A week or two ago we had a gardener at my office pulling weeds and generally sprucing up the greenery. As I was leaving, I noticed that he had a nice full bag of freshly pulled greenery. Since I know my boss does not spray any pesticides in her garden, I asked the man if I could take the bag for my animals to munch on. He said it was mostly clover and grassy weeds, that he was happy for me to take it.
I tucked the bag into the back of my car, brought it home, and propped the open bag against the pasture fence. Before I had a chance to really dig through it, the goats had discovered the bag and started pulling out and nibbling on the contents....
Last Wednesday morning before work, we went out for chores as usual, but something wasn't right. Gwen was slow to get up and when she did, we saw that she had diarrhea. I quickly gave her a dose of Probios and cleaned off her rear end. Then I noticed that something was also wrong with Amelia. Usually one of the first to elbow her way into the milk room, Amelia was standing off by herself with the telltale hangdog look of a sick ruminant. On closer inspection, we found that she had been vomiting all night. As I've said before, goat don't just vomit. They regurgitate into their mouths then shake their head to clear it. People refer to this as slinging cud. Poor Amelia had done a pretty good job of redecorating the walls of the goat room with the contents of her rumen.
It seemed like she was done getting up whatever had made her sick, so I gave her some probiotics, made sure she had fresh water close at hand, and went on with chores as normal. When we got home from work that night it was obvious that Amelia was still sick. She was laying in the pasture surrounded by green goop. While we were getting her on her feet and trying to decide what to do for her, we heard Luciano cry out. Big Onion continued to deal with Amelia and I went around the corner to find my Luch had been sick as well.
Poor guy was having stomach cramps that made him yell and try to run away. He was also regurgitating into his mouth, but instead of slinging his cud he would stand there with his cheeks pooched out like a chipmunk, refusing to let it go. We gave both goats a dose of milk of magnesia to try and get whatever was making them sick to move out of their systems.
Amelia just stood around upchucking occasionally and making sad little goaty sounds. Meanwhile, Luciano was hopping around and screaming and seemed to be bloating up. Big Onion ran back to the house for some baking soda and oil. This seemed to stop the bloating, but both goats were still very, very uncomfortable with very visible stomach cramping. I finally gave them both a generous dose of aloe juice which seemed to settle their guts enough that we could let them rest for the night.
The following morning, Amelia was still feeling terrible and Luciano seemed a little better. I got the vet on the phone. He recommended fluids for the goats since they hadn't been eating or drinking anything. He also said that the best thing you can do for goats who had eaten something toxic is get activated charcoal into them as quickly as possible. The charcoal will absorb the toxins and help them move through their system.
I gave Amelia fluids, but not Luciano since he had started drinking water. He also started nibbling food and got better and better as the day went on. I was sure that Luch was on the other side of this thing and focused on getting Amelia better. That night Luciano even came in at milk time and happily ate some timothy and alfalfa hay. Just to be safe, both kids got a couple of activated charcoal pills that we found at the local drug store (they are sold as a remedy for gas for people).
Friday morning I took off work to keep an eye on the kids. I wanted to make sure they were ok. Amelia greeted me first thing in the morning looking bright and perky and with a thankfully dry chin. I had to search for Luciano. I finally found him standing on the hill in the second pasture next to a tree slung with green cud. The poor guy was covered in his own sick, and it was coming out of his nose!
I spent the day giving him just about anything I could think of to make him feel better. By afternoon, he couldn't even keep water down. He would cry out with every stomach cramp. It was terrible.
Then, to top it all off, Elanore (formerly Helen) started slinging her cud too! We are talking about a full sized goat here. The amount of stuff she was producing was nothing short of spectacular. We jumped into acting and gave her charcoal and aloe as soon as she stopped actively upchucking. She ended up recovering within a day. You can bet that from now on we'll be grabbing for the charcoal at the first sign on flying cud!
We sat with poor Luciano for hours that night. He still had vomit coming out of his nose. He was starting to have trouble breathing. He was up and down and crying out and just so uncomfortable. I was afraid he was going to die on us that night. My birthday was the following day. I told him he could NOT die on my birthday. I got the vet on the phone again and gave him antibiotic shots to try and stave off aspiration pneumonia. The mosquitoes were awful and the bug sprays weren't doing anything. I ended up setting up a fan to blow them away from the poor little guy and putting on my full rain gear, hood and all, to keep from being eaten alive.
Saturday morning we cancelled all our plans for my birthday and brought Luciano to the vet. The vet said he could hear him breathing into his stomach. We could see it inflating with every breath. The vet passed a tube into his stomach and emptied out the very little amount that was left. He then pumped the vet version of milk of magnesia directly into Luch's gut and sent us home with a guarded but very hopeful prognosis.
We set up Luch in the backyard pen so that we could keep a close eye on him and check on him every few hours. He was having even more trouble breathing. Every intake of air sounded like he was inflating a balloon, and we could see his gut swelling with every breath. If you pressed on his sides, he would deflate with every exhalation. He was gasping through his mouth and had mucus dripping from his face.
By Saturday night he was looking so bad that if I had the means to put the poor little guy down, I would have. We got nasal spray and tried to clear his sinuses, thinking that maybe that would improve his ability to breath. We checked on him every few hours throughout the night.
Early Sunday morning, I woke up suddenly. I don't know if Luciano was crying out but I somehow knew I needed to get to him as quickly as possible. I threw on some clothes and ran across the backyard to the pen. Luch was standing and stumbling and falling down. When I got to him, he was gasping for air and obviously dying. There was nothing else I could do for him. I talked to him, tried to let him know I was there and keep him calm. I called Big Onion to come out and pressed my ear to his little chest. I heard his heart get slower then stop just as Big Onion arrived.
My sweet little boy was gone. I realized then that he did as I had asked. He waited and didn't die on my birthday. He waited until I was there with him to go. We are still heartbroken over his loss.
The best we can figure is that there was something wrong with him structurally. He and Gwen (both Josie's kids) have had problems in the past that make me think there was some kind of communication between their breathing and their swallowing apparatus. Both kids would snort and cough after nursing, and Gwen had a pesky cough for the longest time that would give her fits after every meal. The vet had never seen a goat vomiting so much from his nose or heard one breathing into his stomach the way Luciano was on those two days.
We think the toxic substance that everyone ate came from that bag I brought home from work. It wasn't until it had been picked through that I recognized a couple of large chunks of stalk from an elephant ear plant. There weren't any leaves even. I found that they had been nibbled on the day after the goats started falling ill and picked them up, but at that point it was too late.
We are still adjusting to life without that little guy's calls greeting us every morning and evening. He would always give me "kisses" when I went out back, rubbing his soft little nose on my face. Amelia called out for him for the first couple of days after he was gone and has been extra needy lately. Last night at milking she stood behind me and wrapped her neck around my waste to rest her head in my lap while I milked Thea. It was like the goat equivalent of a hug.
This is the side of farming that kinda sucks. Animals die, and you know it's your fault. For some reason, it's always the animals you get most attached to that like to keel over on you. The best we can do is move on with the knowledge we've gained from this experience and our memories of a sweet little guy that we lost way too soon.