I noted that all did not seem to be well with one particular recently-kidded goat. I leaned anxiously on the gate, quietly observing the apparently contented herd. As the other goats bounced enthusiastically to their lunchtime trough, my uneasy ‘hunch’ apparently proved correct; because for once, dear Thistle didn’t go with the usual flow….
Now, this is a lady with a normally hearty appetite; so I was immediately concerned at her backwardness in coming forwards. Then I noticed that her kids needed to nurse & were milling fretfully around Mum’s udder; their little tummies were thin, flat.
“Ah, that’s the problem”, I concluded with admittedly feigned relief. “She’s just waiting for her kids to have a quick snack from the milk bar; then she’ll join her pals….”
However that slightly listless droop of her ears, the almost imperceptibly-downward slope of her neck, the merest indication of a ‘tucked up’ stance, niggled at my unhelpfully optimistic judgement; so I paused in further contemplation.
And watched. And waited….
Cadmael & Caderyn bounced up to Thistle with their typical, tiny-goat enthusiasm. However, as soon as either one approached she kicked & butted them away with abruptly dismissive aggression – highly uncharacteristic for this normally placid & inherently reliable caprine matron.
Now profoundly concerned, I carefully checked Thistle from top to toe. To my dismay I detected what had been the least-suspected of my concerns – a telltale, slight hardness in one side of her udder – but to me, the awful indication of onset, serious mastitis. This had been dramatically swift, & sudden; thus, owing to her miserable demeanour I wasted no time whatsoever in contacting our local vet to request an immediate callout.
To date the odd case of mastitis we have suffered here, has never affected any goat’s demeanour: whilst she might not exactly enjoy the treatment, it does not as a rule, affect her appetite or enthusiasm for the finer things in life (which generally consist of giving Yours Truly, a right-royal run-around).
In the majority of moderate-to-severe cases, mastits treatment generally takes around 3-5 days; & consists of a series of daily intramuscular antibiotic injections; coupled with unfortunately unpleasant, painful regular stripping of the milk from the affected udder; followed (once daily) by the immediate insertion of a viscous antibiotic cream, which is injected directly up into the teat aperture – alas, especially unpleasant for the poor goat; as said tubes are solely designed for much larger, lumbering cattle & not for caprines (goats) nor indeed even smaller, more difficult ovines (sheep).
Frankly, being professional Milk*/Food Producers, & having one of the most technologically-advanced milking parlours – for any dairy animal – here in Wales; we feel increasingly undermined, frustrated & honestly angry, at the fact that goats’ milk – whose popular demand is increasing in the UK at a year-on-year rate of 33% & subsequently should soon even in the next few years prove ‘on a par’ with cows’ milk – is somehow treated as ‘second class’ by the rest of the Industry (which is not helped by a similar attutide displayed by the Government). Typically any veterinary treatments – & I’m talking pretty much right across the board, here – are frustratingly not licenced for goats in the UK, along with the vast majority of veterinary medicines.
Anyway, regardless of my digression – Thistle’s condition was a cause of considerable concern, for me.
However, this is an extremely busy time of year for a country practice; & despite my anxiously-repeated requests, a vet was not available for another three hours. This wasn’t helped by the fact that the poor person hadn’t visited our farm, before; & trying to find us can be a bit like attempting to locate the elusive needle in the haystack if you don’t know the area & don’t have directions. She paused, appreciatively, to admire the new Dairy Complex; & laughed at the antics of the handful of cheeky kids already making their newborn presence felt around the ‘highways & byways’ of the building.
But the pause was one of more considerable concern, when it came to Thistle. After careful examination the ailing goat was given several intramuscular shots – a powerful antibiotic, & a quick ‘pick-me-up’; & I was advised to call again if either her condition worsened, or just didn’t improve over the next 24 hours.
It was decided that as we could not immediately ascertain the specific type of mastits (& there are numerous) without sending a milk sample to the local laboratory, I should simply inject her with one of the ‘broad spectrum’ intramammary tubes which I invariably keep to hand; although as the vet was relatively new to the practice – & to the nuances of the caprine species – she decided to consult the Head of the Practice for further advice, should it be required.
Unfortunately in her haste to leave the surgery in response to the callout, she’d forgotten to bring some sample pots to take some milk away with her, as well as the specific intermammary tubes which work most effectively with the antibiotic Thistle was given; so that means an unwanted trip into town tomorrow with all the expense that incurs in time & money – being away from the ffarm for almost an hour when more & more goats are kidding; plus the cost of fuel to get there & back again. But for Thistle’s sake, it’s vital that I do it. And then of course I’ll have to go back into town – AGAIN – to drop off the sample….*sigh*.
So, I treated poor Thistle; & then treated her babies as well, to an evidently-welcome bottle each of lovely warm milk, donated by our other milky ladies. In addition I wrapped her poor, sore udder in hot cloths (which helps dissipate any hardness); then gave her a gentle udder massage with Japanese peppermint oil; followed by a shoulder-&-back massage, something all of the goats clearly relish (& are administered, at least once every week).
By late evening Thistle’s appetite improved a little & she joined her chums at the dinner table for a slap-up, three-course meal consisting of a starter of Finest Soft, Fresh Meadow Hay; followed by the main course of Platter of Harvest Gold Dairy Nuts served on a Kibble of Mixed Grains & Pulses with Fresh, Seasonal Vegetables & drizzled with a mangold jus; & for dessert, Soufflé of Warm-soaked Sugarbeet Shreds. This was served with a gently restorative beverage of Tisane Eau Naturel au Sucre (Warmed Natural Spring Water with a hint of Molassed Sugar): the sum of which must surely equate to any goat’s favourite menu, I’m sure you’ll agree….
…let’s just hope her appetite – & health – are fully restored, as soon as possible.
*Incidentally, goats’ milk is not classed as a Dairy product, in the UK. How bizarre is that….?!