Friday, August 14, 2009

The Hardest Part

The hardest part of animal farming... untimely death.

Last night we had a severe thunderstorm. As usual, I unplugged the electric fencing so that stray voltage isn't giving our baby goats a constant stream of mild shock through wet ground. I thought no more of it. We left for the evening, only giving one pen of chickens any more consideration and that was because they were in a puddling zone of the yard. All was well. It was just another Florida thunderstorm.

This morning, my husband walked out the door, noticed the baby goats were still unplugged (they don't often test the fence anymore) and plugged them in, but could only find 1 of the 3. Upon closer inspection he noticed the other 2 were inside the fence, but down. He came back in and said he thought we had some dead goats. We ran out to find the strangest sight.

The bigger of the 3 ("Wednesday"-a single birth) was fine. The 2 little ones (twins-"Cocoa and Carob") were laying limp on the ground. The smaller of the 2 (Carob) was dead or severely comatose. The bigger (Cocoa) was somewhat responsive. Wednesday was dry... the other 2 were damp. Cocoa was slightly under their rain shelter. Carob was just outside of it. Carob had no rigor mortise meaning she was very freshly dead or in a coma. I took Cocoa inside, rubbed her dry and put her in front of a space heater despite that last night maybe got down to 75. I put the last of our goat milk on hand in a bottle which she drank readily. At first she wasn't able to stand, then she got to standing, now she's walking feebly though only wants to stand with her head in a corner. My husband tried to bring Carob around to showing some signs of life, but eventually ended her life (if there was any left to end) and dealt with the carcass before leaving for work... rather late.

I called Hoeggar's goat supply's help line and got some very good advice... unfortunately none of which I could implement immediately for lack of supplies available even at a feed store. But I packed up the kids and Carob and headed out to see what I could find. The owner of our favorite feed store sent me to his mom. I was unsure what had caused this sudden downfall. She suspected it was shock/fear from the storm and possibly some nearby lightening.

But why wouldn't she have been under cover? There was plenty of space! Was she just not smart enough? Did she get rained on all night? This was a normal storm... nothing they haven't been through before. Do I have to take extra precautions every time rain hits now? What should I have done? I understand animals die. I have no problem with slaughtering an animal destined for meat, but when one so young suffers... well, I've cried a lot this morning. I feel responsible. Carob was my sweetie, the one I bottle fed because her mother rejected her at 4 days old. She was tiny... still even much smaller than her twin sister. We doubted we would be able to safely breed her and considered several times to sell her... but I was attached. I kept arguing that maybe she would start growing more, that we would just have to wait a little longer to breed her. My husband always conceded to my sentimentality. Now I just wish she were alive.

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