Sunday, December 23, 2012

With the Goats; With the Goats

William: "You speak of what you do not know! Where will we live? In my hovel? With the goats in the basement during the winter so they won't freeze?"

Jocelyn: "Yes, William. With the goats. With the goats"

At least, that is the version as it would have been written for our homestead.

As you can see on the weather forecast, we are in for some very cold days and nights ahead with lows into the teens or below. And, while that would cause some small concern, with the goats well fed and protected inside their stalls, I would assume that they would come through the cold weather without incident. After all, the deer do in the wild without shelter and our goats have in a lesser barn in years past.
To prepare for the upcoming days of frigid temperatures, Sean and I planned to clean out the stalls and put down fresh bedding, so that if the animals preferred to stay inside their barn, they would be comfortable riding out the cold snap ahead. We cared for the chickens, the pigs, Jasmine and then, moved on to load hay into the goat's mangers.

Abigail, Asher, Ruby and Sapphira all nosed into their stalls to snatch mouthfuls of fresh hay, but I did not see Ellie. That did not register immediately. I went on to add hay to the manger in the other pasture. Jedi, Pepper, Rachel, and Leah all crowded in to eat. I re-entered the doe pen ready to begin clean-out and realized I hadn't seen Ellie. Concerned, I called to Sean to see had he seen her? Just as I called, I saw her laying in the far end of the doe pasture. At my alarmed cry and faster than I, Sean ran to see Ellie.

Sean here:  I ran down and called to Ellie who was laying down on a frozen puddle with her head turned and tucked into her body.  She didn't respond, which she always does.  I honestly thought we had lost her.  When I reached her, and touched her neck, she turned, looked at me and gave a very weak 'meh eh eh.'  As Sonja reached us, I tried getting her onto her feet, thinking maybe she had just slipped on the ice, but Ellie was barely able to stand, let alone walk the hundred or so feet back to the barn.  I scooped her up (she's definitely gained weight since the last time I had to do that) and carried her back up to the barn to get her in out of the wind.  While Sonja stayed with Ellie and comforted her (and protected her from hungry goats who would have no qualms about standing atop her to reach the better hay that is always on top of the pile) I grabbed some towels from inside to get her dry and warm her up.  She perked up inside the barn and happily munched on hay with the other goats but not with quite the gusto as they.  While Ellie didn't seem that concerned, (and honestly, looked like she was enjoying the extra attention) Sonja and I were both terribly worried that she was too weak to endure the cold days to come and grateful that we found her when we did. She would not have survived exposed, wet, and freezing over night, certainly.

Sonja continues: My first thought was that we had to get her dry and warm. The temperatures outside were close to freezing and they were dropping quickly. When Sean returned with the towels, he helped Ellie to stand while I briskly rubbed down her legs and under belly, which felt icy cold. Ellie did not want to stand. She could have been laying in the cold water for several hours. (We had gone to our meeting for worship in the morning, followed by lunch in town before we returned to complete the afternoon chores.) I was worried if that had been the case, her legs and feet might not have the necessary circulation to support her. Once Ellie was dry, we draped both towels over her, locked the other goats out of the stall and rushed inside to gather the things we were going to need: a pot full of warm water with some molasses and brown sugar stirred in; a large, warm towel from the dryer; and a scoop of 16% (protein) sweet feed grain. I thought that the warm water would help to get her internal temperature up (like drinking hot coffee or chocolate on a cold day). I added a good dollop of molasses both for it's sugars and to encourage her to drink as much as she would. The addition of the brown sugar would add some sweetness to the brew and also provide some calories and fast carbohydrates for her body to burn. She was already eating hay at a fairly steady pace, but I wanted to get a small scoop of grain into her, too- for additional nutrition and to help her body heat up as her system processed it.

Ellie was laying down when I got back to the barn with the pot of water. She did not rise, but she immediately drank half the bucket of water and resumed chomping on hay. When Sean arrived with the warmed towel and bucket of grain, that got her attention and convinced her to attempt to stand. She was struggling still, so Sean helped her to her feet. I pinned the towel over her, checked her core temperature, pulse and respiration rates. Ellie was definitely perking up.

Out of immediate danger, Sean and I took the next half hour to muck the doe stall. When we were done, we allowed the other does to return. While the does were busy eating their hay, Sean mucked Jedi's stall and we discussed what to do with Ellie over the next few days. We hoped that getting Ellie up and warm, she could continue her slow improvement to good health inside the barn. (As Sean mentioned, she has put on a good amount of weight since her return to the barn, though she is noticeably thinner than the rest of the herd.) For obvious reasons, it is not desirable to have Ellie living in the basement. However, it soon became clear that Ellie would be better off inside with us. The two deciding factors that finally tipped the scale were: 1- that the other goats continued to knock Ellie off her feet and 2- how we would feel if something happened to Ellie and we could have prevented it by bringing Ellie inside for a couple of days?

As Sean carried Ellie inside, he mentioned he thought Ellie might have worked out this scheme. If Ellie acts weak, she gets special treatment. She gets carried inside and fitted with her warm goat cape. We feed her lots of raw veggies, she gets her own portion of hay and accommodations in a 50-60 degree basement where she can watch TV from her doorway- not a bad situation- for a *cough, cough* sick goat. I would not put it past the clever, wee girl. Even so, for now, Ellie is tucked up into the basement, where on last check, she was standing just fine, chewing on hay and my hand to God, smiling.

We'll re-evaluate the situation in the morning.

Thanks for visiting tonight.
Sean and Sonja♥

This post is also shared with: Farm Girl Friday Blog Hop 88 & Farm Girl Blog Fest 14 & Tilly's Nest

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  1. She may very well have been remembering how good she had it in the basement and gave an Oscar worthy performance. I hope so. Glad all the other critters are holding up well.

  2. Oh my gosh! What a scary situation. I was getting so worried as I read on, but I'm glad you found her when you did. I have to say she looks really cute with the towel on her back :) I hope she's not doing it just for special treatment, that stinker!

    Merry Christmas to you and yours, Sonja! Hope you have a blessed holiday.

    1. Thanks, Tammy.

      She is doing just fine in the basement. I think that she probably COULD be returned with the rest of the herd, but with a large snow coming tomorrow, she'll probably continue in her penthouse suite until the weekend. Spoiled goat. :)

      I am glad to read that your crew all weathered the storm.

  3. Oh wow, that was scary just reading it, I can't imagine how worried y'all were about her. But I'm so glad to hear Ellie has perked up a bit and is enjoying her comfy basement lol. Merry Christmas and keep warm!!! :)

    1. Thanks, Shell!

      Ellie is doing great and seems just fine tucked into the basement. It is going to break her little heart, but I cannot keep a house goat- no matter how much my children and she are lobbying for it! lol

      Did you get hit by the storm?