I'm afraid one of my bucks is going to die. Almost every winter, a buck dies. I was very excited last winter when everyone came through with flying colors. I thought I had finally figured out the secret to keeping bucks alive over the winter. Temperatures have been falling below zero or hovering in the single digits for the past couple weeks, so I'm sure that was part of the problem. It's just amazing how fast a buck can do downhill though.
On Christmas Day, Tennessee Williams jumped the fence so he could be with the girls. That certainly doesn't sound like a buck who is anything but healthy, right? A week ago, another buck bumped into him very slightly, and he fell down. That is definitely not a good sign, so I brought him inside and treated him with Molly's Herbal Dewormer for a week, even though she only recommends three days. He was not improving, which was why we continued to give it to him. Today, I did a fecal, and the slide was covered with worm eggs, so I gave him Cydectin. I'm afraid it's too late, but we'll see.
Seeing how many worms he had, I was tempted to just give Cydectin to everyone, but I decided to run a few fecals first -- one from a buck and two from does. When those slides only had two or three eggs each, I repeated the test, thinking it couldn't be that different. Maybe I made a mistake somehow? No, repeating the test had the same results. Just in one spot on William's slide, there were more than 40 eggs, meaning that I didn't even have to move the slide to count more than 40 eggs.
Of course, the other goats are looking healthy, especially the does, so logically I should not be surprised to see only two or three eggs on the entire slide. I stared at the bucks a good, long time and came to the conclusion that the only thing that looks bad is that three of them are shedding from their face, which usually means they need more copper, so I gave copper boluses to those three.
A number of people have asked why I don't just let the weaker animals die -- natural selection, right? I never had a good answer for that, other than my own compassion. However, if there is such a thing as the "right" genetics for an organic farm, I'm starting to wonder if it's possible to achieve it. William's mother is Caboose, who is always the best conditioned goat out there, and she is one of the does whose fecal I tested. His sire's dam is Carmen, another goat who is always in good condition. His sire's sire, however, died during the winter when he was three. So, is 1/4 weaker genetics enough to doom a goat?
The other problem I have with natural selection is that our goats do not live in a natural world. In a natural world, they would range across thousands of acres. They might never eat grass that has been touched by another goat's poop. They certainly would not drink water from 100 feet below the ground, water that is full of minerals that can throw off the balance of nutrients. The high sulfur in our water is what causes our problems with copper deficiency. And who knows what other problems might be caused by our well water? In a natural world, goats would probably never eat alfalfa, and they'd eat a lot more browse than grass or grass hay.
Is it possible to raise goats organically? I'm starting to have my doubts.