Confession: I am not very adult about needles. When I'm at the doctor and needles come out, I just can't look. I get queasy. In fact, one year that I was teaching high school, the Blood Drive was taking place in the library just across the hall from my classroom. I had to keep my classroom door closed all day because my knees got weak when I saw those tables and hanging bags of blood. I literally had to teach sitting down all day (which was not my teaching style at all). I realize that this phobia doesn't doesn't jive very well with a homesteading lifestyle. I did, after all, butcher my own chickens a couple weeks ago, and I did go all "momma bear" on a copperhead this summer. So, while I don't look forward to the blood draw involved in pregnancy testing the goats, I'm hoping that I'll at least just be able to do it.
According to the website from which we ordered our testing kit, here's what I'll have to do:
1. Using electric shears, shave a 4x8" patch of the doe’s neck to see the jugular vein.
2. Have an assistant (John) turn the head of the doe to the side, at a 30-degree angle, by holding the animal under its jaw to allow for easy access to the vein. Then, I need to straddle the doe, placing my knees behind the doe’s shoulders, and back the doe into a corner or against a wall to help control her hindquarters.
3. Locate the vein by applying pressure to the vein. The easiest way to locate the vein is to draw an imaginary line from the middle of the doe’s eye down the side of her neck.
4. Use a surgical scrub to clean the area and keep bacteria out of the needle insertion site.
5. Guide the needle holder into place with the right hand while the left hand is used to apply pressure to the vein.
6. Once the needle is in place, apply pressure so that the blood collection tube is pushed onto the needle.
7. Collect 2 cc or more of blood.
8. After the needle has been removed from the skin, press fingertip over the area where the needle was inserted.
9. Label and ship the tube and await results.
10. Take a deep breath, hopefully stop shaking, and do something fun to celebrate the fact that I was actually able to do this.
We could, of course, just take a wait and see approach. However, in a roughly 5-month gestational period, goats often won't "show" until the final month, if they show at all. By that time, it is too late to try breeding again as the doe will no longer be in heat. Large farms can handle a doe or two turning out not to be bred, but when you're only breeding 2 goats for a small homestead, like we are, being sure they're bred is key. No little doelings or bucklings in the spring means no milk. The quick turnaround of this test will allow us to try breeding again if one or both of them turn out not to be bred.
Wish me luck!