Growing up on the land, country people are often surrounded by many animals. They become so attached to the animals they see each day, whether it be a cow in the paddock rearing calves for profit or an old dog, done with his use, but spending his days of retirement happily kicking around the house paddock.
Because of their attachment to the animals, farmers will often do whatever necessary for an animal that is sick. Even if that animal can give very little to nothing back. With the hardship of drought, and bad markets, you have to have a genuine love of the land and the animals you work with to stay out here. If you just wanted the money, a day job in town would be far more logical.
I would like to share a story, from July 2013, which depicts just that. When an animal is sick, we do everything we can to help it regain health. Obviously there are times when the kindest thing is to put the animal out of its misery, but if there is hope, we fight for it!
Being self-sufficient is a dream I have had most of my life, so I was after some good milking goats to help with that dream. The reason goats were chosen over cows was they are better suited to our country and are less messy to milk. The particular breed I chose was the Anglo Nubian, for their high cream content.
So when I saw a mob of does advertised, all in kid to a purebred buck I jumped at it. My husband and I drove down and picked up four. We checked their teeth for their age, made sure they seemed healthy, and took them home.
The first doe to bag up was my favorite, and I hoped so much that she would produce a girl. The morning the kids were born, I came out to find she had had twin girls. A fantastic way to build a great little milking heard! Unfortunately, it was not fantastic at all; instead it was a sight of devastation.
There was a sickly grey kid staggering after its mother, whose bag had obviously not been sucked, the kid’s eyes were off focus, and it was weak. Her sister was still lying where she had been born; she was still wet and covered in mucus. She was bleating for help, and seemed to be paralyzed and could not lift her head. I went straight to her, and felt for broken bones. My mind was racing, trying to come up with an explanation. Her neck caught my attention. It was bent, like a ‘C’. Had the mother trodden on her neck just after birth? I felt for the break, however it was solid, as if there was only one bone in the neck.
This is a photo of the kid after I dried her out and placed her on a mat in the sun to warm up. She could not lift her head, and I rolled her over to the other side every few hours. I milked out her mother and hand fed her colostrum from a bottle. In the meantime, trying to fit in other property work and the animals, as it was while my husband was away working, I was also web searching her symptoms, only to come up with wry-neck. I rang a goat specialist vet in Melbourne, who when I told her what was wrong and described the sick kid, asked me if I really wanted to try to save her. She had no solution, but said to massage the neck as I was doing and to keep going with the colostrum.
Devastated, watching her move her little hooves and her eyes, she was just so helpless and really, so was I. I decided the only option was to put her down. She could not enjoy life paralyzed the way she was. Her sister wasn’t in a very good way either, although she could walk, she wasn’t improving, she could not suck from her mother and I was caring for both of them. I could not bring myself to do it that day however. I have had to put down many animals on the property that are too injured to help, but I thought I would give her just a few days, to see if there was the slightest improvement.
The first night of the 2 kids lives, I made a bed of towels and shirts in a quad tyre in the living room. I heated a hot water bottle and left them there. I set my alarm for 2am, as it was winter and this is when it gets cold. At 2am, I re heated the hot water bottle, fed them both and went back to bed at 3am with the alarm set for 5.
The next day was the same. Trying desperately for a cure for the poor black kid, and why the grey kid was so weak and sickly also. I started advertising for goat experts on the Facebook buy swap sells, saying I had a kid with a bent neck, unable to stand and if anyone had ever seen this. Amazingly, people had, some had reared the kids with the bent neck and they had eventually learned to walk, some had goats with bent necks of 4 years old! I was shocked. It was final, she would not be destroyed, if there was hope of her walking and enjoying life, I would fight for her to have that chance, even if there was no cure.
That night was the same as the night before, with a 2am feed and bottle re-heat. The next day, someone had posted that she had goat polio, and needed a B1 injection. A CURE!! I was so excited, though I didn’t have a B1 injection, and living 2hours from town, I asked the lady if it were possible to give her berocca, the soluble vitamin supplement. “Yes” was the awesome answer. So I started dissolving Berocca in the little goats bottles.
By that afternoon, the little goat whom I named Reign, could put her head up.
The grey kid, whom I named Storm was getting better too. She was starting to run and jump, like a normal goat kid. Considering the does had all came from the same place, I assumed the rest could be deficient, and result in kids with the same problems. So I made up syringes of berocca and drenched the other does who had yet to kid. I did not want to have to deal with 3 more sets of twins this ill!
That night was incredible, while Storm was exploring the house with her new energy and better health, Reign started to try and sit up. She started with trying to get her legs tucked under her. I was beside myself with excitement, and sat near the tyre, wanting so much to help her, but knowing she had to do it on her own. Once she struggled with her legs, that had been starting to respond to her more and more throughout the day, and had them under her, she wanted to get up. She pushed her front legs out in front of her, and pushed herself back until she was against the tyre, then, as she pushed, her rump slid up the tyre and rested over the top. She was almost standing! Her front legs where supporting weight, while her back legs dangled. It was so incredible. I thought I would see improvements slowly, over the next couple of days. I began to cry as I stroked her. She was so amazing, her tiny body was starting to listen, and her determination pushed her to do everything in her power to live.
My 5am start the next morning, despite I was starting to feel extremely tiered, was very exciting. She had stood with her rump sitting on the edge of the tyre for her bottle at the 2am feed. I took her out into the sun after her breakfast with Storm and lay her near my guinea pig cage. Reign was at it straight away, pushing herself backwards, trying to get up. Each feed of berocca milk seemed to be improving this kid so dramatically I wouldn’t have believed it if I had not witnessed with my own eyes.
Then, that morning, 4 days old, Reign stood, unassisted. It was very emotional for me, after the long nights and toiling with if I should even try to keep her alive and trying to find what was so wrong with her.
This is Reign standing. As you can see her neck is quite bent. As she learnt to walk, this often put her off balance and she would fall regularly. She would always be struggling back to her feet and trying to walk again. The improvements in Storm where also fantastic, she was drinking off her mother now, and the mother took her back as her own, despite I had kept her inside out of the cold and bottle fed her for 3 days while she was sick.
Reign drinking her bottle, her twisted neck affecting her less and less with the more vitamins and strength she had.
Reign and Storm with my dog, Shadrack, as they explored outside the house yard fence.
As Reign grew, the bend in her neck became less pronounced. I continued to feed her berocca daily, and it was evident that she would possibly end up with the normal form of a goat.
The other goats had their kids, and although they were slow and not completely healthy, none where as sick as Reign, I gave them all a first feed of Berocca and their mothers reared them with no more complications.
As someone with plenty of goats, including 100 odd paddock goats and 20 milkers (including Reign and her siblings) I am a strong believer in supplements. For the past 4 years on our property, we never leave a paddock without a trace element lick in it so that if the animals need it they can get it. We also regularly check our stock for signs of deficiencies, something I do automatically when I see an animal in the paddock. If one animal looks B12 deficient, chances are, the others aren’t far off, and its time to muster and inject. With this drought, we have had a lot get sick due to vitamin A deficiency, with watery eyes, dull coats and bad eyesight. We have had to inject with an ADE injection into the muscle.
Today, Reign is a healthy 6 month old Kid. She lives with the other goats, always friendly to us and loves attention. We are still unsure if this will have affected her fertility. I hope not, it would be nice to have little Reign kids, but even if she can never give us anything saleable for the effort put into her, she provided an invaluable learning experience. She will be allowed to live out her days with us, regardless of what she can give back.