Life and Death on a Farm

This is not something that we like to talk about but it’s a well known fact that when you have a farm and many animals, you are inevitably going to have animals die. We had a horrible weekend with 2 different animals dying in a matter of 3 days. Knowing this and then experiencing it are clearly two different things and even though we’ve had animals die on us, it’s always a shock when it happens and it’s always difficult to handle.

Friday night after working all day, we went out to the barn to set up grain, hay, water and then put the animals away for the night.  It was a little earlier than normal because it had been raining all day.  The goats don’t like rain so we figured putting them in the dry snug barn would be welcomed by all of them.  Our standard procedure is all goats stay outside until we’re ready to call them in.  Our goats know their names and they also know the order that we let them into the barn.  They love routine and this usually goes fairly smoothly. All seemed normal, until we got to the stalls with the 2-year-old does in them.  We called Vixen and Lulu.  Vixen came in but Lulu didn’t.  She was milling around the back of the herd and acted like she didn’t hear us.  We let the rest in and went out to get her.  She then acted like she didn’t know where she was supposed to go, once she got in the barn.  Weird.  When we got her in the stall, she didn’t go for grain she went and stood by the hay feeder.  We tried to show her the feeder but she didn’t want any grain.  She then went and stood in the corner.  I went into the house and got the thermometer because she was certainly not acting right. Mike stayed with her and did a check over on her. He found nothing that seemed wrong and her temperature was normal, but she cried out like she was in pain when I was taking the temp.  Since it’s kidding season, our first thought is wondering if she somehow accidentally was bred.  We discussed this, but neither of use thought she had ever gotten in with the buck when we were breeding the other mature does. We checked her udder and back end to see if she could be in labor.  No, she didn’t look pregnant either.  She then stepped up to the hay feeder and started eating.  Since we knew we were going to come back out to the barn in about 90 minutes we decided to check on her later and we went in to eat dinner.

When we went back out to feed the bottle-kids I heard her let out a cry.  I went into her stall to look and she was laying down and made another whine.  Clearly something is very wrong. I ran into the house and grabbed the thermometer and stethoscope, I took her temp again and it was normal, her eye looked a little sunk into her head, and her tongue looked too blue, & she seemed to be drooling a little.  We also did not hear any rumen sounds. We grabbed her and brought her into the house. 

We immediately jumped into action.  The first thing I did was give her C&D Antitoxin and vitamin B-complex shots.  I didn’t know what was wrong, but it’s certainly not going to hurt her.  She seemed more distressed since we brought her in, and was now crying out more often.  Clearly in pain.  I gave her a dose of Benamine for the pain and for her gut.  We were scrambling to figure out what was going on with her.  We quickly settled on a couple if thoughts since she had very few symptoms.  It could be pneumonia.  The drastic change in weather going from sunny and 65 to raining and 35 is prime conditions for pneumonia and the blue tongue indicates she’s not getting enough oxygen, she needs and an antibiotic but I needed to figure out which one and how much dosage.  Crying out in pain could be  enterotoxemia (not very likely since she had CD&T vaccine) or bloat, so if it was either of those, the C&D Antitoxin and Benamine would address that.  I gave her also Milk of Magnesia, and we quickly mixed some electrolytes and threw in some activated charcoal.  Mike tried to give her this while I was looking up the dosage and type of antibiotic to give.  She Started to go downhill quickly, he called to me, “I think we’re losing her”.  I dashed back into the laundry room grasping the needle syringe still in my hand.  Maybe it’s gas and pressure in the rumen I thought.  So I ripped out the plunger in the syringe and then plunged the needle into her rumen thinking that it’s the closest thing to a trocar and if it was gas build up, it might release the gas so that it would relieve the pressure on her lungs and heart.  There was gas release, but not as much as I thought.  While I was doing this Mike was doing heart compressions on her.  My daughter was at her head monitoring.  She was definitely in dire situation.  In just a few minutes it was clear that she died on us.  It was less than 10 minutes from when we had brought her inside and she was dead. 

Thinking back, our biggest mistake was not taking her into the house to try and diagnose and treat when we initially found something amiss with her.  This is always what we struggle with, recognizing that something is wrong and deciding how serious it is and acting on it right then.  Our 90-minute wait, was a deadly misjudgment.  I always tell new buyers – If you see a goat acting strange, act on it because when they show they are sick, they are REALLY sick.  I didn’t follow my own advice.  It’s always easy to look back, second guess, and know that you should have made a different decision.  We are all shook up and sad about it, but we are not beating ourselves up over this.  Rather we are putting this lesson into our front pocket.  If we EVER see another goat acting strange, we’re immediately bringing them inside and we are not taking the wait and watch approach EVER AGAIN.  I might have been able to save her if I hadn’t done that. We’ve paid a hefty price now of losing a beautiful doe because of it.

Then Sunday evening we went to put the ducks away and discovered we were missing a female.  We searched for her and found her dead and half eaten laying down by the pond.  What a horrific sight! We believe that is must have been a hawk.  Our reasoning for this is a coyote or fox would have dragged the body off to finish its meal, and with the pond completely fenced with antipredator fencing, this is unlikely, the body was torn into and eaten around the leg and bone so deeply that we don’t believe that a carnivore would have left the leg intact and been able to eat that much of it.  We’re not sure how we will even be able to protect the ducks as the pond area has a lot of trees and is very large.  We’re putting some more thought into this as this has been our fear all along with the ducks, and this death is clear that this fear was not unfounded.