Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Holiday goat woes.

It has been a long time since I've done a farm update.  Nothing very interesting or unusual has happened over this past year, and I started a new, art-specific blog to make the writing more cogent.  I'll stick to homesteading and sustainability topics here, with some travel and family updates.

This holiday season has been unusual for us, though, because it was wrought with pet crises, mainly of the goat variety.  First, right before the break, I noticed our oldest goat, Pan, just didn't look right.  He was standing awkwardly, looking skinny and rickety.  Something in his face was different.  His luster was gone.  But, he was still friendly and affable, and was eating fine.

This is Pan at about age 2.  He was only 3 months older than my daughter.
But, over the next few days, he grew weaker.  Soon, he was lying down, and I wrapped a blanket around him, hand-fed him, and sat with him as often as I could.  Pan was one of our first goats, and the other passed away several years ago.  He was a whether, and the friendliest, most lovable goat I've ever met.  He knew his name, and always came running when called.  He tolerated mishandling by Anouk through her toddler years and even let her ride on him.  But he would have been 11 this spring, and he had lived a good, long goat life.  After two days of lying down, still animated and eating, and showing no signs of discomfort, I found him dead the day before Christmas break.  We started off the holidays with a big loss.  The barn isn't the same without Pan.

But then, on Christmas eve, I found our newest 10-month-old billy lying on his side, crying, and unable to move.  I scooped him up and took him straight to the house.  Mike and I tended to him in our bathroom, squirting baby goat formula into his mouth with a syringe a little at a time.  We noticed that his fur was full of hay grain, making it (and him) appear thicker than he was.  He also has a thick undercoat that the other goats don't have.  (Mike is convinced that he's a Pygmy and not a Nigerian.)  As we brushed and picked the grains out, we could feel that he was very, very bony.  He slowly regained composure, and was soon back on his feet, acting normal.  We gave him a dose of wormer, some aspirin, and kept him in the bathroom overnight to monitor him, then put him back into the barn, separated from the others.
This is Thorin last summer.  We bought him to breed with our females in hopes of milking this spring.
He seemed a bit weak, but ok, so I just kept giving him extras like veggies and formula, and he spent the night in the barn.  By the way, we were experiencing some unusually cold weather, and it's possible that the low temps affected our weaker goats.  But, the next evening, Christmas Eve, I took a break from cooking a holiday dinner to close up the coop and barn, and I found Thorin out in the goat yard on his side, head arched back, crying weakly and limp.  Again, I rushed him indoors, but this time, he was much worse.  Liquid was dribbling from his mouth, his eyes were half closed, breathing was quick and shallow, and he couldn't even lift his head.  Also, he was bloated, and obviously in pain.  Meanwhile, my dad was arriving and dinner needed to be finished.

We set up a bed for Thorin and kept checking on him.  The stinky gases slowly escaped from his insides, and he deflated.  Then he regained some strength.  We were able to get some formula into him.  And suddenly, he was standing again and acting normal.  We were flummoxed, but relieved that he was not dying after all.
Goat fains dying in order to sleep in the house.
We were doing frantic internet searches, I blind-emailed random goat owners I found online, and we just kept feeding him what we had on hand.  The first day stores were open, we both went on separate hunts for mineral supplements, selenium, and advice.  We came home with vitamins, electrolytes, and goat treats.  And he is slowly getting better.  Our best guess is that he either had a selenium deficiency, which can cause weakness in the legs, or that the older, bigger goats were preventing him access to the feed, and that he was actually starving.  I hate that option, because I feel awful that I overlooked it until he had lost all muscle tissue in his legs.

But, he has always been very shy, and doesn't like being handled.  So, I haven't pushed him.  After all of the special attention he's been getting for over a week now, he is our little baby.  He's wearing a modified sweatshirt and has a buffet of yummy, nutritious food laid out in his area, with a cushy bed and heat lamp.  If anything positive has come out of this, it's that I learned a lot about goat nutrition and this billy will be much friendlier than he would have been otherwise.

Finally, the other night, our new dog, Bilbo, got into the dog food and overate so severely that he had to be rushed to the emergency vet clinic.  His stomach was stretched to 5 times the normal size and was in danger of rupturing.  He had to be kept overnight and given injections to induce vomiting.  He is finally back to normal, but still on medication to help his tummy heal.  And we had to cancel a trip to visit friends for the holidays.

So, that's what we did over the holidays!