Despite the title, I feel perfectly capable here on the farm of handling emergencies with big guns if need be. If you’re reading this, you probably already know how strongly we believe in natural health and healing for everyone who lives here. It’s held me in good stead and I have no reason not to believe that a strong immune system and general good health, along with a high-quality diet, is what has kept my little tribe mostly problem-free for five years.
But, I also know when I’m in over my head. That’s also part of good management. Goats are actually pretty delicate beings and the oddest things can set one of my girls off sometimes. However, this one wasn’t even mine yet when she got in too deep. I picked up Columbine and her herd-sister, Kay, last Friday night. Columbine’s right udder and teat were already hard, red and tender, and I knew I needed to get to work on her immediately. All weekend I used herbal fomentations, compresses, and drenches to try to turn her around before mastitis progressed too far. Alas, it was not meant to be and Monday morning I called my very competent goat vet, Dr. Kaleigh, to come do some magic. By the time she left, I was truly worried about being able to save Columbine’s life, much less her udder, but after a shot of NSAID and antibiotic, a dose of Today and some IV fluids we were going to give her one more day to improve and then possibly have to amputate her teat. I was devastated. Not so much because my newly purchased doe in milk was not going to be giving me any milk, but because she had traveled all this way, only to have to go through this. A different vet came Tuesday and gave more shots and another dose of Today and provided a couple of good arguments for not doing any surgery if we could help it. At this point, little Columbine was actually acting fairly normal with the exception of her horrible looking mammary system. She was eating, drinking, pooping normally and showing interest in the rest of the heard, hanging out with Kay outside and even nibbling in the pasture. So I waited.
It is now the following Sunday and you wouldn’t think anything was wrong with her at all until you looked at the view from the rear. That udder and teat will never be useful. It will dry up into a mass of scar tissue and shrink up a bit so she’ll look lopsided and she should never be bred again. You see, I’d also been keeping in close contact with the breeder who I bought Columbine from and we mutually agreed that she was just one of those goats that was going to be prone to easy mastitis and if it hadn’t happened during her transport (when she went a bit too long between milkings, which ordinarily isn’t a horrible thing), it would probably have happened in a month or so when her owner was due to dry her off. Joel and I talked about Columbine’s future here and I talked with the breeder and we finally decided that, once fully healthy again, she should go back ‘home’ to the herd she grew up with and knows, as a pet. The breeder is set up much better than I to provide for pet goats and she still loves Columbine and will welcome her back happily. I’ve also come to care deeply for this little goat in the short time she’s been here, but I also want the best for her and I truly think she will be happier back at her old home.
The point of all this is to know your limitations. Caring for animals is not always black and white. There are the ways I practice, which have served me well so far, with very few exceptions, and which I will continue following. But, I know that the most important thing is the health of my goats, who are also my partners. If I can’t provide what they need, I call someone who can and I don’t look it as a failure on my part, but just using another great tool in my medicine chest.