Goat Midwifery – an Excerpt from “Holistic Goat Care”

To Pre-order Holistic Goat Care (out early June 2017) visit the book’s listing at Chelsea Green Publishing or Amazon

The Assisted Delivery

 Over the years I have become quite good at sorting out kids tangled up inside the womb and successfully delivering them. There’s no way to develop competence at assisting during difficult deliveries, though, without having to go through some very stressful and challenging times. I learned early, when I still needed a vet’s help during particularly difficult deliveries (dystocia is the proper term), that the essential attitude to cultivate for success is a combination of patience and persistence. If you are lucky enough to have a goat mentor who will let you be present during deliveries then you will gain a lot of useful knowledge. That same mentor might be willing to walk you through the steps over the phone. When I teach our “Goat Academy” here at Pholia Farm, I try to time it for a week when several does are due to kid just for that opportunity. And hopefully this book can help you learn the skills needed to assist during deliveries.

I always err on the side of helping a doe earlier in the process, rather than regretting later. My perspective is that the animal is only in this predicament due to my choices, so she deserves my help. Another part of my viewpoint is the potential to decide to stop breeding a doe for good if difficult deliveries are her norm.

Seven Things to Remember During a Tough Delivery

  1. Keep calm!
  2. Take your time. Move methodically and slowly inside the doe.
  3. Give the doe and yourself a break every 5 to 10 minutes.
  4. If the delivery requires intervention that increases the doe’s pain to the point of causing her extreme distress, administer pain medication (Banamine, which requires a vet’s prescription, is a good choice.)
  5. Medicate yourself! Have a helper bring you a quick shot of tea or even whiskey.
  6. Give the doe a dose of high-potency oral nutritional supplement during the delivery, between kids or pushes, and when delivery is over.
  7. Keep calm!

When a doe is in labor and you’ve decided that further manual exploration is necessary, first take a few moments to gather your

Presentation 1 (see details below)

supplies—which hopefully will all be near at hand already. Fill a pail with a warm water and Betadine wash solution (follow the dilution instruction on the bottle). Be sure your fingernails are trimmed, remove any rings or bracelets, and put on gloves. You can use long OB gloves if you like. A trick I learned (from that patient vet I mentioned earlier) that leaves your fingers more agile than using an OB glove alone is to cut the fingers out of a long OB glove, put a nitrile glove on your hand first, and then put on the fingerless long glove over it. It’s preferable to use your dominant hand for exploring the doe. This may mean you have to roll her over. If it’s not possible to do this, you can use your non-dominant hand, but it will feel more awkward. If the doe is standing, ask an assistant to try to hold her head to keep her still.

Wash the doe’s backside with a bit of the warm Betadine solution, then dip your gloved hand and forearm in the solution and shake it off. Dispense a generous amount of lubricant, either gel or powder, on your gloved fingers. You don’t need to squeeze it all over your hand; it will spread as you enter the doe. Repeat this process whenever you reenter the doe.

Presentation 2 (see details below)

With your other hand, lift her tail. Bunch your gloved fingers together, holding them straight, with your thumb tight to your palm, and then insert the fingers into the vagina. The doe is likely to begin pushing as the pressure of your hand in her pelvic canal stimulates that response. You will have to push against it. Slowly but steadily continue to move your fingers forward, then your hand. As you move forward, note the tightness of her pelvis and the dilation of the cervix. When the cervix is fully dilated you might find that as your hand goes into the vagina, the cervix will feel like a funnel, with the small end toward the uterus. You will feel the rings of the cervix and maybe even feel parts of a kid through the cervical tissue. Do not mistake the tissue of the cervix for an amniotic sac and try to push through it! Instead, continue straight forward until you find the final cervical ring. Then your hand will enter the uterus. Sometimes the body of the uterus will feel large and spacious; other times it will be small and tight, with the kids positioned in the horns.

In this collection of illustrations you will see many of the possible presentations of kids—but not all of them! The possible combinations of presentation that can occur is huge. Because

Presentation 3 (see details to left)

the scenarios can be quite complicated and because you will likely be anxious in the moment when a delivery is taking place, I recommend you take the time to study all the illustrations below well before kidding season arrives. Imagine each one, and mime the movements you would make with your hands to assist in the delivery. It can make a big difference should an emergency occur.

Other possible presentations not shown here include a normal front presentation, but with one front leg crossed over the neck; two twins presenting normally, but both trying to exit the uterus at the same time, and so blocking each other’s way; a kid presenting stifle joint first (this is so hard to imagine, even though I’ve seen it occur, I couldn’t figure out how to draw it!); and back pressed against the cervix. And there are many more; too many for me to describe here.

Guide to Common Kid Presentation Illustrations

(Note, illustrations show the pelvis as transparent so that you can view the uterus and kids. In reality the kid passes through the pelvic outlet between both sides of the pelvis)

Presentation 1: Normal presentation of twins, one in each horn of the uterus, before labor begins.

Presentation 4

Presentation 2: Normal presentation of twins, delivery of twin in right horn, front feet and head first. No assistance should be needed.

Presentation 3: One front leg and head first, one front leg back. Usually no assistance is necessary. If help is needed, apply gentle pulling pressure to the presented front leg and around the kid’s skull. If this presentation is determined before the kid’s head clears the pelvis, the front leg that is back can be repositioned.

Presentation 4: Normal presentation, back legs first.

Presentation 5: When a small kid presents butt first and the back legs are forward, no assistance is usually needed. But in this instance, two more kids are present. The one in the left horn is a larger kid, with front legs and head first. In this case, the larger kid may block the exit of the smaller, backward kid. You can gently push the smaller kid farther back into the uterus and deliver the larger, normal-presentation kid first if needed. The last kid is upside down in the right horn. As it is pushed by the contractions up toward the cervix, it may rotate on its own so that it isn’t upside down. If not, you may need to gently rotate its head and front legs before the kid can clear the pelvis and be delivered.

Presentation 5

Presentation 6: Butt-first presentation with hocks bent, causing the kid to lodge behind the pelvis. To assist, reach in and gently push the kid toward the mom’s head. Then follow each back leg down to the hock, continuing to push the kid back in as each contraction pushes it toward you, and hook the lower legs up and toward the cervix. Once they are freed of being caught behind the pelvis, they will quickly extend backward into the vagina and the kid can be easily delivered.

Presentation 7: This kid is almost in a normal presentation of head and front feet, but its elbows are back just enough to cause the shoulder blades to broaden and become wedged in the pelvis. This is sometimes called elbow lock. It can happen with the kid a bit farther out, too. When it does, push one leg backward a bit and pull gently on the other leg and the head.

Presentation 8: In this drawing twins are presenting with the left twin in a normal, back-legs-first presentation, but the larger twin in the right horn is head first with the front legs back and

Presentation 6

is blocking the cervix. In this case, the doe may not even dilate fully or perhaps not try to push. When you reach in, you will feel the larger kid’s head and perhaps the back feet of the other kid. If you aren’t sure if they are back feet and even which kid those feet belong to, follow the neck of the larger kid to its shoulder then down to the front legs. Then you have two options: You can push the bigger kid back in a bit and hook up and bring forward its front legs, one at a time, and deliver it first; or you can push it down into the horn and deliver the other kid first.

Presentation 9: In this common presentation the front feet are first, but the kid’s head is down. Help is usually required. Reach in and gently push the dome of the head back in toward the mom’s head until you can reach under its chin and lift the muzzle up between its front legs. While you do this, you may “lose” a front leg and have to hook it back up and make sure it stays in place as the kid moves into the birth canal. Less common but with a similar presentation is front feet with the head turned to the side. In that case, when you reach in you will feel the neck at the throat. Push on the neck to move the kid back in a bit, then follow the neck to the head and swing it around. When it has been bent down or sideways, it will want to move back to that position, so keep your hand on the dome of the head until it moves into the vagina.

Presentation 7

Presentation 10: The first kid presenting has its head down and its front feet back. A triplet in the left horn is presenting normally with front feet and head, and a triplet in the right horn, below the first kid, is presenting normally, but backward. Because the first kid is blocking the cervix with its forehead, the doe may not have fully dilated or may not be pushing. When you reach in, you will feel the forehead of the first kid, but you will also likely feel the front feet of the kid on the left and maybe even the back feet of the other kid on the right. You’re likely to want to first raise the head of the kid, but be sure you determine which kid’s feet belong to that head! Once the kid that has been blocking the exit has been delivered, the other two shouldn’t need assistance if the doe is still strong and pushing.

Presentation 11: When the cervix hasn’t fully dilated it might feel like a funnel when you palpate it. You will feel the other rings as your hand moves toward the uterus. The last ring will be the smallest. Because of the funnel-like form, you might feel the kid through the cervical tissue. Don’t mistake that tissue for an amniotic sac and try to break through it to reach the kid!

Presentation 8

Presentation 9

Presentation 10

Presentation 11

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(All of the above illustrations will be found in full resolution in the book along with a complete guide to Breeding, Pregnancy, and Delivery in Chapter 8)

Illustrations copyright © Gianaclis Caldwell 2017 

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pH and Acid in Cheesemaking

In this video I go over the intricacies of monitoring pH at different stages of cheesemaking – including what that pH tells you after the cheese is done or partially through aging. I throw in tips and suggestions for how to control acid production in the vat and why it matters! I sure wish it had chosen a frame with my eyes open!

This 24 minute video is useful for cheesemakers at all levels, unless you are brand new to cheesemaking and not quite ready for some deeper science.

 

DIY: Traditional Rennet

Warning: This post has a few photos that might bother some – internal organs just after being harvested. 

Although I’m a vegetarian in all other respects, I do eat classic cheeses such as Parmigiano Regianno and Roquefort, all of which are made with traditional rennet. I also butcher animals on our farm to feed my family. Included in that menu is the occasional goat.

Cheesemaking is a huge part of my life. I’m inquisitive nature and always wanting to learn more about all aspects of cheesemaking. One of those aspects that I had no experience with is the harvesting of a kid and production of natural rennet.

An opportunity presented itself while I was teaching a week long goat care class here at our farm and the attendees expressed an interest in learning how to butcher a goat. Athough slaughter and butchering are a very somber, intense, and private experience for me, I believe strongly in helping others learn not only how to do it properly, but that it can be a beautiful and educational experience as well.  The saying “every animal deserves a good life, a good death, a good butcher, and a good chef” is one of my favorites. So we selected a candidate, a two week old buckling. Not only would the students learn to butcher, but I would harvest the abomasum (the fourth stomach from which traditional rennet is made), our intern Amanda would tan the hide, and the entire

Baby ruminants are truly the first cheesemakers! These cheese curds were in the abomassum of a two week old kid.

Baby ruminants are truly the first cheesemakers! These cheese curds were in the abomassum of a two week old kid.

class would feast on roasted, suckling kid for our final meal.

 

I had read several accounts of how to harvest and make kid, calf, and lamb rennet. All of them varied and all of them stated that the curing time for the organ was anywhere from 6 months to a year. Hmm, why would that be, I wondered? The kid makes cheese curds immediately in its stomach, so it wouldn’t be for the sake of effectiveness. I believe now, but haven’t confirmed, that it might have to do with safety. The long pickling time might be to anticipate parasites or pathogens present in the organ. One of the students in the class told me that she had a Greek cheesemaking friend and would find out what he knew. Fortunately his recipe for kid rennet took only a few days of processing. The resulting rennet works beautifully!

I have made two varieties of our cheeses using the same batch to make one wheel using the homemade rennet and the rest of the batch with what I usually use. This way they will age side by side and any flavor differences will not be due to different milk or cultures. I’m still waiting for the cheeses I’ve made with it to age, but will report back to you on the flavor comparison. One of the cheese types I made usually uses purchased traditional rennet and the other microbial. So it should be quite interesting to compare. I can’t wait!

The abomasum is on the left in this image.  The esophagus can be seen at the bottom and the intestines at the top right

The abomasum is on the left in this image. The esophagus can be seen at the bottom and the intestines at the top right

The inside of the abomasum is covered with gentle folds of skin

The inside of the abomasum is covered with gentle folds of skin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Instructions for making kid, lamb, or calf rennet

  1. Harvest the abomasum of a kid, calf, or lamb under two weeks of age is ideal
  2. Rinse with non-chlorinated water, but don’t scrub
  3. Weigh the abomasum and place in jar.
  4. Add 12-15% salt and enough water to cover
  5. Let set at 65-70F for 24-36 hours
  6. Remove from the salt brine and shake off.
  7. Hang to dry in a cool room (no warmer than 70F) and dry until hard – depending on size 1-2 weeks.
  8. Weigh then cut into thin strips and place in food processor or run through a meat grinder.
  9. Slowly add 8 parts non-chlorinated water and process or use mortar to grind into a slurry or paste.
  10. Pour through a fine cloth, pressing with a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible.
  11. Add 4-5% salt by weight
  12. Keep in fridge.
  13. Use about ½ tsp (2.5 ml) per gallon (4L) of milk (you may have to adjust amount,  milk at 95F should coagulate within 10 min.)
  14. Lasts about six months in fridge.
The abomasum after drying

The abomasum after drying

Straining the rennet paste and brine after processing in food processor

Straining the rennet paste and brine after processing in food processor

During storage in the fridge, the whitish portion separates quickly from the salt water. I’m gently agitating mine periodically and for sure right before using. When used at the recommended ½ tsp (2.5 ml) per gallon (4L) of milk, our milk flocculates in under 10 minutes. So likely a bit less of the mixture is needed. So far, the strength hasn’t changed, but it’s only been six weeks since it was harvested and the processing begun. The strength could be checked before use using the steps in my book, Mastering Artisan Cheesemaking, for testing rennet (page 47) to better calculate the dosage before using.

The kid I harvested was exactly two weeks old and hadn’t yet started to chew his cud. This is ideal, however younger would mean an even higher proportion of chymosin to pepsin (the best natural rennets have at least 95% chymosin). Older animals will have increasing amounts of pepsin that will still coagulate milk, but can lead to bitterness in aged cheeses. Our kid was half Nigerian Dwarf and half Lamancha, so not a very large animal. The abomasum yielded about ½ to ¾ of rennet liquid after processing (I forgot t.o measure it before I used some!)

The Greek cheesemaker, who makes barrel aged feta in Greece and who now uses industrially produced kid rennet, says his cheese hasn’t been as good since he switched. It’s a shame when concerns over food safety also remove aesthetic diversity and opportunities for cheesemakers to craft unique products.  I’m actually not sure what would be involved to legally be able to use “small batch” rennet. Certainly the animal would have to be slaughtered at a USDA facility, but I imagine the process steps would also have to take place in an inspected facility with a meat processing license. Oh well, that doesn’t have to stop any of you from trying this at home!

I recommend Adam Danforth’s book Butchering for an even more in depth, artisan approach to harvesting meat.

 

Early Release Signed Books

PrintHot off the press, I have 100 copies of my new book available now! (Before the official release date March 2016). If you would like to purchase a signed copy I can mail it to you or as a gift to someone else. The cover price is 29.95. I will ship it priority mail for 35.00.  Let me know who to sign the book for and if you want a gift note included.

Book details: Full color, 151 pages, a Mother Earth News Wiser Living recommended book, published by New Society Publishers

In the book I take the approach of teaching cheesemaking as organically progressing lessons – each cheese recipe adds a layer of information, technique, and ingredients. By the time you are through, you should truly understand how to make almost any cheese, and be ready to move on to the deeper science contained in my previous book, Mastering Artisan Cheesemaking (Chelsea Green Publishing).

You can pay via Paypal or check.
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Keeping Coagulants Straight

It is hard to sort out all the different types and categories of rennet. For that reason, you often hear them mixed up, even by some experts! Here is a little guide that will hopefully help you sort them out – and keep them straight!

Rennet vs. Coagulant

While the term rennet originated from the use of enzymes (formerly called rennin) from the true stomach (the abomasum) of a young ruminant, it is perfectly acceptable these days to use it to refer to any product, compound, or ingredient that is added to milk to produce a slow coagulation (as opposed to adding acid for a fast coagulation). The term coagulant is synonymous.

Vegetarian vs. Vegetable

Vegetable coagulants are truly made from vegetables. Examples include thistle rennet (usually from the cardoon thistle), fig sap, lady’s bedstraw, and several others. All vegetable rennets are vegetarian, but not all vegetarian rennets are made from vegetables. Vegetarian rennets are made two ways, one by the growing and collection of a natural enzyme produced by the microbe rhizor mucor miehei and the other by the fermenting action of microbes that have had the animal gene for producing chymosin spliced into their DNA (genetically modified).

Traditional or Animal Rennet

Animal rennet contains chymosin, the primary  enzyme desirable for cheesemaking. Chymosin and pepsin (another enzyme) are both produced in the true stomach (the 4th compartment) of cows, goats, and sheep (other ruminants as well). The younger the animal, the more chymosin is present, compared to pepsin. The best rennet for cheesemaking has over 80% chymosin. The percentage should be guaranteed by the company making the rennet. Comes in single strength liquid or tablet form.

GMO

Fermented chymosin involves the use of genetically engineered (or modified) organisms. In this case, microbes are modified to produce chymosin (no pepsin). The microbes produce chymosin through a fermentation process. This type of rennet is microbial, but not all microbial rennets are the product of engineered microbes. Usually sold as “double-strength”.

Microbial Rennet

Most often refers to a coagulant produced naturally (but grown and harvested in a laboratory) by the microbe rhizor mucor miehei. The enzyme produced by this microbe is not chymosin, but acts in a similar fashion. Has an undeserved reputation for causing bitterness. Can be purchased in an organic version. Usually sold as “double-strength”. Available in shelf-stable tablets.

Junket Rennet

A coagulant made from the true stomach of an adult cow. Mostly comprised of pepsin which will coagulate milk, but is not desired for cheesemaking as it will produce bitterness progressively as the cheese ages.

 

 

Fresh, Squeaky Cheddar Curds – In about Two Hours

1306.cheddarcurds - Copy

Who doesn’t love fresh, squeaky cheese curds? Plain, slathered with pesto, deep fried, or with fries and gravy as poutine, cheddar curds are fun and delicious. But making them usually involves half the day, and who has time for that? In this recipe, I have shortened up a few of the steps, the result is tasty, satisfying, and a real crowd pleaser.

If you can, use creamtop, non-homogenized milk for the best results. Pasteurized, homogenized grocery store milk works as well, but the texture of the curds won’t be quite as firm and squeaky.

You’ll need:

  • 1 gallon whole milk (goat or cow)
  • 1 cup fresh, cultured buttermilk (if purchased, buy one with the longest expiration date to ensure that the bacteria are still active)
  • 1/4 tsp. double strength (or 1/2 tsp single strength) rennet

Steps:

  • Combine milk and buttermilk in a stainless steel pot.
  • Place on direct heat and warm, stirring constantly to 95 F07 Cut
  • Turn off or remove from heat
  • Add  rennet diluted in 2 TB cool non chlorinated water
  • Let set for 10-15 minutes until just pulling away from the sides or firm when pulled away
  • Cut into 3/8 to ¼ inch pieces then let rest for 5 minutes
  • Stir very gently for 5 minutes at 95 F
  • Begin to increase heat very slowly over 15 minutes to reach 102 F
  • Pour curds into cloth lined colander and tie in a bundle
  • Cover and keep curd at 100 F for 10 minutes
  • Cut slab into two pieces , stack, cover and keep warm, use a plastic bag filled with 100F hot water to help keep th1309.cheddaring
  • Turn every 10 minutes until chicken breast texture is achieved (about 1 hour)
  • Cut slabs into ½ to 1 inch long by ¼ to ½ inch wide pieces.
  • Place in colander over hot whey and sprinkle with ½ tsp salt. Stir then cover with hot water bag for 5 min. (mellowing)
  • Repeat salting and mellowing one more time.

 

The curds are ready to eat as soon as the salting is completed. They can be bagged and stored, but will lose their squeak after a day or so. They can also be frozen and thawed to enjoy later. Yum!

Disbudding – Using Sedation

In the archives you’ll find my article on the Dehorning Dilemma . Because I seem to like inspiring a bit of controversy, here is a video and instruction on how producers can sedate their kids (or calves) and disbud while the animal is semi-conscious. This drug also provides pain control (analgesia).  While some of you may wonder what could be controversial about pain control when performing painful procedures on animals, I have already come under a bit of criticism mostly from professionals who seem concerned that farmers can’t learn how to do this safely and animals will die. I, on the other hand, believe that most of us have the capacity to learn and deserve these options.