Tuesday, May 15, 2007


We lost the goat yesterday. We still have her two doe kids. It's one of the hardest things about farming, to lose a good animal. Heidi was about 4 years old. We got her from an animal rescue organization. She was rescued from a farm where a feral dog pack had gotten into the barn and killed almost all the other goats. So far as anyone could tell, she had never been outside of a barn before. She adapted readily to us and our three dogs, and loved having a shed where she could go in and out as she pleased. She loved green grass, and the children's presents of dandelions and blackberry leaves.

She kidded about 3 weeks ago, giving us two perfect doe kids, one on the small side and one quite large. She was an excellent mother, keeping her kids well-fed and scrupulously clean. We think she may have retained a small piece of placenta. She didn't show any signs of sickness until she started having diarrhea about a week ago. We thought she might be getting too much green grass or too much grain. We cut back her supplements and gave her more dry hay. She took a remarkable down turn on Sunday, and started showing signs of fever and infection. We called all the local vets first thing Monday, and no-one in the area could see her until late in the afternoon. The vet diagnosed coccidiosis and gave her a penicillin injection. We brought her home, and she was dead within the hour. Susan and I disagree about what killed her. She thinks it was an allergic reaction to the antibiotic that the vet gave her. I think is was the infection.

One of the hard parts is all the second-guessing that you go through. What if we had done something differently? Should we have medicated her, not knowing what the infection was? Should we have called the vet Friday? You don't usually spend $50 on an office visit just because a goat has diarrhea. Diarrhea in grazing animals is common and often just a sign of overly rich feed. Should we have called the vet on the weekend, and spent $250-$300 that we didn't have on a vet call? I don't have any answers to the questions. I don't know for certain any of that would have saved her.

Now we're down one goat, we don't have her milk, we have two bummer kids to raise. My daughter won't be able to show her at the county fair this year. I spent $40 today on kid milk replacer and sufanilamide (to stop the infection that she almost certainly passed to the kids). We'll have to buy goat milk from the local goat dairy another year, at $6 per gallon (Susan is allergic to cow's milk), and cows milk from the store for the rest of us.

On the plus side, we have two beautiful doe kids. We might be able to breed the larger one this winter. In two years we'll have two milking goats and 2 or 3 kids, and perhaps a yearling or two to sell. That's not too bad for a $100 investment.

You just have to make the best decisions you can with the information you have. Sometimes you're right, sometimes you're wrong, and sometimes you just can't tell.