The other day I read somewhere that most goat herdsmen give up at the three year mark. Goats will stand at their gate demanding your attention (for hours) while you work in the garden. They love just being around you. This is why I love them. Now here’s why I hate them: parasites.
Parasite suck–literally–suck the life out of goats. When I first started I went all natural with them–herbal wormers– and felt pretty great about avoiding evil chemicals. I’m the kind of person who tosses and turns at night thinking about wormers and parasites. I’m also the kind of person who has too much pride. I hate asking for help and bringing in experts (I’m the same with my own health, btw, self-treating for puncture wounds and pleading to be left in a corner to mend myself after dislocating my elbow and breaking my arm when I fell on the ice chasing a chicken).
If I kill myself while self medicating that’s my problem, but when you let your pride and fear screw-up someone else’s life then you know you’ve gone too far. I’m not a scientist or a vet and I don’t always follow my gut. This is not the best combination when dealing with animals that can’t talk.
All of our animals had shiny coats and happy dispositions until this spring. Their eyelids weren’t as pink and their coats not as shiny. I thought worms. Now here’s where I went wrong. For some reason I couldn’t bring myself to collect a fecal sample and take it to our incredibly wonderful, non-judgmental vet. I kept avoiding it. Maybe I didn’t want her to tell us that we were the worst goat people ever and that our goats were filled with an insane amount of worms because we sucked. Yes, that’s why I didn’t bring the sample.
After using chemical wormer they all seemed to rebound–except my favorite goat Daphne. She sorta rebounded, gained some weight, produced a lot of milk and seemed happy for a while, but then she looked like this:
With goats things can go downhill quickly, but Daphne kept giving us hope. She’d always been a fussy eater. I wanted to believe she didn’t like the grain anymore, but my gut was saying “CALL THE VET!” Now at the same time my husband’s company downsized. He was the new kid on the block so he was the first to go (with a fantastic reference, but still). He found work a few weeks later since he’s highly skilled, but spending a few hundred dollars at the time was just not going to happen. We tried worming her again.
Another rebound, another slide back into painful thinness. Avoiding pain doesn’t make it disappear, of course. Finally I stopped timidly asking advice from my friends and reading endless web pages offering often opposite goat advice and with my ashamed head held low called in our vet.
She may have been judging on the inside, but on the outside she said we’d done everything she would have done (of course she was surely thinking we should have done a fecal sample). I’m leaving out a lot here, but Daphne had the symptoms of a few different things from copper toxicity to cancer to . . . the vet wasn’t sure. So we injected her with penicillin and Vitamin B and Banamine. We drenched her with molasses water and Sulmet and force-fed her Probios. All the while the poor thing suffered, only a little happier after I dressed her in an old sweatshirt and my puffy green coat over a puffy blue vest.
Then there’s the economics. When, with a $250.00 goat, do you pull the plug on expensive tests, etc when most goats displaying her level of distress usually die? I have no answers.
Our other goats under the same exact conditions are if anything a little chubby and strong.
The worst part (aside from feeling extremely depressed about my stupidity and at the same time seeing that ebola’s made it to NYC at the bowling alley?!) is the lingering suffering of a sad animal. I LOVE animals and really go back and forth about eating them. My best friend Huckle the Cavalier King Charles dog died after a slow moving illness only two months ago. I had to watch him choke out his final breath and see the light go out in his eyes. It sounds bad but every morning I wake up almost hoping Daphne is dead–that she died peacefully in the night. Every morning I open the door to the milk room to find her still alive with that sad but awake look in her eyes. It’s torture.
The vet said after a week of trying to force things on Daphne that it’s probably the death watch phase for the weekend–if she lasts that long. The weather here in Upstate New York had been beautiful all month.
But things have taken a turn for the worse. Rain and mud abound as the last leaves are blown from the trees.