| Anne and her triplets last year:|
The little white-faced doe hiding between her mama
and sibling is Agnes Grey, who still lives here.
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|
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.