When we set out on this little adventure of ours we thought we were prepared for potential setbacks. Because we care very much for the animals we raise, we made sure to create our own “first-aid kit” for farm animals. In it we included iodine for animals, a large bottle of peroxide, a tube of thick antibacterial cream, a bottle of Corrid, probiotics, baking soda, pedialyte, minerals, Epsom salt, various syringes, measuring equipment and probably a few other things I can’t think of off the top of my head. Okay, maybe we went a little overboard, but best to be prepared, right?
This little stash of goodies has come in handy this past summer as we have had a round of Coccidia, haemonchus and (believe it or not) surgery.
The first round of Coccidia went through three of our animals including our poor little ram who needed a bath almost daily. For whatever reason, it is more difficult to get rid of this pesky parasite in goats than other animals, so the ram was quicker to recover than our Nubian doe or our Nigerian wether.
We finally made it through all of that, when one night we let the “girls” (our three doelings) and our wether out to romp in the barn together. Our Nubian doeling decided to take on the older but smaller Nigerian wether. Much to our little guy’s chagrin, the Nubian won…and poor Jack had a broken horn.
To take a step back, all of our Nigerians were disbudded at an early age. However, Jack (as it turns out) had unusually large horns and the disbudding didn’t work perfectly. He ended up with 3-4 inch horns that were thinner than normal and we had a feeling that the wrong hit would take them out.
The broken horn fell off the following day exposing raw skin and blood. In the heat of the summer, flies are very attracted to wounds. We were also concerned that leaving him with the one horn would just create more trouble. After speaking with the vet, we decided to have his horns removed.
Now some people would object to this procedure to an animal at five months old. Others thought we were just spending money needlessly. After discussing the potential alternatives (other horn breaks, both horns grow back, repeat steps 1-2) we really felt that the effort and money were worth it to make things easier for everyone (including Jack) down the line.
As I mentioned earlier, we discovered that Jack’s horns were unusually large for his little head and when he came home from surgery the poor little guy had two gaping holes. Fearful of flies getting in there, possible infections and a warning from the vet that he needed to be kept either separate from the others or with someone who wouldn’t want to head butt him all day, we decided that Jack needed to sleep in our spare room.
We set up a large metal dog crate (the type with bars, not the plastic enclosed carrier type) with some shavings, hay and a water dish. He didn’t like being up there by himself and made quite a bit of noise, but just like most kids, he settled down within a few minutes and slept through the night.
This all took place just before Labor Day weekend and I had already planned on taking a few extra days off to get some stuff done around the house. Silly me. Instead I spent most of the time taking care of Jack.
Then, on the first day of my vacation, Pearl, the Nubian doeling, had the runs…again. Does this ever end?
So, another stool sample and a half day wasted running around and we found out she had haemonchus. This little nasty parasite attaches itself to the inside of the stomach and sucks the blood of its host. We knew something was wrong when Pearl (our normally noisiest goat) was quiet and not eating. All she wanted was to be cuddled. Again, just like a kid, we knew something was not right.
The hard part of this parasite is that the goat has to fast from 6-12 hours before AND after taking the medicine. Not fun when you are talking about an animal that pretty much eats constantly. To keep Pearl from being stressed, we brought in all three girls and locked them in their stall without food. They weren’t happy, but within less than 24 hours, Pearl had her medicine and we could already see an improvement in her behavior. Within a few days, Pearl was back to her noisy, mischievous self.
Jack’s head is still taking it’s time healing. We’ve been putting a warm cloth soaked in Epsom salt and water on his head at night and slathering him in fly cream during the day so that he can be outside with the others. He has healed enough that we are comfortable with him sleeping back out in the barn. (That and we were tired of waking up to a yelling goat right at sunrise. Goats clearly do not get the concept of Sunday morning.) During the day he is out with the other goats where it is wide open, but we have still kept him separated at night. We tend to be over cautious.
Some of our farming friends just shake their heads at us. After all, a wether isn’t really worth anything. Many times people almost give them away. So to spend money removing horns was something most people wouldn’t do. But Jack is, well, our Jack. He’s cool. He has beautiful blue eyes and a “I can take on the world” attitude. He loves adventure, but also will just sit in your lap for a while and nap. In a way, I think he thinks he owns us and not the other way around. We wouldn’t trade him for the world.
As the cooler weather settles in, we’re hoping we are over most of these maladies. Though we said that last time, too. This fall doesn’t seem close to slowing down any and I still have all those things around the house I wanted to get to before. But first and foremost we need to make sure our animals are healthy and happy.