We’ve had two goat kids born this year. Both are males, and both will be butchered this fall. Just to make sure neither the children nor us gets too attached to these critters, we named one of them “Sausage” and the other one “Biscuits.”
Both have been gaining weight healthily, and were doing well. But earlier this week, Biscuits started moving around lethargically. Then he didn’t want to move at all. He’d throw himself into convulsions, foam at the mouth, throw himself on the ground, and wedge himself into odd places.
Our first concern was tetanus; we had a lamb contract it once, and Biscuits’ symptoms were similar. But with some troubleshooting, we pretty much eliminated that. My larger concern was that he was neither eating nor drinking; no matter what he was sick with, if he didn’t eat or drink he’d slowly die anyhow. I drenched him with a 50-50 mix of apple cider vinegar and water, and he seemed to perk up a bit after that. (Drenching involves filling a large needle-less syringe with the liquid, opening the animal’s mouth, inserting the syringe all the way to the back of the mouth, and releasing the liquid.) But he still wasn’t really improving, so on Friday morning Mrs. Yeoman Farmer found a large animal vet who wasn’t too far away.
At times like this, I really miss our old place. Our old vet was awesome, and we could call him any time and he’d work us in. Plus, he lived just a mile from our house and could stop by on his way to work (or on his way home). Here, the closest such vet was over a half hour away. But there was a “regular” vet in the next town over who would look at Biscuits if we could bring him in. Mrs. Yeoman Farmer loaded him in the Ford Bronco, drove up, and got in line with all the puppies, kittens, etc that the vet usually sees. Definitely a case of “One of these things is not like the others.” When the receptionist called her name, she asked MYF, “So, what breed of dog is Biscuits?” MYF laughed and replied, “Uhm, Toggenburg and Saanen. Goat.”
The vet diagnosed pneumonia, which is a lot more treatable than tetanus. Injected him with penicillin and a B complex vitamin, and sent more of both home with MYF. Also instructed us to drench Biscuits with a baking soda/water solution, to re-start his rumen.
So, we’ve been doing that all weekend, and also going out several times a day to feed Biscuits some milk. We’ve had him out on the back lawn, in the shade of a tree, so we can monitor him. He’s been getting up a lot better, and moving around more. So much, in fact, we were worried he might wander to the front yard and out onto the road. The vet said we’d know by Sunday night whether he’d live or not. It’s now Sunday morning, and things are looking a whole lot better than they were Friday morning.
The vet bill was $48. When you add that to what Biscuits will eat the rest of this year, it’s not certain the price was worth what we’ll get from him in meat. But farming, for us, is much more than a cost-benefit analysis. Yes his name is Biscuits, and yes he’s going to be butchered anyway. Caring for him these last few days has been quite time consuming; all things considered, the most economical option probably would’ve been to have put a bullet in his head Friday morning. He’s not a prize breeder, and he’s not a pet.
But he is also more than a machine. He’s a living thing that we’ve been given temporary custody over, and over which we need to exercise responsible stewardship. I couldn’t imagine not doing everything in our power to save his life, or to nurse him back to health. And there are few things more satisfying than watching a sick animal slowly emerge from the shadow of death’s door, regain his strength, and rejoin the herd.