Sunday, January 13, 2008

Goat rescue

So last week I dumped too much grain out of the bag when feeding the critters. To feed them, I lift the 50 lb bag of grain up to the top edge of a 4' high fence and pour it over the side until it feels right, then pull the bag back, stopping the flow of feed. Sometimes Rocky the steer gets involved and I fumble with the bag, and in this case ended up dumping most of it over the fence. Rather than go into the pen, push 1100 pounds of Holstein out of the way, and try to scoop some of the excess feed back into the bag, I decided to just let them have a feast.

Bad idea. Goats will eat themselves sick. The excess grain will cause them to bloat up as it ferments faster than they are used to. Bloating can and does kill goats because the stomach swells up to the point that they sufficate.

Later on I noticed that Vanilla, the doe, was standing around, trying to hide out. Upon closer inspection I saw that her left side was bulged out, a sign of bloat. It was a good sign that she was still standing, generally once they lay down death follows soon. To dislodge the gas, I pulled, shoved and pushed her around until it started to break up and she was obviously feeling better. That was round 1 of this fight.

Round 2 came when I found Chocolate the wethered buck lying down in the hen house. He was not willing to stand up, even when I lifted him. When I put my arms around his belly, he groaned that groan that only comes from a belly that is more full than it is designed to be. He'd die soon unless something drastic happened.

There are a few things you can do. You could attempt to shove a tube down their throat to let the gas escape, but that could go terribly wrong if I shoved it down the wrong pipe. You could take a pocket knife and puncture through his side into his belly to let the gas out, but then you have a potentially septic situation. I could have called an emergency vet, but this is a food animal, not a pet, and spending $200 on a critter that contains maybe 60 pounds of meat really adds to the cost per pound.

It was time to improvise. I went to the first aid box and dug around, looking for inspiration. Then the light bulb came on over my head! I opened up a packet containing a yearly feline booster shot for distemper and parvo, and swiped the sterile syringe from it. I went back out to the henhouse, removing the cap from the needle and the plunger from the barrel of the syringe. Chocolate looked at me with a blank expression, no caring what I did to him at this point. It was now or never.

My knee was shoved into his right side so the problem stomach bulged out on the left where I could reach it. I then stuck the needle into his side, through the hide and into the stomach. With one hand, I held the syringe shoved as far into the goat's side as I could get it (remember, it was a cat syringe so the needle was pretty short) and held my other hand over the open end to see if anything was coming out. Sure enough, a steady stream of wind was coming out of the barrel of the syringe!

In the midst of all of this, in comes Rocky to see what is going on. He poked his head down to the goat to give a sniff, and in the process knocked me over backwards with his horns, giving my a little knot on my forehead just about the size of the tip of his horn. Dumbass steer!

After I gave him a whack in the nose and pushed him backwards out of the hen house, I went back to my goat-saving mission. Rocky has been taught to "gee" "haw" "come up" "stand" and "back", but he understands them only when it benefits him. Sometimes you just have to push his nose down to make him back up.

By now, Chocolate is looking a little freaked out, which I took to be a good sign. Fear is better than apathy, as is means you have a will to live. I moved the syringe to a couple more spots to let out more gas, and he made a burping sort of grunt, then carefully stood up. A few minutes later, he was wandering around doing goat stuff as if nothing had happened. I guess goats don't look for deeper meanings in a near death experience, they just burp and move on.

A week has gone by, and all parties involved are completely back to normal with the exception of a little sore spot on my forehead.


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