Pastures New

These are words I hoped I would not write: not for many, many years at least. 

Our lovely little Lady Diddie, is no longer with us.

After having survived her night in the Veterinary Hospital with negligible but at least some improvement she picked up remarkably well during the day; to the point that she was able to stand & was even drinking electrolytes – eagerly – from a bottle. 

Sadly whilst the Nurse left her briefly to ask the Vet whether she could give Diddie some more (I gather Madam was demanding yet another bottle) the feisty little goat suddenly, abruptly, could keep going no longer; & she quietly curled up, & closed her eyes, & passed away.

Tragically she “gave up her ghost” whilst I was on my way to visit her; I’d hoped it would be a boost to her if I did so as I am all she has ever known, all that’s been familiar & comforting to-&-for her for all her life; besides which I was very much looking forward to being reunited with my Diddie again – especially as she was apparently so much better than she’d been when I’d sustained that sorrowful parting from her the previous day. 

So I gave goats, ponies, poultry & sheep, an early supper; then hurriedly bounced into Carmarthen in buoyant mood.  I’d even contemplated pausing to pick Diddie a bunch of dandelion flowers (her favourite) to cheer her up as I knew that I would be going home again without her because she still had such a long journey of her own, on the treacherous road to recovery, to make: but I was so desperate just to be with her & to reassure her that I avoided the temptation. 

But I didn’t expect that I was destined never more to return home with my faithful little friend at my side: nor worse; that I would never see her alive, again.

(And, oh!  How she loved to take her place snuggled comfortably on the front seat of the truck beside me. She always loved joining me for an adventure wherever, together; we had so much fun exploring “pastures new”.  But this, her final journey which will lead her to the wonderful, eternal Elysian Fields of the Otherworld; is inevitably the loneliest one: & that which we all must make, on our own).

On arrival I innocently breezed into Large Animal Reception (which in itself seemed somehow inappropriate given that I was visiting a goat so diminutive she’s still only about the size of a large cat); & cheerfully joked that “Diddie Knight’s visitor had arrived”. 

“Ah – I’d better fetch Kate, the Vet” was the simple response & I waited in happy anticipation of being reunited at last with my erstwhile Caprine chum. 

After a few moments, Kate bustled in. 

“Oh, Jo; oh-my-goodness….we’ve been trying to call you….  I’m so very sorry.” 

I was puzzled; confused.  Why; what could possibly be wrong…?  Only an hour ago, Diddie was apparently doing so well – there must be some mistake?….Please….??  Well; this must only be a turn-for-the-worse, I thought: hopefully a visit from me will be just the tonic to keep her going…even if I have to spend the night….

“I’m so sorry; she was doing so well….”  Kate fumbled for the words that were rapidly starting to assault my comprehension with the force of a thousand deep wounding cuts.  The shock was all the greater as of course the last thing I’d heard was that she was apparently so much better.  Ohh, the pain….

“We suspect that Diddie died as a result of chronic ulceration caused by the extreme scours; however we should find out the full picture from a detailed Post Mortem – if you’re agreeable?” Kate ventured.

She kindly put her arm around me; guided me to one of the typically-uncomfortable blue plastic waiting room chairs & plonked me down with a fistful of tissues as we (both) tearfully talked about what had just unexpectedly happened.  Part of me just wanted to take Diddie’s precious, tiny body home to be buried with our other treasured pets in the orchard; however, we would learn nothing from doing that.  And whilst her own little life might be over I was determined that it shouldn’t have been in vain: there may yet be much more to learn from an important Post Mortem which could help many future generations of goats here, to come. 

Admittedly I have always worried about my poor girl’s crooked little legs; that whether as an adult goat she would ever have really been strong enough to walk without discomfort in which case difficult decisions would ultimately have had to be made.  However being such a tenacious little Lady it was only fair to give her every chance; ultimately though, she took the decision out of our caring hands & into her own sage little hooves.

I did get to say goodbye to her, one last time: sat with her; gently stroked the still-warm, soft dappled fur as the tears fell uncontrollably from my sorrowful eyes.  I told her how much I loved her; how much I valued the time we’d had together; & how she will always, always have such a special place in our hearts & our memories.  One last, gentle caress of those lovely, leaf-like ears which unfailingly remind me of buds unfurling in the fresh spring breeze; & it was time to go; & to let her, go.

I feel so lost, without her.  Grief knows no bounds.

However in the short time that she was with us her little life enriched us in so many ways; & I do not regret for one moment the all the effort I expended in raising her.  

It is said these things happen for a reason; & I’m sure that’s right.  After all if I hadn’t had to rush her into Intensive Care the other day we might never have found out that the root cause of this long-suffering problem, has been coccidiosis; we might have sustained further apparently inexplicable losses for many more years; & just not understood why. 

In previous generations we’ve suffered sudden deaths of kids as well; obviously there is going to be a level of mortality in any herd for all sorts of reasons but we were largely putting any deaths down to it being “just one of those things”. 

Now thanks to Diddie, we know otherwise.

To my horror we have already lost four kids to this dreadful disease in the past week; & I’ve since learned that many more experienced goatkeepers than us have suffered similarly devastating losses for the same reason.  But education – & information – is a wonderful thing.

At least now we understand not only how to treat this (fundamentally by dosing the kids with Vecoxan); we also know how to tackle the root cause: which is that the pen will need to be completely stripped, cleaned & disinfected with the walls & floor resealed to create a barrier against any oocysts that might be lurking as they are extremely difficult to get rid of because they put a protective coating around themselves & then remain in a state of suspended animation until such a time as conditions are ripe for them to attack again.  So we shall also leave the pen empty for a significant time (recommended: 9-12 months) as a further precaution. 

Also according to the ultimate goat authority David MacKenzie, overfeeding kids with protein-rich foods can lead to a predisposition to coccidiosis.  We’ve been experimenting with an automatic Volac milk replacement feeder for much of the year although we have recently given up on it; frankly, it just didn’t work for us.  Possibly this group of  kids were inadvertently receiving too much protein through the milk powder thus putting on more weight than necessary owing to their ad-lib feeding; which has potentially predisposed them to coccidiosis (it’s amazing what you learn – & believe me: you never, ever, stop).  

So especially if you have Pygmy goats which do tend to “pile on the pounds”- please: take heed.

Interestingly we have also learned that in its’ subclinical form coccidiosis can stunt the growth of kids which would explain why frustratingly some of ours’ have taken so much longer to grow on; & we’ve wrongly been blaming our lovely senior Stud Male for apparent poor performance…!  And of course the longer the goatlings take to grow on the later we put them ‘in kid’…which of course depresses our milk production & increases our costs.

However; back to the “now”.

Crawling back to an all-too-empty cottage yesterday I seriously considered forsaking everything.  Having invested tirelessly hard work, effort, research, training, love, dedication, finance, care & passion into our business I am so very proud that Tony & I have ensured that it is, indeed, a resounding success: however what’s the point; if we strive so much & yet tragically lose so much in terms of outstanding characters, such as Diddie…? 

But she herself wisely pointed it out. 

The beacon which burns the brightest is also that which provides the most brief-but-inspirational, illumination: we’ve struggled for years here with hidden daemons: she’s sacrificed herself by finding them & teaching us, how to tame them. 

So I would not let her down by giving up now.  On the contrary: remarkable little Diddie has fuelled me with a new strength & energetic determination; a renewed spark, to a flame to carry the light of her cheeky, willful, wonderful inspiration, ever -deservedly – forward.

So whilst I am devastated to have lost the extraordinary & unique personality of my marvellous, quirky, “Diddie-wah-Diddie” (see my previous post: & please do sing along: let’s send her jaunty little soul into the Otherworld with a celebration of her wonderful wee time here with us in song, rather than suffering only sorrow at her death – she wouldn’t want that!) at least her lovely little life was far from in vain; & whilst the beginning & the end were such a struggle for her I’d like to think that her time “in between” was mutually enriching, & enjoyable, for us all.  She always struck me as such an unusual – nay, unique, character: I sincerely hope it doesn’t sound trite but she for me, is the literal Yoda of the goat world.

The calm, gentle paean of music below is a fitting farewell & a warm tribute to guide a remarkable & lovely little goat on her final journey: that soft sunset is one we enjoyed whilst wrapped up together; quietly observing & understanding that the setting sun too, follows the same path which ultimately ventures into the West….as we all must; & all, shall ultimately tread.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=94UbC0Z5mzo

Thank You, Diddie: you have taught us so much, & you will be sorely missed.  Wishing you the safe & pleasant passage you deserve to that “far green country….under a swift sunrise”.  One day, we shall play again together in those wonderful fields.  Before then: safe soul’s journey little one, into the West….we’re thinking of you & are always with you, in Spirit.

Rest in peace.  xxxx

Into the West...

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, Diary, Family, Farming, Goats, July 2010, Life, Livestock, MindBodySpirit, Smallholding and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Pastures New

  1. katie says:

    How very sad. I cried buckets this morning reading your post. What a gentle little soul she was.
    A farmer near us lost quite a few lambs this year to cocci. Apparently there is a preventative lick you can give to sheep (and presumably goats too) over the winter? I must look into it.

  2. LittleFfarm Dairy says:

    “Thanks Katie;

    the more I learn about it all; especially as to how ill she was, & yet somehow, had the resilience to stay with us long enough to teach us so much….well; a remarkable life (& for me, a tragic death).

    Ref the anti-cocci licks, I’ve already discussed these with our Vet; & we have to be very careful. You see with goats you dose as for cattle, rather than sheep; & these buckets are designed for sheep. By using them we might, ironically, be maintaining the level of cocci in the adult goats’ guts, rather than destroying them; basically by literally “feeding” the cocci bugs in such a manner that they actually build up an immunity to the drugs used: which will only exacerbate things all the more, for future generations. Rather; we have to hit it hard – NOW.

    We’re learning more all the time about the difficult art of beating the blighters.

    And, thanks to Diddie, we will. :0)

    P.S. On reflection if I’d turned up whilst Diddie was still alive….& she’d subsequently died whilst I was visiting, I think I’d have felt much worse; would have felt that seeing me would have been too much for her even though, obviously, that wouldn’t really have been the case.”

  3. Wider Sky says:

    Hi there… I’ve been a reader of your blog for some time and never left a message but your story has moved me to do so on this ocassion. Losing a ‘pet’ is always so very difficult and I can only offer my sympathy.
    I can quite understand how you may have briefly considered “forsaking everything” but you seem to have created such an outstanding success and it would be a shame to throw that away, however much you may hurt at present.
    I’m sure there are other readers like me who are treated to a small glimpse of your life but who couldn’t possibly know quite how you feel about this loss. But, as you say, your experience with Diddie has been a journey of learning, a painful one, but a valuable one and I wish you every success for the future.

    • LittleFfarm Dairy says:

      “Thank you so much – it really has been such a trying time but these are the vagaries of farming. We hope that by writing about such things & sharing our experiences others may pick up some useful or even vital information which will enable them to learn from our losses, however painful they might be. If we can highlight something which might prevent the same thing happening to someone else, then it’s all to the good.

      And it doesn’t matter how much you love & care for your animals; there will always be something to trip you up along the way, unfortunately…”

  4. paula says:

    Oh Jo – I’m so sorry, so very sorry. Not a happy way to learn about cocci. It tears the heart…always.
    Hugs and thoughts xxx

  5. Oh aren’t those losses just the heart breakers! I’m so sorry to hear/read that (and yes, shed a tear for you, her, and me). You are so right to say one never stops learning. At the same time, one never stops caring and feeling so lost when the little creatures pack it in despite our best attempts to save them. I sometimes feel ridiculous talking about Elvis or Pavarotti, and how much I miss them when they are, after all, ‘only’ roosters. Thankfully, I have yet to lose a goat, or god forbid my horse. Thus far, my losses have all had feathers, though their voices are still missed. Such poignancy to have this loss followed by such success in their product department! It is, alas, a wonderful tribute to the herd.

    Thank-you for the pygmy goat heads up too by the way.

    Warm thoughts sent your way,

    Kristeva

  6. PS. that’s what I love about you Jo (re the heads up), I always feel like you are there taking care of me even though you’re so far away. Not to mention in the midst of your own sorrow. You’re amazing.

    K

    • LittleFfarm Dairy says:

      “Oh what a lovely thing to say! Thank you. Luckily the Blogosphere shrinks the world to a global village so we can all keep in touch even though we’re many miles away. And with all your own trials & tribulations, you’re never far from my thoughts. And your posts never fail to uplift & inspire! :0) “

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