A La Heart: Cooking up a Concerned Caprine-Michelin Menu


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….?!


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, Farming, Goats, Life, Livestock, March 2009, Smallholding. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to A La Heart: Cooking up a Concerned Caprine-Michelin Menu

  1. Oh dear, poor Thistle. And how frustrating to have to drive back and forth with pots and samples. I’ve always been spoilt with a vet just up the road. Didn’t appreciate quite how valuable that was til I read this.

    Get well soon, Thistle!

    “Hi Jo –

    there have been even more frustrating frustrations during the last few days. We only received the sample results, this morning – 13th – & poor Thistle has been ill all this time without knowing exactly what to treat her with. In fact I’m rushing out now (another hour off the farm, & Wattie’s just kidded so really I should be here) to pick up a huge cocktail of drugs. Poor Thistle, she’ll look like a pincushion by the time I’ve finished…!

    I’ll try & update some more archived posts this evening to put you more fully in the picture – but no promises, as you can imagine I am snowed under at the mo!

    BTW when we lived in the Cotswolds there was a specialist equine clinic, about a mile away at the bottom of the hill. If ever either of the ponies needed on-site treatment the vet would pop in on his way home from work as he literally had to pass the door en route to his house in the village. But we were still charged a callout fee….I always felt that was ‘taking the mick’ a little bit! “

  2. Neighbor Nancy says:

    I just stopped by to daydream a little. We would like to get a pair of dairy goats, but it’s the worrisome stories like this that keep us stuck in the planning stage.
    Hope all goes well.

    “Hi Nan –

    I’d still say, ‘go for it!’ – if you have the land, caprine accommodation, money & time commitments to do so. Such things as this unfortnately happen; whether in farming, smallholding, homesteading crofting or whatever – you have to be prepared to take the rough with the smooth. As the events over successive days will reveal (as soon as I can muster the time & energy to post!) this time of year really is a rollercoaster ride for us all – whether you have one acre or a thousand – where animals & springtime are concerned. But the bad times are rewarded tenfold, by the wonderful ones. Good luck, & thanks for stopping by – daydreamers always welcome!”

  3. Neighbor Nancy says:

    Thanks for the encouragement. We went to a caprine educational weekend last fall sponsorsed by a major university here.
    We gained a lot of confidence, but…
    I’m not bringing anybody home until I have everything fully stocked and have learned to give any injections that are necessary.
    In the meantime, I’ll just have to live vicariously through you. 🙂

    “Nan, feel free:

    if it helps to learn from us (& our mistakes!) – then that’s what we’re here for. The very reason I started this Blog (apart from recording my own, personal diary of life, love & work, here) was to record the highs, lows & challenges of living on our little Ffarm – warts & all.

    Frankly, this is neither the ‘simple’ nor ‘good’ life, that many romantically imagine it surely must be. To be honest it is Darn Hard – & often, Exhausting – Work.

    Despite rumours to the contrary I do not skip down a sun-soaked, immaculate garden wearing a floppy straw hat, floral print dress & sporting matching wellies; to pluck plump vegetables from the verdant soil accompanied by a flotilla of adoring hens at my manicured heels…..

    Nay. (Neigh…? say the Shetlands). More often than not I can in fact be found ‘partying’ well into the wee small hours…..staggering exhaustedly amongst a herd of crabby caprines whilst wearing crud-encrusted clothes & elegantly coiffured with an – ahem – ‘hairstyle’ reminiscent of being dragged through a hedge, backwards, repeatedly. Make no mistake: life here is hard, verrrrrrry hard.

    However I’d far rather that those intending to take a similar plunge, can read our completely honest view of all the peaks & the pitfalls, in order to make a more informed decison as to whether this really is THE ‘life’ for them….rather than making a tragic & hideously expensive error; which will impact massively on not only their own lives, but also on those of the animals in their care.

    And as for administering vaccinations…..? Don’t worry: in common with so many others I too, once shared that fear; you are by no means the first – & will by no means, be the last. It is purely a question of confidence.

    Of course, nobody wants to ‘hurt’ their precious charges – even for a moment. However, better that small, ‘sharp scratch’ (as the Nurse says) than ignoring things which inevitably develop into a more serious illness if ignored. If you are truly daunted, ask you local vet if you can accompany him/her on a farm visit or two, to get some practical experience; rest assured, you’ll soon be able to do this in your sleep….on occasion, probably almost literally so!

    I went from feeling pretty ‘squeamish’ about needles (hate being vaccinated, myself; & have real problems with blood tests) to having to deal, single-handedly, with tiny lambs suffering from entropion….basically, you have to carefully inject a fairly viscous liquid into the lower, inner eyelid of the affected lamb, to help push the uncomfortably-scratching eyelashes – which would otherwise lead to blindness – out & away from the eyeball. You need a steady hand & bags of confidence: both of which, I can assure you, DO come with experience. Incidentally I do know a fair few smallholders who have been keeping livestock for far longer than we have, yet who still cannot bring themselves to undertake a relatively simple vaccination programme….& have lost animals, as a result. Such a tragic waste – so again, I’d emphasise – DO NOT go into any venture, until you have the absolute, all-round confidence that you can cope.

    Bottom line: put the health & welfare of your animals first; & you can’t go far wrong.”

  4. Neighbor Nancy says:

    Thank you for all of that. I’m not squeamish at all. And spend most of my time in mud and chicken poop encrusted wellies ( we call ’em barn boots .)
    That’s another thing our nearest large animal vet is more than an hour away. … a major I started in college, but left due to illness.
    I want to be completely prepared to scrub up and insert my arm in any lovely orafice as required. I want to be sure the medicine I inject lands where it is needed.
    I appreciate your mentoring attitutde. Fear not, I will be back to badger you with questions.

    “That’s brilliant – & very laudable.

    It never ceases to amaze me how many people are backwards in coming forwards when it comes to treating their livestock with even simple procedures, themselves; if it’s an emergency there’s no choice or you can lose the animal. And it’s great that you want to get it right, too; it’s easy to be hit-&-miss! When you haven’t got a vet nearby you’ve just got to be able to roll up your sleeves, haven’t you…?

    BTW my boots are very *ahem* ‘barny’ at the mo….!”

  5. Yeah Thistle! Love to hear good news stories like that. Well done. Warms the cockles of my soul. I’ve not had such a good week. The neighbour called me two nights ago to tell me he’d put out rat poison and had seen my dog eating it. Long story short, it wasn’t my dog and after a night of complete sleepless observation, she’s alive and well. Unfortunately, because he didn’t bother to tell me about the poison until FOUR DAYS AFTER he put it out, I’m afraid I’ve lost little Virginia. I’ve not seen her since Friday…I’m quite heartbroken over her. She was such a sweet wee gal.

    Neighbours eh, ugh.


    “Oh no, that’s dreadful!

    Let’s just hope Virginia has gone ‘walkabout’ & will be back again soon – she did go missing before, after all. We don’t use poison here at all; apart from Moriarty the Merciless we use an ‘animal friendly’ bait called Eradirat. Basically, because a rodent’s metabolism is different from those of other animals & birds it acts as a dessicant, literally drying out the rat from the inside out. Whilst that doesn’t sound very nice once the rodent is dead there’s less smell; because it’s already dry there’s nothing to wet-decompose. And it’s a totally natural product too, made of maize meal. Thank goodness Tui’s OK, at least that’s something.

    I wish I could say that Thistle made a startling recovery; but alas, she didn’t as you’ll read in successive posts. She’s getting there now but it has been a hard struggle….not helped by an apparent cock-up with the milk sample I took. Very frustrating!”

  6. Well, here’s hoping Thistle improves rapidly. The agony of having unwell animals is very energy sapping. Still no sign of Virginia. I’m hoping she’s off gallivanting around the neighbourhood getting pregnant (not that I want her pregnant, but it is better thank contemplating the sad, and awful alternative).


    • LittleFfarm Dairy says:

      “Let’s hope that Virginia is just feeling Spring is in the air, & has gone courting…keep us posted; & fingers crossed for good news. And you’re absolutely right – my energy has certainly been sapped this week!”

  7. And as for administering vaccinations…..? Don’t worry: in common with so many others I too, once shared that fear; you are by no means the first – & will by no means, be the last. It is purely a question of confidence.

    It’s horrible, especially when you realise quite how much force you have to use. I’d just got to grips with intramuscular when I had to do ‘under the skin’. It doesn’t work very well when your pigs don’t have loose skin to jab under! But you keep going, have nightmares about abscesses and then realise that even though you had to jab them (and yourself!) several times, it worked, they’re fine, they still like you.

    If you are truly daunted, ask you local vet if you can accompany him/her on a farm visit or two, to get some practical experience; rest assured, you’ll soon be able to do this in your sleep….on occasion, probably almost literally so!

    Jo, that is a fantastic idea. I wonder if mine would be up for that…

    • LittleFfarm Dairy says:

      “Cor, I worried more about the IMs (intramusculars) than the ‘Cuties’ (subcutaneous) injection challenges. But there is a reason for this.

      When doing an IM in a goat the easiest muscle mass to locate is in the back of the hind leg. However if you get it wrong there’s a danger you’ll hit the sciatic nerve & paralyse the goat – not a lovely prospect. Incidentally I know someone who actually did this, last year: apparently the remedy is to immediately inject the goat with a dose of Metacam, which counters the effects. So there you go – today’s top tip for goat keepers!

      And whilst doing a ‘cutie’ is far quicker & easier in caprine terms, I too share your fear of thepotentially-resultant dreaded abscesses, & have (well the goats have!) had a few lumps under the skin post-vaccination. However in general these are best left well alone; & the vast majority will disappear given time.

      If one does erupt & you need to drain it, ensure you make the incision at the bottom of the abscess – that way any pus will come out more effectively, under the force of gravity. That might sound obvious but so many people go to just knock the head off, which is nowhere near as effective.

      When I first started doing even simple injections I found it a nightmare & just couldn’t get it right. My vet had a load of what he cheerfully described to me as ‘ram lambs’ to vaccinate, & invited me over to do them under his supervision. To my dismay these transpired to be hulking great Charolais RAMS, considerably bigger & more daunting than I’d imagined! However we got down to business; & by the end of the afternoon I was flying through them with dab-handed efficiency.

      I still don’t enjoy doing the IMs but Thistle’s present predicament has made me get to grips with the whole thing. Calm confidence & a firm, steady hand are all you really need; that way the animal is less stressed & you can do the job quickly & cleanly. I too was amazed (& in truth, daunted) at the thickness of the animal’s skin; but I’ve since learned it is far better to go in strongly than to ‘pussy-foot’ around, scratching an increasingly-agitated goat with feeble attempts to insert the needle – better for everyone to just Get The Job Done!”

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