The vet finally called me back. He said that while it was hard to tell from just a photo, the wound did not look like CL. Just as some of my readers commented, the lack of pus and the location both argued against it. He suggested, just as some of you did, that it was most likely a splinter of some sort that became infected and formed an abscess. He told me that that particular spot, at the end of the breastbone, is where the goat puts the most pressure when she lays down. He said that older goats or thin goats often wear down that spot and get pressure wounds. Most likely, my middle aged, thin goat laid on something sharp.
Nonetheless, I've decided I should have my entire herd tested for CAE and CL. Although I bought goats from tested herds, I have not done any testing myself and it's been over four years now. I can't advertise anything about the CAE or CL status of my goats truthfully at this point, and I do want to be able to say I have a clean herd. So, it's time to test. The vet is coming on thursday to take blood samples and at that time he will look at Django's chest as well. In the meantime, I am washing it out twice a day with a dilute iodine solution. It's pretty gross. We are also not using any of her milk at least until we know what we are dealing with.
Assuming that Django (and the rest) come back negative for CAE and CL, I still have a decision to make. Django is not a robust goat. She was perfectly healthy until, three years ago, she got into the grain and ate herself so sick that she almost died. Goats can quite easily die from overeating carbohydrate rich food - grains of any kind but most especially chicken food. Django was at death's door, and only recovered very slowly. For a whole year, she was very ill. She had a severely damaged rumen and was almost blind from the vitamin B deficiency that resulted. She became prone to infections and more vulnerable to worms. She hobbled slowly about, not keeping up with the herd and barely keeping herself alive.
I should have culled her.
I should have culled her then. I felt so guilty for leaving the grain unsecured, for not taking good care of her, for letting her get sick. The least I could do was give her a decent chance to recover... right? And she did recover, not wholly, and not quickly, but she came back. Her vision returned, with daily vitamin B shots. She keeps up with the herd now. And she has thrown triplets and successfully raised them two years in a row, which is not something a very weak goat can do. But she is not and never will be the glossy, plump, energetic animal she was before she got sick.
And now she has this ugly wound, which has clearly been around for a long time without healing. Again - she's not actually sick - no fever, no infection - but she isn't healthy, either. She could probably limp along for the natural lifespan of a goat, some six to eight more years, and have a middling quality of life. She would even continue to provide me with the benefit of more kids and more milk. But should she?
Or should she be culled? My herd would be healthier without her. Removing her would relieve some stress on the pasture. It's one less animal to buy hay, grain and medicine for. And there's another, unpleasant reason. She's embarrassing. Her gimpy, straggly presence in my herd is embarrassing. She makes it look like I don't have healthy animals, like I don't care well for them. This is an ego thing, I guess, but when people visit my far, (especially if they are coming to look at an animal I have for sale) I don't want them to see an old, skinny, scraggly goat. I want them to see a lot of fat, sassy, shiny animals leaping about.
When is it the right time to cull an animal? Is there ever a right time if the animal in question is not suffering? Should animals only be put down to put them out of misery, or does the goal of improving the herd justify the culling of any substandard animal?
What do you think?
Wednesday, June 15, 2011