Scraping back the big aluminium bolt from the double doors of the Dairy Complex at first light,
I was immediately aware that something was amiss. From inside the Maternity Ward the sounds of straining were apparent. Just as I walked in the doorway, Wattie gave birth to male kid – who slid out, unmoving. I immediately rushed into action, temporarily abandoning the first of the morning’s milk bottles for Thistle & Thummy’s indignant babies; racing into the pen & clearing the birth sac away from the unresponsive kid’s nose & mouth with one hand whilst fighting off the hungry mouths with the other. But there was nothing; & as I put my fingers on the kid’s chest the faint heartbeat abruptly fluttered & died. Bitter experience made me aware that there was nothing I could do. He was a substantial male kid with no apparent defects.
Now I am decidedly not superstitious; but this wasn’t the ideal start to Friday 13th – nor indeed any day, come to that.
Wattie was already feeling the push of the second kid in the birth canal & was again painfully straining. This was a surprise; as the second kid to be born is usually very easy in comparison to the first of a set of twins. I swiftly gathered up the dead kid’s body & carefully placed it outside the far door of the Dairy Complex in order that the other goats wouldn’t see it; & after quickly washing & disinfecting my hands turned my attention to Wattie, again.
Whilst she did manage to give birth without assistance it immediately became obvious why she’d struggled as the kid was absolutely huge; an enormous boy – and thank goodness – alive. She began licking him clean whilst I resumed my bottle-feeding duties. But halfway through the kids’ bottles I was amazed when I heard a loud ‘sloosh’ – but rather than expelling the afterbirth yet another kid had tumbled out! I was amazed; could not believe she’d had room to cary three such sizeable kids, in there. No wonder the first one had literally been suffocated by his siblings. And this third kid was a good-sized girl; again, alive & well – & even up-&-about before her older brother.
However after a while it became apparent there was a reason for this: there was a problem with the boy’s back legs. They appeared to have no muscle mass whatsoever; nor did the nerves seem to be functioning sufficiently to stimulate him to stand. I debated whether to take him immediately to the vet to be euthanised or to keep an eye on his progress. So long as he could kneel up to suckle from his dam’s pendulous udder, things might improve; sometimes kids are born with wonky back legs which can take a couple of days to correct. I simply had to give him a chance.
Meanwhile another little chap wasn’t quite so fortunate. One of Breezy’s tiny triplets – the smallest of the two boys – was lying prone beneath the hayrack when I came in to check the Maternity Ward a little later. He’d been fine, earlier; curled up contentedly with his siblings. I gently gathered up the poor little chap, wrapped him up in a fleece blanket & placed him on a vetbed beside the Rayburn after giving him something to help ease his painful symptoms; however sadly, he died a short while later. Sometimes in such premature cases the internal ‘bits’ simply haven’t had time to develop, & the kid simply dies. Nature can be cruel; however in the interests of progression of species, I suppose it has to be a case of ‘survival of the fittest’.
Meanwhile the saga surrounding Thistle’s missing results continued. Tony – who was unfortunately absent, flying a long-haul trip – was so concerned that he’d called the laboratory, himself. Technically speaking, as we hadn’t personally submitted the sample, this was unethical. However although he did not expect to receive the actual results himself he did at least anticipate confirmation that the sample had been cultured. But there was some confusion.
Eventually it transpired that the sample had been received, & had been ‘plated up’; however it hadn’t arrived until Wednesday 11th, almost an entire week after I’d handed it in at the surgery. And it been assumed the sample was cows’ milk as the accompanying paperwork had been incorrectly completed – hence the further confusion. So the sample had been cultured on a ‘cow plate’ rather than one for ‘small dairy’ which could provide an inconclusive result – even if the sample had been fresh. The lab assistant was clearly annnoyed. Results were due in an hour – but, we were warned, probably wouldn’t come to anything. So I’d have to take another sample & submit it to the lab, & await the results…..needless to say, this time, I’d courier it to the lab to Carmarthen, myself.
By extraordinarily good fortune though, the plate did provide a useful result; although we didn’t receive that information from the vet for another two-and-a-half hours afterwards. I expressed my dismay & displeasure at all the delays but apparently there have been ‘problems with the postal system’. Admittedly I remain to be convinced; because if the sample had been dispatched at ambient temperature & then took almost a week to arrive (in the adjacent town, for goodness’ sake) it would have turned into something resembling a particularly nasty cottage cheese & would have proved unviable to test.
However, at least we now had an answer: Staphlococcus Aureus – as suspected; when after a couple of days I noted tiny scabbed-over lesions on Thistle’s teat where her kid had suckled & the sharp little teeth had broken the skin. As you can tell from my posts (!) kids are inherently curious little creatures; they’re constantly using their mouths to explore & had doubtless picked up the bacteria during their investigation of the Big Wide World. So although prior to kidding the pens are wet-disifected; dry-disinfected; scattered with shavings (for their absorbent & antiseptic qualities); then littered with a deep bed of fresh, clean straw which is topped up on a daily basis, it just goes to show that no matter how careful you are, these things happen.
But at least we now had a way ahead & a specific course of treatment – so once again, I bounced back up the drive in the truck & made the 45-minute round trip into the local town to collect the necessary medication. I wasted no time; & raced back to give Thistle her unpleasant-but-necessary treatment; consisting of a week’s course of intramuscular penicillin injections; intramuscular ‘pick-me-ups’ to stimulate her system & appetite; & the dreaded intermammary cow tubes, along with my own addition of hot-cloth treatment prior to tubing & peppermint oil udder massages to stimulate the treatment & spread the tube’s contents, thereafter. I received a fair few bruises for my ministrations; but I’d rather that than see Thistle worsen.
But the day wasn’t over yet; & sickening disaster struck. After sorting out Wattie & her kids this morning I’d taken the stillborn body of the first triplet & placed it in an empty feed sack with the intention of taking it down to the laboratory for postmortem: something we always do as a precaution although more often than not cause of death comes up as ‘inconclusive’ & on this occasion I was pretty sure it had been a case of suffocation in the womb. So as soon as I’d treated Thistle I started offloading feed sacks from the back of the farm truck so that I could deliver the body.
Wondering where our dog Brynn had disappeared to as I heaved the heavy feed from the truck, I whistled to him; puzzled that he wasn’t ‘under my feet’ as usual. This typically means he’s up to no good….
After a brief pause he appeared, scampering around the corner of the barn – but the blood on muzzle, chest & paws gave away his grizzly discovery. Although I’d been confident I had hidden the little corpse effectively & securely prior to offloading the feed, I’d underestimated his powers of determined detection….& it was to my amazemed horror that he’d discovered the sack. As an extra precaution I’d even weighted the end with a very heavy stone, but he somehow managed to scrabble it free….
He immediately looked guilty & slunk around me, tail-tip between legs wagging apologetically. Needless to say he was locked in the kennel, in thorough disgrace; he would not be coming out of there until I’d cleaned up every last trace of the deceased kid, & then only under careful supervision until we can be absolutely confident that he doesn’t associate live kids with opportunist ‘carrion’ (although I already suspect this won’t actually prove a problem owing to his subsequent behaviour). There was very little left of the kid; & what he’d consumed Brynn promptly threw up almost immediately afterwards, so I had the grim task of having to clear it away & dispose of the disgusting, bile-drenched remains.
So all-in-all, my Friday 13th didn’t prove to be quite the trouble-free day I’d anticipated; but then again, you have to take the rough with the smooth; & deal with it, as best you can.