Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Farewell, Anne

 Anne and her triplets last year:
The little white-faced doe hiding between her mama
and sibling is Agnes Grey, who still lives here.
Yesterday we were milking 13 goats; today it is 12. It is amazing how quickly life can change. When Katherine brought in the milk yesterday morning, she said it was less than usual. She didn't think she had missed Anne, but her udder was empty. For whatever reason, we both assumed Katherine had lost track. Although I check off goats on a white board as I milk them, she doesn't. So, neither of us thought that something might be wrong with Anne. Yesterday evening, shortly before six, as I was proofreading the galleys for Homegrown and Handmade on my computer, I heard the sound of a goat in distress. I called to Katherine to go check on the does.

Half an hour later, Anne left us as she thrashed around in Katherine's lap, screaming in pain. I had little hope from the time that we brought her into the barn, but I had some hope. I'd never before seen a goat so bloated and with a bloody discharge leaking from her rectum. Her body temperature had already fallen to well below normal. The inside of her mouth felt like a glass of cool water.

I called the vet hospital at U of I, but I couldn't understand anything the vet was saying because he had such a thick accent. Finally I asked, "Clostridium?" And he said yes, she had all the symptoms. He went on, I suppose telling me what I should do, but I couldn't understand any of it. I knew the prognosis was somewhere between terrible and hopeless. I didn't think she would survive the two hour trip to the university vet hospital. I knew she needed antitoxin. I did a quick online search and checked both of the vet textbooks that I have. They also suggested antibiotics, a baking soda drench, and B vitamins. I was gathering up those supplies to head outside and at least get started, but when I opened the front door, I saw Katherine walking towards the house with her head down. I watched her walk a few more steps and finally asked, "Is she still alive?" Katherine said, "No," and started crying.

All last night I kept trying to figure out what had made her sick. The literature says that enterotoxemia is usually caused by some sort of digestive disturbance, such as a change in feed or over-consumption of grain -- basically, something throws off the digestive system. But what? We hadn't changed the diet. No one had busted into the chicken grain or the hog feed. Then this morning I got a hint. I was heading out to the barn to milk, and Mike was about to put cut grass into the hay feeders. I stood next to the little hay wagon and felt heat. I reached over and lifted the grass, and it was quite warm in the pile. Then it clicked. I remembered our apprentice asking Mike a couple days ago if it was okay to give the grass to the goats because it had heated up. Mike sniffed it and said it was fine. I had not thought about what process might be taking place if the hay were piled up while still green. Something was happening to it because it was quite warm at the center of the pile.

"Don't give this to the goats," I blurted. Mike looked at me, annoyed. "I think this is what made Anne sick. It's hot. That means something is happening to it. Even if smells okay, there could be some kind of toxins growing in here."

We've been giving the goats freshly cut grass all summer, but the past few days, we've been getting ahead of ourselves with cutting, filling the little hay wagon, and filling the hay feeders. Who would have ever thought that we could be overly efficient? The cut grass should have been staying on the ground to dry until minutes before being taken to the barn and being eaten.

As Mike started pulling the grass out of the hay feeders, I went into the milking parlor to milk the goats. I tried not to beat myself up, but it's hard. I can go round and round in my head, especially when it's just me and a goat. Anyone who milks goats will tell you that a lot of thinking goes on when you're milking. Anne was one of the special ones. She's the only daughter we ever had out of Mercury, the son of my first milk goat, Star. Her dam is Sherri, my favorite brood doe, and my top milker for several years. I've kept four of Sherri's daughters, all of which earned their milk stars. Anne was my highest producer last year, milking 627 pounds, which won't break any records in the rest of the world, but it made her really special here.

Anne as a yearling
But what I loved the most about Anne was that she proved it was possible for a goat to be bonded to her mama like glue, yet incredibly friendly with people. She was one of those goats that would wrap her neck around yours and give you a goaty hug.

Every time I milked one of the goats this morning and checked her name off my list, I knew there was one goat whose name would not be checked off. I told myself I should erase Anne's name from the list, so I wouldn't confuse myself about how many goats were left to milk. No, that's silly. I know I only have 12 to milk this morning. After milking the last goat, I erased Anne's name. And, then I sat down and cried.

17 comments:

judy said...

That was to to sad,I'm so sorry.Good,good thoughts headed your way.

Vegetable Garden Cook said...

Oh, how heart-breaking. I'm so sorry for your loss.

So, just so I understand, you are thinking what happened is that the fresh grass started fermenting/composting and one of the micro organisms made her sick?

Again, I'm so sorry to hear about your loss.

Deborah @ Antiquity Oaks said...

yes, Cook, that's what I'm thinking.

Shula said...

Sorry for your loss of Anne, She was a beauty.

Vegetable Garden Cook said...

I'm mentally sending you flowers.

Michelle said...

Oh Deborah, I'm SO sorry! My heart breaks for your broken heart. I'm just glad you figured out the cause before anyone else got sick....

SkippyMom said...

I'm so, so very sorry. I cried too.

Mama Pea said...

A tragedy like that is doubly heart breaking when you try SO hard to do right by your animals and take such good care of them.

Please try not to blame yourself. It was just something unexpected that happened but now you know to store that knowledge away so it won't be repeated.

So sorry.

MamaTea said...

So sorry for the loss of Anne. What a beautifully written post. :) You can tell how special she was from how you wrote about her and we know she will be missed.

Angela Rountree said...

I am so sorry.

rachel whetzel said...

Oh, Deb! I'm so sorry.

LindaG said...

*hugs* ♥

Shmoopywood said...

I am sad to read this. I have a special love for goats. I don't have any but think they are one of the coolest animals on the planet and would love to someday have a few of my own. I am sorry for your loss.

Anonymous said...

So sorry to hear of your loss. ((((((( HUGS ))))))

-WG4

Abiga/Karen said...

So sorry for you all!

Emily Cole said...

I am so sorry to hear about Anne. This post made me cry, I feel so sad for you and Katherine too. I'm glad you caught the cause and you felt that heat in the grass. It sure doesn't take long for that composting process to start in fresh green grass. Wow. At least by sharing this story you will help others avoid the same thing happening to their sweet girls.

Barb J. said...

So sad... but sometimes things just happen and there's nothing we can do about it. It certainly wasn't your fault, as it wasn't something that happened because of laziness, etc. Raising livestock is a learning process.

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