Lessons in Goat Farming: Being Fearless

I never could have anticipated all that lay before me when it came to farming. I thought we’d have a few cute little goats, and some chickens, and plant some seeds and watch it grow. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I’ll admit, I had some pretty unrealistic expectations.

Each experience seems to be more hard-hitting than the next. And while some days I feel so all knowing, most days I come to realize that I still have so much to learn. And each day I DO learn a lot… but it never seems to be quite enough for the next day.

We’ve had goats for just over a year. We actually brought home our first two goats a few days after we moved into this house. We never had a single problem or issue with them. So we added SIX more goats about five weeks ago. One of those goats is Mel, our one male adult.

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And this weekend, we hit our first problem.

Saturday was our wedding anniversary, and it was also the launch of our CSA share program here at our farm. We were so excited to finally get food into the hands of the people who wanted it, and to show people what we’ve worked so hard to build. The day was great!

Around 6pm, Bryce and I went to dinner to celebrate our anniversary and spent some time together without kids. We got dinner and walked around downtown Noblesville and were home by 9, just in time for Bryce to go milk Ivy.

When he came in from milking Ivy, one looks into his eyes told me how worried he was, and he showed me a picture of Mel (our male goat) and said, “Something is REALLY wrong with Mel. I think he’s blind, and there’s stuff coming out of his mouth…”

I had no idea what to do, and it felt like I couldn’t get to the barn fast enough to see him. When I did get there, I was horrified at what I saw.

20150613_214505His mouth had drool and mucus pouring out of it, he really was staggering around and running into walls like he was intoxicated. And I had no idea what was happening. The mucus was green and I knew it was pneumonia season so I immediately assumed that must be what it was. But he didn’t really have respiratory symptoms besides green mucus.

I immediately began calling all of the Emergency Veterinary services around us but no one would see Mel. I didn’t even have human antibiotics on hand, and everything I was reading said no to give him Tylenol or Motrin for his fever (which was 106.6).

I felt panicked. I had no idea what to do for him. All I could think about it how I would have treated my kids… high doses of Vitamin C. And since no one would give me any suggestions over the phone, and no one was willing to see him in person either… I pretty much just had to wing it.

Every 2 hours, all night long, Bryce got up and gave him a Vitamin C solution orally. He also placed high powered fans facing directly at him and put some clean hay in his pen. (He never did eat anything).

By morning, Mel looked worse. I’d stayed up most of the night reading Veterinary books on goat health and knew that we were probably looking at either Goat Polio (A Thiamin/B1 deficiency) or Listeriosis. But I didn’t know which. I had no access to the antibiotics that we needed to give him for Listeriosis, so I got the Penicillin that was closest to it and administered that, and I also began tubing him so I could fluids (and medicine, including Thiamin) to his stomach since he was too weak and delirious to drink.

I never imagined I’d be putting tubes down into goat rumens, or administering injections… but if I’ve learned anything about my life, it’s that I have to be FEARLESS at all times. So I just went for it.

We also began noticing another symptom… Mel wanted his head pressed in between things at all times. I thought his head was stuck in his makeshift quarantine pen… I worked like mad to get free from the fencing, but no sooner did I get him out, he scooted right back into the same very awkward position that applied pressure to his skull, particularly to one eye that was bulging.

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But the pressure on his skull, on that one eye, was just so much for him to handle that he was breathing hard and fast just trying to deal with the pain. We couldn’t get him to calm down to be tubed late last night, and even as I tubed him, he was thrashing and bending so much that the liquid tube was kinked and we couldn’t administer more.

It was then that I wondered if he was actually going to make it.

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He was calm only when Bryce applied pressure to his skull. And even then, he was still obviously distressed. So we decided to move him to his pen and make him as comfortable as we could.

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It was heartbreaking to have to put him in pen, surround him by hay, and do nothing but pray that he would get better, because we’d done all we personally knew or could think of to do. With no Vet available to help us, we felt defeated and heartbroken. We said our Goodbyes to him, knowing full well that with his health being so deteriorated that he would probably be gone in the morning.

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Looking into his sad little eyes, I really felt like he was fighting this so hard, and holding on so much because he was meant to be here. Most goats don’t last 3 days with a 106+ fever. I tried everything in my power to help, I did more than I ever thought I would be able to do, and here he was. Still dying. Still sick. Still miserable.

My 6 year old walked over and said a prayer over him that broke my heart but made me proud all at the same time.

I never thought I would be the person to sob over a goat, but I did. I fell to my knees and sobbed and yelled at God to just help him get better or let him die quickly. I cried until my body hurt and my chest was on fire and my eyes were swollen.

And with one last rub of his little head, I had to walk out of the barn with my heart shattering to a million pieces.

I woke up this morning knowing that I would going to have to figure out where to bury him in our backyard. I was dreading choosing the spot… So much so that I had Bryce go check on him first so that I would be completely prepared when I walked into the barn.

And somehow, he had survived the night.

After a million vet calls, and finally showing up in person at a Veterinary Clinic, Bryce found a vet (literally right next to us) to see Mel. He was knowledgeable and so kind. He told us that a respiratory infection and an eye infection were causing Mel’s symptoms and the high fever can cause issues. He said he was surprised Mel had hung on so long, but that with antibiotics (in a megadose) he would probably recover fully.

He said normally he tries treating holistically first, but given how bad Mel was, that wasn’t an option…. I couldn’t get over our luck. Finding a Vet who would provide chiropractic care and holistic treatments to our animals as his first means of treatment from here on out. It’s exactly what we needed, and what we prayed for. So, this time, he gave him injections of antibiotics, a fever reducer, and steroids and told us to call him tomorrow and let them know if Mel is doing better.

He also said that by tubing him we probably saved his life. A procedure I really didn’t want to do because I didn’t know how… but I’m so glad I did it anyways. Showing once again that sometimes you just have to be FEARLESS.

In the midst of writing this, my cell phone buzzed with scripture that I know was sent to me straight from God through my Scripture App:

“I called out to the Lord, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice”

3 thoughts on “Lessons in Goat Farming: Being Fearless

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