Three dreadful words I hope never to hear again.
The main problem was, I had never heard of them before. And wish I never had. Ignorance IS bliss...well not really. As a first time goat owner I still have lots to learn. However experience is a brutal teacher.
Before we brought the goatie girls home two years ago, we thought that we did plenty of the research we would need to successfully raise goats. Ha ha very funny.
After purchasing the girls we found out just a little we knew. At four and six weeks old they were both a joy and a handful. The bottle feeding of course bonded us, and all of our attention turned them from livestock into pets (read : family). The morning and evening walks around our property and the rides on the golf cart did even more to cement the bonds of love. We didn't endure the destructiveness that most encounter when raising goats. Maybe it's because we got them so young and showered them with attention or maybe were just lucky. However Fern showed us just how closely goats are related to mules with her stubbornness at times. That and her meanness towards Peaches earned her the nickname "Fern-instein", because at times she was a real monster
When it was time for their first breeding season we were torn over the decision we had to make. It was either breed them then or wait until next year when they would be fully mature. We decided to wait. Last November when we had the girls bred by the neighbors Billy we were hoping that only Fern would get pregnant. However such was not the case. Peaches fell immediately in love, while Fern wanted nothing to do with this new goat. In fact we figured the Billy was going to be too short to even reach Fern. After about 10 days Fern no longer wanted the Billy anywhere near her, Peaches or our farm. She was constantly butting him with her head or chasing him. So we sent him back home. By the end of December it was apparent that Peaches was pregnant and took another month before Fern started to show. By the size difference in the two goats, I figured that Peaches would probably have three or four kids and Fern probably just one
Things went well and we were expecting births take place sometime around April 9. However this was all the change, for the worse. Here are my notes on the following event:
Friday, March 15 - Noticed hesitancy to go outside this evening. Laid down while chewing bark from pine tree by picnic table and had a very hard time getting up.
Saturday, March 16 - Would not stand unaided. Front legs shook when standing. Not inclined to walk. She gets around by standing on her hind legs and crawling on her front knees. From the looks of the bedding she has been getting to her food and water okay. We assumed that the problem was with her feet because her hooves needed to be trimmed badly, something I've been putting off because I was worried about the trauma to her and her babies. She absolutely hates having her hooves trimmed and it's a real battle both physically and mentally to get the job done. However this time she didn't put up much of a fight at all. But after the best trim job ever she still wouldn't stand on her own.
Sunday, March 17 - No change other than appetite loss, she just nibbles at her food and hay. Doesn't seem too interested in water and will sip a little if the bucket is brought to her. Wifey checked internet for help and feared it might be "Pregnancy Toximia" . Some advice as to what to do was given. Our local TSC didn't have the NUTRI-DRENCH to help give more energy and restore appetite. So we had to make a two hour drive to get it. Started giving three times a day. After yesterday's surprise with easy hoof trimming, today it was the usual knock down drag out fight to try and get the medicine in her. I bought a special syringe with the long metal and nozzle and bulb tip, to administer the liquid between her cheek and back teeth. I had to put her into a headlock so that Wifey could attempt to get some of the liquid in her mouth. About half of what she got in was spit back out. One fluid ounce doesn't sound like much but it sure looks like a lot when it covered Wifey, me and Fern's face. Also purchased a pro-biotic paste that we had to force down her once daily to aid digestion.
Monday, March 18 - this morning I called all of our local vets looking for someone who dealt with goats, of course none did, but they recommended the "Mayville Vet Clinic" . I called and spoke with Dr. Nicole who confirmed our diagnosis, given the symtoms over the phone. She couldn't come until Thursday afternoon to check Fern out. There was no way we could get the 150+ pounds very pregnant goat to her office to be seen earlier. She told us to continue treatments and make Fern stand as often as possible. Oh my aching back. You should try lifting an unwilling goat and try to keep her standing. It's a job for much younger man than I.
Thursday,March 21 - Continued decline, harder to get Fern up and standing, and her continued fighting at medicine times is wearing us all out. Hard to say just how much she is actually ingesting. We never see her eating or drinking any more.
Dr. Nicole came and confirmed diagnosis of Pregnancy Toxemia but without Ketosis as is normal. Our hopes rose until she confirmed that she would still have to start labor to save Fern's life. The kids would not survive this. Fern got an injection of Lutalyse and one of Dexamethasone. We were told labor would begin in 2 to 80 hours and to watch her close and continue as we have been doing, She also gave us her emergency phone number and told to keep her updated daily to Fern's condition. She also showed me an easier way to lift her.
Friday, March 22 - Called Maville Vet Clinic because Fern started a vaginal prolapse. Sent photos via the Internet. Dr. Nicole called back to say all is ok. Lynn has been spending most of the day and night with Fern since the injections. I relieve her as often as I can and we sleep in shifts. Fern seems to enjoy the music Lynn plays for her via her laptop. We have added an electric heater to the heat lamp to keep everybody warm in these freezing temps. Also a blanket for Fern.
Saturday, March 23 - Called Dr. Nicole because the prolapse is getting bigger and Fern is having contractions but also seems to be weakening fast. She decided to come check Fern out. Fern was just barely begining to dialate but she forced dialation manually and started pulling kids out. They were very floppy and none lived very long. I tried my hardest on the only doeling as she seemed like the strongest but to no avail. It was very sad. Peaches got very upset when one of the three kids bleated and almost trampled Fern and the Dr. to get to the door.
Fern recieved an injection of Oxytetracycline and one of Oxytocin to ward off infection and help her deliver the placentas.
All of the anxiety and worrying for the last week was nothing compared to watching those three baby goats attempt to live. Even knowing before hand what the outcome would be, it was still heart wrenching.
Sunday, March 24a - Fern has delivered only one placenta and seems to e getting weaker as the day progresses. The vet called to see how she was doing and prescribbed 2 regular asprin every 12 hours for pain, Also to try force feeding her ground up goat food mixed with water. We could only get an ounce or two in at time and we continued her medications. During our last check at 4 am. I told Lynn she wouldn't make it till morning. We decided to call the vet and have her put down if she did.
Monday, March 25 - Fern died sometime before I checked on her this morning. Probably shortly after our last visit with her judging from the rigormortis.
Goodbye Goaty Girl.
We're still getting over this tragic ordeal. I have watched my parents die and this was no less stressful or painful.
Forcing a sick creature to do something it doesn't want to do is not easy. Even when you think it is best for them. All of our blood, sweat, tears and prayers didn't seem to help in this case. And we still wonder if there isn't something could've done to prevent this in the first place. The vet told us in her 15 years of practice, that this was by far the worst year ever for pregnancy toxemia in all livestock. Her belief was that last year's drought caused a deficiency in the feed supply due to improper nutrients.
Again we found out that whatever you search for on the Internet always has two sides. It was no different in this case. Pros and cons of what to do all sound plausible and is up to you to decide the best course for yourself. Luckily we found a very caring and concerned veterinarian who was willing to go the extra distance for us. Thank you Dr. Nicole.
Disposing of the bodies was another ordeal. The ground was frozen and we had to wait a few days for it thaw enough to bury Fern and her babies in the orchard. It takes a long time for a couple of crippled old farts dig a 5' x 4' hole 4 foot deep even in sandy soil. After we buried the bodies we covered the grave with fieldstone to try to keep dogs and other creatures from digging there. RIP Fern and family.
We are awaiting Peaches birthing any day now.Needless to say we of been watching her extra careful for any signs of toxemia. She misses Fern something fierce and we have been trying to make up for the loss by showering her with extra attention during the day and checking on her often during the night. Hopefully her births will be uncomplicated and provide her with the much-needed companionship of her own kind.