This fall, in a letter from one of our pen pal classrooms, I was asked to describe the hardest part of my job. I responded by saying that I find having a sick animal to be very challenging and difficult. Upon getting sheep and goats, I quickly learned that I needed to become knowledgeable about how to diagnose and treat our animals when they are sick. Bringing a vet to our farm for a visit costs $110 just to get them in the driveway. The price only goes up with each step he/she takes towards my barn. So we have learned to do as much “vet” work on our own as possible. My husband and I seem to make a good team. I can easily tell when one of our sheep or goats becomes sick and he has become skilled at giving shots when needed and getting animals off their feet for a thorough exam (Thank you Chuck!). By spending a great deal of time with the animals, I have learned what is normal behavior and what is not. Signs of a sick animal may include any of the following:
|Fern seems to love my husband!|
- a dull look in their eyes
- needing to be nudged in the morning to come to the hay box
- laying down and refusing to get up to eat
- standing alone or in a corner facing the wall
- favoring a leg
- stumbling or being disoriented
- a look of depression or lethargy
As soon as I see any of these symptoms, I have my routine of what I do. First, I check to see if they have a normal temperature. Then, I take a look at their feet to see if they need to be trimmed and check for mobility in the joints. Next, I take a look at their mucous membranes to see if they appear to be anemic. My next step depends upon what I find in this initial observation but I immediately begin to do things that will support and boost the animal’s immune system. This may mean an herbal tincture, a homeopathy remedy, or a squirt of “Nutri-Drench”.
I have become all too familiar with this routine this fall and winter. On New Year’s Day, while doing chores, I discovered that Fern, one of my angora goats was favoring her leg and just did not look like she felt good. For the next three weeks, we tried to figure out what exactly was the problem. Just when we thought we had it figured out and she seemed to be recovering nicely, she would take a turn for the worse. For three weeks, I consulted my books, emailed my mentor (Thank you Kat!) numerous times, and sent out a plea on my angora goat email list for suggestions of what to do. Finally, after a very long haul, our vet gave me a different antibiotic to try. Though her temperature remained normal at all times, we finally decided that she must be trying to fight off some kind of infection. The vet suggested that once their immune system is compromised, it sets the stage for them to be weakened by lurking issues that otherwise are kept in check.
Over the weekend, we finished our round of antibiotics and Fern has remained in good shape. I am relieved to have that ordeal behind us and our barn is finally back to normal. When I emailed my mentor to tell her that our goat had recovered-I told her that I never did want to be a vet when I was growing up and that I was so thankful for people like her and my husband who could help me when an animal is sick.