“How Do You Solve A Problem Like Armeria….?!”

Well – how indeed….?!

Not by putting on an Andrew Lloyd-Webber style talent show, that’s for sure; but more by fretting as to why one of our most favorite & highly prolific milking goats was decidedly “under the weather” when I opened the parlour for business, this morning…. 

As ever, she was straining at the gate for breakfast with everyone else; but rather than lingering after concluding the communal (& after Assie’s untimely acidosis-attributed demise, decidedly light) meal, she extricated a big nest of hay from our gargantuan rack & then settled therein, to contentedly munch – at least, initially. 

But as my work in the parlour progressed she grew ever-more lethargic yet ever-more vocal in her standard nagging volley of “you’re-late-for-work &/or not-working fast/efficiently enough” complaints.  Casting my mind back to the previous evening I recalled she’d spent a fair bit of the standard pre-milking routine, splendidly recumbant – although I’d assumed this was as a result of exhaustion.  Basically, the goats had been forced to remain inside for a few days owing to heavy rain after they’d enjoyed a couple of weeks’ frolicking in the sunshine on our verdant Spring pasture. 

Their subsequent confinement coupled with the unseasonable humidity had made them ill-tempered; so they’d taken to quarrelling & fighting amongst themselves.  Thus initially I’d put Armeria’s behaviour down to her usual querulous nature, assuming she’d been indulging in a few severe bouts of typically fractious fighting.

It increasingly became apparent this was not the case however owing to miniscule but nonetheless telltale indications, in her behaviour:  I know & love every one of our girls & can pick up in an instant when something might be even only slightly wrong.  On the stand, Armeria typically shovelled down the first few mouthfuls of grub – then some unspecified discomfort evidently overwhelmed her normally robust appetite.  She was milking her standard, bountiful yield; but her coat was ever-so-slightly ‘staring’ (i.e. not blooming with typically healthy gloss as the tips of her coat were standing slightly but perceptibly, on end); & she appeared to be ‘tucked up’ (slightly hunched & for such a robustly healthy goat, appearing abnormally thin).  I took her temperature & the thermometer registered 38.5°C, about a degree lower than is normal for a typically healthy goat.  Her udder however proved as warm as ever to the touch & her eyes were bright & inquisitive with respiration & pulse, all within normal parameters.

Preferring to err on the side of caution I immediately put a nice warm rug on her & she trotted happily behind me to the isolation pen, where I furnished her with a thick bed of fresh straw, a wedge of the goats’ most appetizing hay & two buckets of water – one clear & tepid with a dash of cider vinegar to stimulate appetite; the other warm, with a glucose/molasses mixture to tempt her to drink & give her metabolism a boost.  I also brought her an evidently welcome supply of her favourite treat – willow branches – which apart from stimulating her appetite would also act as a natural painkiller as they are essentially aspirin in herbal form.  To that I added a bunch of fresh dandelion leaves to act as a mild diuretic, as she was passing normal faeces but I hadn’t seen her urinate for a while. 

Rather than tucking herself quietly into the straw as I expected her to however, she seemed fascinated & indeed animated by her new environment, exploring thoroughly & telling me all about it with little caprine ‘comments’ throughout. 

All was well until I exited the stable…..

Basically the girls see me as Herd Matriarch; & my bond with Armeria is especially strong as shortly after she first arrived here, the stress of travelling & a new home meant she unfortunately contracted a mild ‘flu-like virus which required much TLC & a spell in the house beside the Rayburn with a few tenderly-administered bottles of warm milk.  For this reason she was nicknamed ‘Shadow’ as wherever we went thereafter, she was only ever a pace behind.  So she really wasn’t amused at my act of desertion, despite being able to hear other goats in the neighbouring stable.  I considered sending in another member of her group for company; however if what she’d contracted was infectious, that would be decidedly unwise. 

The alternative was Ginny – our poor old Virgin Queen (who, being barren, has only one use at present – as a faithful companion for our stud male, the inimitable Merson; & even that role has been usurped by one of our goaty guests here – Brian – who’s a charming chap if a bit short in the  *ahem* trousers department).  However, if Armeria was ailing the last thing I wanted was for her to start scrapping with less-familiar goats & possibly deteriorating as a result.   

So I gritted my teeth & left her to her own devices.  It soon became apparent that wasn’t a good idea, however; as her bawling distress echoed & re-echoed across the otherwse silent valley.  Sneaking a peak through the top half of the stable door I could see she was throwing herself around in fine style; much like a child having a severe tantrum.  Oh, dear…..

There was only one thing for it.

As soon as I entered the stable she transformed to being all sweetness & light; & was evidently delighted to see me.  I spent the next couple of hours tucked up in the straw beside her whilst whilst she contentedly munched hay beside me, muttering away amiably in Goatspeak; to which I of course replied (it’s a surpisingly complex language & even harder to master than Welsh, which at least involves pure vocal communication: in Goatspeak when you haven’t got a ridge of hair down your spine that you can make stand up on end when you’re cross/excited/cold; or ears that can be swept back, forwards or ‘middling’ to emphasise your mood [or, like a Tornado aircraft, to either increase or decrease the speed at which you fly down the valley…!] then you’re missing vital verbal weapons in your armoury.  But on a genial day-to-day basis, the girls & me; well, we get by…..)

So we had a peaceful ‘girlie’ afternoon, together; & the great thing about spending it with a female goat is that you can still enjoy a good ‘natter’ over a frothy cup of cappriccino coffee (far better – & fresher – than Starbucks, I can assure you!) – but it costs much less; & as there are no shops withn fifteen miles we didn’t even go shopping afterwards (although Armeria did seem very interested in the natty burgundy coat she was sporting – even insisting I try it on, as well….not quite designed to fit me as well as it does her, though!).

Alas, the appointed hour had arrived:  I could put it off, no longer…..the parlour had to be reopened for business as my (other) girls were complaining that it was suppertime & that their udders needed emptying so they could enjoy a good night’s sleep (must be similar to trying to snooze with a full bladder I suppose!). 

Opening the stable door I headed back to the herd, with Armeria trotting insistently at my heels.  I removed her rug & popped her on the stand (at which point she immediately guzzled the remains of her breakfast – so not much wrong there after all, then) & delicately took her temperature…..which, thankfully, had settled back to a ‘textbook’ 39.4°C.

And so we were again open for business; & it seems that a great deal can be gained from simple, individual attention: achieved with no synthetic drugs, just a hearty dose of TLC & some shared, quality time, together. 

And hey, as I was feeling a little jaded myself, maybe I needed such ‘therapy’ as much as Armeria did….?

Anyway: that, evidently, is how you solve a whole plethora of problems like Armeria….so listen & learn o ye Lloyd Webber wannabees…the Funny Ffarm ‘Dr Doolittle’ method is far cheaper – & far more fun, I can assure you!!





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, Dairy, Diary, Farming, Goats, Life, Livestock, May 2008, Smallholding. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to “How Do You Solve A Problem Like Armeria….?!”

  1. paula says:

    So very right Jo – but also time consuming; but then maybe that’s what it’s all about really…taking that time to enjoy/tend our animals and what we’re doing instead of all the pressure and stress we inflict on ourselves by always rushing to get the next thing done.

    How are the plans for the Royal Welsh coming along? Very brave…will be thinking of you.

  2. paula says:

    Hey Jo – are you okay? You haven’t posted for some time.

    I hope it’s just being too busy…

  3. LittleFfarm Dairy says:

    Hi Paula –

    many thanks for your concern & support, its great to have sympathetic friends out there in the Agricultural Blogosphere!

    Don’t worry, just been rushed off our feet with product trials, shearing, Phase Three kidding etc etc…..& girding our loins for haymaking, whch is already just around the corner….phew!

    I’ve got an hour or two where I need to be sitting by the ‘phone, so will employ myself (hopefully usefully) with a couple of update posts….

    Good news is, kidding’s finally over (at last!!) so I can turn off the baby monitor & Get Some Sleeeeahhhh…….*snooore*

  4. paula says:

    Fantastic you’re through kidding at last – revel in those undisturbed nights! It sounds as if you’re pretty busy with everything else – it seems to be a non stop rush this year – why is one of those mysteries that seem to become more mysterious every year.

    Have you vaccinated? I’m not sure about Welsh uptake of vaccines or the policy? I hope you have, or that it’s at least on the very near horizon for you.

    Take care…

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