventional two-layer manner.

“Cookie, you are going have a flabby belly for a time,” I said as we rolled her off her back and made her comfortable on a clean spot in the straw. She wanted the kids, so Maude started handing them over to her one at a time. It didn’t seem to bother her at all to have all 4 of them to care for. 

“What do you think we should do with her now, Doc,” Maude asked.

“I think we should milk her out and get some colostrum into the kids,” I said. “It is early enough that leaving the kids with her for the day will probably be the best. I will give her some IV Glucose and Calcium just to give her a little more energy. I am guessing that she isn’t going to be up until morning. I would like like to keep her until then. I don’t know if I can handle the 4 kids running around the house.”

“I will go home for the day,” Maude said. “I have a lot of chores waiting. I will get back here around 5:00 this afternoon if that is okay. I will take the kids home. That is not a big thing. I have plenty of colostrum in the freezer, and I don’t leave the kids with my milkers anyway.”

“That will work fine,” I said. “Then, we will just see what morning gives us with Cookie.”

Cookie was up and looking for both food and a milker when I checked her early the next morning. Luckily, Maude pulled into the driveway about when I was heading into the house to give her a call.

“I guessed that Cookie would be up and ready to be milked,” Maude said. “I figured you would appreciate getting her out of here early.

“I think she will be ready for the milking stand by the time you get home with her,” I said. “She should be good to go. I see she passed her membranes last night. Just keep an eye on her, and I will drop by to just glance at that incision in a couple of days. I generally leave those sutures in place for about 3 weeks, just to be safe.”

Cookie healed with no problems, and the kids became a great addition to Maude’s milking string.

Photo by Brenda Timmermans from Pexels.

Published by d.e.larsen.dvm

Country vet for over 40 years in Sweet Home Oregon. I graduated from Colorado State University in 1975. I practiced in Enumclaw Washington for a year and a half before moving to Sweet Home to start a practice.

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