Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Handling Injury in the Herd

It's a phone call no goat herder wants to get, yet, it happens. My son called to tell me one of our does, was wounded; not just any wound, an eye wound. To me, of all the things to damage, the eye of any animal is the hardest to heal and the most challenging to care for. Often, it is hard to tell if the eye has been cut, scratched, infected, or simply irritated. While it can be obvious if it is severe, over the phone is never easy. 

Sound farm boy that he is, my son snapped a decent picture of the eye (not the picture above). The eye was bulging, draining clear fluid, and obviously wounded. So, what's a girl to do?

1. Assess the mess.
    While eye wounds can be gross, they are not often fatal- nor do they always mean loss of the eye. For Daisy, the eye was still in tact, in the socket, and the drainage was clear; all good signs.

2. Consider the situation.
    This doe is expecting, which limits the course of treatment we are willing to undergo. Not being a life threatening situation for her or the kid, we decide to handle it ourselves and treat externally. 

3. Plan of action.
    A simple trip to the local farm supply store offered a sterile wash complete with antibiotics. Not pleasant to administer, but the least invasive thing we can do while still attempting to keep infection at bay. My general philosophy on intervention is always 'less is best'.

4. Work the plan. 
     For weeks, my son and I took turns rinsing the wounded eye with sterile antibiotic wash two times a day while keeping an close watch on her. After a week, the swelling subsided and the drainage stopped. We kept the wash going for four weeks total, until the swelling was completely gone and she seemed to be out of the risk for infection. 

This case was fortunate, as our doe never developed infection, fever, and the eye did not protrude beyond the socket. Had any of those issues developed a vet would have been needed due to her being 'with kid'. Her eye would have had to be removed, antibiotics administered, and potential loss of the kid. 

My words to all- no matter what animal you have taken responsibility for, please take the initiative to learn about their care: the potential injuries, illnesses, and diseases that could develop.. and how to treat them. Often times, rapid response from the owners is not only enough, but even in a distressing case that response can save the animal's life (and further suffering). 

While Daisy does seem to have vision loss, she and her baby are healthy and doing well today, thanks to an observant and quick thinking farm boy!

Monday, February 29, 2016

Join Me in Welcoming

Please join us in welcoming the first kid of the 2016 birthing season!

I arrived home from a late night of work to discover our first time mama, Daisy, had successfully delivered, cleaned, and started nursing her very first little one. Needless to say, I was impressed! This new mama was in the birth stall, fully up and functioning before the after birth was even delivered.

Of course, this warranted a quick picture and phone call to my right hand farmgirl, Miss K- who was all smiles and squeals. She quickly decided on a name- mama is 'Saisy' (as she says it) and her baby is a little Bud. I believe she chose well.

 Miss K could hardly contain herself long enough to arrive for his welcome. As you can see, they were instant friends. K is quite the goat mama- gentle, soft spoken in the stall, and very gracious in letting mama 'Saisy' know she, too, is loved and is doing a very good job. I, however, was in the dog house because I forgot to bring the raisins (every animal gets a treat from Miss K when she comes to see them). Shame on me.

Today, Miss K still reels with delight in joy of new farm babies. We hike out there regularly for nibbles and nuzzles from this sweet guy- and, of course, keep our eye the other new mama to be who is showing some healthy signs of kidding.

Let's join Miss K in her enthusiasm and welcome Daisy's Buck to the Scaife Family Farm!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Preparing for the Storm

As a homestead farm, we live our lives tied to the weather. Any hint of inclement change tends to stir a fever in our souls to gather and prepare. Me, I am driven to prepare for the worst and hope for the best- with my animals and my crops it rings even more true. 
Living in a state where all four seasons can happen in any given day has taught me to be ready for anything. Today's humid heat can give way to tonight's hard freeze- keeping things healthy can be tricky. We have does ready to kid, baby chicks to keep warm and dry, as well as three gardens, the donkey, buck, barn cats and a dog. In an inclement situation we assess what the greatest need is and work from there. 

Adult birds should be fine in their coop as long as food and water will be available to them. If the day is a dark one, supplemental light will help. Baby chicks that are not fully feathered have to be kept dry. Since they are unable to maintain their heat, lamps, bedding, and shelter are vital. My preparedness tip- be ready with an indoor warming box, towels, and a low heat hair dryer in case of emergency. 
Goats are fairly hearty and adapt well- our bucks and mature does have shelter, feed, water and raised areas for resting off the ground (old pallets work well for this). Does that have been bred need a bit more mothering; they have a heat lamp available and are checked regularly if their kidding is near. Many a birthing season has been kick-started by a good storm! My preparedness tip- have the birthing kit ready, towels, warming box, and a fresh stall that is reserved only for the new mama and baby. 

The rest are content with simple shelters to get away from the rain. Doc often refuses shelter no matter what- I guess it's a donkey thing. Ben will shelter with the barn cats in the hay and feed area. As for the gardens, raised beds have helped quite a bit with flooding issues. I do keep frost cloth on hand as well as some simple hoop frames to drape it over. 

Last but not least, have a way to stay warm and dry yourself. I keep candles, lanterns and firewood along with plenty of blankets and towels. If the risk could mean long term outages I wash up clothes, dishes, and try to cook a few meals that will last and eat well cold if we need them. 

Here on my homestead, we have learned to be prepared for any animal to end up in the house, or under a lamp, or wrapped in a blanket- or even tucked in your overall pockets. 

For more information about storm preparedness, consider reading:

And...share your storm prep info!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Miss K's New Loves

They arrived on the homestead farm Saturday morning; creatures great and small welcomed them with nuzzles and noises. No welcome was so wondrous as the one that came Sunday afternoon as our littlest farm girl found a whole new set of loves. 

Little Miss K has been combing the pages of our favorite poultry catalog for weeks. Each time revealed the struggle within her to choose only a few (a feeling I know well). She practiced her poultry care techniques with little fluffy toy chicks in order to be fully prepared when the real ones arrived. This weekend as a set of chicks found their way to our brooder, Miss K joined the ranks of crazy chicken ladies everywhere! 
Genuine enthusiasm and joy beamed from her dimpled face as she made her way to the brooder. Soft whispers of love and adoration were given as she crouched down and carefully let them settle at her presence. Hand feeding, gentle cuddles, and just plain sitting and observing their antics was the only thing on her agenda that day. Quite an attention span for an almost two year old!

I grew up with baby chicks. My children grew up with baby chicks. Now our little Miss K will grow up learning the many wonders and amazing life lessons chicks can give. Welcome to the family, Miss K's new loves. The 'wittle beebee shickiez' have arrived!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Weekend Wilding

I am an outdoors soul with an intense need for sunshine and fresh air. While my job does afford me opportunity for outdoor exposure, some weeks do find me inside more than out. This week was hit and miss- and with the sun warming the soil, the ability to be inside was quite a strain! That is what weekend wilding is for!!
Friday finds me fidgeting and fussing for the five o'clock hour- that magical moment when I can strip off the constrictions of professional life and don the clothing only nature can appreciate. The emotional and mental strain of the week has drained my energy reserves bringing a need for immediate immersion in the wild world. My fast fix is a walk.. at the wooded park, among the gardens, or even along the country road I live on. Getting myself away from media, social mayhem, and the demands of bureaucracy is a number one priority and that walk kick starts the process.
From there, it is time to steep myself in the habits and happenings of homestead farming. Ben and I stroll the pastures and commune with the herds and flocks, catching up on the musings of the hens as they cackle their complaints about rations and roosters. We find ourselves in the garden breathing deep the fragrance of herb and soil all the while nibbling tasty bits of this and that. Settling in the outdoor chairs, warm coffee is sipped as Ben checks every nook and cranny for any naughty beastie, eventually settling himself at my side (or on my lap). Birds sing us into a soothing mood, offering gentle meditation in the presence of God's handiwork.
End of day finds me at the kitchen sink watching the sun set through the window. There is food to prep, dishes to tend, and laundry to sort, but the setting sun never looks the same twice so those things can be done as soon as darkness falls. This painting by God's hand is meant for us, yet so often we miss it. Weekends are for sunset watching.
It is true, there are a bounty of chores to be done on the weekend- especially in the spring..yet, there is also time for stopping to gaze up through the tree tops at the beauty of filtered sunlight. Time must be founds to nuzzle soft muzzles and scratch furry ears. Before I know it Monday will find me.. for now, my weekend intention is to steep myself in the beauty of wild things and breath in the wonder all of nature holds.