Caring Intensively

Bad news:

& it’s regarding the extraordinary little goat we wrote about in the recent post “All Caprines Great & Small“.

We’ve suffered a fast-&-furious outbreak of the deadly Coccidiosis, here; & tragically our lovely little Diddie has been one of the unhappy victims. 

Sunday was a busy day.  Having worked my way steadily through dagging* our sheep flock, I’d left the most challenging few, until last; only some half-dozen more to do….not a problem, surely?  But some of these had suffered with unpleasant scours plus in extreme cases, flystrike: so it was a grim few hours for me, wielding the ‘solo’ shears. 

I carefully ignored the growing agony of my hand, my wrist, my fingers; & it was only when I’d finished I stopped to gingerly examine the evident damage.  In short: the constant rubbing of the handshears had either blistered or taken away much of the skin from my left thumb & forefinger; I’d lost the feeling in those digits; & my wrist had swollen to the size of a Swiss roll.  Not nice!

By late afternoon when my friends & neighbours arrived to help our professional Shepherd, Tim, with the shearing; I was in severe pain (but tried not to admit it).  Mind you; whilst wrapping the fleeces it was hard not to cry out in agony; the stinging & burning of the lanolin in the raw wounds was so excruciating, not to mention the constant twisting, turning & wielding of my already damaged wrist.

By the time we’d finished & I’d gratefully supplied our guests with a slap-up Shearers’ Tea (including, I’m proud to say, a traditional Welsh Teisen Lap or Shearers’ “Plate Cake”) I was almost on my knees with exhaustion (not to mention, relief; as the most nail-biting times of year are shearing & haymaking – of which here, we’ve achieved in only a few remarkable days).  However there was still much work, to be done; the day-to-day stuff, doesn’t just stop in favour of all else.

The sheep enjoyed grazing on the Middle Yard for the evening where I could keep a close eye on the unfortunate flystrike victims, having injected them with a goodly dose of penicillin to (hopefully) prevent blood poisoning; then I put them all back to bed in the Lambing Shed with a slap-up meal of  sugar beet nuts, just to make sure they’d have a comfy, cosy, warm night (after all I wouldn’t want to be wandering around naked, on a drizzly night after abruptly shedding my winter furs, would you?!).  

My biggest worry has been our oldest ewe, Althea: literally, the ‘black sheep’ of our family.  Whilst she still has a full set of apparently excellent teeth,  feeding two lambs has really taken its’ toll on her condition; not to mention she’s been off her food owing to a nasty bout of flystrike which I’ve been chasing for literally weeks: every time I think I’ve sorted her out she gets another attack elsewhere on her body.  Earlier in the season I tried preventive methods; however nothing seems to have worked.  I loathe those disgusting blowfly: to my mind, one of Nature’s most cruel & disgusting inventions. 

Thankfully Thea is all the better for her radical haircut; some slap-up feeding & judicious care will hopefully help her through this unpleasant patch in the old girl’s life.  And whilst she might still have most of her teeth, we won’t put her through lambing, again; not if it takes this much toll on her.  After piling on the pounds over the Winter (when the flock were largely housed, owing to the inclement conditions) & carrying her lambs in excellent condition, all these additional challenges have proved such a blow to her health….had I known I’d never have put her ‘in lamb,’ in the first place.  She’s gifted us a wonderful set of twins this year – which I suspect, is the root of the problem.  They’re already near-as-dammit as big as this diminutive little ewe; so no wonder owing to a loss of condition she fell prey to flystrike…not to mention feeding two large, greedy lambs, which hasn’t helped.  So she can now enjoy a quiet, graceful, full-fed retirement; without the burden of being a Mum, again.

Meanwhile my “late check” was even later, than usual; well after midnight.  The majority of the animals were settled, comfy & cudding so I tiptoed through, not wishing to disturb their peaceful ruminations.  The kids in the Playpen were as bouncy as ever, however; although I worriedly noted apparently serious scours developing, in some; so immediately withdrew their late-night milkfeed & replaced it with a water/electrolyte formula; administered a Kaolin drench to the badly-affected; & injections of Metacam & Depocillin, to the worst.  Normally this would have them all back on their bouncy little toesprings, by morning; so I wasn’t unduly worried. 

By the time I arrived back in the Cottage at around 01.30am however, it was clear that Diddie too, wasn’t at all well.  I immediately extricated her from the “house pen” & commenced an overnight vigil, just trying to keep her alive….at that point, such was the struggle, no vet could have reached us in time to do anything that I couldn’t. 

Having lived almost all of her wonderful little life exclusively in the house with us, she believes she is a person, not a goat; so chatting to her & encouraging her, appears to give her the most extraordinary strength.  So the least I could do was to stay up with her, all night; feeding her little sips of electrolye, when she asked for it; gently propping her up, when she rolled over in the agony of her tummy troubles; & just being there for her; so she knew she was loved, & cared for.

I never realised how strong, is the power of Love; when it’s all you have left…because against all odds, she just kept on going; & every tme I thought she was losing her battle I just held her, & told her how much we love her; reminded her of how I did all all could to save her, when she was born: & she listened, & refused to give up.

At first light I duly checked on my other charges; & to my horror, found that in a few short hours things had gone from apparently a little bad, to catastrophically worse.  Two of the youngest girls – Eenie & Dree – were so weak, they could scarcely stand; so my emergency call to the Surgery was even more extreme.  Bundling everyone into the Navara – including goatling Branwen, whose tourniqued leg had gone from bad-to-better-to-worse, overnight – I hastened to the Veterinary Centre with my stricken charges.

Tragically, Dree & Eenie, didn’t make it; whatever had struck did so with such fast ferocity, that they didn’t stand a chance; yet neither should the premature, more diminutive, Diddie. Yet for whatever reason this feisty fighter who – against all odds – had survived the night; lived to see the day….& also managed another night in the Intensive Care Unit of the Veterinary Hospital Wing; albeit, her improvement overnight was negligible (despite apparent attempts on her part, to remove her IV line…!).

Our Vet – Helen – has been amazed by this wonky, cranky little goat’s resilience & complete stubborness, to give up.  Sadly it seems that goats-who-know-they-are-goats, like sheep, can be all-too-ready to simply die; her mentality is such that she has a different mindset ergo, bizzarely, different goals…and she is NOT ready to give up the ghost just yet. 

Let’s face it: if I’d simply given up on her three months ago, she wouldn’t be here, now.  And, yes: she IS wonky, & cranky, & bow-legged; thus I suspect as a result, will never join the Milkforce as “one of the Herd”….mind you; there’s more than one herd, here.  So what, if she doesn’t ever produce milk? She deserves to live for her sheer desire to be alive.  She epitomises the “Braveheart” quote that “All men die; few…really live”.

And there’s always room for a “House Goat”, so long as she’s Diddie….

Anyway; we’re all hoping she will be well enough to come home – soon.  In the meantime there’s this old, irresistably toe-tapping song I’ve always sang to her, which seems to keep her spirits up; it might sound daft but it’s a really catchy tune – & is hers’ – the quirky tune just captures her jaunty joie de vivre

This YouTube video from the delightful & talented Rag Mama Rag cannot help but encourage anyone, to sing along: please do, & celebrate her bouncy zest for life as I’m sure the more we all join together in singing the chorus (you cannot help but catch on after the first few lines!); by wishing her “good health” in this way, will speed her to swift recovery.  It’s aptly titled “Diddie-wah-Diddie” & was originally composed by the magnificent Blind Blake.  And I’m sure amongst the legions of her fans who’ve been on the receiving end of Diddie’s welcoming greeting, will also appreciate where the “Wah” bit, comes from! 

Enjoy; sing along; & please send our poor little Diddie your love & support, in doing so. 

Many thanks.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cI4aE21KWLg&feature=related

 *Dagging/crutching:  removing any soiled wool from a sheep’s rear, prior to shearing (in other words the messy-&-nasty job of snagging your way through a matted mess of thick, disgusting poo-encrusted fleece from a feisty, frisky, sharp-kicking b*tch of a ewe/bar-steward of a ram; whilst you surgically remove pretty much all the skin from your thumb & forefinger not to mention losing any sensation in the aforesaid digits for at least three days, thereafter; also near-as-dammit breaking your wrist – or at least spraining/straining it, until it swells to the size of an overstuffed Swiss Roll, in the process.  That’s dagging for you.

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About LittleFfarm Dairy

The LittleFfarm Dairy Team: Jo - Goat farmer & Gelatiere Artigianale, plus General Dogsbody; Tony - Airline Pilot & part-time Herd Manager, Product Taster, Accounts Secretary, Handyman etc!
This entry was posted in Animals, Anything Goes, Diary, Farming, Goats, July 2010, Life, Livestock, Sheep, Smallholding. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Caring Intensively

  1. Jo says:

    Hello Jo. I am reading your blog as I also read The Cottage Smallholder blog and came across your comment about your little goat. I then went to your website and read the sad events that have unfurled for you over the last few days. I cannot tell you how much I was moved by your writings and your obvious love for this little goat. I feel a little silly contacting you as I don’t know you, but I hope that you are coming to terms with the loss of your tiny friend and that you will be comforted in the knowledge that this animal was loved and cared for until the end. Animals become so much part of the family when they are cared for, your grief is understandable. With much sympathy, Jo

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