Cirrus is the name we decided to give to the beautiful black and white spotted buckling out of Iris. He, along with everyone else, got his horn buds burned off day before yesterday by Goat Lady, a local farmer. Today he is wandering around mostly blind, feverish, and in pain, unable to nurse, because his brain got fried (that's vernacular - actually he has acute cerebral inflammation and increased intracranial pressure as a result of too much time under the red-hot iron.).
Friday, April 2, 2010
I took him to the vet today and he is being treated with Banamine for pain and inflammation, and an injectable anti-inflammatory that starts with "dex-" and a long-term injected antibiotic. Most likely he will make a slow but full recovery. As the inflammation goes down, the pressure on his optic nerve will decline and he should regain his sight. Maybe three weeks.
All the other baby goats are doing fine. Cirrus got extra time under the iron because I told Goat Lady I was thinking of keeping him as a buck, and so she wanted to make extra sure she got 100% of the horn buds burned off. Everyone else got 25-30 seconds per side and Cirrus got that plus an extra 20 seconds per side on a second pass. Vet said that was just too much.
Also, the vet is very careful, when she disbuds, to apply the irons in 10 second bursts, and to remove them and let the skull cool down before reapplying. The total time is the same - 25 to 30 seconds per side - but Goat lady does it all at once and the vet does in three separate passes with time in between.
Now I'm going to say a few things that may be controversial. Many goat folks, I've learned, don't like to take their goats to the vet and prefer to take them to other farmers or do most of their doctoring themselves. I have heard the sentiment expressed many times that vets just aren't taught much about goats in school and not many vets are knowledgeable about them. Most long-term goat farmers I've spoken to feel very strongly that they know more about goat health than their vet does.
This may be largely true - certainly I've heard from a couple of vets themselves that small ruminants in general get little time in school and that most of that time is spent on sheep. And obviously a person like Goat Lady, who has worked exclusively with goats for well over thirty years is going to have more hands on experience with goats than just about any vet out there.
I don't doubt that old timers have more "goat sense" than vets do as a general rule.
However. I have also heard goat farmers express the most appalling ignorance of basic physiology and even basic biology. Few have any formal education in medicine or in the life sciences in general. They are basically laymen when it comes to medicine. I'm NOT trying to disparage anybody here - certainly Goat Lady's operation looks fantastic: clean, organized, and lots of spectacularly healthy looking goats. Most goat farmers are excellent nurses and animal husbandrymen, they care about their animals and treat them well. They know a great deal about feed and supplements, pasture management and poisonous weeds, corrective hoof trimming and just about every aspect of day-to-day animal care.
But they don't understand cell biology, pharmacology, the evolution of resistance, the difference between bacterial, viral, fungal, and parasitic infections, or the complex pathophysiological processes involved in diseases.
If they did, they'd be vets.
Wednesday when I took my goats to be disbudded by Goat Lady, I told her how the vet disbuds, taking breaks after each ten seconds, and asked her why she did it the way she did. "I've never had any problems," was her answer. That is a very typical farmer attitude: if it ain't broke, don't fix it. The way I've always done it is good enough. This is how I was taught by someone else. Most of the time, this is good enough. Goats are pretty tough customers, basically. Also, in general I believe in the principle of benign neglect. I think premature intervention is the cause of a great deal of unnecessary complication and expense. I like to provide my goats with their basic necessities and leave them alone, for the most part. They tend to do just fine.
I'm not sure what my point is, here. I've sat here for fifteen minutes trying to write the next sentence. Is it that I trust the formal education of veterinarians more than the experience-based wisdom of farmers? No; that wouldn't be true. Is it that I want access to the technology and vast stores of information available through the the vet? Yes; that's closer.
The truth is I want both. I want to be wise. I want (and this so transcends goats or farming, this is everything, now) to grow my own store of experience based knowledge, the kind of wisdom that can ONLY be acquired through living. I want to be able to draw on a deep well of knowledge won through firsthand experience.
But I also want to be able to draw from other wells. No man is an island, right? What kind of bullheaded hubris is it to insist on working with only your own firsthand knowledge? Why, there's only one word for that attitude: STOOPID. I sure don't want to be stoopid.
I'm a nurse. I have a BSN. I've been through five years of University at a pretty prestigious school and I graduated with a damn good average. Before that I was a straight A student all through my scholastic career. I'm not trying to brag; I'm trying to explain that I am already biased toward book-learning, toward traditional, mainstream, formalized methodology. Towards vets, in other words. When I have a problem, I run as fast as I can towards science.
I'm actually trying to balance that tendency by paying more mindful attention to my own experience. It's actually easier for me to learn from the printed page than it for me to learn from experience. In school I was a wunderkind, but I'm kind of an idiot in the real, three-dimensional world. Sometimes I think that my decision to move to the country and start farming was all about trying to develop my hands and my heart for a while instead of just my brain.
Well. I've wandered pretty far afield from Cirrus and his issues. I hope the little guy makes it. I will certainly seek out the advice of farmers as well as vets in trying to help him. Wish him luck.