Jul 21, 2010

Addition and Subtraction--Part Two

In my last post I shared of the recent additions to the farm. It would be appropriate to share the subtractions as well. This is not a fun post to write, even though it is delayed by several months. Living on a farm these kinds of losses do occur; simply by means of the sheer numbers of animals and people we have living here we should and do expect to experience more losses than the average family. This does not make either experiencing or writing of the losses any easier. Nevertheless, I committed when I began the blog that those who read would not only get the amazingly wonderful parts of farm life with a large family, they would also get real life on the farm. So here it is.

We have been "in goats" for almost six years now. We have lost our fair share of goats due to age, illness, birthing complications and, sadly, predators. (Though no loss seems "fair" at the time!) We have even had a loss due to what we strongly suspect was a two-legged predator helping themselves to one of our young goats. One thing that we had never had was a loss of a mature milker due to kidding complications. We had lost kids before, but never the mothers. We counted ourselves blessed in this, but as time went on the prospect that once caused a shudder to go down my spine along with a silent "please, no losses of that kind, Lord" became a vague problem that happened in other goat herds, not ours, and my anxiety regarding such a situation faded away.

Then, in December of 2009 we lost a doe 36 hours after kidding. After piecing together the scenario we concluded (with the agreement of several mentors, both goat breeders and those in the field of veterinary medicine) that we had lost her to a tear in a uterine blood vessel. It happens. It was sad, of course, especially since the goat in question was Dawn, daughter Katarina's pride and joy, but we felt like we had handled it responsibly and that really there was little we could have done.

In March we lost a second goat. This doe was my pride and joy, Texas Rose, the black LaMancha pictured on this blog post. I had delivered her (it was a complicated birth) and later anxiously waited for a doeling from her. She liked to keep us waiting, first she didn't get pregnant her first year. Her second year she gave us two boys. Her third year she gave us two boys again! This, her fourth year she gave us a beautiful daughter, but oh! what a struggle it took! Her kids were seriously tangled. I was not home and the girls left here at the farm had to go inside her and rearrange tangled kids. (This is called a "train wreck" in goat parlance.) Within 36 hours she, too had died, in a decline that resembled Dawn's a few months earlier. Even this loss seemed to be explainable in the same manner as Dawn's death--even more so given the degree of manipulation that delivering these babies had taken. I was heartbroken, but it made sense, was rational.

Within a week we lost two more in the first days after kidding. It no longer made as much sense. With the number of losses we saw in a short week's time it was clear that something was seriously amiss. These goats were not the dairy does, the non-registered cross-breed goats that were added to the herd when we started the dairy, the goats that tended to be rangy, goats, adapted to almost anything that you threw at them. These goats were from our high end, fancy-pedigrees show herd, either some of the first goats that we bought or descended from these first goats that were expensive investments, the "race cars" of the herd. Two of them were even sisters, Texas Rose and Rosa Blanco, born a year apart from my beloved Tea Rose, a finished champion who was a birthday gift from my father-in-law in 2005.

When we realized that we were losing the third, and then the fourth, and that there was something else at work in this situation, we made the sad decision to have the does necropsied. (An animal autopsy.) The conclusions that were drawn from the examinations and the tests done were heartbreaking.

During the last few weeks of these goat's pregnancies we had been forced to temporarily change the hay that they were fed. The hay that we had to transition them to was lower in many key nutrients, most notably protein and calcium. These particular goats were not accustomed to non-high octane "fuel" This forced their bodies into a nutritional deficit that caused them to not be able to undergo the stresses of labor and delivery as well and set them up to be susceptible to fast moving uterine infections.

Basically they died due to our management decisions.

The fact that we had no real options at the time in our choices brings little comfort, these were animals that depended upon us and we were not able to give them what they needed. The other goats in the herd did not have the nutritional needs that these goats had been bred to have and as our herd size increased we lost the ability to micromanage for each goat that we had when we began in goats.

There are times when even now, four months later, that I still shake my head. I simply sometimes cannot grasp the fact that we lost two of three of my Tea Rose daughters, and four goats in total. I know that as we remain in goats, that these will not be the only goats that we lose, but having so many losses together, to a cause that theoretically could have been prevented was particularly hard. It is part and parcel of farm life, but still...it hurts.

Addition is always so much more enjoyable and fulfilling.


Michelle | Goat Berries said...

This is so very heartbreaking, but as you said, things like this happen and there's not a whole lot we can do about it. I'm sure your goaties had such great lives while they were around, and hopefully your good memories of them help to comfort you.

Terry said...

Don't beat yourself up. Always do your best and that is all you can do. As painful as it is this is how we learn. After 25 years in goats I still make mistakes and God willing I learn from them.

How lucky you are to have had those lovely girls in your life!