For those of you who follow us on facebook, you know that we had a health scare with our girl Astrid this past week. I am happy to report that she is officially on the mend and feeling much better and we are now confident that she will make a full recovery. Thank you all so much for your prayers, good mojo and well wishes for Astrid, they really helped!
I will start by saying that this is the first time we ever experienced any illness with our ruminants, and I have to mention for those of you who may be new to them, as we are, that they go down-hill very fast. It is not like dealing with dogs or even cats that have an almost human-like way of communication and can tell you that something is up. With ruminants, once you notice something is amiss, they are practically on death’s door.
(Astrid and Claire)
This was the case with Astrid. Our hay guy was out of town the last time we needed more, and so his son-in-law delivered the bale to us. We found out later that he normally picks from a certain pile when he delivers for us, but since his son-in-law didn’t know, he might have chosen from another pile. For us the hay looked the same and smelled wonderful. So we didn’t think twice about it.
Anyway, we noticed after a little while that the girls didn’t seem as into this batch as they usually are. But they were eating and so we just decided to keep a close eye on things. Meanwhile, I started looking for another hay source. That was much harder than anticipated. Vermont was hit very hard by Hurricane Irene back in August and many of the hay fields (not to mention roads and bridges) ended up under water thus making the hay crop this year rather bad. I couldn’t seem to find any second cut hay less than 2 hours away…
(Astrid in recovery)
Well within a week, Astrid gradually stopped eating all together and was looking very thin. This past Thursday was the crisis day. She was obviously having a problem when she didn’t want her morning grain bribe (we don’t grain our ruminants, we only use it as a bribe to move them from barn to winter pen and back again)- something she normally loves. The only thing I could get her to eat was horse treats made of molasses, apples and oats.
We tried mixing the hay with molasses, salt and powdered grain. No dice. We went to the store and got various cabbages, greens, fennel and apples. She would take a bite of each and then stop eating. We even got a 50 lb bag of alfalfa – something many of you suggested and she turned her nose up at it. We had an appointment with the vet for Monday, but we were beginning to worry about whether she would make it until then, especially since we were expecting nights around -19 F. So we called the vet and she prescribed B12 shots, an immune booster and Probios. We started her on those things right away.
(Homemade Pine Forest in the barn – the secret ingredient!)
In the meantime I was frantically on facebook and the phone with everyone I knew that might have a lead for me for hay. I finally lucked out, and our good friends at Applecheek Farm gave us a lead and I got someone to come out right away with hay. Also my dear friend Suzanne suggested on Facebook that I stick my old Christmas tree in the barn, as she had some trouble like this with her llamas some years past, and they liked the pine. So we did. And it WORKED. Astrid started eating! It was amazing. So we kept her on the B12 shots for 3 days, and we are still doing the Probios (2 TBS, 2x’s per day). For the first few days, all she ate was pine, and only after getting her dose of Probios. Then gradually she started nibbling hay and eating even in between Probios doses. Today she ate her grain and was enjoying cubes of alfalfa in addition to the pine.
I researched the properties of Pine, and was not surprised to find that it is has antiseptic properties as well as anti-bacterial. Apparently the oils are effective against candida, a myriad of bacteria, including influenza, intestinal bacteria, salmonella, and a variety of Staphylococcus and Streptococcus. It also kills most agents of gastroenteritis, dysentery and food poisoning.
The vet suspects there was something in the hay that disagreed with her. Maybe her immune system was depressed a bit from something else, which is why it didn’t seem to affect Claire. I tend to agree and suspect bacteria, since that seems to be what pine is used to cure.
We will be keeping both girls on the Probios for a bit longer, until they both resume eating with the vim and vigor that they used to!
I also got some other helpful tools from the vet. She suggested using FAMACHA, which is checking the color of the eyelids for overall health. She has seen many cases of parasite over load where the animal actually died – the feces looked normal, but the eyelids were severely anemic. She also liked that we were giving them an herbal wormer, from Molly’s Herbals.
(Astrid enjoying the indoor forest!)
Then she suggested hanging the pine in the barn, so that the goats could “browse” for it – so we made a homemade “pine forest” for them in the barn-something they seem to like very much! We are keeping them in until next week, while we try to get Astrid’s weight up. It has been really cold here, and she just doesn’t have the fat reserves to be out all day like they normally are (and Claire becomes desperate alone).
(both girls enjoying it!)
This week we also had to say goodbye to one of our Freedom Ranger hens, Jolie. She and her friend Camille have lived with the goats since this summer and have been happy companions, until that fateful Thursday, Astrid impaled her and we had to put her down. RIP Jolie, you were a good Chicken.
(Jolie in front, Camille in back)