Thursday, February 07, 2008

Nature vs. Nurture

I am not a farmer. Period. I have no capacity to remain clinical and detached when dealing with my animals. I am a big, fat, tender bleeding heart full of love and compassion for all of my babies because that's that they are: my babies. Part of the family. I can't see them any other way and I think that's why yesterday was so tough on me.

For 2 days I told everyone I could about what I witnessed on Monday. How magnificent it was. Awesome. How I marveled at Ann-Margaret's maternal instinct. I even joked about how humans over-prepare and read books and drive themselves crazy over child-rearing whereas animals seem to let instinct kick in and everything else falls into place.

Well I changed my tune when forever whatever reason, Ann-Margaret's instinct told her to attack one of her newborns. The only way I can reconcile this in my head is that Ann-Margaret knew she couldn't effectively raise/mother/nurse 3 kids. It's simply too many - in fact, goats don't usually have litters of more than 2. I think she chose Junior because Junior was the most aggressive. Not in a bad way mind you, but she was the first to nurse. The first to jump up. She was always running and frolicking and being active and sweet and wonderful. So I am telling myself, that maybe Junior nursed too much too soon. And Ann-Margaret, fearful for Peanut and Coco, pushed her away. She doesn't know that her 2-day old kid has no other resources. She's just protecting her litter. It's weird I know - but in my head this is the only way I can make sense of it.

I was crushed yesterday. Devastated. I hated taking a 2-day old kid away from its mother, its siblings, its natural habitat. I hated what that separation might mean at such a young age - from not getting the proper nutrients because she wasn't nursing to socialization skills later down the road. However, with some time behind the drama of yesterday afternoon, I am starting to be ok with my decision.

Had I not stepped in and interfered with nature, Junior would surely be dead. Now, she is in the house where it is warm, she is being fed on a regular basis (yes - I am bottle feeding my baby goat - well, not quite bottle feeding - she's not quite there yet - so we are dropper feeding her but it's close enough) and doesn't have to compete with her siblings, and she is receiving lots of love and affection from yours truly. How is this bad for her? It's not.

When I first posted about the birth of the goats, my dad sent me the following email:

I’ll just say, as proud grandfather do whatever you have to do to keep those goats alive. If we just let nature take its course, there would be no Lipitor, and Elvis would still be making babies. It’s a delicate balance of nature, science, and common sense.

That's why I know I did the right thing. Keeping Junior alive and giving her the chance for a life - even if it's not with her mom and dad, even if it's not with her siblings, even if it's not with me and Marty - that's the right thing to do.

And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...