Friday, November 12, 2010

Wee Willy Wishing

 Another lesson at the school of hard knocks... rip out ALL lantana that grows ANYWHERE.  Last Sunday night, Willy started screaming.  I got up and tromped outside expecting to find his collar hooked on the chain link of the kennel he shared with the sheep at night.  He was standing free but looking very anxious.  I remembered how earlier that day his ears drooped with what I thought was sadness.  He didn't eat much that day so I figured he was finally with friends again and hungry (the sheep had spent the weekend in the pasture where Willy was too small to he held behind the pasture fencing).  I fed him some beet pulp which he readily gobbled... or so I thought.  Later inspection showed he was only drinking the water out of it.  I left him free to wonder that night so as to not keep him from eating his choice or snuggling with the goats, but he continued to scream.  He finally settled down towards dawn.  Just after dawn I see Angel, the dog, pulling a limp Willy by the leg and nosing him, probably wondering why he's not playing with her.  I ran out to find Willy still alive, but very weak and his body temperature way below normal.  I set him in a laundry basket with a heating pad and towels and tried to get him to take a bottle of milk.  He wanted nothing.  He let out a slight groan here and there.  I gave him a shot of Vitamin B.  I wondered what happened to make him so sick.

Hours later I remembered. The prior Tuesday and Wednesday I had him tethered in an area where I knew there was lantana... but since it wasn't in bloom I had completely forgotten about it.  It was lush with grape vines, his favorite browse, so I never gave the lantana a second thought.  Until it was too late.  I found the plant, a big one, with only a precious few leaves left on it to even let me confirm its identity.  Willy, little tiny Willy, had eaten a LOT of lantana.

I hate to say this but I just waited for him to die.  Oddly enough, Monday afternoon he all of a sudden perked up and gobbled down a bottle of milk and another bottle of water.  I was so excited, so hopeful that I didn't just kill the sweetest goat we'd ever owned.  That hope was premature.  He was tucked into bed that night in the porch right next to our bedroom so I could easily hear him if he needed a midnight snack.  Tuesday he was back to not eating or drinking.  I read that even after symptoms of lantana poisoning go away, the animal still generally dies within 6 weeks because the liver and kidneys shut down.  My husband brought home some activated charcoal which I crammed down his throat.  Then, fearing dehydration from not drinking all day, I used a funnel to force water (with a bit of sea salt for electrolytes) into him.  I tucked him into his bed, that laundry basket with the heating pad.  Wednesday morning he was gone.
And now we remember what a great goat he was.  He often let the farm baby use him as a walker.  And when the baby was in the stroller and Willy was tired from playing, he'd curl up right at the baby's feet... maybe hoping to find a tiny toe to suck on.  He loved to play with the farm boy, especially when he had his bike!  He would jump and play all around it.  Farm boy didn't like it too much because he was often knocked right off.  Willy loved the farm girl the best.  She fed him most days and never seemed to mind him sucking her finger.  They'd dance together all over the driveway.  Those were fun days.  But he's buried in the pasture now.  Just last week I was trying to get him to stay in the pasture.  Now he'll never come out.  This is the one part of homesteading that never gets any easier.

And for your information, in my recent research I've learned that lantana is poisonous to EVERYTHING, not just livestock.  So that plant is definitely getting ripped out.  The berries are by far the most toxic part and my children absolutely delight in picking and eating random things growing around the property.  We have a rule that if its outside the garden, they have to ask first, but this is one rule I'm not going to risk them breaking.


  1. I'm so very sorry about Willy. How terribly sad. It had to be agony to watch him go. I hate these types of homesteading lessons.

  2. wow... sad, and a good lesson... i have been known to let wild lantana grow here and there in corners of my yard. henceforth, i'll rip it out and tell the plant that willy sent me.