The last few days have gone by in a blur! Wednesday night, shortly before midnight, Jo gave birth to quadruplets when the temperature was 8 below zero, and I didn't get to bed until after 2 a.m. Without even having breakfast or a cup of coffee, I went out to check on the kids first thing in the morning to make sure no one's ears had frozen in the past few hours. Kids were fine, and I decided to feed the rest of the goats before I went back inside for my own breakfast. When I approached the buck's stall with an armful of hay, I had no place to put it because they had not eaten their hay from the night before. They looked up at me shivering. I put down the hay, grabbed their water bucket and ran to the pump room to get some warm water for them. The phone rang when I was in there, and it was someone at the University of Illinois large animal hospital calling me back about a couple of minor issues.
"Well, this wasn't why I was calling, but I have a whole new problem now! My bucks aren't eating, and they're shivering." My son had taken the water bucket to the boys and immediately came back to tell me that they weren't drinking either. I explained it all to the tech on the phone, and she said it sounded like some type of poisoning and suggested I bring in all six of the boys.
"And it says here that you have a buck that can't hear and has scours?" she asked. Scours is what they call diarrhea in livestock.
I laughed. "No! The man who took my message couldn't understand what I was saying, but I have a buck with SCURS. I even spelled it for him." Scurs are what bucks get when a bit of their horn grows after they've been disbudded. Huge difference between that and diarrhea!
She laughed. "Okay, we can take care of that when you come in. I guess this message meant that he couldn't hear you."
I don't think I laughed again for the rest of the day. I couldn't take the trailer because it was totally snowed in and also appeared to be stuck in ice. So we loaded up the bucks in dog crates on the back of the truck, which had to be dug out of the snow. I still had not had any breakfast, so I put some granola in a bowl and made myself a cup of tea for the road. I called Margaret, my daughter who is an engineering student at U of I and asked her if she could meet me at the vet clinic with a bowl of soup from Panera. She said yes. As I drove the two hours to the vet clinic, I wondered if anyone would be dead upon arrival. There must be something terribly wrong if the bucks are not eating or drinking. Normally, they clean out the hay feeder within 30 minutes of us filling it, and they love their warm water and usually suck down most of the five gallon bucket right away.
When we arrived at the clinic, I was relieved to see everyone had survived the trip. The vet students unloaded the bucks and began examining them. The intern and four students took the history and did physical exams. Then the vet professor came in, looked at the boys and said they looked awfully healthy. The students started giving her the history and the results of the physical exam. She asked if they had offered the bucks any hay since we arrived. No, they had not. So, she sent one of the students out to get some hay. He brought it back, and several people grabbed a handful and offered it to the bucks, which they eagerly grabbed and began eating. Huh?
"Are you guys spoiled?" the professor asked the bucks as they looked up at everyone when there was no hay left. "Do you want to be hand fed?"
The vet professor asked if I had brought any of my hay. Yes, I had a large trash bag full of the hay that I pulled out of their feeder -- the hay that had been in there since last night, untouched. The hay that was possibly toxic, which had caused them to be shivering and not eating or drinking. She and the students sniffed it, pronounced it beautiful, and offered it to the bucks, which they eagerly gobbled up.
Diagnosis: stress. Between their raging testosterone and the below zero temperatures, the vet felt that the boys were simply too stressed to eat or drink earlier. But it was 70 degrees in the clinic. While they took care of Pinkerton's scur, the other bucks continued gobbling up the hay that I had brought.
So, the bucks have been hanging out in the barn, having food and warm water brought to them regularly, and they're stressed? What kind of a rumble did they have Wednesday night that caused them to be incapable of eating? They weren't the ones delivering baby goats in -8 temperatures, blow drying ears for two hours to keep them from freezing. I'm sure they got more than 4 hours of sleep last night. They had dinner and breakfast offered to them, which they refused. And THEY are stressed?
I pulled back into the driveway at home close to 6 p.m., having devoted the whole day to my bucks, simply to learn that they were stressed. My shoulders were as stiff as bricks, and I had a raging headache, probably from not getting enough sleep, food, or water. Mike and the kids took care of the goats while I tried to catch up on email. Mike kept telling me I needed to get to bed, but I didn't make it until after 10 p.m.
Four hours later, at 2:24 a.m., I sat bolt upright in bed, not really awake, and screamed, "Goat!" as I heard Charlotte bellowing over the baby monitor. . . .
I'll tell you the stories of Jo's and Charlotte's births in the next couple days. And Giselle should be kidding today.