Friday, March 6, 2009

Winter Waning

Spring is teasing us a little more this week. 70 degrees today made the memory of last weekend's single digits grow dim and fuzzy. But -- since this is Michigan, we know the warmth is only temporary. Rachel did notice the first robin of the season though, and the cardinals have started singing their "spring" songs.

We got out for a little ice skating earlier in the week; perhaps the last of the season. Today we walked out to the same pond after dinner, and the ice was already melted several feet from the shore in places.

Our goat Ashley is turning out to be the veterinarian's best friend. Or worst nightmare, depending on how you look at it. About a month after we got the goats, she had a serious bout with worms that lowered her milk production enough that we decided to dry her off. Worms are a common problem with goats -- most goats get wormed at least 3 times annually, but usually just during the warmer months. We had been using an herbal wormer, but it apparently doesn't handle heavy worm load very well. Ever since then, she's been getting wormed again and again, with ever increasing frequency. Her partner in crime -- Mary Kate -- seems to be a model of vibrant health.

A few weeks ago, it got to the point where (shortly after being wormed yet again) she had developed bad diarrhea. I quickly learned not to stand within 15 feet of her fanny when she sneezed, because she was firing out both ends. The vet's new diagnosis was coccidosis (a microbial infection normally affecting only young goats). We treated her for that, and she started to firm up a bit, and then quickly reverted to her former state.

We've been supplementing her copper intake, as that's a common deficiency with goats that can lead to these sorts of problems. She gets more coccidosis medication, enterotoxemia treatment, pepto-bismol, pro-biotics, vitamin B injections... but her rocket-rump still persists. It's clear that her immune system is not up to the task, but there doesn't seem to be a good way to tell what the reason is. All we can do is remedy the common causes (such as copper deficiency) and hope that we get it right before she keels over.

On a "real" farm, where each animal is viewed with an eye towards cost/benefit, she would've been disposed of long ago. She seems relatively happy for now, but there's a good chance that she'll have to be put down if her problems persist despite various treatments. If it comes to that, I'll be the one to do it, and I'm not really looking forward to it. I guess that's one of the not-so-fun parts of playing farmer.

We picked up a horse drawn hay mower last weekend - a McCormick Deering #9, which I'm very excited to try out. I'm thinking that horses won't be coming for another year yet, but maybe this fall if our pasture looks good and our hay stores are healthy. I'll be taking a 4-day course in draft horses later this month, which I'm really looking forward to as well.

Buttercup the cow is growing ever more sociable. She moos back to me when I talk to her now, and occasionally turns around in her stanchion at milking time to give me a big goobery kiss. Whenever I have some work to do in the barnyard, she wanders over to see what's up. She's also pretty responsive. If she comes into the barn when she's not supposed to (such as when I'm out forking her manure into the compost heap), all I have to do is tell her "no" in a stern voice and she skedaddles back outside. She clearly knows when she's being bad.

Buttercup has also developed a fondness for the barn cats. Whenever the opportunity presents itself, she reaches down to "groom" them with her monstrous tongue while they cringe in disgust. Even if I don't catch her in action, I know when she's been playing barncat hairstylist, because the cat looks like she was attacked with a can of hair mousse.

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