Wednesday, April 11, 2012
A few weeks back, we had at least five days in a row when the temperature (in the shade) was over 80 degrees Fahrenheit. While this early March spring was great for getting out to the garden to plant carrots and other assorted root vegetables, it was not great for our baby goats. After that unusual warmth, the temperature suddenly dropped back down to our normal overnight 20's. Our 3 week old kids were just beginning to become ruminants by eating hay and exercising their extra stomachs, which is a big and very important developmental transition from a milk-drinking single stomached animal. Adding to that stress we made the mistake of offering them some too rich 2nd cut hay. By the time we noticed several kids bloating from their slowed gut and began to treat them, they were also becoming hypothermic overnight with the sub-freezing temperatures. Walking out to the barn in the morning to find a dying kid after tucking them in the night before is not a welcome experience. We have since added a new space heater and extra red heat lamp to warm their straw bale nest in an effort to keep even the younger kids, who were unaffected by bloat, from getting chilled at night. This was a real eye-opener for me considering how they were fine with single digit temperatures their first few weeks after birth and now at one month old they need to huddle by an electric heater if it's less than 40 deg F. I suspect this was a terrible coincidence of indigestion and weird weather, but it has made me question everything we have (or haven't) done for them since birth. Too much milk or not enough?, at the wrong temperature?, too many visitors?, lack of sanitation or bleach residue in the bottles?, prenatal mineral deficiency or too many supplements?, natural selection?. After beating up myself (and others) for what has transpired, I am letting go and apologizing to those I've let down. Every season brings a new hard lesson in livestock husbandry.