The Jaws of the Wolf

Wolfie & Tony enjoy some gelato in the sunshine.

Wolfie & Tony enjoy some gelato in the sunshine.

The jaws of the Wolf are dangerous. 

And to put your hand too close to an angry one….more risky still.  And yet that’s exactly what I did, this evening….albeit it was Wolfie rather than the beast of her namesake.  All had been relatively quiet, with only one kid born today: a fluffy, floppy-eared boy, to maiden Anghared; a simple & uncomplicated birth with the little lady thankfully proving to be a reasonably competent first-time Mum.

Ans so it was a rude awakening when I commenced the evening chores to discover that there was clearly something the matter with Wolfie.  Our biggest, toughest goat it takes a great deal to put her ‘under the weather’; so to discover her recumbant beneath the hay trough, moaning softly, was a shock: something was seriously untoward.  She’d had her single, large, female kid around three weeks earlier; & to date mother & baby had been doing superbly well.  Indeed, throughout all her three kiddings & two previous lactations Wolfie had never given us even a moment’s cause for concern.

Filled with dismay, I threw the armful of straw I was carrying into the pen but she immediately lurched to her feet, & joined the others in munching on it.  However within only a couple of minutes she was down again, lying in the new straw, & no longer eating but just crying softly.  And when I fed the other goats their concentrates she didn’t join in the usual feeding frenzy – definitely a very, very bad sign indeed.

I hurried back to the house & anxiously rang Dreda.  The news wasn’t good.

“Kidded three weeks ago, you say?  Hmmm…from the symptoms it sounds like classic acetonaemia – however as I haven’t actually seen her I couldn’t be sure, of course.” 

“Well; as soon as I saw her I suspected the same – as you say, classic symptoms.”  This wasn’t good news. 

“Still; there’s no need to call the vet – yet.”  Dreda replied briskly.  ” Have you got any Ketosis drench?”

“Yes, of course”, I replied, desperately trying to recall what had happened to the drench gun.  The last time I’d seen it, we’d been drenching the sheep; & Tony had been responsible for cleaning it & putting it away. I groaned inwardly.  If it was in his workshop, there was only a slim chance I’d find it – Tony is notoriously untidy & any uninitiated visitor walking into his workshop would doubtless look upwards for the hole in the roof to see where the bomb had come through.  And right now – typically – he was away flying.

“Well, she’ll need 100mls of the drench – & soon, Jo; if you leave her too long…” Dreda’s voice tailed off in such a way that led me to understand its significance.  If our mutual diagnosis was indeed correct & I didn’t hurry up, we could lose Wolfie….

 Racing down the yard I wrenched open the medicine cabinet & retrieved the bottle of drench.  When it comes to the medical kit I know exactly where everything is – it’s not worth taking any chances.  However as to the drench gun….my heart sank as I realised it wasn’t in the cupboard.  “Never mind,” I thought “It should be hanging up to drain in the workshop, if it’s not here….”

It wasn’t.

I surveyed the mess with a sinking heart.  Once upon a time, for about a year after we moved here, I’d do a radical clean-&-tidy of the workshop, on a monthly basis; however when after only a couple of days it’d degenerate back into exactly the same condition & as Tony vociferously complained that he “couldn’t find anything” after I’d tidied up, I reluctantly left him to it (the old adage that “every man should have his ‘den’, after all…” ringing in my ears.  Ahem.  So where is the wife’s similar ‘escape’, eh…?  Oh yes, of course – it must be the kitchen.  Grrrr….). 

And especially when the construction work commenced on the Dairy Complex I completely gave up….even though I’d spent a small fortune on a big set of racking he’d requested for his birthday so that once & for all he really could ‘roll up his sleeves & get on with it’ – as even he admitted the mess was getting out of hand.  But the sleeves were never rolled up; the racking was left to gather dust in a heap in the corner; & the workshop just got worse, & worse, & worse.  And now when I needed to lay my hands immediately on something really important, I couldn’t. 

In desperation I grabbed the ‘phone & hastily jabbed in Tony’s mobile number, desperately hoping he wasn’t airbourne.  Thankfully, he wasn’t; but unfortunately, he had no idea where I could find the gun.  “Try the blue box in the quarantine pen, ” he suggested helpfully.  I was ascerbically abrupt about the state of the workshop, as we parted; & Tony had the grace to accept that Something Must Be Done & promised to give the workshop a radical overhaul, as soon as possible. 

Meanwhile regarding the emergency kit box, good point – I hadn’t thought of that.  It wasn’t there.  I turned every logical (& a fair few illogical) places, upside-down; my desparation increasing as the minutes ticked all-too-rapidly by. 

Returning to the Dairy Complex I gently helped Wolfie to her feet & escorted her onto the treatment bench which we keep for emergencies such as this.  Apaprt from being extremely useful for dealing with milking problems such as new or mastitic goats it also restrains the animal for any other treatment she might need: vaccinations, drenches etc. 

I tried to tempt the ailing goat’s appetite with a scoop of warmed, soaked sugarbeet shreds; but after taking a delicate nibble she just gazed at me mournfully before attempting  to lay down.  I sucked up some of the drench in a 10ml syringe, hoping I could apply the much-needed medicine that way; but she wasn’t having any of it & angrily shook off my attempts.

In desparation I called a neighbour to ask if he had a drench gun I could borrow.  Thankfully, he did; so I charged up off up the drive in the truck to collect it.   He also helpfully loaned me a rather ancient-but-substantial jumbo syringe so that I had  a backup, if I needed it – & suggested that as Wolfie had been bottle-fed as a kid, there was a chance that she might just drink the drench directly from a feeding bottle. 

The latter seemed the best option, in fact – less stress all round.  As soon as I returned home Idecanted the requisite amonut of drench into a feeding bottle.  However to my dismay, she simply wouldn’t take it.  I tried mixing the drench with warm milk in an attempt to disguise it (I’ve since learned goats find it utterly disgusting & unpalatable, no matter what you do – hence the need for a drench gun).  Unsurprisingly, particularly given her lack of appetite, she wouldn’t take it. 

So it was on to Plan B:  the drench gun.  But when I went to attach it to the drench bottle I discovered to my dismay that the cap for the bottle was a different size to the fitting on the gun – why on earth they don’t design these bottles with a universal fitting, I cannot understand.  And because of the design of the gun it wasn’t as if there was any other wayy to suck up the liquid: it had to be attached to the bottle.

I was getting desperate.  Onto Plan C: the giant syringe.  I filled it with the pink liquid & attempted to get it into Wolfie’s mouth.   Extremely unwell she might be; but she was having none of the drench.  Angrily she shook off my attempts to insert the syringe into the side of her mouth.  In order to get a better purchase on her head & neck I had to crawl underneath the front ramp of the Milking Parlour & ease my way into the tiny space between the treatment bench & the milking platform – by no means easy.  I felt like one of the kids wedged behind the hay bales – constricted in extremis.  And I hadn’t considered how I’d get back, either….

But the important problem, was of course Wolfie.  Even though clearly unwell  it must not be forgotten she is still by far our biggest & most powerful female goat – & if they feel the need they are very strong…& extraordinarily bloody-minded. 

Eventually I managed to wrestle with her sufficiently so that I had her head twisted gently to the side & almost immobilised.  Then I had to insert the syringe into the side of her mouth….she roared like an angry bull.  I waited for her to calm down & then gently squeezed a little of the drench down  her throat.  Some of the oily pink liquid trickeld back out & all over me; but I managed to get her to swallow the majority, albeit only a few millilitres.  And this was the way it had to be done; as to go any faster could potentially drown the poor goat by flooding her lungs. 

It took me around 30 minutes to get as-near-as-dammit the requisite dose into her; by which time I was trembling with exhaustion & exertion, & Wolfie seemed decidedly the worse for wear.  She’d hated it; & apart from almost removing several of my own fingers during the process had bitten the end clean off my neighbour’s syringe in her fury at such shoddy caprine treatment. 

I released my arm-lock & she stood with head lowered, moaning pathetically.  She really did look in a bad way, knees buckling pathetically& face dripping with the disgusting drench.  I could have wept.

I managed to wriggle my way back out from under the ramp, & quietly released her head from the holding yoke.  I thought I might as well put her back to bed for a little while where she would at least be comfortable, whilst I summoned the vet – assuming that is, I wasn’t already too late….

She half-fell off the bench, & tottered back towards the gate.  But on releasing her collar, instead of stumbling through the gate & collapsing  in a heap as I’d expected she cast me an utterly disgusted look; & took off across the pen to the hayracks on the far side, where she proceeded to stuff her face along with her chums.

So there you go – it was probably only a bit of tummy ache, after all. I suppose we’ll never really know; & at least the drench may have saved her in the end.  I recommenced the chores, finishing as the clock struck midnight & still with many hours’ work to go.  Wolfie was contentedly cudding, daughter cuddled up at her side. 

What a night, during which I’ve learned a lot about desperation & resourcefulness.  But one thing’s for certain – annoy a malingering goat sufficiently & she’ll make a miraculous recovery. 

Not that I’d recommend it where Wolfie is concerned….one of these days she’s certain to get her own back!

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

4 Responses to The Jaws of the Wolf

  1. Jo, you’ve got to stop giving me heart failure like that. I think I just lived every trembling moment with you, though I know that any heart-in-my-mouth feelings will be a mere fraction of a fraction of what you must have been feeling.

    “A place for everything and everything in its place”. That’s about the most important thing I’ve learnt since getting my own livestock. Just wish I could apply it to my own life as well as theirs!

    • LittleFfarm Dairy says:

      “Sorry, Jo!

      – but this is life as I live it!! As you know I’d rather be ‘warts & all’ so that anyone else contemplating going into smallholding & reading this, can make up their own mind whether it honestly is the life for them. Better to go into it with eyes wide open than wearing dangerously rose-tinted spectacles, eh?

      And yes, last night’s drama was very heart-in-mouth; so much so it almost made me physically sick with the fear of losing Wolfie, & it somehow being my fault… Although in less exhausted & more lucid moments of course, you realise all you can do is your professional best; & if that isn’t sufficient then call on the next level of expertise.

      Needless to say I’m learning a lot, these days: about myself, as well as my animals! And I thought Officer Training in the RAF had stripped away the layers & taught me all I needed to know about ‘me’ – obviously not, it just goes to prove we never stop learning, after all….

      ‘A place for everything & everything in its place’….but not in Tony’s workshop, alas! Hopefully that will change for good, as soon he gets time to give it that much-needed spring-clean. Mind you, I can be a bit of a paperwork vortex, if I’m not careful; hence the Blog (alas) all-too-often has to take a firm second place. However there’s so much paperwork associated with farming, food & business that I seem to have little time for anything else – including looking after animals, milking, crafting gelato etc….oh yes; & grabbing five minutes for a cuppa & to appreciate how extremely lucky I am – no matter how long or challenging each day might be.”

  2. katie says:

    I like to know where everything is , my husband is the opposite with piles of paperwork ‘filed’ in carrier bags and tools secreted where no-one can ever find them again. There must be a reason why opposites attract, it happens so often. It causes a lot of teeth gnashing from time to time though!
    Glad Wolfie was ok. It sounds as if she was most indignant at her shoddy treatment!

  3. LittleFfarm Dairy says:

    “She hated it.

    But I’d rather that & she lived; than had stood passively because she was so ill, & subsequently died.

    I’ve learned that the critical thing is confidence – better to get in there & do your best immediately than to lose a valued animal companion; but also to accept when you are out of your depth, & act accordingly.

    And I know just what you mean about ‘opposites attract’….!

    Can’t love ’em; can’t shoot ’em; as an old pal of mineused to bemoan when her husband wasn’t ‘behaving’….

    Mind you; at least we’re mutually passionate about our gelato!” 😉

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