A colt who lost his mother a few days after he was born has been saved thanks to a nanny goat who stepped in to feed him.
Imelda and Jim Kingston, from Co Cork, Ireland, welcomed a foal from their homebred Irish draught mare Carrigbawn Sunset on 17 April but owing to complications with the placenta, the mare died a few days later.
Jim told H&H: “After foaling the mare got very sick and we had to get the vet. The vet thinks she may have got poisoning from the placenta a few weeks before foaling.
“The colt was with his mum and had been suckling away for two and a half days but on Saturday (20 April) morning I found the mare dead in the stable.”
Jim bought milk replacer for the foal and started bottle feeding.
“A couple of people rang me offering their mares but they’d have gone dry before they could get them to us. I didn’t know what to do at the time but then my neighbour said her sister, Niamh Creagh, had a five-year-old nanny goat who she had reared foals with. She was brought round that day, we put her on a ledge in the stable and the foal started suckling straight away – and hasn’t stopped since,” said Jim.
“I’d heard of goats feeding foals but never seen it done – you’ll try anything when you’re desperate and when the offer came we thought we’d see how things go. I’m giving the colt vitamins and minerals to balance out the goat’s milk.”
Jim said the goat saved the colt’s life.
“If it wasn’t for the goat he could have died of hunger. I’m very grateful to Niamh – it’s a lot easier than getting up every two hours to feed him with a bottle, and it’s more natural for the colt than bottle-feeding,” he said.
“I’m hoping to keep them together for six to eight weeks, and I’ll change the colt on to pellet feed slowly. The colt is doing well, they’re going out in a small garden together and the colt has been jumping and galloping around, happy with himself.”
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Niamh told H&H she discovered goats were good at rearing other animals when another goat she owned had a phantom pregnancy eight years ago.
“The goat had started producing milk so we got a pet lamb to feed from her, and within a few days we had received call from a friend to say they’d lost their nanny goat and were looking for a mother for a kid so I said we can try her. I later got a phone call from someone about a baby deer whose mother had been killed on the road so the goat was feeding the lamb, the kid and the baby deer.
“I’ve now had quite a few goats and reared quite a few foals with them. When my sister told me what happened to Carrigbawn Sunset I said I’ll put the goat in the car and bring her down and see how we get on. People can be dubious about a goat, but I’ve done it before – i’ve had a goat feeding two foals at the same time previously – she had one either side. I think it’s a comfort thing, if the foal is young enough they’ll latch on to a goat and goats are super at the job.”
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