Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sweet Dulcinea

I've been doing a lot of reading and researching about how to better care for our animals, namely our goats.  Pat Coleby's "Natural Goat Care" has been top of my list.  That's where I first read about giving goats copper sulfate as a copper additive.  Many common ailments are easily remedied when goats get the proper amounts of copper.  Providing free choice minerals with enough copper isn't an option while sheep are around as copper will easily kill a sheep.  So when I read to give 1 tsp of copper sulfate per goat per week, I thought I had the silver bullet of husbandry going.  Last Monday was my first day administering it.  Each dairy goat came out to eat while on the milking stand (hence away from all sheep) and each got their allotted teaspoon.  The buck, being housed alone, got his copper in his normal feed as well.  I noticed they seemed to tire of their food before eating it all, so this week I gave them only grain (instead of mixing grain with alfalfa pellets), less of it and the copper sprinkled on top.  Each goat did fine.  I had also read that calcium deficiencies are common in dairying goats and diatomaceous earth was a great supplement that will also help with any worm problems.  I heard to give it to them every day for 60 days.  So a couple weeks ago I started that as well.  There were no amounts mentioned, but I doubted any issue of too much so just sprinkled some on their morning feed every day.

Which brings me to Tuesday morning.  As I said, I gave only grain, a little less than a pound, a little diatomaceous earth and a teaspoon of copper sulfate sprinkled on top.  Doby came out first.  She doesn't eat much and doesn't milk much so she lost interest about when I finished milking.  I tethered her to a tree to eat some leafy greens while I milked the rest, and put her bucket with her remaining feed within reach.  She never finished it all, but ate most of it.  Dulci came out next.  I had her bucket of feed, DE and copper ready.  She ate well, milked well and eagerly munched grass on her way back to the barren "pasture".  Helen was next and she did about the same as Dulci, maybe eating a bit less.  I also gave Copper his portion.  Monday night, Husbandman was milking and both Dulci and Helen were low.  The bug zapper was active and they seemed jumpy.  We wondered if a storm was coming because they seemed a bit on edge, but nothing showed on the radar.  Nothing notable about the moon either.

Tuesday morning I got up to find only Doby waiting for me.  She bounced out and onto the table and was perfectly normal.  After she was finished, I called for Dulci who was laying down toward the back of the common area.  She let out a bellow but didn't move.  Helen slowly sauntered over and came out for milking.  I could see walking behind her that she was quite low on milk.  She didn't eat at all, but stood still for me to milk her.  Yes, she was low but she's not exactly little miss constant supply.  When she was done, I went back for Dulci who had risen long enough to move to a shadier spot.  I went in and prodded and half picker her up.  She got up, walked about 5 feet and laid back down.  I started panicking.  I prodded and hefted again.  Again she walked about 5 feet and laid down.  I got her up and started dragging her where she walked to just outside the gate and laid down again.  I had to pull her out more to close the gate.  I got a bucket of hay and put it in front of her.  She nibbled some.  I got her up, kept her moving about 15' this time and she laid down again.  I left the bucket there and called my husband, called Hoeggar Goat Supply and started crying.  Farm Boy 2 came and laid down beside her and giggled about resting his head on her.  She didn't mind at all.  I let her rest a spell then prodded her up again.  I got her to the table where I had to lift her onto it because she didn't have the strength to jump.  She nibbled a bit at the hay, was not at all interested in grain or alfalfa.  She gave a third of her normal milk.  I wondered about copper toxicity.  She showed some interest in leafy trees so I stood there with her, bending branches down, letting her eat until she tired and laid down.  I coaxed her back into the pasture and did research.

Copper toxicity, though rare CAN occur in goats and they usually die within 24 hours (we were right at 24 hours).  Hoeggar goat supply folk were as unhelpful as always, suggesting a whole host of meds they'll gladly sell me.  I should have them all in my medicine cabinet right now and they treat me like I'm a fool if I don't.  They did give me a number to another person.  And the man at the feed store gave me a number.  And another friend gave me a number.  So I did everything.  I tried to get a vet to see her to get an injection of atripine (spelling???), I ran to the health food store and got thiamin tablets and shoved them down her throat.  I shoved down a few activated charcoal tablets too.  Also gave her a shot of B-complex.  I finally got a hold of one vet who said if she wasn't eatingor drinking she was probably too far gone to save.  That's when I lost it.  After months, or a year even, of constant kicking, just when I think I'm hitting normal again, my very favorite goat dies at my hand.  I'm ready to quit everything.  I'm ready to sell the house and move to a condo. 

Then a friend calls.  I sob on the phone with her.  She's known the ins and outs of every other problem I've had as well so was very sympathetic.  She said another friend said to bring her to her vet.  I explained that I had already called that vet and was told she was too busy to even talk to me on the phone. We hung up.  I went back to crying.  Torrential downpour comes and I run out to let the sheep back in to the barn.  Dulci hadn't moved at all.  She refused to drink for me.  I hugged her and cried some more.  A little while later that other friend showed up at my door and said to load her up, that she knew her vet would see her.  So I sent my kids to my neighbor's, backed the car to the pasture and we half carried half dragged Dulci out and loaded her into the back of the Tucson.  She stood the whole time... which I thought was a good sign.

The vet had a nice fenced area that we let her into.  My friend called her to say we were there and she came right out.  (It's nice to have friends in high places!)  We discussed a whole host of things:
1) If it were copper toxicity, her poop would be blueish.  Right then and there she pooped and it all looked good, but she took a sample.
2) Giving her more grain than normal could have thrown off her rumen.  It wasn't much more, but it was a possibility.
3) She could have parasites and the vet then told me that waiting until their eyes pale out to deworm is waiting too long.  I'd like to have her in a room with the ag extension agent who swears we're creating super bugs by routine deworming.
4) She could have eaten something else toxic.

So the vet took blood samples and my friend and I left her there.  I came back by to drop off some peanut hay for her on the off chance she'd decide to eat.  I thanked my friend repeatedly, but I really can't thank her enough.  She gave me hope when all hope was lost.

A few hours later the vet called me back.  Dulci's calcium and phosphorus levels were very high, but that's not something that kills a goat.  She also had a hearty population of parasites in her fecal sample.  She's never shown any signs of illthrift from parasites, but being that she's such a strong goat, that count could be high and just not affecting her much.  Or the copper could be doing its job and shedding them.  Her lethargy could be from an overdose of calcium (which another friend told me she personally had and it made her feel horrid), or from the parasites being cleansed too quickly... or being spring, she had a rapid upsurgence in parasites.

So now I'm left to decifer what I'm to do with not just Dulci but all our goats.  Should I continue with the copper supplements?  The one vet and Hoeggar's were very adamant against it.  Hoeggar's wants me to buy "their minerals" (and charge me $50 in shipping!) and that vet wants me to have their copper levels tested several times a year.  The Hoeggar minerals would have to be administered away from the sheep, meaning it would never be free choice, but just during milking times.  Reading more from Pat Coleby, I'm inclined to think she really does know what she's talking about.  I'm wondering if a gradual approach is better... maybe 1/4 of a tsp for several weeks first?

As for Dulci, the vet recommended fenbendazole for parasite control.  I'll administer that recommended dosage for her and feed her milk to Angel and the chickens for a week (the withdrawal time in milk hasn't been determined).  I'm going to stop with the DE or maybe give it free choice rather than mixed in feed.  We read on Fias Co Farm's site about doing our own fecal parasite tests.  It's an initial investment of a microscope (which in this family of nerds will be a blessing to our homeschool anyway) and some test tubes but given that I could carefully watch their levels on my own, I think its a good thing to start doing.

When we brought Dulci home, she was much more chipper.  She almost ran once she saw the pasture.  But then got side tracked by leafy trees along the way.  She still didn't readily come for milking.  We had to prod her up and drag her out, but she jumped onto the table without assistance.  She wasn't interested in feed so I stood there cutting leafy branches and holding them for her to eat.  I hugged her goodnight and gave her some nuzzles.  She nuzzled back, sweet girl.  I don't tend to think of myself as emotionally attached to our animals, but I am.  A lot, I guess. 

So in the end, I'm open to suggestions, advice and opinions.  I don't want just run-of-the-mill animals completely dependent upon chemical dewormers the way every other goat in Florida is, but I also don't care for this "experimentation on live animals" thing either.  Share your wisdom, everyone!

1 comment:

  1. You can get a mineral block from the Tractor Supply store. You can get everything there. I used to go to a local feed store until I went to Tractor Supply. They were completely over charging me! You can get hay, feed, medicine. Juasr about anything.

    Do you have any Nutra Drench? Not sure of the spelling but it like a vitamin kick start when they get sick. It worked miracles for me when one of my bottle baby didn't want to feed.