Monday, April 21, 2014

(I've been working on this post for awhile and it is still not exactly right, but I'm posting it because I need to move on.)

This is our second year of kidding with the girls and for the second year we are battling parasites both internal and external. I am feeling so very overwhelmed by the loads of information I’m trying to digest so that I can make the best choices for the girls that some days I lose my hope. See, we are trying very hard not to use chemicals with our herd. We don’t want an official Organic certification, but we are concerned about their health and ours (since we drink the milk). With that said, every decision we make leads to a thousand extrapolations about the consequences of our choices....will this “fix” it, will this cause something else, will this harm her, will we drink this in the milk, and so on. I lose sleep at night wondering if I’m doing the right thing.

Last year we worked with a vet when our poor Ruby was loaded with worms. He said the worm eggs were “too many to count.” She was bony and run down. We were afraid we were going to lose her. Of course, we wanted to do anything and everything to save her. Our vet advised culling and by that he meant killing. I do understand where he was coming from in that her parasites, which were clearly drug resistant could be infecting the rest of the herd, but killing was not an option for us. We compromised and she went (with two wethers) to live at my Mom’s place. I hit her hard with chemical wormers and medicated feed (she had cocci too) and now, a year later she is parasite free, fat and sassy.

With Ruby I made the decision to dry her off to relieve some of her stress and since she wasn’t going to be a milker anymore, I figured I could do whatever it took to get her back to healthy and it worked. So, now here we are in year two with some of the same issues, but this time I have to figure it out.  I can't keep removing goats for the herd. 

Our fecals reveal elevated egg counts, but we can still count them. I’ve given them one dose of de-wormer and I don’t want to do more, but it is so confusing. 

I tried to talk the whole worm issue over with another goat person and when I told her we were doing weekly fecal tests and trying the herbal de-wormer again, she said something like this, “I think you are doing too much and worrying too much about it, just watch for pale eyelids and runny poo.” 

I was a little stunned by that, so I stammered out a reply, “But I have to keep learning so I can make the best decisions for them.” 

Her reply to that really threw me off, “But if you lose a goat then you learn from that.” As if to say, that I needed to stop caring so much, that losing someone would be a benefit to me as a learning experience. 

I’ve pondered this exchange for several days now and talked it over with my two advisors (husband and mom).  I’ve wondered if my heart is just too big for this farming thing, that maybe I care too much. Maybe I should just sit back and wait for severe anemia and runny poop.

But I’ve concluded that my heart is in the right place, it is exactly the right size, just big enough to encompass them all, to care about their health and well-being. I know I have to use my head to learn, but my heart to care for them.  

I’m thinking if I take her advice to watch for anemia and runny poop then I’m not taking good care. I’m thinking that if we get to runny poo, we are in a heap of trouble. 

I trained to teach yoga and one of the first things you learn is the Yamas (or social contracts). The first is Ahimsa (or non-harming to oneself or others). This Yama includes animals and though I don’t talk about the teachings of yoga all that much, I do live by the Yamas. I don’t even think about it anymore, I just live my life that way. It is who I am. 

With that said, I know I have to learn what I can and make decisions about their well-being without causing them harm. Leaving them in a wormy-state means I am allow them to come to harm. I cannot condone neglect as a protocol. 

“Without harm” has to be at the core of my protocol for herd management.

Pictured below are the three milkers who are having issues. 

Fanny,  (with Miss Melly).


So, we've continued the weekly fecal tests, we added Hoegger herbal wormer to our weekly routine. We've given a bit more copper. I've added more kelp and minerals to each ration of food (the kids soil the free-choice feeders) and they are getting alfalfa every day.

I've read a thousand articles and they tend to contradict each other, so what do you do. You DECIDE what you believe, based on what you read. You go with your gut. You focus on low-stress, high nutrition. You check eyelids and watch appetites and poop.

And you LOVE them with your whole heart.

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