Saturday, February 13, 2016

Veterinary Visit to the Homestead

The weather is supposed to drop to -20 degrees in our area overnight. That
means the barn doors get closed and sweaters go on the kids. Sean will check
on the barn every few hours through the night to make sure everyone is okay.
Abby Arena, DVM with Judah
It has been a week around here! First, I stepped on a nasty screw in the barn while helping with the barn remodel last Thursday. Then, on Monday Sean and I were in a small car accident on 1-95 which left a dent in our van and caused the other two vehicles involved to be towed away. (All the peoples were fine- we were in the middle car, but the vehicles took beatings!) Levi took ill with meningeal worms. Cassie showed signs of an ear infection. And, this morning Bo started to be weak in the rear legs. We were very grateful that our veterinarian, Abby Arena, DVM was planning to come out for a herd check up.

Rachel was very interested in the kit.
Folks, I cannot stress this enough. Do not wait until you have a medical emergency to try to find a veterinarian who works with small ruminants. I don't know of one who will make a farm call if you are not already a client. As homesteaders, we learn so much as we go; from experience, from each other, from what didn't work~ all valuable and sometimes costly lessons, but it cannot replace the knowledge and experience your veterinarian has under their belt. If you care for goats, sheep or the like and you haven't already lined up your veterinarian, now is the time to make that a priority. And then, like we all do, hope you never need to call them for anything life threatening.

Hay on top is what we bought today.
Compared with the older hay.
Close up of good hay; green, lots of leaves, and
few stems.
Today's visit opened my eyes to some things we need to change around here and it also gave me the tools to be a better care-giver. Dr. Arena showed me her technique for tube feeding, especially how to know you are in the stomach and not lungs and left me with the proper equipment for doing it should I ever need to. (Tube-feeding can be necessary on weak animals, new goat kids are especially vulnerable.) She talked me through when and how to inject Dextrose directly into a kid's peritoneum in a case of hypoglycemia. (Triplets, quads or runts of the litter might some day need this intervention.) We looked over the entire herd and discussed their overall health and nutrition. We have been keeping goats for 6 years. We know not to be confused by a fat "hay belly" when checking for health. But, y'all we have been checking this WRONG for several years. We had been educated to check under the goat's rib cage for a layer of fat, like with dogs, to see whether a goat was too fat or skinny. Abby reeducated me where to check along the spine. We have hay available for our goats to eat 24/7. We know to look for moldy hay, but we often feed first cut, which isn't as green as 2nd cut hay. Since we depleted our regular hay provider completely out of hay and also our back up provider, we have been getting hay from a 3rd farm. We knew the hay was more brown than we'd been getting, but it wasn't moldy and the goats were eating it fine, so we never thought more about it. We were just grateful to have found hay. Again- WRONG. Though the goats were eating it and filling their bellies, the nutritional value of this hay was not ideal. We stopped using it immediately. Sean and I found some 2nd cut hay, paid $6.50/bale, and started the goats on a road to better nutrition. You can bet that I will be a "hay Nazi" around here from now on.

Today's visit also made me feel better about our herd and where we are going with our homestead. Dr. Arena complimented our barn set up for being properly well-ventilated, our new hay manger design (yes!), our large pasture/browse area, and our plans for improvements for the coming year. We talked about our change from using the deep litter method to cleaning out the stalls each week and how that is working out for us. We checked on the herd. The newborn goat kids looked healthy. Levi is on the mend with only one more dose of Ivomectin needed tomorrow. She gave him a steroid to help regain his strength. He is still weak and it will take some time to bring him back to full health, but it looks very promising. Dr. Arena talked with us about copper bolus as a preventative against Barber Pole worms. Sean and I are collecting fecal samples from all of our goats to get a baseline for the entire herd. And if there is a problem, we will work on a plan of attack for it. We'll try swabbing Ivomectin externally around Cassie's ears. She may have some mites causing the irritation and the infection will likely resolve on its own without the mites. If not, we have a plan B. We'll have another visit this summer, where any bucks that we won't use for breeding will be castrated under anesthesia. Dr. Arena is ordering us some supplies and medicines to stock our vet kit; like 50% Dextrose in small dose bottles, 25 g needles, syringes (at substantial cost savings over getting them at a feed store), and stomach feeding tubing. We'll also have BoSe on hand for kidding and a small amount of Banamine in case anyone else in the herd shows signs of meningeal worms. Dr. Arena is sending me information about everything we discussed and left me with handouts which included a great dosing chart for dewormer medicines. I just feel better.... equipped, I guess is the right word. I am so thankful to have her on our side and on our team.

Abby Arena is in private practice and can be reached via email at or texted to 207-992-7174. She specializes in small ruminants. She is accepting new clients. :)

Thanks for visiting with us today friends. We're glad you are here.
~Sean and Sonja

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