Posts Tagged ‘goats’

Candid Corner: Homesteading-Raw and Uncensored

October 14, 2011

Oft times when I mention that I have a homestead on 7 acres, I get similar reactions…

“Oh, how wonderful!”

“I’ve always wanted to live like that…”

“It must be so rewarding…”

Homesteading often conjures up mental images of fuzzy baby chicks, white fluffy lambs, contented cows lazily munching in green lush pastures… the satisfaction of fresh picked produce, frothy warm goat’s milk in a bucket, and farm fresh eggs plucked from a nesting box.

And while all these images are true, there are days when homesteading is just plain raw, ugly and painful.

Remember Marbles?  Our goat who was sick a couple of weeks ago and I wasn’t certain what was wrong with her?

Well, she recovered and was her ornery self, pushing the other goats away from the feed trough, butting everyone in the head to maintain her dominance.  We loved her – she had so much personality and she was the first goat on our farm, a birthday gift to Victoria.

Tori taught her to run and jump into her arms.  Marbles made great babies and was a good momma.

About a week ago, I was feeding the goats and noticed something on Marbles leg, a fluid that had dripped down her leg.  I looked underneath her belly and noticed a wound on her udder.

I had Megan help me get Marbles onto the milk stand so I could get a better look.  There was a hole on the inside of her udder between the two teats.  It was nasty looking and I wasn’t sure if she had torn her udder.  I poured peroxide on it to clean out the beginning stages of infection.  Yeah, it stung – you could tell because the pupils in Marbles eyes got really big.

We let her off the stand and she stood in the corner of the barn for a while.  I watched and soon she was back to bossing around the other goats – no more pain.

Over the next couple of days, the wound got bigger and soon half her udder was dangling, the teat looking leathery and hard.  I was beside myself about what to do and what made it worse, Marbles was acting very normal- eating well, playing with the other goats.

Finally yesterday, the wound was worse and I knew that I had to put her down before this situation got to the point where it was an emergency.  I’d been agonizing over this decision, hoping every day that I went to the barn that by some miracle, I would see some improvement.  I talked with a couple of friends who own animals.  We tossed around ideas but the final conclusion was – Marbles would have to have surgery to correct the problem.

You want to know about raw homesteading?  It’s when your emotions and logic conflict, when your heart says “whatever it takes” and your mind says “at what cost.”  When your memory replays all the videos of your children bottle feeding this goat, “napping” with this goat, standing in awe as this goat gave birth to two beautiful babies…

And your practical side looks at a 9 year old goat who can no longer give birth or nurse a baby or provide milk for the family; calculating the monetary cost of a surgery that may or may not work.

It’s awful.  And it hurts.  And it keeps me awake at night and wakes me in the morning…

And I alone have to make the final decision on the life of this goat, our pet – whether she lives or dies.

That is the reality of raw, uncensored homesteading.

At 5:30pm, it was decided that Marbles would be put down at 7pm.  Tears filled my eyes when I hung up the phone after making the arrangement.  A friend’s brother-in-law would come to our farm and bring his gun.

I went into the bathroom and called a close friend of mine and cried, making sure that I was doing the right thing.  It’s a lonely ache that invades your heart in moments like this.  My 14 year old wanted to be there when Marbles was put down.  As a mom, I wanted to protect her from this harsh reality.  She wants to be a vet – should I let her be a part of this experience?  My husband was unavailable…my heart won in this instance and I decided that I would stay with Marbles and not her.

I dug the hole with the tractor and Tori and Megan finished cleaning it out with the shovel.  I had a hair appointment in town at 6:15p.  As I headed home and turned onto our dirt road, I allowed my mind to replay the memories and I cried again.  I drove down our driveway, there was Marbles nuzzling through wind blown leaves looking for acorns, snatching them up and munching them with a very satisfied look on her face.

The gentleman who came to help us arrived.  He asked me a question and the tears choked my throat and I couldn’t answer.  Megan came out and I put Molly, our Border Collie, in the house and picked up the leash for Marbles.  I’d composed myself with these tasks and could converse one again.

I walked into the goat pen, hooked the leash on Marble’s collar and headed out the gate toward the back of the pasture.  Twice, she dug her hooves into the ground and didn’t want to move.  The last time was just as we approached the hole in the ground.

“Ugh – please don’t make this any harder than it is…”

The gentleman was so sweet.  He took the leash and asked me if I wanted to go to the house.

“No- I’ll stay but I won’t watch.  I’ll just stand over here and wait.”

Silence…

…and then the gun shot.  My breath caught in my throat with an audible ache from my heart.   And I listened.

Silence…

When I turned around, he was dragging Marble’s body into the hole we’d dug for her.

It was over…the wrestling, the anguish, the torment about what to do.  Though my heart wanted to argue, I knew I had made the right decision.

He offered to cover her for me.

“No thank you – I’m okay.”

Megan was immediately by my side, having come down from the house.

We chatted for a bit with this gentleman, so grateful for his help. I offered to pay him.

No, no payment, just glad he could help and oh, by the way, “call me again ma’am if you ever need to put down another.”

I walked him to his truck, he handed me Marbles collar and leash, I shook his hand and thanked him again.

Dusk was creeping in, the moon rising and I wanted to cover the body well so the coyotes would stay away.  I headed back to pasture and climbed onto the tractor.  Within minutes, Marbles was buried.

Megan hopped on the tractor with me and we drove back up to the house.  Megan leaned over and said, “Mom, she’s grazing with Emma in those beautiful pastures along with all our other animals.  We have a farm waiting for us!”

A beautiful, star filled sky and a brilliant full moon…my girls who offered hugs and sweet tenderness.

No one ever told me about these kind of days when I chose to homestead.  Perhaps because the emotional heartache of days like this one, so raw and uncensored, are soothed and consoled by fuzzy baby chicks, fluffy white lambs, and contented cows lazily munching in lush green pastures…

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Candid Corner – It’s So Hard to Switch Tracks

September 14, 2011

I went out last night to check on Marbles, our goat.  She’s been sick for the last couple of days. Not really sure what’s wrong with her – a lot of educated guesses.

By symptoms and signs, the consensus  has been a urinary blockage or stone.  I’ve used all the conventional means:  a shot of antibiotic for fever, pain reliever to give her some comfort, this other stuff to hopefully break down the stone or blockage… and I’m still waiting.

Marbles has had no appetite for the feed we normally give – man made.

Last night, the girls and I attended our weekly Traditional Chinese Medicine class.  Dr. Liang talked about plants and their ability to heal and why.  I’ve known this and have believed it for some time, using almost solely herbs and minerals for the family.

But when it came to my animals, I hadn’t switched my thinking.  My first recourse has always been chemicals or conventional means.

I learned the hard way with my honeybees.  I was told to use a chemical to control mites or they would kill my colonies.  So I used the chemical and instead – it killed my colony.  There may have been some other factors involved but definitely, the chemical was one of the components for their demise.

I was at a loss last night regarding Marbles.  I stood in the pen with her  – it was a beautiful night with a full moon, bright stars, slight breeze.  I started to love on her, touching her, rubbing her ears.  As I ran my hand along her neck, I noticed she was really tight so I started to massage her neck…remembering that massage is often used for healing.  Pretty soon she relaxed and pushed her head into my leg.  I rubbed her face and ears and along her spine and sides.  The look in her eye calmed down.  I talked with her as I continued to rub her neck.  After a 1/2 hour  or so of this, I said goodnight and went in the house.

While I was out there with Marbles, I was thinking about our class and the plants.  I remembered what a FB friend said about dock root.  I determined that in the morning, I would pick plants for Marbles and see what she would do  with those.

This morning I went into her pen and she seemed better, a little perkier.  Rubber her neck some more… offered her some grain and she nibbled but not really interested.  I knew enough though, that she wanted something to eat.

Oh yeah,plants.

I’d been told that with urinary problems, they needed acidic feed.  We’d been giving her apple cider vinegar which she hated.  So I went to get some oak leaves – they’re acidic.  She ate them right away.

I walked around the yard and picked a little of this and that.  I knew some of the medicinal properties of some of the plants.  Found Feverfew and the dock.  It looked like a bouquet when I took it into Marbles!  I offered her the dock and she ate it right away – the most enthusiastic I’d seen her in several days.  I offered her the Feverfew and she ate that right away.  Some of the other plants, not interested.  I figured she knew what she needed.

I guess what I learned this morning is, I’ve been trained under the conventional medicine for animals and I need to explore the natural remedies with them also.  There’s not much info out there for this kind of medical treatment.

I need to remember that I’m not always smarter than the animals when it comes to figuring out what they need.  Marbles is penned up – how could she get what she needs if it’s not available to her?

I don’t have answers, just sharing my musings with you this morning.  It’s difficult to switch my train of thought when it’s always been a certain way and “this is how it’s always done.”

I’ll continue to explore the use of plants and herbs with my animals because I know it can work for humans so why wouldn’t it work for them?

They’re even closer to the earth than I am in what they eat 🙂

Sir Loin the Protector

April 26, 2010

Emma, our newest lamb to the farm, has been by herself since the day she was born.  We bottle fed her so she had human contact every day but she didn’t have any animal friends.  Emma’s been down in the pig pen since we weaned her so she could be close to the group of animals she would eventually be living with – Britches- the Boer goat, Sir Loin and Edward- the cows…

and Sage and Rosie- the sheep.

The problem with bottle fed babies is, when they see a human, they think they need to “talk” with them and convince them to come and spend time.

I have to say that Emma is the LOUDEST sheep we’ve every had!  At first it was quite comical.  She could bleat the loudest and longest of any animal.  Only problem – she wouldn’t stop and it would go on and on.  One time  Emma did have her head stuck in the fence so the incessant bleating was warranted but that’s not the norm.

I’d had it this last week and asked Mae Mae to put her in with the other animals, it was time.

Mae Mae told me that as soon as Emma entered the other pasture, Sir Loin took her on as his own.  Any time Britches tried to get close, Sir Loin would get in between and push him away from Emma.  Britches finally got the hint and left her alone.  That night, Sir Loin tried desperately to be close to Emma so they could sleep near one another but Emma kept running away.  Eventually, Emma settled by the group and Sir Loin was content.

When it was raining the other day, Emma was in this small shed we have in their pasture and Sir Loin was guarding the entrance.

I find it fascinating watching how animals will interact with one another, especially different species.  More than once, I’ve seen the older cows protect the younger animals, no matter what type they were.

One time, a stray dog got into the pasture and the younger goats all ran to the biggest cow and got underneath him while the cow was swinging his horns at the dog!

Emma still goes a bit ballistic with her bleating when she sees a human exit the house but at least it doesn’t last as long anymore.  She has other animal friends and that makes life a whole lot better….

and she has Sir Loin who has taken it upon himself to protect her and watch over her.

Dairy Goats: Dealing with Ketosis

April 18, 2010

Our kidding season here at the farm has come and gone and left us with 5 beautiful baby goats – 3 males, 2 females.  Now the fun begins and we spend countless hours watching and playing with the new kids.  They are so comical, especially when they realize how much bounce their little legs have.  They seem to skip around the barnyard, kicking out and jumping up every now and then, very pleased with their accomplishments.

For the most part, the births were uneventful.  We missed two of the does kidding, they did it on their own.  Maggie was the first to kid and she had a rougher go of it this year.  She’s still recovering…

Maggie ended up with ketosis which is fairly common in goats who deliver twins.  It was more likely with Maggie since this was the first time she’d delivered twins.  All her previous births had been single births.  She’s having a hard time keeping up with the milk demand of her two little ones.  Maggie is doing better though she has not completely recovered.  We’re still supplementing the babies with a bottle so they’re not solely dependent on their mom.

Ahh, the joys and learning opportunities of homesteading… and I’m not kidding!!

Ketosis (also called Acetonemia) is the result of the high carbohydrate (energy) demand of multiple fetuses in late pregnancy. The kids require an increasing amount of carbohydrates the last trimester. Does bearing twins have a 180% higher energy requirement than those with just a single fetus. Does carrying triplets have a 240% greater energy requirement. When this demand exceeds the supply, fat is metabolized into glucose. The metabolic needs of the kids are met at the expense of the dam; this is what causes the ketotic condition. To complicate matters, multiple fetuses produce more waste products, which leads to the doe becoming toxic if she does not flush them from her system.

Sign for Ketosis:

The doe eats less or stops eating completely.

Depression

Separation from the herd

The doe may be slow to get up or may lie off in a corner.

Her eyes are dull.

Sometimes blindness

Muscle tremors & seizures

Staggering

Head pressing

She may have swollen ankles

She may grind her teeth.

The doe may breathe more rapidly.

The doe’s breath and urine may have a fruity sweet odor. This is due to the excess ketones, which have a sweet smell.

Prevention:

Prevent excess body fat during early pregnancy and increase the caloric intake in late pregnancy with a little more high energy feed (in moderation). Try to eliminate stress on the doe if at all possible.

After kidding increase grain as the doe’s milk production increases.

Exercise

Treatment:

Oral glucose/sugar:

Molasses & Karo syrup (corn syrup). Mix 2 parts corn syrup to 1 part molasses.  20 – 30ml every 2 hours. This tastes much better than PG and thus is less stressful to administer.

Propylene Glycol: Propylene Glycol is an appetite suppressant and it inhibits rumen bacteria, so do not use unless the doe is off her feed.

3-4 oz (90-120ml) 2 times a day, for 2 days, and then 1-2 oz (30ml-60ml) 2 times daily until the doe is eating normally.
or

10 – 20ml every 2 hours

Personal Note: Ever since my scientist father pointed out that Propylene Glycol is extremely similar in composition to Anti-Freeze, I tend to avoid it if at all possible.  I still with other, less harmful sugars.

Nutridrench, Goatdrench: 2 oz. 2 times a day

B-Complex: injections to stimulate the appetite.

Probios: to stimulate the appetite and keep the rumen functioning.

Children’s Chewable Vitamins w/ extra Calcium: If the doe will eat them, feed her 2-4 a day.

Rescue Remedy: Helps to reduce stress levels.

Lavender Essential Oil: This is an aromatherapy treatment for stress and depression. The doe may get depressed if she is not feeling well. Also, the drenching of Propylene Glycol (which doesn’t taste very good) can be stressful on the doe. Lavender has a calming and mood lifting effect. Place 4 drops of oil in three different places in the doe’s stall twice a day.

Even through it is the treatment for Milk Fever, I have found that it is also helpful to give:

Calcium Gluconate:

8 oz. given orally. Repeat 5-8 oz, three times a day until the doe is eating and symptoms are subsiding. 
OR

SQ Injections of 40-60 cc of Calcium Gluconate. The injections should be broken down into at least 4 injections in different sites. Do not give more than 10 cc per injection site. The injections should be given slowly.

Once the doe has regained her appetite, increase her grain ration so that a relapse does not occur.

*Thanks to Fias Co Farm for their information

Sheep Shearing

April 14, 2010

Our Sheep Shearing day dawned into a beautiful, crisp morning.  The weather was perfect as we hustled around getting the last minute details taken care of before our guests started arriving.  As with any farm, always expect the unexpected.  When Mae Mae went to the goat barn to do her chores, she discovered that Abby had had her babies out by a tree.  I was working in the garden and heard Mae Mae’s squeal of delight as she ran over to the see the new kids.

Abby was fine but the kids were a mess!  It was a very chilly morning and they were wet, covered in dirt, and shivering.  Change of plans – forget the garden and take care of the new babies.  I carried them quickly into the barn and put down new straw.  We rubbed them down with towels and cleaned them off.  Mae Mae took care of Abby, we made sure the kids nursed, bedded them in the straw and headed off to finish our other chores.

We needed to get Sage and Rosy into the holding pen before people arrived.  They get skittish in all the commotion and I wanted to avoid that potential problem.

Finally, we were ready to go.

While we waited for others to arrive, our guests took time to get acquainted with the other baby goats.

I love watching the delight on the children’s faces as they hold the babies.

Marbles decided she’d like to check out the human baby!

Yes, there’s a lot involved in getting ready for an event but as a family we’ve agreed it’s all worth it.  We love to watch the faces of our guests as they share in this experience with us.

These children were brought to the farm by some of our friends and this was their first time seeing farm animals.

What a privilege to share with others the daily or yearly happenings of the farm.

Sage was first to be sheared.  Her fleece was beautiful this year.

After the sheep are shorn, I give them their yearly shot.  I figured since they’re down and restrained, what better time to do it!

See kids, you’re not the only ones who have to have shots…

A naked sheep!  Must feel so good to get out from under all that wool.

This is a full fleece.  Rosemarie shears in such a way that it’s all one piece.

I handed out wool to everyone and asked them to smell it – education is greatest when a lot of the senses are involved.

Some were a little more eager to “smell” than others!

This little fellow figured out where the cameraman was hanging out…

Priceless – a whole new world opened up for this little one at our farm.  What a joy to be able to provide that opportunity for him.

Rosie was next – she’s a big sheep.  Mae Mae wasn’t sure she could hold her down.

Her fleece, too, was just beautiful and it was obvious she’s been well fed!

That is the downside to the wool.  It’s hard to know how much weight the sheep are carrying because it’s hidden by the thick wool.

But shearing day reveals all!

The look on this young gal’s face is precious as she buries her fingers into the wool…

It’s providing an avenue for discovery and learning that motivates me and makes all the work so worthwhile – the reward of watching the children.

The questions that are asked…

Casey was the last one to be sheared and this was her first time.  It’s a good thing she’s the smallest because she certainly squirmed around a lot!!

But Rosemarie got the job done and, once again, made it look so easy.

So now I have 3 more bags of wool to be carded…

and spun.

And the sheep?  Well, they’re going  to be busy the rest of the year working on their wool for next year’s Sheep Shearing Day!

April and Uno – the new kids on the farm

April 7, 2010

Meet the new kids in the barnyard – April and Uno.  These 2 are hilarious and right from the get-go, they had a ton of personality.  April was born first, a bitty little thing, but full of vim and vigor!  She will not be outdone by her brother, Uno, who is about 1/2 again as big as she.  Together, they make quite a team.

Don’t be fooled by their age.  From the moment of their arrival into this world, they were full of discovery – riling up the other animals in the barnyard, evening getting Annie and Casey to play follow the leader.

Don’t be taken in by the cute face and kissable lips…

Or the precious little heart shaped nose and floppy, fuzzy ears…

Or that innocent look of “who, me??”

Inside these little ones lurks all kinds of mischief and fun,

and if you don’t believe me…

Just ask Annie – she’s already exhausted from trying to keep up and they’re not even a week old yet!

So when you see these 2 come running – beware.

They’ve more than likely annoyed someone with their antics.

And no use squealing to their mom cuz she’ll just reply,  with the shake of her head, “Well, you know – kids will be kids.”

If you stick around long enough…

and cuddle them when they’re tired from harassing all the others who live with them,

and kiss their sweet, innocent faces, stroke their soft fur and run their  fuzzy ears through your fingers…

you’ll find yourself laughing at their antics and your heart will be smitten…

and you’ll be defending them and smiling at them and saying things like…

“Well, you know, kids will be kids!”