We had milk goats when I was a child. It was my job - along with my younger brother - to feed the goats and water them every morning before we went to school. I remember many a frosty morning lugging plastic milk jugs full of warm water before the sun came up. The hose didn't reach. One early morning (must have been the dead of winter - it was full dark) my brother and I saw a very strange thing in the sky. It looked like a satellite - just a star moving slowly in a straight line - but it had a trail of red flames bucking rapidly up and down. Remember that, bro?
Saturday, April 24, 2010
I remember milking - though not as a regular chore. It was more of "when we felt like it" thing. I remember the cats lining up for squirts of milk whenever I milked. I remember the feeling of hot foamy milk squirted directly from the teat into my mouth. I was a generous (not to say wasteful) milker. One for the the bucket, one for the cats, one for me; one for the bucket, one for the cats, one for me.... I remember the one time Dad made cheese and being very upset that I didn't get to taste any before it was all gone.
I even remember when Lily the goat - our first ever - was attacked by wild dogs or coyotes and had a big muscle in the back of her rear leg torn out. She survived, but was never the same. I remember when Peanuts the buck was attacked by dogs while staked out in the blackberries. He was killed. After that my Dad (or Mom?) sat out with a shotgun for a few nights and peppered the dogs with birdshot. I remember when Daisy got out and ate so much rhododendron she was poisoned and how we found her lying on her side, horribly bloated.
I remember lots of frolicking in the springtime with baby goats, and how they leaped and twisted in the air. I remember there was one baby goat who could climb the ladder up into the hayloft of the barn. I do not remember how we got him down. I remember that all our goats had botanical names - Daisy, Fern, Clover, Dandelion, Bachelor's Button. I remember that I tried for years to see baby goats being born, and I never quite made it. I remember one year waking up in the pre-dawn light (my room was the closest to the barn) and hearing soft bleating sounds. I ran downstairs and out to the barn without my shoes on. Daisy ( a white Saanen) had given birth to triplets just moments before and they were just beginning to try and stand up. That was as close as I ever got.
Here's what I do not remember:
Anyone trimming any hooves.
Taking any goats to the vet, ever.
Problems with birthing.
Medicating the goats with anything at all.
Now, I was a child. I was only eleven when we moved off the farm. My mom put an ad in the paper for "free goats - first come, first serve" and we gave all the goats away in fifteen frantic minutes. It's entirely possible that a lot of things happened that I just don't have any memory of. But I think not. My mom does not remember having any problems with sick goats, either. Her memory isn't much more reliable than mine, but put our recollections together and they do begin to add up.
Most likely, we were utterly irresponsible goat owners. Mom was working seventy hour weeks after the divorce, and I'm sure the goats were the last thing on her list of priorities. For all I know, our goats were walking textbooks on parasites. But that's not what I remember. I remember vibrantly healthy goats, when they weren't being chewed on by dogs or poisoned by bad plants. I suspect that thirty years ago there were not the problems with CAE, CL, and parasites that exist today.
Today, it's a given that all goats have worms. The best you can hope for is that the worms are not resistant and can be controlled by relatively benign medications. My goats have worms. Lots of worms. I've had lungworms, stomach worms, and worms that don't even have names yet. My feeling has always been that a complete lack of parasites isn't possible: instead I should strive to have healthy, well-nourished goats who are capable of harboring a reasonable number of parasites without becoming symptomatic. My vet agrees with me.
Well, that road has closed. Despite my best efforts, despite using de-wormers strictly according to my veterinarian's directions, my goats have developed resistant worms. My does were wormed after kidding - as per instructions - with Ivermectin. At that point in time they were asymptomatic. A few weeks later I noticed that they all had diarrhea. Bad, green, liquid diarrhea. I took fecals to the vet. Stomach worms - a heavy load. Since they had been wormed recently with Ivermectin, I used Safeguard this time - again, on the advice of my vet. I wormed them all thoroughly - using a high dose and repeating it for four days.
Repeat fecals two weeks later revealed a virtually unchanged number of stomach worms. They were resistant. How did the resistance develop? I don't know. I did rent a buck from another farm last fall, but we coordinated worming schedules and both sides should have been worm free at the time of transfer. Other than that my herd has been closed for more than a year.
Oh shit that's not true. Just remembered, I also rented out Cloud for a month as a buck to a nearby farm. But Cloud is the only one who has remained asymptomatic this whole time! He is fat and glossy, pooping pellets and leaping around like a racehorse. The does, in contrast, are skinny as rail fences (poor Django is trying to feed triplets!). Petting them feels like petting a barbed wire fence. I feel like the world's worst goat owner. I can't let anyone see my goats right now or they would assume I am starving them to death. In actual fact, I am feeding them free-choice high quality local hay (orchard grass/alfalfa mix) plus eight cups of grain daily for the milkers, and nearly unlimited browse on grass and blackberries.
Today - again on the advice of my vet - I wormed them all - does, buck, and kids - with Quest. Quest is a whole different class of dewormer and my vet says she has had good luck using it with resistant worm populations. I hope it works. Quest has a month long meat withdrawal time, and an unknown milk withdrawal time, but probably at least two weeks. That's okay - my does will need at least two weeks to gain weight and get healthy before I start to milk them again anyway.
So no more milk products for now - no milk, yogurt, or cheese. Just wait. Just wish them luck.