It’s easy to get swept up in the pictorial image of homesteading life. Green pastures, newly hatched fluffy chicks, a bountiful garden and orchard, bouncy goat kids, and spectacular sunsets. Unfortunately, where there is life there is death, and sadly this weekend we were reminded of this.
A few weeks ago we ushered three wobbly legged goat kids into this world. Our first time mother, Millie blessed us with triplets! Three bouncy little nubian kids. A large, sweet buckling, and two beautiful little doelings. Lulu, the black and white doeling quickly charmed her way into the hearts of all that met her. Between her floppy ears, unique black, white, and silver coat, and wonderful personality it’s easy to see why she was quickly becoming a favorite on the homestead. Her loud coat matched her loud personality. She was affectionate, she was bold, she was a girl that was going places.
Something that we choose to do is have our kids disbudded – this is something that can be a controversial topic amongst homesteaders with goats. The disbudding process involves using a hot iron to burn around the horn buds. This effectively burns the horn buds off, preventing the goat from growing horns. It’s not a pleasant task, and we aren’t experienced enough or comfortable with performing this procedure. Since we want our kids disbudded we take them to our local farm and large animal vet. At the appointment the vet gives them an overall wellness check, routine vaccinations, and will disbud the kids. It’s painful, but quick. They are often back to being bouncy, happy kids in no time!
Lulu handled the disbudding, check, and shots like a champ. Within hours she was back to nursing, and playing with her siblings. A quick nighttime check set our hearts and minds at ease, all three kids were doing well.
The next morning, things went downhill, and it happened fast. We noticed Lulu seemed slightly off, she didn’t have the same spirit or spunk. We quickly phoned the vet, knowing that something wasn’t right. We were put in touch with the vet on call – with it being the weekend, the office wasn’t open for normal appointments.
His advice was to bring her in right away.
We scooped her up, wrapped her in a towel, and loaded ourselves into the car. It’s about a 25 minute drive to our vet’s office. It was a tense, uneasy ride. Lulu laid quietly in my arms, trying to nestle deep and absorb my warmth. The complete opposite of her normal lively self.
When we got to the vet’s office it was quiet. No barking of anxious dogs, soothing commands of their owners. No cats hissing, voicing their displeasure. The stillness of it all. It only added to the foreboding feeling.
With the main office closed we took her to the side entrance and directly into an examination room. The vet’s assessment showed that she had spiked a high fever, was very lethargic, and rapidly declining. His thoughts; she was having an adverse reaction to the vaccine she’d received the day before. The vet treated her to the best of his abilities and we took her home.
Unfortunately she continued to rapidly declined, and quickly passed away.
It’s sad. It’s awful. It’s gut wrenching and heartbreaking.
It makes you question yourself, your abilities, decisions, and your will to continue with the homesteading life.
I promise you that it’s worth it.
The truth is – there will always be disease, injury, and illness. Freak accidents happen, infections take hold, predators break in. Disastrous winter storms, torrential rain, tornadoes, wildfires, and droughts happen. Life is precious. Life is fragile. As stewards of our land and shepherds to our animals we make the best decisions that we can. We work to ensure our livestock and land is treated with respect, compassion, and care.
Am I mad at the vet? Or mad at the manufacturer of the drug? No. The vet treated her with care, with compassion, with skill. That vaccine, it’s protected and saved an untold number of animals from a bleak and painful death.
The reality of medication and vaccines is that none of them are without risk. Am I sad and upset? Yes, of course. We lost a beautiful and precious life. On a small homestead every life matters, every life is important. We lost a companion, a future mother, a future milker. Our doe lost her daughter. Our doe is distraught, calling for her baby. It’s awful, it sucks, my heart is breaking for my doe. It’s something you don’t immediately move on from.
Will I continue to vaccinate my animals? Of course.
It’s ok to feel sad. It’s ok to want to shake your fists in anger and scream ant the heavens. It’s ok to feel like you want to break and shatter into a million little pieces.
But always remember. It’s worth it.
This homesteading life and adventure, it’s worth it.
Till next time…