A girl is surrounded by baby goats
Four of the set of rare quintuplet kids born on Mark and Katrina Cayer's homestead compete for attention from 5-year-old Natalie Cayer. Credit: Julia Bayly / BDN

Everyone is a bit tired these days on Mark and Katrina Cayer’s southern Maine homestead.

Anyone walking into the goat pen is instantly swarmed by tiny adorable kids clamoring for attention and milk, and the entire family has been bottle feeding around the clock.

That’s because the family’s goat gave birth to quintuplets three weeks ago, which rarely happens, according to Dr. Anne Lichtenwalner, associate professor of animal and veterinary science at the University of Maine.

“Goats and sheep are frequently able to bear and raise twins or triplets, more than that is uncommon,” Lichtenwalner said. “There are lots of reports of four kids, but I really have not heard of five at one time.”

A couple stand in a pen with a goat.
Four of the set of rare quintuplet kids born on Mark and Katrina Cayer’s homestead compete for attention from 5-year-old Hannah Cayer. Credit: Julia Bayly / BDN

The mother is a mini-Nigerian named Violet and, according to Katrina Cayer, had a trouble-free delivery of all five kids.

“She had gotten so big, I was worried she had bloat,” she said. “When she ended up in labor, I was there with towels to help clean off the first and then second one and then there was a third and fourth and they just kept coming.”

The fifth and final kid born is the tiniest, Katrina Cayer said, and did require some special attention early on to treat some breathing problems.

A boy bottle feeds a goat with another baby goat watching.
Mark Cayer bottle feeds one of the quintuplet kids born on his parent’s homestead. All members of the Cayer family are pitching in to help the mother goat care for the rare set of five kids. Credit: Julia Bayly / BDN

Nursing that many kids at once is a challenge, Lichtenwalner said.

“She needs to be able to provide enough high-quality colostrum for that many offspring,” she said. “Each kid needs several good feedings of this antibody-packed, rich milk within the first 12 to 24 hours after birth.”

Violet also needs to produce enough milk for her kids throughout their nursing, up to eight weeks.

That’s where the Cayers come in.

“Originally, and before she had five babies, we were planning to let her nurse her kids,” Katrina Cayer said. “Now we are having to come out three to four times a day to help mom out and we are making sure she gets extra grain so she can produce good milk.”

It’s very much a family affair with her husband and children — 12-year-old Kiara, 10-year-old Mark and 5-year-old Natalie — all pitching in.

“I work nights, so I am home during the day to feed and [my] kids come out before and after school to help,” Katrina Cayer said. “My husband takes over before he goes to work.”

A girl is surrounded by goat kids.
Kiara Cayer spends some quality time with three of the quintuplet kids born on her family’s homestead. Credit: Julia Bayly

For her part, Violet is taking it all in stride.

“She’s a great mom,” Katrina Cayer said. “She’s being a real trooper.”

Correction: An earlier photo caption on this report misstated Natalie Cayer’s first name.

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Julia Bayly

Julia Bayly is a reporter at the Bangor Daily News with a regular bi-weekly column. Julia has been a freelance travel writer/photographer since 2000.