Back from the Dead

One of our favorite scenes in The Princess Bride is when Miracle Max declares that the hero is only “mostly dead” and then proceeds to revive him.

Something similar happened on our farm Tuesday evening. It’ll likely never make it into a movie, but I wanted to share it with you.

I went to the barn late that afternoon, to give hay to the sheep and goats. While in the goat area, I spotted a newborn goat kid laying on its side along a wall. It was wet, dirty, and not moving at all. I couldn’t even detect its chest rising and falling to take breaths. By all appearances, it had been stillborn or had perished soon after delivery. After identifying which doe had given birth to it, my intention was to go in the house and inform the Yeoman Farm Children that they now had a goat to milk every day.

But I got an inspiration, and decided that first I should give the dead kid a nudge with my boot. Amazingly, it stirred slightly in reaction. It didn’t even try to get up, and my first thought was that it was too far gone to save. The barn was cold, and this thing had been abandoned. It was 95% dead, so the humane thing would be to finish it off and forget about it.

Or so my first thought went. As I continued thinking, I wondered if the kid’s problem was simply cold. And if we could get it dried off and warmed up, and get some warm milk into its belly, its condition might improve. After all, I had no evidence yet that it had some terrible health issues. I figured we owed the kid a chance, and there was no harm in taking it to the house.

So I did. I dried it off, and laid it on some plastic in front of the woodburner in the living room. The kid whined a little, and stirred a little, but otherwise simply remained sprawled on its side in front of the fire.

And there she stayed. For hours. I turned her over once or twice, but she still gave very little response. That evening, Mrs. Yeoman Farmer suggested we do more to help the kid. We gave her an injection of Bovi Sera, as we did the other kids. Then we sent one of the Yeoman Farm Children out to the barn to milk some colostrum out of the mother goat. In the meantime, we gave a subcutaneous injection of 6cc of Lactated Ringer’s with 5% dextrose into each of the kid’s shoulders. This is an interesting product, and is commonly used for tiny dehydrated animals. I was glad that MYF had thought to lay in a supply of it.

We let the kid’s body absorb the fluids while we ate dinner, then gave her more injections after we’d eaten. Her crying and struggling against the needle were encouraging. We then tried holding her and feeding her some colostrum from a dropper. She struggled a little against the first bit, and then started sucking on the dropper with a vengeance. We put dropper after dropper into her, even though we had to hold her head up so she could take it in.

We tucked her into a box full of old rags, in front of the woodburner, and made her comfortable for the night. Mrs. Yeoman Farmer was up in the middle of the night, and gave her more colostrum. The kid got so much energy, she actually began drinking it straight from the pan.

When I came down in the morning, I was surprised to see her standing up in her box on her own. I fed her more colostrum, and tried setting her on the floor. She wasn’t terribly stable, and had some difficulty walking, but it was more progress than I expected.

As Wednesday progressed, so did the goat kid. Her urine began to flow, and she also began producing some stool. We took her out of the box several times, and let her stretch her legs. She began tottering around the living room, exploring. She didn’t walk nearly as well as a normal goat kid, but a hundred times better than the one I had to put down recently.

Mrs. Yeoman Farmer hit the books, and began researching what could be wrong with the kid’s legs. She came across something called “Bent Leg Syndrome” or some such, and it’s caused by weak tendons. These are in turn caused by a mineral or nutritional deficiency in utero, but can be remedied by feeding cod liver oil. Later in the day Wednesday, we began adding cod liver oil to the colostrum, and to our surprise the kid gobbled the stuff down like normal. Her urine flow and stool production continued, and she was spending more time on her feet. Before bed last night, I found her a bigger box.

This morning, she was wanting to stand on her own even more than yesterday. I let her totter around the living room, and her gait was markedly improved. Not good enough to keep up with a normal goat kid, but better.

We’re going to attempt to put her in the kidding pen with her mother today, once the temperatures warm up a bit. We really don’t want the kid to continue bonding with us, and we hope it’s not to late to put her back onto her mother. In our experience, bottle-raised kids (and lambs) never learn to fit in with the rest of the herd or flock.

But we’ve been very much encouraged by her progress so far. And very thankful that there is indeed such a big difference between “mostly dead” and “all dead.”